Hailey, Arthur 1920–2004

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Hailey, Arthur 1920–2004

PERSONAL: Born April 5, 1920, Luton, England; immigrated to Canada, 1947, naturalized citizen (retaining British citizenship), 1952; died of a stroke November 24, 2004, in the Bahamas; son of George Wellington (a factory worker) and Elsie Mary (Wright) Hailey; married Joan Fishwick, 1944 (divorced, 1950); married Sheila Dunlop, July 28, 1951; children: (first marriage) Roger, John, Mark; (second marriage) Jane, Steven, Diane. Education: Attended elementary school in England. Hobbies and other interests: Travel, reading, music, boat handling, fishing.

CAREER: Office boy in London, England, 1934–39; Maclean-Hunter Publishing Co., Toronto, Ontario, assistant editor of Bus and Truck Transport, 1947–49, editor, 1949–53; Trailmobile Canada Ltd., Toronto, sales promotion manager, 1953–56; full-time writer, beginning 1956. Military service: Royal Air Force, pilot, 1939–47; served in Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East; became flight lieutenant; served as first editor of R.A.F. training magazine Air Clues; recipient of R.A.F. Air Efficiency Award.

MEMBER: Writers Guild of America, Authors League of America, Association of Canadian Television and Radio Artists (honorary life member), Lyford Cay Club (Bahamas).

AWARDS, HONORS: Gold medal of Canadian Council of Authors and Artists, 1956; Best Canadian Playwright Award, 1957 and 1958; Emmy Award nomination, c. 1957, for No Deadly Medicine; Doubleday Canadian Prize Novel Award, 1962, for In High Places; gold medal of Commonwealth Club of California, 1968, for Airport.



(With John Castle) Flight into Danger (based on Zero Hour!, Hailey's television play Flight into Danger), Souvenir Press (London), 1958, U.S. published as Runway Zero Eight, Doubleday, 1959.

The Final Diagnosis (based on his television play No Deadly Medicine), Doubleday, 1959.

In High Places, Doubleday, 1962.

Hotel, Doubleday, 1965.

Airport, Doubleday, 1968.

Wheels, Doubleday, 1971.

The Moneychangers, Doubleday, 1975.

Overload, Doubleday, 1979.

Strong Medicine, Doubleday, 1984.

The Evening News, Doubleday, 1990.

Detective, Crown (New York City), 1997.


Flight into Danger (television play), CBC, 1956.

(With Hall Bartlett and John Champion) Zero Hour! (screenplay based on his television play Flight into Danger), Paramount, 1957.

Close-up on Writing for Television (collection of television plays), Doubleday, 1960.

Author of over twenty television plays, including No Deadly Medicine, 1957, and Course for Collision, 1962, produced programs, including Westinghouse Studio One, Playhouse 90, and Kraft Theatre.

All of Hailey's novels have appeared in foreign editions, and most have been published in forty languages.

ADAPTATIONS: Films based on Hailey's novels include The Young Doctors, based on The Final Diagnosis, United Artists, 1961; Hotel, Warner Bro., 1967; Airport, Universal, 1969; Wheels, Universal, 1977; The Moneychangers, Paramount, 1977; and Overload. In addition, the films Airport 1975, Airport 1977, and Concorde-Airport 1979, although not based on Hailey's work, were produced as sequels to the original Airport.

SIDELIGHTS: Arthur Hailey's career as a professional writer began in 1955 when, on a business flight across Canada, he began to fantasize about what might happen if both the pilot and copilot suddenly became incapacitated—leaving him, a rather rusty World War II fighter pilot, the only person able to land the plane. It took Hailey just six evenings and two weekends to turn the daydream into his first television play, Flight into Danger. Being unfamiliar with the conventions of television writing, he wrote the play in standard theatrical form without camera directions; and not knowing anyone in the TV industry, he simply mailed it to "Script Department, Canadian Broadcasting Corp." The play reached Nathan Cohen, script editor of CBC's General Motors Theatre, who ironically noticed it amidst countless other unsolicited scripts precisely because of the peculiar style in which it was written. The initial broadcast on April 7, 1956, drew rave reviews and extraordinary viewer response; it was subsequently presented on networks in the United States and Great Britain where it was equally well received. Since then, Hailey's success as a writer for television and especially as a novelist has been phenomenal. He has had six consecutive best sellers, and several major motion pictures have been based on his books.

Strangely it is Hailey's success that has caused the most discourse among critics. In an attempt to explain the author's ability to turn out consistent best-sellers, some reviewers accuse him of writing "formula" or "programmed" novels, and others say that he sets out to write books that will make good films. Joseph McLellan outlines the supposed Hailey formula: "Start with something large and complicated, a business or institution that touches the lives of large numbers of people and is not fully understood by the public. Ideally, the subject should have a touch of glamour and some element of risk in its routine activities. The writer takes the reader inside this subject, letting him see it from various points of view and tossing in an occasional little sermon on public responsibilities. Numerous characters are formed out of available material (cardboard will do nicely) and they are set in motion by a series of crises, small, medium, and large, which illustrate the nature and particularly the weaknesses of the activity that is the real subject (in a sense the real hero) of the book." And yet, if there is a formula that Hailey follows, it seems to have little effect on his readers who flock to the bookstores at the mere hint of a press release from his publisher. As Peter Andrews puts it: "Hailey's novels are such genuine publishing events that to criticize them is like putting the slug on the Rockettes. It's not going to change anything. No sooner is his contract inked than mighty lumberjacks start to make their axes ring. Paperback houses and book clubs fairly whimper to give him money while the work is still in progress, and Ross Hunter calls up the old actors' home to begin casting his next blockbuster. At the publication party itself the last deviled egg is still to be consumed when his book busts through on the bestseller list."

No doubt the formula accusations stem from certain characteristics that are evident in all of Hailey's writing: the meticulous attention to detail, the multiple plots and subplots, and his penchant for choosing as subjects monolithic structures (a hotel, an airport, the automobile industry) about which most people know little, but with which they are unquestionably fascinated. Hailey's ability to research a subject with unusual vigor and tenacity has resulted in a group of books that truly take the reader into the hearts of these otherwise unapproachable institutions. Patricia MacManus, in a review of Hotel, says that the book "undoubtedly covers every department in the curriculum of Cornell's School of Hotel Administration." And she feels that there are "enough intersecting story-lines to keep even the most plot-addicted readers scurrying to stay abreast of the multi-layered goings-on at the St. Gregory, the fictitious New Orleans hostelry of Hotel." Robert Cromie writes that Hailey covers his subject in Airport with such great detail that the book is likely "to upset airline executives, managers of non-mythical airports, and perhaps the Federal agencies." Some of the sensitive areas include "the dangers inherent in too-short runways, the curtailing of power during the vital early stages of takeoff as a sop to nearby homeowners, the possibility that the easy availability of insurance at every major field may encourage bomb-for-profit schemes, the frantic efficiency which usually prevails in the radar room as traffic is supervised, and even the airlines' pregnancy plan for unwed stewardesses." And Kenneth R. Clark of the Chicago Tribune finds Hailey's Evening News, a thriller about the inner workings of a network news bureau, to be a "breakneck tale" that is "right on the mark, right down to the tiniest nuances of office politics, internecine squabbling, journalistic scorn of authority, and the mechanics of covering late-breaking news."

If there can be said to be a formula or pattern to Hailey's work, it is the now-famous system he has developed in order to garner the vast quantity of detail and technical information with which he packs his books. He spends about a year researching his subject, six months reviewing notes and planning, and eighteen months writing. While researching Hotel, he read twenty-seven books about hotels and twelve on New Orleans. At the same time he collected numerous clippings from hotel trade publications as well as those sent to him by his agent and friends. He studied five large hotels in depth (including a six-week stay as a paying guest at an old hotel in New Orleans), and twenty-eight smaller ones. During his research for Airport, Hailey spent hours in the airports of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, DC, Tampa, Toronto, Montreal, London, Paris, and Brussels, interviewing airport and airline employees and absorbing the atmosphere.

One facet of Hailey's craft that induces some agreement among the critics is his ability to weave an interesting tale. Frank Cameron, in an explanation of the author's rise to success, writes: "For one thing, no one has yet devised a satisfactory substitute for innate talent and Hailey is a born story teller. In this sense he is reminiscent of Somerset Maugham although without Maugham's urbanity of style. Hailey is Hailey. He has his own crisp style which has the twin virtues of economy and sustained suspense. A Hailey novel or a Hailey television play is meant to entertain. There is no emphasis on the introspective agonizing of any character. An obscure reference or bit of avant-garde rhetoric does not exist in his works. Moralizing he leaves to other writers unless he can weave it into his own story in ways that do not interrupt the plot and pace." Hailey told Patricia Farrell: "It is very obvious that people like reading facts as a background to fiction and this I try to do. It just seems that I happen to have the ability to do it, but I don't strive to be a proselytizer, a crusader, an educator, a consumer advocate; I'm none of those things. I'm a story teller and anything else is incidental."



Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 5, Thomson Gale (Detroit), 1976.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 88: Canadian Writers, 1920–1959, Second Series, Thomson Gale, 1989.

Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook, 1982, Thomson Gale, 1983.

Hailey, Sheila, I Married a Bestseller, Doubleday, 1978.


America, May 8, 1965; November 20, 1971.

American Way, July, 1975.

Best Sellers, February 15, 1965; April 1, 1968; October 15, 1971; April, 1975.

Booklist, March 1, 1965; April 15, 1968; November 15, 1971; April 15, 1975.

Books and Bookmen, May, 1965; September, 1975.

Book Week, January 24, 1965.

Book World, January 24, 1965; April 14, 1968.

Boston Globe, July 13, 1997.

Chicago Sunday Tribune, December 13, 1959.

Chicago Tribune, April 23, 1990.

Flying, May, 1968.

Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 1959; November 1, 1978.

Library Journal, March 1, 1962; March 1, 1968.

Miami Herald, June 1, 1975.

National Observer, April 1, 1968; November 6, 1971; May 3, 1975.

National Review, June 20, 1975.

New Republic, October 23, 1971.

New Statesman, July 4, 1975.

New Yorker, October 3, 1959; January 27, 1962.

New York Herald Tribune, October 18, 1959.

New York Times, April 5, 1959; April 20, 1968; July 28, 1975; December 18, 1978.

New York Times Book Review, September 20, 1959; February 21, 1965; April 7, 1968; September 19, 1971; May 18, 1975; February 11, 1979; June 22, 1997, p. 20.

Observer, May 2, 1965.

Publishers Weekly, October 30, 1975.

San Francisco Chronicle, April 19, 1959; December 13, 1959; February 4, 1962.

Saturday Evening Post, November, 1975.

Time, March 26, 1965; March 22, 1968; October 11, 1971; April 14, 1975.

Wall Street Journal, September 21, 1971; March 20, 1975.

Washington Post, July 25, 1969; March 23, 1975.

Washington Post Book World, March 23, 1975; January 15, 1979.

Writer's Digest, August, 1972.



Chicago Tribune, November 26, 2004, section 3, p. 8.

New York Times, November 26, 2004, p. C10.

Times (London, England), November 27, 2004, p. 80.

Washington Post, November 27, 2004, p. B4.


New York Times Online, http://www.nytimes.com/ (November 26, 2004).

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