|A.K.A.||Albert Sidney Fleischman|
|Was||Writer Novelist Children's writer Screenwriter Biographer|
|From||United States of America|
|Field||Film, TV, Stage & Radio Literature Science|
|Birth||16 March 1920, Brooklyn|
|Death||17 March 2010, Santa Monica (aged 90 years)|
Albert Sidney Fleischman (March 16, 1920 – March 17, 2010), or Sid Fleischman, was an American author of children's books, screenplays, novels for adults, and nonfiction books about magic. His works for children are known for their humor, imagery, zesty plotting, and exploration of the byways of American history. He won the Newbery Medal in 1987 for The Whipping Boy and the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award in 1979 for Humbug Mountain. For his career contribution as a children's writer he was U.S. nominee for the biennial, international Hans Christian Andersen Award in 1994. In 2003, the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators inaugurated the Sid Fleischman Award in his honor, and made him the first recipient. The Award annually recognizes a writer of humorous fiction for children or young adults. He told his own tale in The Abracadabra Kid: A Writer's Life (1996).
Fleischman was born Avron Zalmon Fleischman in Brooklyn, New York in 1920. His parents were of Russian Jewish extraction and moved the family to San Diego, California when Fleischman was two years old. As a youngster, he beheld his first stage magic performance, launching a lifelong fascination, that would find a place in many of unclassical books of his. He learned magic from books and the local fraternity of magicians, inventing new tricks along the way. He began performing professionally while still in high school, touring California with his friend Buddy Ryan, performing in nightclubs, and traveling the country with the Francisco Spook Show during the last days. He settled in Santa Monica, CA.
Works for adults and the screen
At 19, Fleischman published his first book, Between Cocktails, a collection of magic tricks using paper matches. His college career at San Diego State College was interrupted by World War II, during which he served on a destroyer escort in the Pacific. After the war, he tried his hand at fiction for the first time, publishing his first novel, a mystery entitled The Straw Donkey Case. After graduating with a degree in English, he worked as a reporter for the short lived newspaper The San Diego Daily Journal, covering everything from crime scenes to the political beat. Drawing on his reporting experiences, his knowledge of magic, and his tour of the Pacific, he produced a series of novels of intrigue and adventure over the next 15 years, many set in the Far East. After decades out of print, several have been lately reprinted in two-books-in-one format by Stark House Press.
When Blood Alley caught the eye of director William Wellman, he hired Fleischman to adapt it to the screen. This both led to a move to Santa Monica, California, where Fleischman lived the rest of his life, and began a decades-long involvement with Hollywood. After Blood Alley was filmed, starring John Wayne and Lauren Bacall, Wellman used Fleischman on several other projects, including Lafayette Escadrille, based on Wellman's own experiences as a World War I pilot. Fleischman adapted his own novel Yellowleg for the screen, released as The Deadly Companions, the director Sam Peckinpah's first feature. Fleischman later worked on several projects with Kirk Douglas, including Scalawag. For children, he wrote teleplays for "The Bloodhound Gang" segments of the educational 3–2–1 Contact series, as well as the screenplay of The Whipping Boy (released as Prince Brat and the Whipping Boy).
Books for children
Using his three children as an audience for the first time, Fleischman wrote Mr. Mysterious & Company (1962), the adventures of a traveling magician's family in the old West. It was the first of many books drawing on his background in magic and his interest in history. By the Great Horn Spoon! mined the California Gold Rush and was turned into the movie The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin. The Ghost in the Noonday Sun, Chancy and the Grand Rascal, Jingo Django, and Humbug Mountain (1965 to 1978) spun fiction from the facts of East Coast pirates, Ohio River rafting, American Gypsies, and traveling printers. His series of books about Josh McBroom and family (1966 to 1982 or later) made use of American tall tales. Later works looked farther afield, from England (The Whipping Boy) to Asia (The White Elephant) to Mexico (The Dream Stealer). Finding nonfiction to his liking after completing his autobiography The Abracadabra Kid: A Writer's Life (1996), Fleischman went on to produce biographies of Harry Houdini, Mark Twain, and Charlie Chaplin.
Fleischman and his wife Betty, who died in 1993, had three children. His son Paul Fleischman followed him into the world of children's books. Sid and Paul Fleischman are the only parent and child who have both won the Newbery Medal, the venerable American Library Association award that annually recognizes the "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children".
Fleischman maintained an interest in magic all his life, hosting monthly meetings of Los Angeles magicians at his home, publishing occasional articles in magic journals, and summing up what he had learned in The Charlatan's Handbook (1993). For young magicians, he wrote Mr. Mysterious's Secrets of Magic (1975).
Fleischman's other interests included gardening, astronomy, hand-printing, radio, and classical guitar.
The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin (Disney, 1967) is an adaptation of Fleischman's western comedy By the Great Horn Spoon!, starring Roddy McDowell as Bullwhip Griffin.
Ghost in the Noonday Sun (Tyburn, 1973) is a loose adaptation of Fleischman's Newbery Medal-winning novel, starring Peter Sellers as pirate crewman Dick Scratcher.