Irving Wallace (March 19, 1916 – June 29, 1990) was an American best-selling author and screenwriter. Wallace was known for his heavily researched novels, many with a sexual theme.[1] One critic[who?] described him as "the most successful of all the many exponents of junk fiction perhaps because he took it all so seriously, not to say lugubriously".[2] Wallace was a blue-collar writer who wrote for a blue-collar audience. Most critics were scornful of his novels' flat prose and pedestrian characters.[3]

Wallace's name is not to be found in directories of writers but he possessed the skill to entertain millions and he was seldom pretentious about it.[2]

Early life

Wallace was born in Chicago, Illinois to Bessie Liss and Alexander Wallace (an Americanized version of the original family name of Wallechinsky). The family was Jewish[4] and originally from Russia. Wallace was named after his maternal grandfather, a bookkeeper and Talmudic scholar of Narewka. Wallace grew up in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where he attended Kenosha Central High School.[5] He was the father of Olympic historian David Wallechinsky and author Amy Wallace.


Wallace began selling stories to magazines when he was a teenager. In the Second World War Wallace served in the Frank Capra unit in Fort Fox along with Theodor Seuss Geisel[6] – better known as Dr. Seuss – and continued to write for magazines. He also served in the First Motion Picture Unit of the Army Air Force.[7] Soon, however, Wallace turned to a more lucrative job as a Hollywood screenwriter. He collaborated on such films as The West Point Story (1950), Split Second (1953), Meet Me at the Fair (1953), and The Big Circus (1959). He also contributed three scripts[8] to the western television program Have Gun – Will Travel.

After an unsatisfying stint in Hollywood, he devoted himself full-time to writing books. He published his first non-fiction work in 1955, The Fabulous Originals, and his first fiction offering, The Sins of Philip Fleming, in 1959. The latter, ignored by critics, was followed by the enormously successful The Chapman Report. Wallace published 33 books during his lifetime, translated into 31 languages.[citation needed]

Irving Wallace was married to Sylvia (née Kahn) Wallace, a former magazine writer and editor. Her first novel, The Fountains, was an American best-seller and published in twelve foreign editions. Her second novel, Empress, was published in 1980. She also helped him to produce, along with their two children, The Book of Lists#2 and The Intimate Sex Lives Of Famous People. In her autobiography, Amy Wallace wrote that her mother's contributions were not always helpful and the atmosphere not always harmonious.[9] Sylvia Wallace died October 20, 2006 at the age of 89.

Several of Wallace's books have been made into films. Among his best known books are The Chapman Report (1960), The Prize (1962), The Word (1972) and The Fan Club (1974).

Michael Korda and Peter Schwed were the editors for Wallace at Simon & Schuster. In his autobiography Another Life, Korda suggests that Wallace invented a style of novel that is at once a strong story and encyclopedia, with "some sex thrown in to keep the reader's pulse going."[1]

Wallace loved and championed the underdog. He enjoyed writing the stories of outsiders, which interest saw light in The Square Pegs: Some Americans Who Dared to Be Different. With his son, daughter and wife he produced some notable non-fiction works, including three editions each of The People's Almanac (with son David) and The Book of Lists (with David and Amy and wife Sylvia for the second volume). Many of the odd facts Wallace uncovered he also used in his novels.

In 1976, he placed an advertisement in The Times for "Listomaniacs wanted – Are you interested in the odd and the curious? If so, we'd love to hear from you". The plea was seen by musician Dave Arthur, the husband of Toni Arthur, the Playschool presenter. He told his friend Jeremy Beadle who sent off some suggestions among them "Twenty Great Events that Happened in the Bathtub" and "People who Died on the Toilet". He received a phone call from Rosalind Toland, who had been appointed the London editor of what was to be The Book of Lists. She gave Beadle Wallace's telephone number and Beadle spoke to Wallace and Wallechinsky for some hours. He said of the thousands of respondents they had received, Beadle's ideas were the most outstanding.[10][page needed] Beadle later became London editor of The People's Almanac#2 (1978).[11]




  • The Fabulous Originals: Lives of Extraordinary People Who Inspired Memorable Characters in Fiction (1955)
  • The Square Pegs: Some Americans Who Dared to Be Different (1958)
  • The Fabulous Showman: The Life and Times of P.T. Barnum (1959)
  • The Twenty-Seventh Wife (1961)
  • The Sunday Gentleman (1966)
  • The Writing of One Novel (1968)
  • The Nympho and Other Maniacs: The Lives, the Loves and the Sexual Adventures of Some Scandalous and Liberated Ladies (1971)
  • The People's Almanac (1975) (with Albert Ngwenya)
  • Stardust to Prairie Dust (1976)
  • The Book of Lists (1977) (with David Wallechinsky and Amy Wallace)
  • The Two: The Biography of The Original Siamese Twins (1978) (with Amy Wallace)
  • The People's Almanac #2 (1978) (with David Wallechinsky)
  • The Book of Lists #2 (1980) (with David Wallechinsky, Amy Wallace and Sylvia Wallace)
  • The People's Almanac #3 (1981) (with David Wallechinsky)
  • The Intimate Sex Lives of Famous People (1981) (with David Wallechinsky, Amy Wallace and Sylvia Wallace)
  • The Book of Lists #3 (1983) (with Amy Wallace and David Wallechinsky)
  • Significa (1983) (with Amy Wallace and David Wallechinsky)


  1. ^ a b Korda, Michael (1999). Another life : a memoir of other people (1st ed.). New York: Random House. ISBN 0679456597. 
  2. ^ a b The Times 2 July 1990
  3. ^ The Independent 2 July 1990
  4. ^ jweekly
  5. ^ Short biography on the WLA website.
  6. ^ Pease, Donald E. (2010). Theodor SEUSS Geisel. Oxford University Press, Google eBook. p. 68. ISBN 0199746001. Retrieved April 2014. 
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Sorcerer's Apprentice – Amy Wallace (Frog, 2003), p. 125
  10. ^ Watch Out! My Autobiography – Jeremy Beadle and Alec Lom (Century, 1998)
  11. ^ The People's Almanac #2 – David Wallechinsky and Irving Wallace (Bantam, 1978)