Author, Journalist Allen Drury Dies
By Avis Thomas-Lester
Allen Drury, the New York Times reporter who used his knowledge of the inner workings of official Washington to write the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "Advise and Consent," died Sept. 2, on his 80th birthday.
Mr. Drury, an eloquent speaker and gifted writer who penned 17 other novels and five nonfiction works, died of heart failure in a Tiburon, Calif., hospital near his home, his publisher, Scribner, announced.
Mr. Drury was covering the U.S. Senate for the Times in 1959 when "Advise and Consent" was published. The novel, which took him seven years to complete, weaves a tale of political and sexual intrigue centering on the selection of a new secretary of state.
The novel, Mr. Drury's first and most successful, quickly received critical acclaim and became a bestseller. It won the Pulitzer for literature in 1960 and precipitated a career switch for Mr. Drury, who became a full-time novelist the next year.
"Advise and Consent" holds the record for the longest-running bestseller in history -- 93 weeks on the New York Times list. His later works included the controversial "A Shade of Difference" (1962), which dealt with racial problems in politics and focused on the problems besetting the United Nations, "Courage and Hesitation" (1972), about the Nixon administration, "A God Against the Gods" (1976) and "Pentagon" (1986).
In 1962, "Advise and Consent" was made into a movie starring Henry Fonda, Peter Lawford, Walter Pidgeon and Charles Laughton. Working Washington journalists were hired to play bit parts in the film, directed by Otto Preminger. The title came from a sentence in the Constitution that concerns the president's nominations of Cabinet members and other officials.
The novel paved the way for later blockbuster Washington political dramas penned by journalists, such as "All the President's Men," by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and "Primary Colors," by Newsweek's Joe Klein.
As a speaker, Mr. Drury was in great demand around Washington in the 1950s and 1960s. At a forum for newspaper critics and their targets, he quipped that the best solution to dealing with critics was to condemn them to an "eternity of reading their own writings."
He was interested in education and encouraged aspiring journalists to study political science, history and literature. In 1982, Mr. Drury was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to the National Council on the Arts.
Mr. Drury was born in 1918 in Houston and graduated from Stanford University in 1939.
He began his career with the Tulare Bee in Tulare, Calif., as an editor in 1940. He briefly served in the Army, then worked for United Press, Pathfinder magazine and the Washington Evening Star before joining the New York Times. Mr. Drury retired from his job covering Capitol Hill in 1959 and became one of five Washington correspondents for Reader's Digest.
Mr. Drury is survived by a sister, Anne Killiany, and two nephews.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company