William Wister Haines

William Wister Haines

William Wister Haines (September 17, 1908November 18, 1989) was an American author, screenwriter, and playwright. [cite web
title=William Haines, 81, Author and Playwright
publisher=New York Times

He was born in Des Moines, Iowa in 1908, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1931 with a degree in engineering. Unable to find work in an engineering field during the Great Depression, he worked as an electric lineman on a railroad running out of Chicago. His experience as a railroad lineman became the basis for his first two books, "Slim" and "High Tension".

"Slim", published in 1934, won him critical and popular acclaim as a writer. The novel was part adventure tale, part social commentary, and part time capsule of the Great Depression, notable for its realism and its on-target portrayal of working class attitudes and language during that period. "Slim" continues to have an audience today and is a sought-after book, especially among electric power linemen and railfans. In spite of this, the book has been out of print since 1959. In 1937, the book was made into the movie "Slim" starring Henry Fonda, with Haines writing the screenplay.

His next novel, "High Tension" (1938), was less successful, but his third novel, "Command Decision" (1947) saw him return to critical and popular acclaim. As with his previous books, "Command Decision" was based on his real-life experiences, this time as an Army Air Forces officer during World War II where he worked on the Ultra Project. The book led to a successful play, and was made into a movie in 1948 starring Clark Gable. "Command Decision" has been called the first important work of fiction about World War II. The book and movie differ from most of the war books and movies from that period, in that "Command Decision" explores behind the scenes politics, moral conflicts, and psychological effects rather than glorifying war. In particular, it is an indictment of a military command structure portrayed as emphasizing ceremony, brownnosing, and public relations at the expense of fighting. The hero of the book is a general who must choose between playing the public relations game and doing what he knows has to be done to defeat Germany. He chooses the latter and is relieved of his command for it.

"The Winter War" (1961) was at the time of its publication a popular western and was awarded the Spur Award of the Western Writers of America.

His other books include "The Honorable Rocky Slade" (1955), "Target" (1964), "The Image" (1968), and "Ultra" (1980). Besides "Slim" and "Command Decision", his filmography includes "Black Legion" (1937), "The Texans" (1938), "The Eternal Sea" (1955), and "Torpedo Run" (1958).


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