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updated: 4/24/2012 9:55 AM

Former Daily Herald columnist Bill Granger dies

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  • Bill Granger looks over the grounds at the Veterans Home in Manteno in 2003 as he talks about the old days. Granger died Sunday night at age 70.

       Bill Granger looks over the grounds at the Veterans Home in Manteno in 2003 as he talks about the old days. Granger died Sunday night at age 70.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Bill Granger, 1997

      Bill Granger, 1997

  • Columnist Bill Granger, 1997

      Columnist Bill Granger, 1997

  • Bill and his wife, Lori, walk their dog Banner in the halls at the VA Hospital in Manteno in 2003.

       Bill and his wife, Lori, walk their dog Banner in the halls at the VA Hospital in Manteno in 2003.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Bill Granger, left, talks with Sam Sianis, owner of the Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago, in 1997.

      Bill Granger, left, talks with Sam Sianis, owner of the Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago, in 1997.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

 
 

For Bill Granger, life was a collection of stories that needed telling. Whether he was writing a thoughtful Sunday magazine piece, penning one of his 28 books, critiquing a new TV show, pounding out a hardscrabble newspaper column on deadline on an old typewriter or just spinning a tale from an even older bar stool, Granger was a storyteller.

William F. "Bill" Granger, a former Daily Herald columnist, was 70 years old when he died Sunday night at the Manteno Veterans Home north of Kankakee. But loved ones, friends, fans, co-workers and buddies have been mourning the loss of the storyteller since he was 58 and a stroke affected his memory and robbed him of the ability to write and even read stories.

A veteran of nearly every Chicago newspaper, Granger was a columnist with the Daily Herald when he suffered his stroke in January 2000. No longer able to live in his home in the Streeterville neighborhood of Chicago, Granger, who served stateside in the U.S. Army, moved into the veterans home in March 2002.

His first book, a spy novel titled "The November Man," was published in 1979 and attracted international attention because its plot, based on a scheme to assassinate a relative of the British queen, had parallels to the assassination of Lord Mountbatten later that year, remembers his wife, Lori Granger, a lawyer who co-authored some nonfiction books with her husband.

Bill Granger wrote a series of sequels starring the main character, Devereaux, a shadowy spy for the United States. He also wrote a series of police procedural novels, including "Public Murders," for which he won the Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for the best original paperback mystery novel of 1981. Granger once said he made more money from "The November Man" but that "Public Murders" was his favorite "because it was real and gritty."

"Bill was a quintessential reporter from the old school. Charming, gritty, colorful, a resourceful storyteller who was absolutely determined to get at the story and get it right," Daily Herald Senior Vice President and Editor John Lampinen said.

"He loved what he did. I never saw him bored by a story he worked or uninterested in the people he wrote about. We loved working with him at the Daily Herald. He wrote a great column that connected our suburban audience to the city of big shoulders."

A prolific author, Granger always considered himself a newspaper man.

"I can't think of a day without newspapering in it," Granger said during a 2003 interview while sitting on his bed in the veterans home. His unsteady conversation that day made it clear that his once-sharp mind no longer knew what year it was, if the mayor of Chicago was the first Daley or the second, or whether he was supposed to write a newspaper column or simply an essay for Sister Amanda at St. Ambrose Elementary School. But he was passionate and certain about his love of writing.

"Boom! Boom! Boom!" Granger said that day, erupting into a performance comparing writing a newspaper column to taking a shower. "It's outside influences. The mat that's supposed to keep your feet from slipping on the tile is pushing up on your feet. The water's hitting you in the face. 'All right, you son of a bitch, let's go.' And 45 seconds later, it's over. That, to me, is the fun of journalism. You just drive 75 miles an hour and you'll get there. Just go."

Granger, who joked about trying to remember which jobs he quit and which ones he got fired from, always liked pushing envelopes and buttons.

"He was truly one of the collection of characters who roamed Chicago newspapers in that remarkable news era beginning in the 1950s," remembered former Chicago Tribune reporter James Strong, a longtime Granger friend who lives in Arlington Heights. "Bill did it all with belly laughs and wit, even some daffy opinions. He was a reporter, a TV critic, a columnist, an author of best-selling spy thrillers and above all a favorite among his colleagues for his tirades and harassing of editors and the greats and near greats who triggered his disapproval."

Fellow mystery writer and newspaper editor Robert Goldsborough of Wheaton often hired Granger to write stories for the Chicago Tribune Sunday magazine Goldsborough used to edit.

"Not only was Bill a writer for me, he came up with some very good ideas," Goldsborough said, recalling Granger's thoughts on everything from story suggestions to the illustrations on the covers. "Bill was a flamboyant guy. Bill was an old-school Chicago journalist, no question."

Granger talked often about how much he loved his wife, Lori, and their son, Alec. He could be gruff and grouchy, and then burst into a laugh that set the whole room to laughing.

"Bill had a trait needed in all good reporters," Strong said. "He liked people."

And he loved telling their stories.

Granger is survived by his wife, Lori, and their son, Alec. Funeral services will be private.

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