Warren Murphy (1933-2015)

Warren Murphy

Warren Murphy

Warren Murphy, co-creator of the Destroyer series with Richard Sapir, died September 4 in his Virginia Beach home.

The first Destroyer was written in 1963, while Murphy served as secretary to the mayor of Jersey City and Sapir worked as a city hall reporter. Murphy decided to leave politics — “when everybody I worked for went to jail, I thought God was sending me a message to find a new line of work.”

He co-authored dozens of Destroyer novels with Sapir (who died in 1987), and later revived the series as a franchise with other co-authors.

He also wrote Grandmaster, which won the 1985 Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original Mystery Novel, and numerous other award-nominated novels and short fiction.

Murphy’s screenwriting credits include Lethal Weapon II and The Eiger Sanction.

Murphy served in the military during the Korean War.

Interestingly, his list of five favorite novels (“not written by partners or friends”) featured Theodore Sturgeon’s More than Human.

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9 thoughts on “Warren Murphy (1933-2015)

  1. Lethal Weapon II was a ridiculous movie but the Eiger Sanction was damned fine. So clearly the Destroyer novels themselves didn’t represent the top of his talent.

  2. Sorry to hear this. I loved the Destroyer novels, back in the day. I didn’t realize they were older than I am.

  3. I think the suck fairy has had her way with the Series, but I read every damn one of them back in the day.

    Marty Massoglia canvassed the countryside for used copies on my behalf. It was almost a game for him, with the rules of engagement being that he would not pay more than a quarter apiece.

  4. Hail and Farewell, Sir! I read an awful lot of his writing, for many happy hours! Sometimes you want popcorn reading, and the Destroyer series was certainly that.

  5. Got into this series as an extension of finding James Bond and Matt Helm back in the 60s. Callan, Modesty, and the Destroyer were perfect follow-ups. Sorry to see another significant part of my genre youth pass by. RIP, Mr. Murphy.

  6. Another Destroyer fan (haven’t looked at any of ’em since the 80’s, migod I’m old); rest in peace, Mr. Murphy.

  7. May I tell you a story?

    One of the great drinking nights of my life was spent in Mr. Murphy’s company.

    Not that we were friends. We had just met.

    It was an Edgar Awards weekend I believe, in 1983, the annual confab where the prestigious Mystery Writers of America awards are presented. A bunch of us were at Bogey’s Restaurant, on a Sunday night, in the terrific restaurant once owned and run by Karen and Billy Palmer.


    Warren was hanging out with my pal (my plutonic pal!), Susan Dodson, who had been an ex-girlfriend of his of some sort, but one with whom he had remained good friends. Joining us was Susan’s long time best friend, Linda Gender Fay.

    And the four of us were ensconced at the bar, most merrily!

    For a very long time…

    Back then, the Mystery Writers of America in New York was just this grand SOCIAL organization, due largely to the efforts of Chris Steinbrunner, its regional vice-president; an Edgar-winner himself,(whom many of you know had also made his mark in the worlds of science fiction, and other fandoms; all while serving as a film programming executive at the local New York TV station, WOR-TV, Channel 9).


    Once a month, in the MWA’s 5th Avenue headquarters, there’d be a cocktail party, for a couple of hours. The beauty of this was young writers could mingle with established pros, and anyone else who cared to mix in, who was a member. The Henry Slesars of the world, on occasion, were side-by-side with the most charming of neophites.

    Friendships made in those days among young writers, including Robert Randisi and the late Edward Hunsburger and C.J. (Chris) Henderson, can STILL resonate.

    It was very much a meritocracy of good fellowship:

    You were made to feel welcome, as long as you had something to offer, particularly in the way of pleasantness, or good conversation!

    (Some time later, when Chris ailed, Susan Dodson, in fact, began running the small soirees. The organization lost a great deal, when these monthly get-togethers were cancelled.)

    And while the awards weekend was certainly a very big, prestigious deal, it was this sense of fun that could permeate many of its functions, both official and otherwise.

    Warren Murphy couldn’t have been nicer.

    By then, he was already well enough established, that he could well have acted like a jerk… But, as you might suspect by now, he was the exact opposite, going out of his way, to be a wonderful evening’s companion.

    (There’s a funny Clint Eastwood story that I’ll drop in here, out of nowhere: Susan once told me that when Murphy was working on THE EIGER SANCTION, or perhaps having a meeting with the actor/directior/producer on another project, the two were meeting in Las Vegas… As Eastwood and Murphy walked through a casino, (Murphy himself was an impressive looking dude), someone said, “It’s Clint Eastwood!” Eastwood, Murphy related, turned around, excited, and said “Really? Where?”)

    I wouldn’t put too much of LETHAL WEAPON 2 on Murphy’s head… His non-series mystery novels are well enough respected that I suspect that all of the shenanigans were others’ doings…

    But there is a mystery here, that I think Warren would like me to take a moment to explore:

    Because our mutual, good friend, Susan Dodson, kind of dropped out of sight, over a decade ago. She could well be fine, but even Linda Gender Fay–with whom I had remained friends for decades–no longer knew how to reach her.

    Susan had written a couple of young adult mystery novels, and was also a graphic designer, originally from the Pittsburgh area.

    She could also be a dear.

    It could well be that Susan is “in plain sight,” and just some of us no longer know how to contact her. But she was a lovely part of the New York mystery scene, for many years…

    And it would be lovely to know if she’s all right.

    (For that matter, I no loner know how to reach Linda!)

    That night, Murphy and I bonded over the oddest of coincidences:

    As very young children, we had both been exposed to magicians, of a sort, cheating, ruinng much of our ability to ever enjoy stage magic. As a three year old, my Dad ran me up, when a magician at a local community event asked for a volunteer… (Understand, this was what I wanted!) The rotary club-type performer was doing a card trick, and when his assistant whispered in my ear, asking me to lie… This was inconceivable to me. And the other child being used in the presentation, who clearly, had complied, was given the nice prize…

    When Warren was a boy, his mother had taken him to some kind of spiritualist’s demonstration, as I recall… When the “golden trumpet” floated in the air, Murphy could clearly see the man draped entirely in black, lifting it over the stage…

    In my case, I was a bit fortunate, in that I can still admire the GRAND illusions, or very much, the skill and craft it takes to enact CLOSEUP tricks, right in front of me….

    And very fortunately, Warren Murphy clearly never gave up believing in all other sorts of magic, particularly that which could be created on a blank piece of paper, as his award-winning career helps illustrate.

  8. The Eiger Sanction is one of the best Eastwood movies. He did all of his own climbing – and it was filmed on the Eiger. True to form of most parties on the Eiger North Face (Eigerwand), two cameramen died when the house-sized block of ice they were standing in just broke off and fell. They were waiting for the last helicopter of the day to take them back to base. (There have been a number of climbs on the Eiger where nobody died, but climbers still die. Germany kept throwing climbers at it during the 1930’s, and something like 9 people died before the first successful ascent.)

    From Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eiger): Since 1935, at least sixty-four climbers have died attempting the north face, earning it the German nickname, Mordwand, or “murderous wall”, a play on the face’s German name Nordwand.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Eiger_Sanction_(film) says “A 27-year-old Scottish climber, David Knowles, who was a body double and photographer, was killed during a rock fall”.

    There is an article in “Climbing”, a magazine for climbers (amazing, that…), that tells about the big chunk of ice falling and killing two men. It also goes over several of the technical aspects of shooting a movie on a dangerous mountain.

    Concerning Mr Murphy: “With concerns over early drafts, Eastwood contacted novelist Warren Murphy (known for his The Destroyer assassin series) in Connecticut in February 1974 for assistance, despite Murphy’s having never read the book nor written for a film before.[6] Murphy read the novel and agreed to write the script, but he was unhappy with the novel’s tone, which he believed patronized readers.[6] Murphy completed a draft in late March and a revised script a month later”.

    I love “The Destroyer”. I read most of them, meaning all I could get to read. The movie was OK, but I really liked the books. Someone here might be able to tell me if this is true: One of the two authors would write the first half of the book, to (say) page 85, then give it to the second author. the end of page 85 might be mid sentence, or even mid word.

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