Arthur Hailey

On this date in 1920, writer Arthur Hailey was born in Bedfordshire, England. In 1939 he joined the Royal Air Force as a pilot and served 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 movie “Airplane!”

After working as a television writer, Hailey began to write novels, some based on his TV scripts. His books were aimed at a popular audience and many were best-sellers. Hailey is often considered to be one of the pioneers of the “disaster fiction” genre and, by extension, the “disaster movie.” Many of the 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 said his aim in writing the book was to share his own thoughts about religion without making it “a lecture.” 

He married Joan Fishwick in 1944 and was divorced in 1950, then was married to Sheila Dunlop from 1951 until his death at age 84 in 2004. He had six children.

Freedom From Religion Foundation