Lee Server, author of numerous bestselling and critically acclaimed books about Hollywood cinema and pulp fiction, died December 28. He was 68. Server was born in Springfield, Mass., and graduated from New York University Film School. He was published for many years by St. Martin's, and was originally represented by the Roslyn Targ Literary Agency and then by Michael Bourret of Dystel, Goderich & Bourret.
Server's most recent title was Handsome Johnny: The Life and Death of Johnny Rosselli (2018). His book Robert Mitchum: "Baby I Don't Care" (2001) was named a best book of the year by the Los Angeles Times, "the film biography of the year" by the Sunday Times (U.K.) and one of the "60 Greatest Film Books." His other titles include Ava Gardner: Love Is Nothing (2006), a New York Times Notable Book; Screenwriter: Words Become Pictures (1987); Danger Is My Business (1993); and Over My Dead Body! (1994).
Terri Hardin, his wife, said that while Server was attending NYU film school, "he came under the spell of writer-cum-roué Terry Southern. During the course of a one-on-one session that took place, as usual, in a bar, Southern told Lee, 'Your writing reminds me of that Edgar Allan Poe novel, The Narrative of A. Gordon Pym.' "
Prior to his time with St. Martin's Press, Server was briefly an agent with the Scott Meredith Literary Agency, where B. Traven was one of his clients. He was an editor for Oui magazine and interviewed celebrities, including Southern, for articles in a number of men's magazines. In Paris, Server tracked down and had many conversations with director Sam Fuller. These were later included in his book Sam Fuller: Film Is a Battleground (1994).
In an interview in 2002 for the Big Chat, Server explained his process for interviewing major and minor celebrities and notable figures for his books: "There is an art to it. You have to know when to flatter, when to play dumb, when to artfully pursue the controversial element. I hear about these writers, biographers who have interns and assistants doing many of their interviews. If the authors are any good, I think they probably lose a lot of good stuff."