"I don't think I really invented anybody. I have drawn on real life.""I loved education, and, yes, I did want to go on learning.""Long afterward, many would remember those two days in the first week of October with vividness and anguish.""The president of General Motors was in a foul humor.""There I was, an 18-year-old mimic rooming with a blind whistler.""When I began writing that I was able and did travel and met some fascinating people and also uncovered some history, which has not been discovered before."
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. 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 U.S. income taxes, which were claiming 90% of his income.
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 environments and systems function and how these affect society and its inhabitants.
Critics often dismissed Hailey's success as the result of a formulaic "potboiler" style in which he caused an ordinary character to become involved in a crisis, then increased the suspense by switching among multiple related plot lines. However, he was so popular with readers that his books were almost guaranteed to become best-sellers.
He would spend about one year researching a subject, followed by six months reviewing his notes and, finally, about 18 months writing the book. That aggressive research ... tracking rebel guerrillas in the Peruvian jungle at age 67 for The Evening News (1990), or reading 27 books on the hotel industry for Hotel — gave his novels a realism that appealed to readers, even as some critics complained that he used it to disguise a lack of literary talent.
Many of his books have reached #1 on the New York Times bestseller list 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 residential 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 Hailey, Emma Hailey, Charlotte Hailey and Brooke Hailey, who are students in Northern California, Angela Hailey, Ryan Hailey and Christopher Hailey.
Runway Zero-Eight (1958) — in-flight medical emergency, caused by food poisoning; spoofed in the movie Airplane!. This story started as the CBC TV movie Flight into Danger, then became the 1957 Paramount Pictures movie Zero Hour!, and was finally published as the novel Runway Zero-Eight (ISBN 0-440-17546-1).
The Final Diagnosis (1959) — hospital politics as seen from the pathology department
In High Places (1960) — Cold War Era politics in North America