Warren Adler, 1927–2019
The War of the Roses author who explored human dysfunction
Novelist Warren Adler was at a dinner party in Washington, D.C., in 1979 when a guest turned to him and said, “I have to go home to my wife.” Adler was surprised—the man was dating a woman Adler knew, so he asked what was going on. The man explained that he was living with his wife as their divorce went through. “We hate each other,” he said, “but I have to protect my property.” Adler spun that anecdote into his best-selling 1981 novel The War of the Roses, the tale of an exceptionally ugly divorce, which became a hit 1989 movie starring Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, and Danny DeVito. Adler attributed that success to his ear for a good story. “I have an antenna,” he said. “I trained myself to listen very carefully.”
Born in Brooklyn, Adler started his career as a reporter for the New York Daily News, said Variety. “He later went into business, owning four TV stations and a radio station, and then launched his own advertising and PR firms.” In 1974, Adler published his first novel, Undertow, about a married senator who has a fling with a woman at his beach house, “and later discovers she has accidentally drowned.” Adler would write 50 novels—including Random Hearts, made into a 1999 movie with Harrison Ford—examining love, infidelity, frayed marriages, and more.
While Adler often probed “the darkest corners of humankind, his own life was remarkably sunny,” said the Los Angeles Times. His marriage to his wife, Sonia, spanned 67 years; she now lives in a facility for dementia patients. Earlier this year, Adler wrote of the “bruising” loneliness he felt living in their home alone. “I am told it will take time,” he said of adjusting to his new life. “I am 91. How much time?”