Ernest Vincent Wright (died 1937) wrote a book of ~50,000 words without once using the letter 'e'. It only took him 165 days, and he died the day the book was published. The book was called "Gadsby".

This an example of what is known as constrained writing. There are several pages around on the Web about constrained writing, including some very clever ones, such as a version of Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven rewritten to "encode" the first 740 digits of pi.

As you will notice from my esteemed colleague's remarks below, there is some contention over when he actually died. It is certainly a good story to say that he died on the same day the book was published, but I checked several sources and they had conflicting stories, so I'm not really sure.