Arthur Hailey: British writer (1920 - 2004) | Biography
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Arthur Hailey
British writer

Arthur Hailey

Arthur Hailey
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro British writer
A.K.A. Arthur Frederick Hailey
Was Writer Novelist Screenwriter
From United Kingdom Canada
Field Film, TV, Stage & Radio Literature
Gender male
Birth 5 April 1920, Luton
Death 24 November 2004, New Providence (aged 84 years)
Star sign Aries
The details (from wikipedia)


Arthur Hailey (5 April 1920 – 24 November 2004) was a British/Canadian novelist, whose works have sold more than 170 million copies in 40 languages. Most of the novels are procedurals set within an industry, such as hotels, banks or airlines, and explore the particular human conflicts sparked-off by that environment. They are notable for their plain style, extreme realism, based on months of detailed meticulous research, and a sympathetic down-to-earth hero with whom the reader can easily identify.


Born in Luton, Bedfordshire, England, Hailey served in the Royal Air Force from the start of World War II during 1939 until 1947, when he went to live in Canada.

Interviewed for the book Authors Take Sides on the Falklands, Hailey supported the British government's military action.

Hailey's last novel, Detective (1997), is a mystery told from the perspective of a Miami homicide detective, a former Catholic priest who has lost his religion. Hailey told the Walden Book Report that his aim in writing this book was to share his own thoughts about religion without "mak[ing] it a lecture." He says that he lost his own faith while serving in Cyprus during World War II, and that since ex-priests have many occupations he might as well give his protagonist an exciting one.

Hailey died in his Bahamian home, at the age of 84.


After working at a number of jobs and writing part-time, he became a writer full-time during 1956, encouraged by the success of the CBC television drama, Flight into Danger (in print as Runway Zero Eight). Following the success of Hotel during 1965, he moved to California; in 1969, he moved to the Bahamas to avoid Canadian and US income taxes, which were claiming a substantial portion of his earnings.

Each of his novels has a different industrial or commercial setting and includes, in addition to dramatic human conflict, carefully researched information about the way that particular environment and system functions and how these affect society and its inhabitants.

Critics often dismissed Hailey's success as being the result of a "formula". His "potboilers" enmeshed a character in a crisis, after which suspense was enhanced by switching to other, related plot lines. Nevertheless, Hailey was so popular with readers that his books were nearly guaranteed to become best-sellers.

He would spend one year researching a subject, followed by six months reviewing his notes and, finally, about 18 months writing the book. Aggressive research—-tracking rebel guerrillas in the Peruvian jungle (at age 67) for The Evening News (1990), or reading more than two dozen books on the hotel industry for Hotel—gave his novels a realism that appealed to many kinds of readers. Some critics complained that such thoroughness of background disguised a lack of literary talent.

Four of his books reached No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list (Airport, Overload, The Moneychangers and Wheels), with Airport alone spending thirty weeks in the top spot, and more than 170 million copies have been sold worldwide in 40 languages. Many have been made into movies and Hotel was made into a long-running television series. Airport became a successful film with dramatic visual effects.

A Canadian citizen whose children live in Canada and California, Hailey made his home in Lyford Cay, an exclusive resort on New Providence Island in the Bahamas with his second wife, Sheila (who wrote I Married a Best-Seller, published in 1978). Hailey's grandchildren include Paul, Emma, Charlotte, and Brooke Hailey, who are students in northern California, and also Angela, Ryan, and Christopher Hailey.


In 2002, Hailey told John Marquis, editor of the Bahamas' principal daily newspaper The Tribune, that he was lucky in having supportive parents who encouraged him to believe in himself. Brought up in a working-class home, Hailey never lost the common touch following his phenomenal success. 'I have worked hard, but I have also been very lucky,' he said.

He had begun his writing life as a journalist on a transport magazine, but got his break as a fiction writer when, during a flight, he began to ponder what would happen if both pilots fell sick from food poisoning. The storyline led to his first big success.

Hailey said he detached himself from his plots and characters once a book had been sold to Hollywood. Having tried script-writing at one stage in his career, he saw movie-making as a completely different discipline from novel writing and decided to stick with what he knew.

For much of his career, Hailey was either derided or ignored by literary critics, who often felt his plots were contrived and his characters wooden. However, readers loved his work, and two years before his death in 2004 many of his major books were reissued.

When Hailey died in his sleep at his waterfront home in November 2004, his family staged a celebration of his life at the exclusive Lyford Cay Club in Nassau, Bahamas. News of his death was published in more than 300 major newspapers worldwide.

His wife Sheila told John Marquis that her husband's only ambition as a writer was "to see his name on the spine of a book—nothing more." In the event, his name appeared on the spines of nearly 200 million books, accumulating a fortune that enabled him to live in luxury alongside the likes of Sean Connery, billionaire Joe Lewis and Canadian fashion tycoon Peter Nygard.

His last published work was a slim history of Lyford Cay, which was established as a private estate for wealthy residents by the developer E.P. Taylor. It was intended for limited distribution among Lyford Cay residents and anyone interested in Bahamian history.

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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