Each of his novels has a different industrial or commercial setting and includes, in addition to dramatic human conflict, carefully researched information about the way that particular environments and systems function and how these affect society and its inhabitants.
Critics often dismissed Hailey's success as the result of a formulaic style in which he centered a crisis on an ordinary character, then inflated the suspense by hopping among multiple related plotlines. However, he was so popular with readers that his books were guaranteed to become best-sellers.
He would spend about one year researching a subject, followed by six months reviewing his notes and, finally, about 18 months writing the book. That aggressive research — tracking rebel guerrillas in the Peruvian jungle at age 67 for The Evening News (1990), or reading 27 books on the hotel industry for Hotel - gave his novels a realism that appealed to readers, even as some critics complained that he used it to mask a lack of literary talent.
Many of his books have reached #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and more than 170 million copies have been sold worldwide in 40 languages. Many have been made into movies and Hotel was made into a long-running television series. Airport became a blockbuster movie with stunning visual effects.
A Canadian citizen whose children live in Canada and California, Hailey made his home in Lyford Cay, an exclusive residential resort on New Providence Island in the Bahamas with his second wife Sheila (who wrote "I Married a Best-Seller" in 1978). Hailey's grandchildren include Paul Hailey, Emma Hailey, Charlotte Hailey and Brooke Hailey, who are students in Northern California; Ryan Hailey, a talented young bass player and vocalist in a San Francisco band ; and Chris Hailey, who is completing an audio engineering degree in Seattle, Washington.
Hailey died in 2004.