Thanks to such acclaimed works as The Collector, The Magus and The French Lieutenant's Woman, John Fowles, who has died aged 79, was acknowledged as a giant of literary fiction.
His genius lay as much in his masterly storytelling as his experiments with storytelling itself, most notably by incorporating the figure of the author as a capricious, unreliable commentator on characters and events.
Fowles often drew on his own life, notably in Daniel Martin
The French Lieutenant's Women drew comparisons with Thomas Hardy and Henry James, due to its vivid pastiche of the Victorian realist novel and sense of place - Lyme Regis in Dorset, in which he spent much of his later life.
As a writer, however, he is often cited as bridging the gap between modernist authors such as James Joyce and Virginia Woolf and contemporary writers like Salman Rushdie and Will Self.
By playing with the novel's constraints and restrictions, notably by providing alternate endings in The French Lieutenant's Woman, Fowles challenged the concept of the powerful, all-knowing creator and deliberately highlighted fiction's illusory nature.
It was a theme he developed further in The Magus, in which he introduces the concept of the "Godgame" - an elaborate series of conceits that leave the hero uncertain of where reality ends and fantasy begins.
"I was trying to tell a fable about the relationship between man and his conception of God," he said in 1969.
In the same interview, he described the "hypnopompic" period between sleeping and waking as one of his richest creative periods.
The French Lieutenant's Woman, he said, grew out of a dream he once had of a woman standing at the edge of a quay, looking out to sea.
JOHN FOWLES 1926-2005
The Collector (1963)
The Aristos (1964)
The Magus (1965 - revised in 1977)
The French Lieutenant's Woman (1969)
The Ebony Tower (1974)
Daniel Martin (1977)
A Maggot (1985)
Fowles' own life, however, was often as important an inspiration.
In Daniel Martin, described by the author as "a very long novel about Englishness", Fowles drew on his experiences in the film industry as well as his childhood in the West Country and education at Oxford.
"The most important questions in life can never be answered by anyone except oneself," he once said.
He leaves behind a distinguished collection of work that will continue to ask questions of its readers for many years to come.