Hailey, Arthur

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HAILEY, Arthur

Nationality: British and Canadian. Born: Luton, Bedfordshire, 5 April 1920; emigrated to Canada in 1947: became citizen, 1952. Education: Elementary schools in England. Military Service: Served as a pilot in the Royal Air Force, 1939-47: Flight Lieutenant. Family: Married 1) Joan Fishwick in 1944 (divorced 1950), three sons; 2) Sheila Dunlop in 1951, one son and two daughters. Career: Office boy and clerk, London, 1934-39; assistant editor, 1947-49, and editor, 1949-53, Bus and Truck Transport, Toronto; sales promotion manager, Trailmobile Canada, Toronto, 1953-56. Since 1956 freelance writer. Awards: Canadian Council of Authors and Artists award, 1956; Best Canadian TV Playwright award, 1957, 1958; Doubleday Prize Novel award, 1962. Address: Lyford Cay, P.O. Box N. 7776, Nassau, Bahamas.



Flight into Danger, with John Castle. London, Souvenir Press, 1958; as Runway Zero-Eight, New York, Doubleday, 1959.

The Final Diagnosis. New York, Doubleday, 1959; London, Joseph-Souvenir Press, 1960; as The Young Doctors, London, Corgi, 1962.

In High Places. New York, Doubleday, and London, Joseph-Souvenir Press, 1962.

Hotel. New York, Doubleday, and London, Joseph-Souvenir Press, 1965.

Airport. New York, Doubleday, and London, Joseph-Souvenir Press, 1968.

Wheels. New York, Doubleday, and London, Joseph-Souvenir Press, 1971.

The Moneychangers. New York, Doubleday, and London, Joseph-Souvenir Press, 1975.

Overload. New York, Doubleday, and London, Joseph-SouvenirPress, 1979.

Strong Medicine. New York, Doubleday, and London Joseph-Souvenir Press, 1984.

The Evening News. New York, Doubleday, and London, Doubleday-Souvenir Press, 1990.

Detective. New York, Crown Publishers, 1997.


Flight into Danger (televised 1956). Published in Four Plays of Our Time, London, Macmillan, 1960.

Close-up on Writing for Television. New York, Doubleday, 1960.


Zero Hour, with Hall Bartlett and John Champion, 1958; The Moneychangers, 1976; Wheels, 1978.

Television Plays:

Flight into Danger, 1956 (USA); Time Lock 1962 (UK); Course for Collision, 1962 (UK); and plays for Westinghouse Studio One, Playhouse 90, U.S. Steel Hour, Goodyear-Philco Playhouse, and Kraft Theatre (USA).


Critical Studies:

I Married a Best Seller by Sheila Hailey, New York, Doubleday, and London, Joseph-Souvenir Press, 1978.

Arthur Hailey comments:

My novels are the end product of my work and are widely available. Therefore I see no reason to be analytical about them.

Each novel takes me, usually, three years: a year of continuous research, six months of detailed planning, then a year and a half of steady writing, with many revisions.

My only other comment is that my novels are the work of one who seeks principally to be a storyteller but reflect also, I hope, the excitement of living here and now.

* * *

Arthur Hailey has developed and virtually perfected a highly efficient and extremely successful (and profitable) process of novel writing. Whether he is writing about doctors (The Final Diagnosis, Strong Medicine ) or airline pilots (Flight into Danger ), hotels (Hotel ) or airports (Airport ), government (In High Places ) or industry (Wheels ), he follows the same formula. Each of his novels is filled with enough information about the subject of his exhaustive research to satisfy the most curious reader; there are enough character types to appeal to the widest possible audience; everything is interwoven into a complex web of plots and sub-plots to satisfy every reader's desire for a good, suspenseful story.

Hailey writes documentary fiction, or what has been called "faction," that is, a mixture of the real and the fictitious. After spending a year of research for each novel, Hailey is prepared to give his reader as much factual information as he can work into the novel. Consequently, only his characters and situations are imaginary, and they are sometimes only slightly fictitious.

To speak of any Hailey novel is to speak of every Hailey novel for there is little to distinguish one from the rest except subject matter. Each novel shares the same characteristic strengths and weaknesses. Airport is a typical example. The action of the novel is centered at a fictitious Chicago airport during one of the worst blizzards in the city's history. To give his reader an inside look at the operations of a major airport and into the lives of the people responsible for its existence, Hailey devises several plots; an airliner is stuck in the snow, blocking a runway and causing emergency situations in the air; an air-traffic controller is planning suicide; a trans-Atlantic airliner is about to take off with a bomb aboard; a stewardess has discovered she is pregnant; a group of local citizens is demonstrating against the excessive noise of the airport. The novel follows each plot to its conclusion, but not before the reader's intellectual curiosity about airports and his emotional curiosity about the characters are satisfied.

The narrative is slick and fast-moving, the information is interesting, the prose is readable, but the seams in Hailey's fabric too often show through. In order to introduce all his researched information into the novel, he is frequently forced to construct irrelevant sub-plots or to break the flow of the narrative for a lecture on such things as the safety records of commercial airlines or the pressures suffered by airtraffic controllers. To manage all his characters, he is forced into a "holding pattern" of his own. The focus of the novel shifts from one character to another as Hailey abandons characters temporarily only to return to them later when their number in the rotation comes up again. Consequently what unity there is in the book is provided only by the subject matter. The characters themselves are paper thin, reduced to simple dimensions; they are so typical that they could be interchanged from one novel to the next with little difficulty.

Wheels is much like Airport in its intention and its execution. The main difference is its lack of dramatic suspense; there is less drama to be derived from the introduction of a new car, the primary plot device in the novel, than from the naturally more exciting subjects of the earlier novels.

With Detective, Hailey made it clear that he still possessed the skills that had made him a bestselling author in preceding decades. The novel also showed that Hailey had changed with the times, departing from aspects of his established formula to delve into a serial-killer story of the type popularized by Thomas Harris and many others. Like Harris, Hailey purports to take readers into the mind of a killer, in this case Elroy "Animal" Doil, convicted of killing numerous elderly couples in south Florida. The true protagonist is a considerably more sympathetic figure, former priest Malcolm Ainsley, now serving as a homicide investigator with the Miami police. Ainsley's quest is personal as well as professional, since he is certain that Doil's victims include the parents of his former lover Cynthia Ernstbut Doil, with no apparent reason to lie, insists that this is not true. Revealing himself as a master of suspense, Hailey manages to reveal the true killer's identity long before the novel's denouement, yet still keeps readers engaged.

David Geherin