The Unintentional Futurist: Warren Murphy (1933-2015)
The machine-gun patter of clicks was interrupted rhythmically by the ding and zip of the manual carriage return, advancing the page another line and preparing for another string of text. The room was close, cloying with the June humidity of 1963. In a corner, the radio provided background noise with the help of The Chiffons. Over the writer's shoulder, his friend and partner leaned in, peering at the latest completed paragraph before grunting editorial approval. The writer continued at a feverish pace -- a few more strings of machine-gun clacking, a few more dings and zips, and he grabbed the top of the sheet, pulling it free with a whine of protest from the typewriter roller.
His name was Warren, and he wouldn't know it for another eight years, but the manuscript just completed, CREATED, THE DESTROYER, would go on to launch a franchise that would continue into the next millenium. With his friend and co-writer, Dick Sapir, Warren Murphy's satirical assassin Remo Williams would headline over 150 novels, a movie, and a television pilot. His adventures would go from the mundane to the sublimely ridiculous as the world continued to change around him. Often things Murphy would create as over-the-top satire would become commonplace, as life seemed determined to imitate his art.
In addition to THE DESTROYER series and a host of other private eye novels, Murphy would also get his fill of Hollywood, an industry he would often lampoon in his books, penning screenplays not only for his Remo Williams adventures, but also for the Clint Eastwood film, THE EIGER SANCTION, an episode of the George Segal crime series, MURPHY'S LAW, and the Mel Gibson / Danny Glover crime-comedy, LETHAL WEAPON 2.
On September 4, 2015, Warren Murphy passed away peacefully in his sleep. I had never directly interacted with the legendary writer, having interviewed him only once through a series of emails, but I have had numerous communications with his son, Devin, who continues the legacy of THE DESTROYER by helming Destroyer Books. I have the distinct -- and now more daunting than ever -- honor of having been asked to be the next writer to continue the adventures of Remo and Master Chiun. Even after Devin had bled all over my initial manuscript pages, the most dread I felt in the entire process was what Warren's opinion of the finished product would be. Several days before his death, Warren had taken up the final copy of the manuscript to add his personal notes. I hope he knew that his characters would go on, in the hands of someone who appreciated and cared for his creations.
Warren is survived by his ex-wife Molly Cochran, five children -- Deirdre, Megan, Brian, Ardath and Devin -- six grandchildren, throngs of admiring fans and a library full of award winning books. It's not literal immortality, but a literary immortality. And in the end, for a writer, that's about the best you could hope for. Or, as Warren himself might say, through Remo's dialogue: "That's the biz, sweetheart."
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