Prolific novelist and screenwriter Brian Garfield passed away on December 29, 2018, at the age of 79, following complications from Parkinson’s disease. Garfield wrote more than 70 books over the course of his career, which went on to sell more than 20 million copies worldwide.
Garfield was born in New York, New York, in January 1939. He was the son of Frances O’Brien, a portrait artist, and George Garfield, an entrepreneur. Besides having an interest in writing, Garfield was also a guitarist; he briefly toured the country in the ’50s with The Palisades, which had a minor hit with the song “I Can’t Quit.” His first book was published when he was just 18 years old, and much of his early work was published under various pennames (such as “Jonas Ward,” “Frank Wynne,” and “John Ives,” among others) before he gained prominence under his own name in the 1970s. In 1969, he authored The Thousand-Mile War: World War II in Alaska and the Aleutians, which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in History.
In 1972, Garfield published Death Wish, which was adapted into a film of the same name just two years later; the story followed Paul Benjamin, a man who takes justice into his own hands after his wife and daughter are attacked. The story was a hit, and the film adaptation starring Charles Bronson was a box office success that went on to see four sequels (released through the 1990s). A remake of the original was made in 2018, starring Bruce Willis.
The novel also saw a sequel, Death Sentence, which was also separately adapted into a 2007 movie. Garfield once referred to Death Sentence as his “penance” for the violence depicted in Death Wish, as the protagonist of the sequel himself says, “Any idiot can kill people – and you can’t teach someone a lesson by killing him.”
In 1976 Garfield won the Edgar Award for Best Novel for Hopscotch; this story was also made into a film in 1980, which Garfield co-wrote the screenplay for. Interestingly, though the novel was a brooding, cynical story, the film took on a more comedic tone.
Though best-known for his work in the mystery and western genres, Garfield didn’t limit himself to one style of writing, even going on to write the 1983 musical comedy television film Legs about the Rockettes.
Garfield consistently published books throughout the 1960s and 1970s, only slowing down by the mid-’80s. His last novel was 2003’s The Hit and the Marksman, though he continued working on some nonfiction projects. His last book was 2008’s The Meinertzhagen Mystery: The Life and Legend of a Colossal Fraud.