LOS ANGELES — After three decades of pitching his screenplays, Allan Folsom had a handful of credits: two episodes of the 1980s series “Hart to Hart,” a nature documentary and a syndicated TV movie.

Then came the kind of blockbuster break that struggling writers dream about.

In 1993 Folsom sold a thriller novel, “The Day After Tomorrow,” to a publisher for $2 million – the most ever, at that point, for a first-time novelist.

“I still think $2 million is too much,” he told the Los Angeles Times a few weeks after the deal went through. “But on the other hand, if you amortize it over the 30 years I’ve been working, it isn’t that much.”

Folsom, 72, died Friday in a Santa Barbara hospital. The cause was complications from melanoma, the skin cancer he had been battling for 20 years, said his wife, Karen.

Although Folsom completed four more novels, none made as much of a stir as “The Day After Tomorrow” (no relation to the 2004 disaster movie of the same name). The $2 million winning bid for the book, which involved murder, revenge and a neo-Nazi cult, was just for the North American rights.

Folsom received additional payments from publishers around the world, and the option to make the film went for $750,000, though it was never made. In fact, none of his novels was ever filmed.

“He was very disappointed about that,” Karen Folsom said. “He had such success as a novelist, but he still always harbored this dream of having a movie made. It’s why he got in the car and drove out to L.A., right after he graduated college.”

Allan Folsom was born Dec. 9, 1941, in Orlando, Florida. When he was still a toddler, his parents moved the family to suburban Boston.

Folsom went to Boston University, where he won a screenwriting award in 1963 from the academic Society of Cinematologists. After earning a bachelor’s degree in communications, he found work in L.A. as a delivery driver for producer David Wolper. He also worked as a film editor and cameraman.