Morton Cooper

Dime novelist and author of 'The King'

In 1967 Morton Cooper hit the jackpot with his hefty novel
The King, written in nine months. Cannily packaged and promoted in America and Britain, it sold three million copies. Cooper was everywhere, with what, to most people, was a first novel

Morton Cooper Feinberg (Morton Cooper), writer: born Greensburg, Philadelphia 15 May 1925; married 1951 Charlotte Plotkin (one son, one daughter; marriage dissolved); died Stamford, Connecticut 18 May 2004.

In 1967 Morton Cooper hit the jackpot with his hefty novel The King, written in nine months. Cannily packaged and promoted in America and Britain, it sold three million copies. Cooper was everywhere, with what, to most people, was a first novel.

None of those that followed had quite the same success. The King has an authentic pace, a way with words, as if it had to be written, by a pen which had earlier turned, for modest reward, to all manner of books, such as a novelisation of The Munsters and a string of acute, sometimes pseudonymous dime novels - 56 of them.

Born Morton Cooper Feinberg in 1925, into a Jewish family in Greensburg, Philadelphia, he had an urge to write and act from the age of six. After leaving high school, he moved to New York, there living by his wits and as a waiter and bookshop assistant, while teaching himself to write, partly on a short-story course at Columbia University.

Life was tough, but was eased by marriage in 1951 to Charlotte Plotkin, a social-work administrator, who encouraged his writing stints from 6.30 in the morning to 10 at night, four days a week. After three years' slog, he sold three books in a week, then got a job scripting a television puppet-show, FunnyBunnies, for which he also dubbed various voices. He was a natural listener, and became a prolific liberal journalist who advocated civil rights, conducting interviews for a black newspaper, the Chicago Defender.

All the while the family lived in a dark apartment in the Washington Heights area of New York. Cooper determined to change this. He had paid his dues. Aim higher, and the big time was his. Which is pretty well the thrust of The King, which tells of the Sinatra-like progress of a singer, Harry Orlando, who at the age of 44 lived in style. Alternating past and present, it goes back to hard times. These bring with them a journalist called Temple who has an in with the US President. Orlando toils for the President's success only to find that, after the President is killed in an aeroplane accident, he is rebuffed by the man's successor - so Orlando switches his allegiance to a rival nominee, a former movie actor (palpably Ronald Reagan). It is not subtle stuff, but it moves.

Sinatra was not best pleased and apparently henchmen felt the urge (unfulfilled) to break some legs. Certainly, Cooper cut short an American promotional tour and, mysteriously, although Hollywood studios had been vying for the rights to The King, his calls went suddenly unreturned.

In fact, Orlando is sympathetically, realistically depicted. It is that rare thing, a novel which gives a convincing account of a singer:

His voice was sex, but without the smirk and the pant. It was youth, it was sensitive and clean-cut, and it solved all of love's riddles in two choruses and a bridge.

Cooper's early output, issued as paperback originals, many for the Gold Medal series, have that pace and rhythm which The King writ large. Some endure better than others, among them The Flesh and Mr Rawlie (1955), which tells of a suicidal playwright on the eve of his attempt at a Broadway comeback with a frothy musical comedy.

Morton Cooper's daughter, Barbara, recalls that, in 1967, the family's life suddenly changed. They moved to a fine house in Connecticut, which was probably a mistake. Cooper needed a city's buzz, café talk. He felt isolated and it took a toll on his marriage, which eventually broke up after 40 years. For a while he lived alone in Philadelphia, no longer writing, but, two years ago, he and his wife reunited, although they never got around to remarrying.

Christopher Hawtree

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions