Death Wish Author Brian Garfield Has Passed Away

We remember the prolific and versatile Edgar Award winner, who died on December 29, 2018.


Brian Garfield, the award-winning author best known for his novel Death Wish, passed away on December 29, 2018 in his Pasadena home. He was 79. His wife, Bina, confirmed he died of complications related to Parkinson’s disease. 

Brian Francis Wynne Garfield was born on January 26, 1939 to George and Frances—the latter of whom was a portrait artist and friend of Georgia O’Keeffe. Due to Brian’s asthma, the family moved from Manhattan to Arizona, where he eventually received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English.

Garfield was a widely popular novelist, having written more than 70 books that sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. He never limited himself to any one genre, frequently shifting from crime stories to war tales to nonfiction accounts. He launched his career with a western novel, Range Justice, when he was just 18 years old—though his biggest successes would come years later. In 1969, he published a study on Alaskan’s “forgotten war,” the Pulitzer Prize-nominated The Thousand-Mile War: World War II in Alaska and the Aleutians. Not long after, he wrote the Edgar Award-winning Hopscotch—a cynical espionage thriller he then adapted into the 1980 comedy film of the same name. Over fifteen movies and television productions are based on his works.

But of all Garfield’s books, Death Wish is certainly his most enduring masterpiece. Published in 1972, it follows Paul Benjamin as he seeks revenge against the criminals who killed his wife and critically injured his daughter. Garfield was inspired to write the story after he and his wife became the victims of a theft, which led to the creation of Death Wish’s protagonist and Garfield's strong opinions on the mentality of vigilantes.

The bestselling thriller has taken two journeys to the big screen—once in 1974 and, more recently, in a 2018 reiteration starring Bruce Willis. Garfield was vocal about his disapproval of the 1974 film, criticizing its glorification of Paul as a “cowboy hero” rather than portraying him as the violent “nut” he was in the book. In an attempt to right these wrongs, Garfield wrote a follow-up novel called Death Sentence, which sees Paul take his vigilantism to the next level.

Garfield's literary versatility set him apart from other authors and transferred to other parts of his career. In a telephone interview with The Boston Globe, his literary agent, Judy Coppage, praised him for being the only person to have served as president of both the Western Writers of America and the Mystery Writers of America. If anything, it’s further proof that Garfield was a man of many talents, and one who will be sorely missed by readers everywhere.

Read some of Brian Garfield's best books!

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Featured photo of Brian Garfield: Alchetron