Bill S. Ballinger

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See Bill Ballinger for Canadian politician

William Sanborn Ballinger (1912–1980) was an American writer and screenwriter.

Early life[edit]

He was born 13 March 1912 in Oskalloosa, Iowa. He received his education at the University of Wisconsin,[1] receiving a B.A. in 1934, and earned an LL.D. from Northern College, Philippines in 1940.[2]


Working in radio and advertising in the early 1940s, Ballinger wrote 81 radio scripts and produced The Dinah Shore Show, The Breakfast Club, and Lowell Thomas broadcasts. After Ballinger moved from New York to Los Angeles he began writing full-time.

Writing primarily under his own name, but occasionally using the pen names B.X. Sanborn and Frederic Freyer, Ballinger authored almost 30 books and twenty-five short stories. His mysteries sold more than ten million copies in the U.S., and have been reprinted in thirty countries and translated into more than thirteen languages. The hardboiled private-detective novel The Body in the Bed marked his debut in 1948, and he followed this with the sequel The Body Beautiful, the following year.

Best known as a writer of suspense novels, he achieved international fame as an early exponent of dual narrative storytelling,[3] employing first and third person narration and two stories in tandem that converge to produce an unexpected ending.[4] His most famous work, Portrait in Smoke, published in 1950, received a Les Grands Maîtres du Roman Policier Award and was filmed in 1956 as Wicked as they Come. Subsequent split-narration novels, including the internationally bestselling The Tooth and the Nail, The Longest Second, which was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Mystery novel in 1958, The Wife of the Red-Haired Man, and Not I, Said the Vixen, brought him further success.[5] Ballinger's two main fictional characters in his novels were Chicago private investigator Barr Breed[6] and Native American Central Intelligence Agency Agent Joaquin Hawke.[7]

Between 1977 and 1979 he was an associate professor of writing at the California State University Northridge, Los Angeles, California.[8]

Later life[edit]

Ballinger died 23 March 1980 Tarzana, California.


Ballinger was a frequent writer for American television with 150 teleplays to his name.[9] These included seven teleplays for Alfred Hitchcock Presents (one of which, "The Day of the Bullet," based on a short story by Stanley Ellin, won him an Edgar for Best Half-Hour Teleplay in 1961), two episodes of Kolchak: The Night Stalker, several police television shows such as Tightrope and Ironside and the episode "The Mice" for The Outer Limits.

In addition to his books and teleplays, Ballinger wrote screenplays for Burt Topper's The Strangler (1963) and Operation CIA (1965), a Burt Reynolds spy film set in Vietnam but filmed in Thailand.

Barr Breed series[edit]

  • The Body in the Bed (New York, Harper, 1948)
  • The Body Beautiful (New York, Harper, 1949)

Joaquin Hawks series[edit]

  • The Spy in the Jungle (New York, New American Library, 1965)
  • The Chinese Mask (New York, New American Library, 1965)
  • The Spy in Bangkok (New York, New American Library, 1965)
  • The Spy at Angor Wat (New York, New American Library, 1966)
  • The Spy in the Java Sea (New York, New American Library, 1966)

Non series novels[edit]



Year Film Credit Notes
1954 Pushover Story By Based on the novel "Rafferty"
1956 Wicked as They Come Story By Based on the novel "Portrait in Smoke"
1960 Unsolved Written By Television Movie
1964 The Strangler Written By
1965 Operation C.I.A. Written By Co-Wrote screenplay with "Peer J. Oppenheimer"
1980 Die längste Sekunde Story By Television Movie, Based on the novel "The Longest Second"
2017 The Tooth and the Nail Story By Based on The novel of the same name


Year TV Series Credit Notes
1949 Mr. Black Writer 1 Episode
1950 The Philco Television Playhouse Writer 1 Episode
1958-59 M Squad Writer 2 Episodes
1959 Mike Hammer Writer 11 Episodes
Shotgun Slade Writer 1 Episode
1959-61 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Writer 7 Episodes
1960 Bonanza Writer 1 Episode
Diagnosis: Unknown Writer 1 Episode
The Man from Blackhawk Writer 1 Episode
Tales of Wells Fargo Writer 2 Episodes
Tightrope! Writer 1 Episode
1961 The Aquanauts Writer 1 Episode
Miami Undercover Writer 1 Episode
Tallahassee 7000 Writer 2 Episodes
1963 Arrest and Trial Writer 1 Episode
1964 The Outer Limits Writer 1 Episode
1966 I Spy Writer 1 Episode
1967 Run For Your Life Writer 1 Episode
1968-72 Ironside Writer 3 Episodes
1972-73 Cannon Writer 2 Episodes
1973 Circle Of Fear Writer 1 Episode
1974-75 Kolchak: The Night Stalker Writer 2 Episodes


  1. ^ "gadetection / Ballinger, Bill S". 1980-03-23. Retrieved 2012-09-17.
  2. ^ Reginald, Robert; Menville, Douglas; Burgess, Mary A. (2010). Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature Vol 2. Borgo Press. p. 806. ISBN 9780941028776.
  3. ^ Norfolk, Pam. "Book review: Portrait in Smoke and The Longest Second by Bill S. Ballinger". Lancashire Post. Archived from the original on 2018-06-26. Retrieved 26 June 2018.
  4. ^ Litchfield, Nicholas; Ballinger, Bill S. (2018). "Two Tales in Tandem". Portrait in Smoke / The Longest Second. Stark House Press. pp. 7–11. ISBN 9781944520489.
  5. ^ Litchfield, Nicholas; Ballinger, Bill S. (2020). "Ballinger's Chill and Puzzle Parallel Plots". The Tooth and the Nail / The Wife of the Red-Haired Man. Stark House Press. pp. 7–11. ISBN 9781951473020.
  6. ^ "Barr Breed". Retrieved 2012-09-17.
  7. ^ "Bill S Ballinger Bibliography of First Edition Books". 1912-03-13. Retrieved 2012-09-17.
  8. ^ "Bill S Ballinger". 1980-03-23. Retrieved 2012-09-17.
  9. ^ Variety Obituary 2 Apr 1980

External links[edit]