As many of you know by now, we lost award winning book and screenplay author, Warren Murphy, last week. Although he wrote over two hundred books, he was most famous for his Destroyer series featuring hero, Remo Williams, which he co-wrote with the late Richard Sapir. His wit and humor, as well as his take on the current political scene, will be missed. One may have forgotten that he also wrote the screenplays for both The Eiger Sanction and Lethal Weapon 2, as well as comics, mysteries, satire and short stories. He was also a willing teacher, helping other writers to improve their skills and always ready to encourage them in their endeavors.
Warren Murphy was a prolific writer of the ‘70s and ‘80s as were writers such as Mickey Spillane and John McDonald and Michael Avalon, who like many others, wrote under numerous pseudonyms. I know there were many more such writers beyond those I just mentioned. It was almost like a club where they were producing a similar genre product, in this case, adventure stories, for the same group of manufacturers, AKA publishing houses. I happened to be married to one of these writers. Most of these guys were paid paltry sums to produce fast, page-turning action adventure involving evil bad guys and beautiful women, writing them rapidly enough to keep current with their rent and utilities. Considering the numbers of books sold back then and the people who still collect and reread these books today, the writers succeeded in keeping up with demand.
Their real success is not based on how many books were sold in those days but in the number of young people who became hooked on reading because of their fast paced stories. Personally, Jerry and I received many letters from people who stated that they had had no interest in reading and that they were turned off by the books they were supposed to read in high school. Somehow, they got their hands on a Survivalist or Mercenary book or a Destroyer or Nick Carter and found that reading could be a pleasurable experience and then they never stopped turning the pages. Reading about good guys versus bad guys and the concept of good should triumph over evil, mixed with a little romance was and still is good for the soul and the spirit. A good story is a good story and makes the reader stop to think of what they would have done in the same situation. Some of these people tried their hands at writing their own stories and some succeeded and became the next generation of storytellers.
Jerry’s dad had to grow up quickly. Being the only boy in the family with four sisters and a mother to support, he didn’t have the opportunity to spend much time in school; instead, he spent his time working at anything that would help bring home money. He was smart and would spend any free time he had with his nose in a book that he had picked up somewhere. If his father caught him reading, the book was taken away and usually thrown into the fireplace and Jack would be given a lecture about idle hands. Fortunately, this didn’t stop Jerry’s dad from continuing to read.
Jerry grew up seeing his father spending a good portion of his free time reading. Many times I saw Jack with a paperback book protruding from his back pants pocket. His dad’s favorite authors were Harold Robbins, Mickey Spillane, and Zane Grey. In fact, when he passed away, he was buried with a few books to read while waiting to pass through the pearly gates. As Jerry grew older, his dad would read favorite passages to his son and, eventually, pass his favorites over for Jerry to read. The two of them later became fans of the James Bond books and this became a special link that they shared. Unfortunately, Jerry’s dad passed away before any of Jerry’s books were published. John “Jack” Ahern would have been so proud of his son.
Reading has been called “the window to the world.” It can teach you about the world as it is, and can open your imagination to what it could be. There is no end to the stories that can be told as long as we have great storytellers to tell them.