Arthur Hailey

On this date in 1920, Arthur Hailey was born in Bedfordshire, England. In 1939, he joined the Royal Air Force as a pilot. He served in the RAF until 1947, when he emigrated to Canada. His career as a writer began in 1955 when he imagined what would happen if the pilot and co-pilot both became ill, and if he as a former fighter pilot would be able to fly the plane. His teleplay, "Flight Into Danger," produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, later morphed into the successful novel, Airport (1968), which was spoofed in the 1980 Leslie Nielsen favorite, "Airplane!" After working as a television writer, Hailey began to write novels, some based on his television scripts. Hailey's books were aimed at a popular audience, and many were bestsellers. Hailey is often considered to be one of the pioneers of the “disaster fiction” genre and, by extension, the “disaster movie.” Many of Hailey's novels are set in institutions the public must interact with — like airports and hotels — but are unaware of their inner workings.

Hailey's last novel, Detective (1998), is a mystery told from the perspective of a Miami homicide detective. This detective also happens to be a former Catholic priest who has lost his religion; the work deals with themes of religion and questions the Catholic church. 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. D. 2004.

“I'd been on patrol, and I went to church that evening. It was an Anglican church, quite high church (I always liked the ceremony) and I was standing up, reciting the Apostles' Creed (which to this day I could recite word for word) and suddenly I realized I didn't believe a word of it, and probably never had. And I never went back to church after that, except for the occasional funeral.”

—Arthur Hailey, in Walden Book Report, July 1998

Compiled by Eleanor Wroblewski

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