All in the Family

It took a village to produce an Irving Wallace best-seller. From copy editors to publicists to research assistants, Wallace relied on a far-flung network of skilled professionals to realize his vision on the page. Among the more intriguing members of this network was Wallace’s wife, Sylvia. As the former editor of Hollywood fan magazines Modern Screen and Photoplay, Sylvia was once a rising star in the West Coast publishing world. Like so many women of her generation, however, Sylvia faced strong pressure to stay at home and raise children. After the birth of her second child, she left her career as an editor and devoted her efforts to advancing her husband’s writing career.

In 1970, Sylvia traveled to London to conduct some on-the-ground research for her husband’s in-progress novel The Word. The documents from this trip reflect Sylvia’s keen eye as an observer of culture. Attempting to document the imagined rituals of one of the novel’s characters (an Oxford professor), Sylvia visited the British Museum and a nearby pub, where, she imagined, the professor might have a hot meat pie and pint of beer at his small round table. These notes, along with Sylvia’s accompanying photographs (see below), form a colorful snapshot of the world Irving Wallace was hoping to re-create on the page. Surely, Sylvia’s research was vital to her husband’s work. 



Evidently, Sylvia Wallace eventually tired of playing second fiddle to her husband. In the 1970s, she broke out with two best-selling novels of her own, The Fountains and Empress, and thus solidified the Wallaces’ reputation as one of the publishing world’s most prolific families.