Robert Goolrick, a New York advertising executive whose firing at 54 liberated him to write a lacerating memoir of childhood sexual abuse and other family secrets, followed by acclaimed novels about endurance in the face of suffering and tragedy, died April 29 at a nursing center in Lynchburg, Va. He was 73.

The cause was pneumonia and complications from the coronavirus, said the actor and producer Bob Balaban, a friend of Mr. Goolrick’s since the 1970s, when they met on a Kool-Aid commercial.

Starting with his autobiography, “The End of the World as We Know It: Scenes from a Life” (2007), in which he wrote of being raped at 4 by his alcoholic father, then with “A Reliable Wife” (2009) and “Heading Out to Wonderful” (2012), best-selling and darkly sensual novels, Mr. Goolrick explored human connections that could turn violent and lurid.