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Irving Wallace; Prolific Writer Reached Billion Readers

June 30, 1990|BURT A. FOLKART | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Wallace combined lust and Hollywood luminaries in "The Fan Club," a sordid suspense novel in which a movie star is kidnaped by a group of working men who have made her the object of their sexual fantasies. They justify the action by saying only "fat cats" ever get what they want in life, a theme he began to expand upon after hearing some railroad workers discussing what they would give to spend a single evening with Elizabeth Taylor.

Wallace stepped up his fictional output in the 1980s with "The Almighty," "The Miracle," "The Seventh Secret," "The Celestial Bed" and "The Guest of Honor," although none attracted the international acceptance of his earlier works.

He also wrote what he called "our family books"--"The People's Almanac" series and "The People's Almanac Presents the Book of Lists." Those began "with my son," he wrote for the "Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series."

"From the age of 8 David had always been an almanac buff. Then one day in 1971 he began to question the infallibility of the almanacs and other reference books he had been reading."

The Wallaces--including wife and daughter Amy--tried to clarify what they felt were distortions of history and current events in those other publications which Wallace la pere also pronounced "incredibly dull." One contributor to what has come to be known popularly as "The Book of Lists" was Peanuts creator Charles Schulz, who wrote a chapter on Snoopy.

Eleven of Irving Wallace's books have been sold to motion pictures, the medium he once decried as confining, while four have found their way to television. He has increased his audiences further with articles in The Encyclopedia Britannica, American Oxford Encyclopedia and Collier's Encyclopedia.

A major portion of his manuscripts have been donated to the Honnold Library at the Claremont Colleges.

Until shortly before his health failed, Wallace continued to travel the world, annually to Europe, periodically to locales that might become subjects of future novels for the still-productive listener and interviewer.

"I love to tell stories," he told The Times' Marshall Berges. " . . . To create people and worlds half real, half imaginary. Even if I could not earn a penny from my writing, I would earn my livelihood at something else and continue to write at night."

Funeral services will be private. A memorial service has been scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday at the Directors Guild of America.

The family has requested that any memorial contributions be made to the Amie Karen Fund for Cancer Research, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, or to PEN (Poets, Playwrights, Essayists, Editors and Novelists) American Center, 568 Broadway, New York, N.Y. 10012.

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