Sam Ross, author and television scriptwriter who started out by novelizing his life as a Russian immigrant growing up in speak-easy-era Chicago, has died. He was 86.
Ross, who also set novels in Los Angeles' Venice where he lived for many years, died March 30 in Mercer Island, Wash., the Writers Guild of America, West, announced Friday.
Born in Kiev, now in Ukraine, to a newsdealer, Ross came to Chicago, where he indulged in journalism, fraternity life and the swimming team at Northwestern University. He served in the Merchant Marine during World War II and worked as a sportswriter before publishing his first novel, "He Ran All the Way," in 1947.
That background emerged in his protagonists in several novels, from "Someday, Boy" in 1948 and "The Sidewalks Are Free" in 1950 to "Windy City" in 1979.
"Ross knows his town and convincingly takes the reader there in a kind of flamboyantly funky ethnic/erotic grand tour of the American '20s, '30s and '40s," a Times book reviewer wrote of the 1979 novel. "Jake's endurance and overall appetite as swimmer and stud may seem more fantastic than real . . . but Sam Ross takes you to Chicago and makes it live, gives new breath to the Windy City."
Ross' first published novel was transformed into the 1951 motion picture "He Ran All the Way," starring Shelley Winters and John Garfield in his final film.
With the financial success of adapting his book into the screenplay, Ross became a full-time fiction writer, churning out such titles as "Port Unknown," "This, Too, Is Love," "You Belong to Me," "The Tight Corner," "The Hustlers," "Ready for the Tiger," "The Fortune Machine," "The Golden Box" and "Solomon's Palace."
Reviewers were universal in describing Ross' stories of adventure and crime as non-cerebral but also, as a Times reviewer wrote of "The Fortune Machine" in 1970, "entertaining and unpretentious."
That reputation earned Ross an invitation to write for "The Naked City" in the new medium of television in the mid-1950s--and prompted his move to Los Angeles.
He later wrote episodes for such television series as "Ben Casey," "Rawhide," "Adventures in Paradise," "The FBI," "Mannix," "Hawaiian Eye," "Get Christie Love" and "The Fugitive."
Ross taught frequently at UCLA, UC Irvine and the Northwest Writer's Conference.
Survivors include a son, Steve.