Wager, Walter H(erman) 1924-(Walter Herman, John Tiger)
WAGER, Walter H(erman) 1924-(Walter Herman, John Tiger)
PERSONAL: Born September 4, 1924, in New York, NY; son of Max Louis (a doctor) and Jessie (Smith) Wager; married Sylvia Leonard (a writer), May 6, 1951 (divorced, May, 1975); married Winifred McIvor (a goldsmith and Shiatsu practitioner), June 4, 1975; children: (first marriage) Lisa Wendy. Education: Columbia University, B.A., 1943; Harvard University, LL.B., 1946; Northwestern University, LL.M., 1949. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Jewish. Hobbies and other interests: Travel (has been to thirty-four countries in North, Central, and South America, Asia, Africa, and Europe).
CAREER: Admitted to the Bar of New York State, 1946; Aeroutes, Inc., New York, NY, director of editorial research, 1947; Journal of Air Law and Commerce, Chicago, IL, federal department editor, 1948-49; Israeli Department of Civil Aviation, Lydda Airport, Tel Aviv, Israel, international affairs and law adviser, 1951-52; freelance writer in New York, NY, 1952-54; United Nations Secretariat, New York, NY, senior editor, 1954-56; Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. (CBS), New York, NY, writer for radio and television, 1956; National Broadcasting Co., Inc. (NBC-TV), New York, NY, writer and producer, 1957; freelance writer for magazines, radio, and television, 1958-63; Playbill, New York, NY, editor in chief, 1963-66; Show magazine, senior editor, 1965; American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, New York, NY, public relations consultant and editor of ASCAP Today, 1966-72, director of public relations, 1972-78; National Music Publishers' Association, New York, NY, public relations counselor, 1978-84; Juilliard School, New York, NY, director of communications, 1985-86; Mann Music Center, Philadelphia, PA, public relations counselor, 1986-87; Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, New York, NY, public relations counselor, 1987-89; University of Bridgeport, Bridgeport, CT, director of public information, 1991-93. Lecturer at Northwestern University, 1949, and at Columbia University, 1955-56. Special assistant to Attorney General of the State of New York for investigation of hate literature in elections, 1962. Member of board of directors, Jazz Hall of Fame, 1975-77.
MEMBER: National Academy of Popular Music (member of governing board), Writers Guild of America, Authors League of America, Mystery Writers of America (member of board of directors, 1988-94, 1997-2000; secretary, 2001—).
AWARDS, HONORS: Fulbright fellow, Sorbonne, Paris, France, 1949-50; Northwestern University Law School fellow, 1948-49.
(Under pseudonym Walter Herman) Operation Intrigue, Avon (New York, NY), 1956.
The Girl Who Split, Dell (New York, NY), 1969.
Sledgehammer, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1970.
Viper Three, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1971.
Swap, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1972.
Telefon, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1975.
My Side, by King Kong As Told to Walter Wager (farce), Macmillan, Collier Books (New York, NY), 1976.
Time of Reckoning, Playboy Press (Chicago, IL), 1979.
Blue Leader, Arbor House (New York, NY), 1979; large print edition, J. Curley & Associates (South Yarmouth, MA), 1980.
Blue Moon, Arbor House (New York, NY), 1980.
Blue Murder, Arbor House (New York, NY), 1981.
Designated Hitter, Arbor House (New York, NY), 1982.
Otto's Boy, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1985.
Raw Deal, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1986.
58 Minutes, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1987.
The Spirit Team, Forge (New York, NY), 1996.
Tunnel, Forge (New York, NY), 2000.
Kelly's People, Tom Doherty Associates (New York, NY), 2002.
UNDER PSEUDONYM JOHN TIGER
Death Hits the Jackpot, Avon (New York, NY), 1954.
I Spy, Popular Library, 1965.
Masterstroke, Popular Library, 1966.
Wipeout, Popular Library, 1967.
Countertrap, Popular Library, 1967.
Mission Impossible, Popular Library, 1967.
Death Twist, Popular Library, 1968.
Doomdate, Popular Library, 1968.
Mission Impossible Number Four: Code Name Little Ivan, Popular Library, 1969.
Frontier Formalities for International Airlines, [Chicago, IL], 1949.
(Editor) Some Selected Readings on International Air Transportation, [Chicago, IL], 1949.
Camp Century: City under the Ice (nonfiction), Chilton Books (Philadelphia, PA), 1962.
(Editor) The Playwrights Speak (interviews, with introduction by Harold Clurman), Delacorte (New York, NY), 1967, (with introduction by John Russell Taylor), Longman's, 1969.
(With Mel Tillis) Stutterin' Boy: The Autobiography of Mel Tillis, America's Beloved Star of Country Music, Rawson (New York, NY), 1984.
Also author of screenplay Swap, 1974, based on his novel; author of documentary films on jazz, spirituals, guerrilla warfare, organized crime in America, U.S. disarmament policy, Alliance for Progress in Colombia and Venezuela, the U.S. decision to use the atomic bomb against Japan, and the lives of a Roman legionary and an American soldier. Contributor of articles on theater and music to periodicals.
ADAPTATIONS: Telefon was adapted for film by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1977; Viper Three was released in 1977 by Lorimar as Twilight's Last Gleaming; 58 Minutes was the basis for Twentieth Century-Fox's 1990 hit film Die Hard 2.
SIDELIGHTS: Lawyer, editor, freelance writer, public relations specialist, and novelist Walter H. Wager once commented, "I have written for pleasure since I was ten but never thought that one could make a living at it. I had no idea how to get started in the writing world and really wandered into writing casually as a source of income while waiting for a security clearance to become a U.N. editor." Since that time during the 1950s, Wager has turned out more than twenty-five novels, several nonfiction books, numerous articles, and a screenplay and has written for documentary films on a variety of subjects. He began writing action thrillers during the mid-1950s. Most of those he completed during the 1960s were written under the pseudonym John Tiger. Three of Wager's novels, Viper Three (1971), Telefon (1975), and 58 Minutes (1987), were adapted for film.
Wager once explained, "I joke about how I literally stumbled into hardcover fiction. In June, 1967, I was in [Washington] D.C. autographing paperbacks at an American Booksellers Association convention. There were many parties, and I was among those who imbibed conscientiously. Somewhat tipsy, I was struggling through a throng in the crowded Harper & Row suite when I stumbled and bumped into a good-natured chap. We exchanged boozy witticisms, and later my good friend and super editor, James A. Bryans, told me that the stranger was impressed. Bryans urged me to send that man a book. The fellow was Richard Oldenberg, then managing editor at Macmillan and now head of the Museum of Modern Art. I sent him a proposal for an anthology, was directed to another bright Macmillan editor, Bob Markel—later editor in chief—who urged me to do a novel. I did quite a few. I never did get to thank Oldenberg, but I certainly will if we ever meet again."
Wager's many fans who love international intrigue, medical and biological science fiction, and fast-paced action can thank Oldenberg as well. Wager's novel The Spirit Team involves a highly skilled, but legally dead, five-person team put together by the CIA and the Pentagon to battle a deadly blue fungus developed by a North African dictator. Government officials later betray the team, but they find a way to take what is owed them. William Beatty of Booklist wrote that Wager "knows just how far suspense can be drawn out." He also includes a bit of humor in the otherwise gripping thriller, Beatty observed. A Publishers Weekly contributor foresaw a movie or television series resulting from the novel, calling Wager's books "plot-driven story vehicles . . . maximized for narrative flow."
Another of Wager's recent novels, Tunnel, is set in New York City, where the brilliant but evil terrorist Gunther, leading a gang of former East German spies in order to extort $10 million from the city, plants a bomb and seals off the Lincoln Tunnel, filled with vehicles and desperate citizens. Human drama unfolds both inside and outside the tunnel as police captain Jake Malloy, a former Navy SEAL, organizes an underwater rescue team to try and save the hundreds being ransomed, knowing that his girlfriend is among them. George Needham of Booklist called the book "a runaway thrill" whose "breathtaking action propels [it] like jet fuel." However, a Publishers Weekly contributor found it less appealing than other Wager novels, saying its tone is "inappropriately jocular" considering the number of innocent people who are killed throughout the story. While it might not be so glaring on the movie screen, the contributor concluded, the "casual, cartoonish tone" is stark in print, even though the novel is a rapid read. Harriet Klausner of BookBrowser Review called Tunnel "another triumphant thriller that never eases off the throttle."
In Kelly's People, Wager again turns to medical science and terrorism to create a heart-pounding mix. Five top U.S. spies have received organ transplants to save their lives, and now they must stop a terrorist armed with five nuclear weapons stolen from the Russian underground in what Roland Green of Booklist called "a scenario that seems uncomfortably plausible." The five U.S. agents have gained extrasensory powers along with their transplants, but the Russian agents have gained ESP through chemical treatments. A kidnapping and the destruction of an African city lead one CIA agent to a discovery that requires all five to join their new-found forces to prevent nuclear devastation. A Publishers Weekly contributor thought too much science fiction and improbable scenarios might cause some readers to be put off by the novel but also called it "a great thrill ride for those willing to suspend disbelief and take the plunge."
Wager once talked about his success and offered words for aspiring writers: "I've been very lucky, and I've enjoyed what I do," he said. "I'm still surprised by all the people who want to be novelists and consider writing and writers exotic and superior. Fortunately, writers themselves are not as arrogant as lawyers, doctors, or movie producers—but who is? On the other hand, I'm bored with cry-baby novelists who write irate articles about their horrid experiences with 'boorish' movie or television folk. I am also dismayed by certain defensive or hostile types who resent anyone who creates personally and works at home. However, I'm generally in a cheery mood, doing my thing.
"I don't see writers as competing with each other or with anyone else. None of us writes like any other writer, thank God. I have pointed this out to my daughter, who is a caring and excellent senior editor at Putnam. I try to assist young writers by introducing them to agents and editors, and by encouraging them if/when they are temporarily uncertain. I tell them of the 'luck' factor and how a 'real' writer will go on writing—no matter what."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Armchair Detective, fall, 1996, review of The Spirit Team, p. 503.
Booklist, July, 1996, William Beatty, review of The Spirit Team, pp. 1806, 1815; April 1, 2000, George Needham, review of Tunnel, p. 1440; April 15, 2002, Roland Green, review of Kelly's People, p. 1384.
Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 1996, review of The Spirit Team, p. 779.
Library Journal, July, 1996, review of The Spirit Team, p. 164.
Los Angeles Times, July 28, 1990.
New York Times, January 27, 1977; August 22, 1982.
Publishers Weekly, June 3, 1996, review of The Spirit Team, p. 64; April 17, 2000, review of Tunnel, p. 53; March 18, 2002, review of Kelly's People, p. 78.
BookBrowser Review,http://www.bookbrowser.com/ (April 22, 2000), Harriet Klausner, review of Tunnel.
Fictionwise,http://www.fictionwise.com/ (June 17, 2002), review of Kelly's People.*