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Mystery writer Julius Fast dies at age 89

SHARE Mystery writer Julius Fast dies at age 89

Julius Fast, who won the first Edgar Award given by the Mystery Writers of America and went on to publish popular books on body language, the Beatles and human relationships, died Tuesday in Kingston, N.Y. He was 89.

His death was confirmed by his daughter Jennifer Fast Gelfand. He had lived in Manhattan until suffering a stroke a year and a half ago.

Fast, the younger brother of the novelist Howard Fast, won instant acclaim as a mystery writer. "Watchful at Night," his first novel, was written while he was still in the Army Medical Corps during World War II. Its cover identified him as Sgt. Julius Fast. The book won the inaugural Edgar Allan Poe Award in 1946 for the best first novel published in 1945.

Fast followed up with several more detective novels, including "Walk in Shadow" (1947) and "A Model for Murder" (1956), before branching out into pop psychology, health and relationships. His most successful book, "Body Language" (1970), which analyzed the unconscious messages sent out by the human body, inspired several sequels, notably "The Body Language of Sex, Power and Aggression" (1976), "Body Politics" (1980) and "The Body Book" (1981).

Fast was born in Manhattan in 1919. After earning a bachelor's degree at New York University, where he was a pre-med student, he spent three years in the Army, which assigned him to a blood lab in Boston. While in the Army he edited a collection of science fiction stories, "Out of This World" (1944), and then turned his hand to crime fiction.

In 1946 he married Barbara Sher, also a writer, who survives him, and with whom he wrote "Talking Between the Lines: How We Mean More Than We Say" (1979). Besides his daughter Jennifer, of Shady, N.Y., other survivors are a son, Timothy, of Des Moines; another daughter, Melissa Morgan of Casselberry, Fla.; and five grandchildren. Howard Fast died in 2003.

To support his growing family, Fast worked as a writer and editor at several medical magazines. A stint at a podiatric publication provided the raw material for "You and Your Feet" (1970), but his wide-ranging interests account for the variety in titles like "The Beatles: The Real Story" (1968), "The New Sexual Fulfillment" (1972) and "Weather Language" (1979).

In 1988, he published "What Should We Do About Davey?" It was a semiautobiographical novel about an awkward adolescent employed at a boys' camp in the Catskills that was very much like the one owned by Fast's uncle.

Often he wrote to order for publishers rushing a book into print on a timely subject, like the findings of the sex researchers William Masters and Virginia E. Johnson. Within months of the publication of "Human Sexual Response" in 1966, Fast produced "What You Should Know About Human Sexual Response." He also wrote books on how to quit smoking, how men and women can overcome their incompatibilities and the meaning of new research on Omega-3 fatty acids.

"Julius is a fast writer," said Tom Dardis, the editor who commissioned his Beatles book. "That's no pun on his name."