The Paoli resident penned 15 novels as well as short pieces and poetry over his successful literary career.
Writer Seymour Shubin, who died at age 93 on Nov. 3, led a glorious, storied life that included penning suspense novels perched on the New York Times best-seller list and winning the coveted Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America.
Formerly of Lower Merion, he lived in Paoli.
Shubin’s literary career began at age 14, when he purchased a beat-up typewriter from a friend for $5. He made his first bigtime sale to a newspaper syndicate while still a teen.
A journalism major at Temple University, he became active with the school’s literary magazine, The Owl, and eventually served as its top editor.
After graduating from Temple, Shubin began contributing to Official Detective Story Magazine, work that would ultimately give shape to his writing career.
Tracking crime stories also got him on the track of working with local police as he formed a lifetime association with Philadelphia police officials,
That stint at the magazine sparked and inspired Shubin’s first novel in 1953: Anyone’s My Name, a thriller that catapulted into the New York Times bestseller list in 1953.
He didn’t follow with another novel, instead opting for a decade of salaried jobs at Smith Kline & French, the forerunner of GlaxoSmithKline, and J.B. Lippincott & Co. publishing house.
During the 1970s, Shubin picked up the freelance pen again and came out with a form that he became known for: the psychological suspense thriller, manifested by The Captain, which Publisher’s Weekly called “a towering novel that builds to a heart-clutching peak and leaves one profoundly affected.”
Altogether, Shubin’s award-winning body of work was made up of 15 novels plus short pieces and poetry.
But the crime beat wasn’t his only inspiration, recalls his wife of 57 years, Gloria. A trip to Israel sometime in the late ’80s/early ’90s, “opened his eyes, inspired him,” she says, and he went on to write some articles based on that trip.
He had long been active in the Jewish community, working on committees at Adath Israel on the Main Line, where he and his family were members for many years.
He also served as an inspirational mentor for young writers, says daughter Jennifer.
“He was an introspective man who needed to write,” she says. “He made the transition from typewriter to computer easily and was in the middle of another novel” when he died from complications due to a fall this past June, which ironically occurred while he was making his way to the computer to write.
His two children unearthed another writing project after his death, finding a family history he had been composing on his computer.
“It was a history written for his grandchildren,” his daughter says.
Son Neil is a scientist and accomplished writer himself. In addition to being the associate dean of organismal biology and anatomy and an evolutionary biology professor at the University of Chicago, he authored Your Inner Fish: A Journey Into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body, which was a program on PBS; and The Universe Within: Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets, and People.
“I was raised in an environment where the written word was so important; that had such a profound impact on me,” he says of his father’s inspiration. “I learned early on as a child from him that integrity of what you write means everything, how people have to trust you.”
His dad was a supporter — and critic. “He read my first drafts and he was the harshest critic — in the best ways.”
Neil now gets a laugh of his early perceptions of his dad compared to reality.
“When I left for school in the morning, Dad was at the typewriter and it was Mom who was headed out to work,” he recalls, which led him to believe that it was his mother who supported the family while dad stayed at home. He knew better later.
“It hit me big when Dad won the Edgar and we went up to New York for the ceremony,” he recalls. “I had read all his books,” but had no idea the standard his father had set or the impact he had on others.
At the award ceremony, “I heard all these people saying the most wonderful things about him as a writer. And I looked at him and said, ‘Dad?’ ”
In addition to his wife and two children, Shubin is survived by four grandchildren.