US President Barack Obama has led tributes to author E.L. Doctorow who has died aged 84, describing him as "one of America's greatest novelists".

Best-known for his novels Ragtime, Billy Bathgate and World’s Fair, he died on Tuesday following complications from lung cancer, according to his son Richard.

Over the course of 50 years, Doctorow published 12 novels and three volumes of short fiction, as well as many essays on literature and politics.

Born Edgar Lawrence Doctorow in the Bronx , New York in 1931, his second-generation Russian Jewish parents named him after the author Edgar Allan Poe, a shrewd move in light of his future literary distinction.

He once delcare that “I was a child who read everything I could get my hands on. Eventually, I asked of a story not only what was to happen next, but how is this done? How am I made to live from words on a page? And so I became a writer.”

Barack Obama tweeted that “His books taught me much, and he will be missed".

Author Maragaret Atwood also tweeted her fond regard for the veteran scribe, whom she described as her “old pal.” who was “always kind and funny”.