LOS ANGELES – After three decades of pitching his screenplays, Allan Folsom had a handful of credits: two episodes of the 1980s series Hart to Hart, a nature documentary and a syndicated TV movie.
Then came the kind of blockbuster break that struggling writers dream about. But it was not for a TV show or a movie.
In 1993, Folsom sold a thriller novel, The Day After Tomorrow, to a publisher for $2 million – the most ever, at that point, for a first-time novelist.
I still think $2 million is too much, he told the Los Angeles Times a few weeks after the deal went through. But on the other hand, if you amortize it over the 30 years I’ve been working, it isn’t that much.
Folsom, 72, died Friday in a Santa Barbara hospital of complications from melanoma, the skin cancer he had been battling for 20 years, said his wife, Karen.
Although Folsom completed four more novels, none made as much of a stir as The Day After Tomorrow (no relation to the 2004 disaster movie of the same name). The $2 million winning bid for the book, which involved murder, revenge and a neo-Nazi cult, was just for the North American rights.
Folsom received additional payments from publishers around the world, and the option to make the film went for $750,000, though it was never made. In fact, none of his novels was ever filmed.
He was very disappointed about that, Karen Folsom said. He had such success as a novelist, but he still always harbored this dream of having a movie made. It’s why he got in the car and drove out to L.A., right after he graduated college.
Folsom started writing the novel in 1990 as a sort of hedge against the crazy film industry, he told the Times.
Almost three years later, the manuscript arrived at the agent’s office. It ran to more than 900 pages, but had a tightly woven plot with a lot of action.
I remember thinking, This is great, but maybe it should be cut somewhere,’ said Priest, who gave the manuscript to an editor on his staff. She read it and said, There is no place to cut this.’
A little more than a week after Time Warner received the manuscript, it made the record-shattering bid to cut off competition.
Although Folsom was disappointed his subsequent novels didn’t do as well, he kept it in perspective, his wife said.
He thought of what happened with the first novel as manna from heaven, she said. I think he was mature enough to realize that it was such a gift.