Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Warren Murphy: A Tribute by Devin Murphy

I really admired Warren Murphy, his books, and the man. A prolific author, a friend to other writers, a teacher of writing, Warren passed away this Fall. Warren Murphy, born in 1933, was an American author, known, among other things, as the co-creator of The Destroyer series, the basis for the film Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. He worked in journalism and politics until launching the Destroyer series with Richard Sapir in 1971. A screenwriter (Lethal Weapon II, The Eiger Sanction) as well as a novelist, Murphy’s work won a dozen national awards, including multiple Edgars and Shamuses. Murphy lectured at many colleges and universities, as well as offering writing lessons at his website, A Korean War veteran, some of Murphy’s hobbies included golf, mathematics, opera, and investing. Today, I welcome his son Devin Murphy, with this tribute to his father.


“Writing one book is an accomplishment,” Warren Murphy once said. “But you can’t stop there. If you’ve finished your first book, congratulations! — now write another. And another. Eventually one won’t stink. Keep writing. One book is an accomplishment. Three books is a hobby. By the time you get to a dozen, then maybe it’ll be a career. Whatever you do, just keep writing.”

Warren Murphy kept writing. One book. A dozen books. Fifty books. By the time he passed away on September 4th, 2015, over two hundred books. Not just The Destroyer series, but also the Trace and Digger and Razoni and Jackson series, and dozens and dozens of standalone titles.

Two hundred books. Sometimes they competed with each other, like when one of the Trace books didn’t win a Shamus award because Ceiling of Hell, another book of Warren’s, won instead. (Damn. Can’t win ’em all).

“How do you come up with so many ideas?” I heard someone ask him once. His response: “Watch. Learn. Pay attention. And then, when you’re writing, don’t forget it.” It’s a variation on the old writers’ maxim — write what you know. “Pay attention. And then, when you’re writing, don’t forget it.”

From my lifetime of memories with him, I can see Warren in each of his books. It’s not just his characters or his plots or his writing style — I can see his interest in golf, his fascination with statistics and probability, his knowledge of opera and politics and vodka and jazz. His favorite movie (Gunga Din) makes an appearance in a Destroyer; his favorite song (Over the Rainbow) appears in one of his books, too.

Sometimes, pieces of conversations appear. “I’ve never really liked tea,” Warren once said. “People pretend to like it, but I think they’re being phonies — tea tastes like urine.” Lo and behold, in Warren’s latest book Bloodline, a character complains about the taste of tea, comparing it to — well, you can guess. “Pay attention. And then, when you’re writing, don’t forget it.” Two hundred books — all of them, in some small measure, an autobiography. Warren was Trace; Warren was Digger; Warren was Remo; Warren was Chiun.

Two hundred books, each with countless memories, flashes of Warren’s mind and interests and personality. Two hundred books, and Warren is now gone, but he will not be forgotten; his works will live on and he will live within them.

His name was Warren and he was my father.

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