“That’s it!” said the enraged octogenarian writer.
He had just ripped up a check after backing out of on agreement to have the publicity firm I was working for to represent him. What was to be a publicity campaign for an accomplished author was now an epic failure. I never had a client do that before – nor since.
That gentleman was the irascible Warren Adler. The incident happened almost a decade ago, and it flooded back to me as soon as I read his obituary in the New York Times. The news saddened me deeply.
He eventually became a client, about a year after his outburst in my office. I emailed him out of the blue, and asked if he’d like to go to lunch. A friendship would develop from that moment that I’ve cherished ever since.
I don’t recall what set him off, but I know Warren took an extreme disliking to a colleague that would’ve been on the PR team and he simply called off the campaign just as we were about to celebrate its commencement. But that incident merely delayed what would be a publicity campaign for one of the most admirable writers I’ve ever worked with.
Warren, who died at the age of 91, could be rough around the edges. He’d tell you what he wants and wouldn’t mince words. But he was intelligent, sensitive, and driven to succeed. He really represented the every writer, a man who despite 50+ books published, never made a major best-seller list. Though a number of works were optioned to movie and TV studios, just a few became movies, but he has one work that will forever be his most memorable.
In 1981 he wrote War of the Roses, a book that didn’t sell well but got the attention of Hollywood. The 1989 movie – released three decades ago – starred Danny DeVito, Kathleen Turner, and Michael Douglas – and grossed what would be in today’s dollars $178 million just n the U.S. It was a book about marital warfare and the ugliest divorce ever. That story was then turned into a sequel, The Children of the Roses. The original story became a play and has been produced in several dozen cities overseas. The Broadway version is slated to debut in 2021.
But aside from War of the Roses, almost all of his books are not literary staples. Most people would not even recognize the author’s name, and if they do, would be hard-pressed to name three other novels of his.
He contributed to the growth of writers with his work at NYU and Jackson Hole Writers Conference and blogged regularly on writing at The Huffington Post. He also had his books sold overseas in 25 languages. By most accounts he was successful as a writer, but something toiled deep within him. He wanted some type of everlasting recognition that few get to receive.
Warren said to me on numerous occasions that he wanted his legacy to survive his lifetime and for the authorial authority of his works to grow. But he understood the many challenges of the 21st writer – overwhelming book competition, low royalties, and the growth of so many diversions arising from technology devices. He would lament that writers chase “hopes and dreams.”
We never found the secret formula to branding him as a significant writer. Too many best-selling authors who owned a genre had cornered the market on fame. Warren was challenged by his unwillingness to just settle into one genre. He wrote on a number of topics in a variety of genres, though he did establish one series, a nine-book collection about a homicide detective that mystery readers embraced. The Fiona Fitzgerald series.
Warren tended to hone in on certain themes and was dubbed the Master of Dysfunction, as many of his books revolved around fragile family relationships, the complex nature of love and attraction, the corrupting of power of money, the aging process and how families cling together when challenged by the outside world.
He reminded me that all writers want what he wanted - to be prolific, to be heard, to be appreciated. Even at age 91 and up until his dying day he was writing and planning the release of a backlog of books written but not yet published. Knowing Warren, he may end up breaking through after his death, giving him the fame and peace of mind he sought all these years.
Interestingly, he didn’t start producing books until he was in his 40’s. He had owned and run a public relations and advertising agency, helped the 1968 presidential campaign of Richard Nixon, and helped launch a society magazine called The Washington Dossier. He also owned four radio stations and a TV station. But once he started writing books he never found a need or desire to slow down or step away from the pen.
One of his earliest jobs was working at The New York Daily News and later became the editor of an award-winning weekly newspaper, the Queens Post. The Brooklyn-born son of Jewish immigrants served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War as a correspondent for Armed Forces Press.
Warren, I know your family, friends, and colleagues will miss you – and hopefully your works will continue to pick up new readers. I can still feel the presence of your booming voice, your hearty laugh, and the sincere search you were on. That journey for “hopes and dreams” did not die with you. Your published words will see to that.
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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2019. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent. This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America.
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