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Page-Turning with Irving Wallace

Lawrence Bush
June 28, 2017

Novelist Irving Wallace, author of thirty-three books (sixteen fictions, seventeen non-fictions), many of which sold in the millions, died at 74 on this date in 1990. His best-known works included The Chapman Report (1960) about sex researchers; The Prize (1962), about the backstage workings of the Nobel Prize; The Man (1964), about a black man becoming U.S. president; and The Seven Minutes (1969), about a pornography trial; all four of these were made into films. Wallace published several short stories in magazines as a teenager. After World War II, he became a screenwriter in Hollywood, but found it to be an environment, he said, in which writers suffered ''indignity, disrespect, disdain.'' So he turned to book-writing full time, and his second novel, The Chapman Report, was a smash hit. "When the critics stopped evaluating him," writes Richard Severo in the New York Times, "they all agreed that he was a highly readable -- perhaps even addictive -- writer with an ability to put sentences and paragraphs together in such a way that many readers found him irresistible."

"There was a time when Wallace’s books sold millions of copies, but today, they’re nearly all out of print, and I’d be surprised if one in ten readers born after 1980 would even recognize his name, without confusing him with Irving Stone or Irwin Shaw. And for authors who are solely concerned with writing what they think the market wants, his example is a sobering one." --Alec Nevala-Lee

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.