Herman Wouk, Perennially Best-Selling Author, Dies at 103


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Like “War and Peace,” whose sweep and ambition served as a model, “The Winds of War” and “War and Remembrance” jumped back and forth from the battlefield to the home front. Historic events and domestic life intersected in the experiences of one American family, headed by the naval commander Victor Henry, nicknamed Pug.

In returning to the world of “The Caine Mutiny,” Mr. Wouk won back many of the critics who had written him off. His two war novels, totaling nearly 2,000 pages, gave a rousing account of great events, informed by painstaking research. If Pug Henry seemed to show up, unaccountably, at the elbow of every great leader in the war at one historic turning point after another, Mr. Wouk’s breathtaking narrative pace, skillful stage management and flair for wide-screen spectacle tended to drown out the criticism.

With Mr. Wouk’s help, both novels were translated into successful television mini-series starring Robert Mitchum as Pug Henry. The first installment of “The Winds of War,” broadcast in 1983 on ABC, attracted 80 million viewers, and more than half the available television audience tuned in as it unfolded over seven days. “War and Remembrance,” an even more lavish production extending over 30 hours at a cost of more than $110 million, was broadcast in 1988 but attracted a smaller audience.

After writing the autobiographical novel “Inside, Outside” (1985), Mr. Wouk applied his epic formula to modern Israel in “The Hope” and “The Glory,” both published in 1994 to generally unenthusiastic reviews. Readers were guided through Israel’s turbulent history — from its founding to its three major wars and on into the 1980s — by Zev Barak, a noble scholar-warrior on hand to experience all important battles and diplomatic negotiations.

A conversation with his brother, Victor, an electrical engineer who once worked on the Manhattan Project, provided Mr. Wouk with the subject matter for “A Hole in Texas” (2004), a scientific soap opera about a supercollider project in Waxahachie, Tex., abandoned by the government.

With “The Lawgiver,” Mr. Wouk broke with his traditional style of narration and told his tale in a modernized epistolary style, using letters, memos, emails, Twitter posts and text messages written by his characters. He also returned to Simon & Schuster, the publishers of his first novel.