Elliott Roosevelt, a World War II Air Corps general, a breeder of Arabian horses and an author whose works included a series of mystery novels that cast his mother, the First Lady, as an amateur detective, died yesterday at his home in Scottsdale, Ariz. He was 80 years old.
Mr. Roosevelt died of congestive heart failure, his wife, the former Patricia Peabody, said.
The second child of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt, Elliot Roosevelt began his writing career in 1946 with "As He Saw It," a best-selling account of his experiences at his father's side during five historic wartime summit conferences.
His trilogy of "tell-all" books about life behind the scenes in the Roosevelt White House and at the family home in Hyde Park, N.Y., caused a rift in the family in the early 1970's, leading his sister and three brothers to publicly disavow the books. A book he wrote in 1983, "The Conservators," was a statement of his philosophy about the survival of the planet.
Mr. Roosevelt, also a great-nephew of Theodore Roosevelt, was born in New York City on Sept. 23, 1910. He attended the Groton School, as had his father, but broke a family tradition by not going on to Harvard. Instead, he turned to advertising and radio.
A year before the United States entered World War II, when the strapping, 225-pound son of the President received a commission as a captain in the Army Air Corps, critics charged that he was receiving special attention because of his father. But his actions in the war dispelled any shadow over that and subsequent promotions.
Mr. Roosevelt flew 300 combat missions and commanded the 325th Photographic Reconnaissance Wing, a multi-national unit that participated in the invasions of North Africa and Sicily and played an important role in the D-Day invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. He was twice wounded and received decorations, including the Distinguished Flying Cross.
After the war, Mr. Roosevelt served as aviation editor of the Hearst newspaper chain. He then created a business consulting organization, later moving on to many other fields. Mr. Roosevelt, who was married five times -- including to the actress Faye Emerson -- was wedded to Miss Peabody in 1960. In 1962, the Roosevelts moved from Minneapolis to Miami Beach. The family resided there for eight years, during which Mr. Roosevelt served as Mayor of Miami Beach and as the state Democratic committeeman.
The Roosevelts then moved to Portugal, where they raised Arabian horses. From Portugal, the Roosevelts moved to England, then to Seattle, then to Palm Springs, Calif., and finally settled in Scottsdale
Mr. Roosevelt eventually wrote 14 books. In 1973, "An Untold Story" detailed the intimate relationship between Franklin Roosevelt and his secretary, Marguerite (Missy) Lehand, and told how, after the birth of their youngest son, John, in 1916, his parents "never again lived as husband and wife." The four other Roosevelt children then issued a statement, saying, "We feel we must disassociate ourselves completely from this book."
Mr. Roosevelt began his series of mystery novels, with his mother as a detective serving as the central character, in the early 1980's. Last year, a reviewer for The New York Times wrote: "Eleanor Roosevelt snoops again in 'Murder in the Oval Office,' the sixth in Elliot Roosevelt's apparently unquenchable flow of memoir-mysteries about his famous mother. Her sense of justice (not to mention her curiosity), sparked by the murder of a Southern congressman during a White House soiree, the resourceful First Lady shows spunk and wit, and also considerable charm, in her amateur investigation of the locked-room puzzle."
Besides his wife, Mr. Roosevelt is survived by his brother, James, of Palm Springs; two daughters, Chandler Lindsley of Dallas and Gretchen of Seattle, and six sons, David, of Seattle; William, of South Norwalk, Conn.; Elliott Jr., of Dallas; David, of Westport, Conn.; James, of Hollywood, Fla., and Ford, of Van Nuys, Calif.