Henry Slesar

Henry Slesar
Born (1927-06-12)June 12, 1927
Brooklyn, New York, United States
Died April 2, 2002(2002-04-02) (aged 74)
New York City, U.S.
Pen name O. H. Leslie
Jay Street
Nationality American
Genre Dark fantasy
Detective fiction
Science fiction
Slesar's novella "The Goddess of World 21" was cover-featured on the March 1957 issue of Fantastic Science Fiction
The next month, his novelette "Bottle Baby" also took the cover of Fantastic
Slesar's short story "Desire Woman" was cover-festured on the June 1957 issue of Super-Science Fiction
Slesar's novella "The Secret of Marracott Deep" was the cover story of the July 1957 issue of Fantastic
Slesar's novelette "The Genie Takes a Wife" was cover-featured on the March 1958 issue of Fantastic Stories
Slesar's novella "Brother Robot" was cover-featured on the May 1958 issue of Amazing Stories
Slesar's novelette "The Invisible Man Murder Case" took the cover of the May 1958 issue of Fantastic Stories
Slesar's "The Delegate from Venus" was the cover story of the October 1958 issue of Amazing Stories
Slesar's novelette "The Eleventh Plague" took the cover of the December 1958 issue of Fantastic
Slesar's "The Blonde from Space" was the cover story of the January 1959 issue of Amazing Stories
Slesar's novella "Jobo" took the cover of the May 1963 issue of Amazing Stories

Henry Slesar (June 12, 1927 – April 2, 2002) was an American author, playwright, and copywriter. He is famous for his use of irony and twist endings. After reading Slesar's "M Is for the Many" in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock bought it for adaptation and they began many successful collaborations. Slesar wrote hundreds of scripts for television series and soap operas, leading TV Guide to call him "the writer with the largest audience in America."[1]


Henry Slesar was born in Brooklyn, New York City. His parents were Jewish immigrants from Ukraine, and he had two sisters named Doris and Lillian. After graduating from the School of Industrial Art, he found he had a talent for ad copy and design, which launched his twenty-year career as a copywriter at the age of 17.[2] He was hired right out of school to work for the prominent advertising agency Young & Rubicam.[1]

It has been claimed that the term "coffee break" was coined by Slesar and that he was also the person behind McGraw-Hill's massively popular "The Man in the Chair"[3] advertising campaign.[4]

During World War II, for some years[5] he served in the United States Air Force,[6] which influenced his story "The Delegate from Venus".[7] Afterwards, he opened his own agency.

Slesar was married three times: to Oenone Scott, 1953-1969; to Jan Maakestad, 1970-1974; and to Manuela[4] Jone in 1974.[5] He had one daughter and one son.


In addition to writing chiefly under his own name, Slesar published under several pseudonyms, particularly on early short stories. These included:

In Amazing Stories he published such stories as "Marriages Are Made in Detroit" (December 1956), "Reluctant Genius"[8] (January 1957), "No Room in Heaven" (June 1957), and "The Anonymous Man" (July 1957), "The Seven Eyes of Jonathan Dark" (January 1959).
In Fantastic he published such stories as "Death Rattle" (December 1956), "My Robot" (February 1957), "Abe Lincoln—Android" (April 1957), "The Marriage Machine" (July 1957), and "Inheritance" (August 1957).

Other house names Slesar employed were Jay Street, John Murray, and Lee Saber.

After 1958, he wrote chiefly under his own name.


In 1955, he published his first short story, "The Brat" (Imaginative Tales, September, 1955). While working as a copywriter, he published hundreds of short storiesover forty in 1957 aloneincluding detective fiction, science fiction, criminal stories, mysteries, and thrillers in such publications as Playboy, Imaginative Tales, and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine; he was writing, on average, a story per week.[1] Alfred Hitchcock hired him to write a number of the scenarios for Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

He wrote a series of stories about a criminal named Ruby Martinson for Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine"The First Crime of Ruby Martinson" (September, 1957), "Ruby Martinson, Ex-Con" (June, 1958), "Ruby Martinson, Cat Burglar" (June, 1959), "Ruby Martinson’s Great Fur Robbery" (May, 1962)and later worked on Rod Serling's Twilight Zone series. He also penned the screenplay for the 1965 film Two on a Guillotine, which was based on one of his stories. His short story "Examination Day" was used in the 1980s Twilight Zone revival.

His first novel-length work was 20 Million Miles to Earth, a 1957 novelization of the film. In 1960, his first novel, The Gray Flannel Shroud (1958), a murder mystery set in an advertising agency, earned the Edgar Allan Poe Award.

In 1974, he won an Emmy Award as the head writer for CBS Daytime's The Edge of Night. His term as head writer (1968–84) was considered lengthy.[10] Chris Schemering writes in The Soap Opera Encyclopedia, "Slesar proved a master of the serial format, creating a series of bizarre, intricate plots of offbeat characters in the spirit of the irreverent detective movies of the '40s."[2] During that time, he was also head writer for the Procter & Gamble soap operas Somerset (on NBC Daytime) and Search for Tomorrow until John William Corrington replaced him on the latter. During the 1974-75 television season, he was the creator and head writer for Executive Suite, a CBS primetime series.

He wrote mainly science-fiction scripts for the CBS Radio Mystery Theater during the 1970s.[11]

In 1983, Procter & Gamble wanted to replace him as the head writer for The Edge of Night, but ABC/ABC Daytime kept him. After his eventual replacement as head writer by Lee Sheldon, the network named him and Sam Hall the new head writers of its soap opera One Life to Live, but he left that show after only one year. He was later the head writer of the CBS Daytime series Capitol.

His last novel was Murder at Heartbreak Hospital (ISBN 0-897-33463-9). It is based on his experiences as a writer for soaps. A homicide detective investigates murders on the set of a soap opera and meets a variety of amusing characters, including the bland leading man, a rapacious starlet, a couple of gay teleplay writers, and some executives. As so many of his works did, it features a twist ending. It was originally published in Europe in 1990[12] and the American version retains British spellings and some errors (possibly Slesar's, as when the detective's name is wrongly given in chapter three). The novel was adapted into a film, Heartbreak Hospital, by Ruedi Gerber in 2002; it starred John Shea as Milo, the leading man, Diane Venora as his wife, and Patricia Clarkson as Lottie.[13]

Other late works included "interactive mystery serial" stories for MysteryNet.com, which invited readers to contribute their ideas.




Most of the teleplays written for Alfred Hitchcock Presents were based on Slesar's own stories.

Short stories

Much of Slesar's short fiction appears in collections and anthologies. He collaborated a few times with Harlan Ellison. His collections are:

Cover title: A Bouquet of Clean Crimes and Neat Murders.
Spine title: Alfred Hitchcock Presents Clean Crimes and Neat Murders.

Many stories were later made available as downloadable and online audio versions, such as 1957's "Dream Town"[14] and "Heart."[15]

Selected short stories

Selected adaptations

Awards and nominations

In 1960, he was awarded the Edgar Award for Best First Novel.


In 2002, he died of complications due to minor elective surgery.[1]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 "Other Obituaries: Henry Slesar". Locus. Oakland, California: Charles N. Brown. 48 (496, number 5): 69. May 2002. ISSN 0047-4959.
  2. 1 2 Schemering, Chris (1988). The Soap Opera Encyclopedia. Ballantine Books. p. 283.
  3. Lucy, Jim (July 1, 2003). "The Man in the Chair Lives". Electrical Wholesaling. Retrieved September 6, 2012.
  4. 1 2 Hobbs, John (Apr 15, 2002). "Obituary: Henry Slesar". Variety. Retrieved September 5, 2012.
  5. 1 2 "Detectionary" (PDF). Detectionary. Retrieved September 5, 2012. Militaire dienst: US Army, 1946-1947.
  6. "Henry Slesar". Detective-Fiction.com. Retrieved September 6, 2012.
  7. Slesar, Henry (April 17, 2008). "The Delegate from Venus [full text]". Project Gutenberg. Retrieved September 5, 2012.
  8. Slesar, Henry (February 9, 2009). "Reluctant Genius [full text]". Project Gutenberg. Retrieved September 5, 2012.
  9. Slesar, Henry (October 6, 2008). "Get Out of Our Skies! [full text]". Project Gutenberg. Retrieved September 5, 2012.
  10. Schemering, Chris (1988). The Soap Opera Encyclopedia. Ballantine Books. p. 92. In 1968 veteran mystery writer Henry Slesar became headwriter, beginning a writing stint of fifteen years, the longest in the history of daytime drama.
  11. "Free Audio SF - CBS Radio Mystery Theater". Hard SF. Retrieved 2011-02-10.
  12. "Murder at Heartbreak Hospital". Kirkus Reviews. November 15, 1998. Retrieved September 4, 2012. This first US publication for a novel Slesar (The Thing at the Door, 1974, etc.) originally published in Europe in 1990 finds the veteran storyteller, whose TV credits go back to Alfred Hitchcock Presents, plotting murder in the world he used to work in, the hothouse universe of the soap opera.
  13. "Heartbreak Hospital". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved September 6, 2012.
  14. Slesar, Henry (January 1957). "Dream Town". Project Gutenberg EBook. Retrieved September 5, 2012.
  15. Slesar, Henry (January 1957). "Heart". Project Gutenberg EBook. Retrieved September 5, 2012.
  16. "The Fiend in You (1962), An anthology of stories edited by Charles Beaumont". Fantastic Fiction website. Retrieved September 4, 2012.
  17. "Terror from the Year 5000". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved September 4, 2012.

External links

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