Daphne du Maurier, among the world's best-selling writers for half a century, author of "The Birds," "Rebecca" and "Jamaica Inn," died in her sleep April 19 at the age of 81, a family friend said.

The friend, Baker Munton, said she died at her home in Cornwall, the rugged county in southwestern England that played a major part in her novels.Often hailed as the Grand Lady of romantic fiction, du Maurier rejected the label, insisting her work was more suspense or adventure than romance.

Whatever the literary category, her work had wide appeal. A combination of adept storytelling and a sense of the uncanny, sometimes the macabre, captured the imagination of readers and made all 13 of her novels best-sellers.