William H. Hallahan III, 92, a former advertising executive and an award-winning novelist, died Tuesday, Aug. 21, of pneumonia at Inspira Medical Center Woodbury.

A longtime resident of Haddonfield and Cherry Hill, Mr. Hallahan had a distinguished career as a writer for 70 years. His final work, finished the week of his death, was a memoir of his mother.

His first jobs were in the alumni department of Temple University and then as a writer-editor at Chilton Publications in Radnor.  In 1957, he joined the advertising world as a copywriter for M. Russell Berger, a small Philadelphia ad agency.

After a short time there, Mr. Hallahan was hired as copy chief by the international ad agency N.W. Ayer, which was based in Philadelphia.  He worked on major accounts such as United Airlines and the Plymouth Division of Chrysler.

In the late 1960s, he was offered a job as N.W. Ayer's creative director in New York. He declined because of family reasons and because he wanted to try writing a novel. Instead, he became a partner in the Philadelphia ad agency Garceau, Hallahan, and McCullough.

A first mystery novel by Mr. Hallahan was published in 1972. It was nominated for an award.
Courtesy of the family
A first mystery novel by Mr. Hallahan was published in 1972. It was nominated for an award.

In 1971, Mr. Hallahan wrote his first mystery, The Dead of Winter. It's the story of four poker buddies in Brooklyn. When one is murdered, the others, who seem to be average guys, set out to avenge the death, and they find they have a taste for stalking and killing. The mystery isn't solved until the very last line.

"He wrote a bio for each one of his characters," said his daughter, Janet V. Hallahan. "They were real people to him."

The novel was published by Bobbs Merrill of Indianapolis and nominated for an Edgar Allan Poe award for Best First Mystery Novel by an American Author in 1972.  Though Mr. Hallahan didn't win, Newgate Calendar of the New York Times Book Review praised his "neat, pared-down style and ability for sharp characterization."

Over the next 17 years, Mr. Hallahan wrote eight more mysteries. His fourth book, Catch Me: Kill Me, won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Novel of 1977. His 1974 occult novel, The Search for Joseph Tully, was a New York Times bestseller.

"For the book opening, mock gravestones that read 'Here Lies Joseph Tully' were lined up and down Park Avenue in New York," his daughter said. His other mysteries were The Ross Forgery (1973), Keeper of the Children (1978), The Trade (1981), The Monk (1983), Foxcatcher (1986), and Tripletrap (1989).

For many years, Mr. Hallahan juggled careers as advertising executive and author.  In the 1970s, he started his own agency, Hallahan Inc. In 1982, his daughter joined the agency, and in the late 1980s, the agency partnered with an art studio.

In the 1990s, Mr. Hallahan switched to writing nonfiction. Misfire: The History of How America's Small Arms Failed Our Military (1994), a book about how government corruption affected the making of guns throughout United States history, received good reviews.

Two books about the American Revolution — The Day the Revolution Began: 19 April 1775 (1999) and The Day the Revolution Ended: Yorktown 19 0ctober 1781 (2004) — also received critical acclaim.

Born in Brooklyn to William H. Hallahan Jr. and Berenice E. Lyons, Mr. Hallahan received a high-school diploma as part of his studies at Temple University. He served as a radioman in the Navy during World War II. When he returned home, he married Marion E. Wakefield, his childhood sweetheart. They were together 50 years before she died in 1998.

Taking advantage of the G.I. Bill, Mr. Hallahan earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a master's degree in English, both from Temple. He was the first in his family to receive a college education.

Mr. Hallahan had many interests. He played the banjo, traveled, and learned French and Italian. He also enjoyed running and lifting weights. "He credited his longevity to his fitness, holistic eating, and his positive attitude," his daughter said.

Besides his daughter, he is survived by longtime partner Diane Pregartner; a granddaughter; and a brother. Four brothers and a sister died earlier.

Services were Wednesday Aug. 29.

Donations may be made to the William H. Hallahan Fund, c/o The Authors Guild Foundation, 31 E. 32nd St., 7th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10016. The fund name should  appear on the check.