Wanderer, by Sterling Hayden

Sterling Hayden was his own, conflicted, contrary man. Born in Montclair, a town split between affluence and working class, Hayden personifies it. He is lured to Hollywood, but continually fled to sail working ships, not pleasure craft. His father died when he was a boy, and Sterling was whisked away by his mother and her new husband, a swindling businessman who spent Sterling’s inheritance on showy automobiles and then fled, leaving them in debt. Sterling escaped on a sailing ship, before his stepfather ditched them, and working on the sea was all that brought him peace for the rest of his life. The book is about his life and the ocean, and touches barely on his Hollywood experiences, except to explain his personal fears, and how he refused to be beholden to the studios. Hayden lived in fear for most of his life. It drove him to name names to the House Unamerican Activities Committee, and to make terrible decisions all through his life. He found himself attracted to unstable and overbearing women, and was never truly free of his mother. He bares himself warts and all, and shows true courage in doing so. He was an imperfect man, but a talented writer. On occasion he dips to purple prose, but some of his observations of life in America are quite astute, and expressed with deep reflection. Anyone with interest in the man should read it. He found his bravery when he picked up a pen.

He embodied his roles. Jack D. Ripper from Dr. Strangelove, Roger Wade in The Long Goodbye, Johnny Clay in The Killing, Johnny Guitar, Captain McCluskey from The Godfather. Larger than life. On screen, and off.

Buy it: Wanderer