Brian C. Daley, 48, best-selling science fiction, fantasy author

February 19, 1996|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Brian C. Daley, a best-selling science fiction and fantasy writer whose "Star Wars" radio scripts drew record-breaking audiences for National Public Radio, died of pancreatic cancer Feb. 11 at his home in Arnold. He was 48.

Hours before his death, Mr. Daley received a call from the wrap party in Los Angeles for the completion of his final radio script for "The Return of the Jedi," said his wife, Lucia St. Clair Robson. The show may air this fall, she said.

Star Wars, Robotech and other science fiction fans on the Internet reported "a disturbance in the Force" when the news of

Mr. Daley's death was posted on Feb. 12, his wife said.

"He was very well-known -- more than we realized," said Ms. Robson, the author of several best-selling historical novels including the recently published "Mary's Land."

Mr. Daley's novels about "Star Wars" hero Han Solo made the New York Times best-seller list and were reissued in 1994 as one book, said his longtime editor, Owen Lock, vice president of Ballantine Books.

"It's very good, very funny," he said. "Brian had a real way with a quip. He was very good at putting words in Han Solo's mouth."

A native of Rockleigh, N.J., Mr. Daley served with the Army in Vietnam and Berlin after high school, then returned to Jersey State College, where he studied media -- and wrote his first book.

Mr. Lock recalled yesterday how he discovered Mr. Daley. In his first day on the job as an associate editor-trainee, Mr. Lock said he "simply tackled the fattest, neatest manuscript I could find, because that way the pile went down in a hurry."

To his surprise, he said, "It was excellent and they bought the book."

"Doomfarers of Coramonde" launched Mr. Daley's 19-year career in 1977, Mr. Lock said and is still in print. He wrote a sequel, "Starfollowers " then "A Tapestry of Magics" and a three-volume series recounting the adventures of Alacrity Fitzhugh and Hobart Floyt.

Mr. Daley and his longtime friend and collaborator, James Luceno of South River, wrote more than 20 books in the popular Robotech and Sentinels series under the nom de plume "Jack McKinney."

Mr. Luceno said he met Mr. Daley in college in 1973 because both were writing novels, and they became friends.

"Brian and I went to see 'Star Wars' when it first came out," Mr. Luceno recalled. "It was a red-letter day in Brian's life: He said he had finally seen on the screen the kind of science fiction he had imagined in his head."

Seventeen years ago, Mr. Daley visited the science fiction convention Balticon 13 at Hunt Valley, where he met Ms. Robson. Six years later, he moved from New York and they were married. He later encouraged her to begin writing.

At Borders bookstore in Towson, Ronald Snyder, head of the science fiction section, said some of Mr. Daley's books are stocked and still popular.

"I've read some of his work," Mr. Snyder said. "It's a shame that he's passed on. He was a good writer with some clever ideas, but not at the top. It's a shame he didn't catch on more."

A memorial service for Mr. Daley, who was cremated, is being planned for March 2 in Rockleigh.

Other survivors include his mother, Myra A. Daley of Rockleigh; a sister, Myra DiBlasio of Norwood, N.J.; a brother, David Daley of Laconia, N.H.; and several nieces and nephews.

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