Thomas Chastain

Updated
03-16-12


Thomas Chastain

Pour through any fair-sized collection of used hardback books, and you may find a copy of Who Killed the Robins Family? by Thomas Chastain--for a quarter! There must have been a billion of them printed. It was a NY Times #1 bestseller for 1983 and finished the year at #11. Thomas wrote many mystery novels, including two Perry Mason books. He was president of the Mystery Writers Association and a founding member of the Adams Round Table.

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Biography
List of Works


Thomas Chastain, Author
(1921-1994)

When Thomas was about three years old, he wanted to read so badly he would sit holding books in his hands pretending to read them. When he finally learned to read, he read a lot, and that led to his desire to write. He grew up to do various kinds of writing: newspaper, some radio, advertising; and then he began to write for magazines.

Death StalkHis first novel was Judgment Day, written for Doubleday in 1962. In 1971, he wrote Death Stalk, an adventure-terror novel. NBC ran a TV movie of Death Stalk on January 21, 1975. Two men battle treacherous rapids and each other as they desperately try to catch up with four escaped convicts who are fleeing down a raging river in rubber rafts after abducting the men's wives. The movie pulled a 36.66 share. His third work was Assassination Brigade (1973), an espionage thriller written under the pseudonym of Nick Carter, which he shared with a number of other writers such as Michael Avallone Jr., Willis Todhunter Ballard Jr., J. Russell Coryell Jr., Dennis Lynds Jr., Robert J. Randisi Jr., and Martin Cruz Smith Jr.

Around 1974, he decided to quit freelancing and to focus on writing books. A friend knew of a new publisher who was seeking manuscripts and Thomas visited him. Pandora's BoxThe publisher wanted a travel book similar to material Thomas had done for the newspapers, but Thomas pitched a plot for a mystery novel and won a $7,000 advance for Pandora's Box, his first suspense novel. It was also the first to feature Inspector Max Kaufman. Five more New York City mystery novels followed in quick succession. Thomas' career as a mystery writer was well established.

Who Killed the Robins Family?Pour through any fair-sized collection of used hardback books, and you may find a copy of Who Killed the Robins Family? by Thomas Chastain--for a quarter! There must have been a billion of them printed. It was a NY Times #1 bestseller for 1983, and finished the year at #11, just ahead of Asimov's Robots of Dawn. The book, written with Bill Adler, was a contest promotion with a $10,000 prize going to the winner, to be announced on May 28, 1984. Some who picked up the book since then were not aware that it did not have an ending, and they missed the 1984 announcement! Many pleas can be found on the Internet begging for the ending. A sequel, with another prize, was released in 1984 as Revenge of the Robins Family.

Thomas edited six anthologies as the Adams Round Table, which he co-founded In 1982 along with Mary Higgins Clark. Members meet monthly to discuss their craft, plot murders, find a motive, and create mysteries. Adams Round Table was named for the restaurant owner who provided them with a round table in the back room for their meetings. The first anthology was Murder in Manhattan in 1986. Thomas Chastain's contribution, Directed Verdict, was released as an audio tape in 1996 read by Peter Graves.

Perry Mason: Case of the Burning BequestIn 1989 and 1990 Thomas wrote two Perry Mason titles, after receiving permission from the widow and daughter of Erie Stanley Gardner, who created the Perry Mason character. His last full length novel was The Prosecutor (1992). That same year, The Simpsons episode 56, Black Widower, aired April 9, 1992. The story was written by Thomas Chastain and Sam Simon. Sideshow Bob is paroled from prison and marries Bart's Aunt Selma, but Bart figures out the clues to realize Bob is planning to murder her, and she is saved.

Thomas Chastain was an active member and long-time board member of the Mystery Writers Association, including a stint as president around 1989. The MWA was founded in 1945, and Thomas was introduced to the association at the second World Congress of Crime Writers in 1978. He died in New York September 1, 1994 of lung cancer; he was 73.

Hear a 23-Minute Interview from 1986 in which Thomas Chastain discusses the writing of Murder in Manhattan and Who Killed the Robbins Family, and how he became a mystery writer.

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List of Works

Judgment Day, 1962
Death Stalk, 1971
Assassination Brigade, 1973 (as Nick Carter)
Pandora’s Box, 1974
The Christmas Bomber, 1976 (also titled 911)
Vital Statistics, 1977
High Voltage, 1979
The Diamond Exchange, 1981
Nightscape, 1982
Who Killed the Robins Family?: And Where And When And How And Why Did They Die?, 1983 (with Bill Adler Jr.)
Revenge of the Robins Family, 1984 (with Bill Adler Jr.)
Directed Verdict, 1986 in Murder in Manhattan
The Picture-Perfect Murders, 1987 (with Bill Adler Jr.)
Where the Truth Lies: A Novel of Glamour And Murder in Hollywood, 1988 (with Helen Hayes)
The Case of Too Many Murders, 1989 (Perry Mason)
Admissible Evidence, 1990 in A Body is Found
The Case of the Burning Bequest, 1990 (Perry Mason)
The Prosecutor, 1992
Area Code 212, 1992 in Missing in Manhattan
Tête-à-Tête, 1994 in Justice in Manhattan
Directed Verdict, 1996 (audio by Peter Graves)

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