Hyams, a longtime Los Angeles resident who moved to Penrose, Colo., three years ago, died of coronary artery disease Saturday at a Denver hospital, said his wife of 14 years, Melissa.
"He was a Hollywood insider," movie producer David Permut, a longtime friend, told The Times on Tuesday. "Everybody knew Joe, and he knew everybody. He was a great wit, a great guy."
The author of more than 25 books, Hyams tapped his insider status in many of them, including the biographies "Bogie" (1966), "Bogart & Bacall: A Love Story" (1975) and "James Dean: Little Boy Lost" (1992), written with his son Jay.
FOR THE RECORD:
The obituary of writer Joe Hyams in Wednesday's California section said he was born Sept. 6, 1923. He was born June 6, 1923.
He also wrote the Hollywood-set novels "The Pool" and "Murder at the Academy Awards."
Among his other books are "Flight of the Avenger: George Bush at War"(1991) and, with Tom Murton, the 1969 nonfiction book "Accomplices to the Crime: The Arkansas Prison Scandal," on which "Brubaker," the 1980 movie starring Robert Redford, was based.
As an author, Hyams also worked in the 1980s with Chuck Norris on Norris' "The Secret of Inner Strength: My Story" and with President Reagan's son Michael on his "Michael Reagan: On the Outside Looking In."
Besides his reputation as a Hollywood chronicler, Hyams also was known as an icon in the martial arts community.
Hyams, who studied martial arts for more than 50 years, was the author of the 1979 book "Zen In the Martial Arts."
Melissa Hyams said the slim book "isn't really about martial arts. It's about life and philosophy, and how to turn a negative into a positive, how to defuse a situation by the way you handle it. That's what he'll most be remembered for."
Hyams was born Sept. 6, 1923, in Cambridge, Mass. Reared in Brookline, Mass., he was attending Harvard University when he enlisted in the Army in 1942. While serving in the South Pacific, he received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star and later covered the war as a field correspondent for the Stars and Stripes newspaper.
After the war, he earned bachelor's and master's degrees at New York University and went to work for the New York Herald Tribune.
As Hyams wrote in his 1973 autobiography "Mislaid in Hollywood," his career covering the movie capital began in 1951 when the Herald Tribune sent him west to do an article on illegal immigrants.
As recounted by his wife Tuesday, Hyams was dropped off in Mexico by the pilot of a small airplane and made the border crossing himself with a group of illegal immigrants.
After he completed the story, his editor in New York told him that a room had been arranged for him at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
"Take a break," he was told, "and if you get a chance to interview any movie stars, go for it."