Harry Max Harrison was born Henry Maxwell Dempsey in Stamford, Connecticut, on 12 March 1925, the son of Henry Leo Dempsey, a printer, and Ria H., née Kirjassoff. His father changed his surname to Harrison shortly after Harry was born. Harry did not discover this until he was 30, after which he legally changed his own name to Harrison.
On leaving school in 1943, he was drafted into the US Army Air Forces, serving as a gunsight technician and gunnery instructor. After the war he studied at Hunter College in New York. In the late 1940s he worked as a comic artist, collaborating with Wally Wood on titles like Weird Fantasy and Weird Fantasy for EC Comics, as well as westerns and horror stories for other publishers, before the pair went their separate ways in 1950. Harrison edited magazines under pseudonyms like Wade Kaempfert and Philip St. John, and published fiction as Felix Boyd and Hank Dempsey, including a novel in Leslie Charteris' The Saint series. He wrote scripts for British comics, including Rick Random stories for Super Detective Library (1957-59). During the 1950s and '60s he was the main writer of the syndicated Flash Gordon newspaper strip.
He became known for his satirical science fiction novels, including the Stainless Steel Rat series, later adapted in 2000 AD, and Bill, the Galactic Hero. Other novels included Make Room! Make Room! (1966) on the theme of overpopulation and overconsumption, which was adapted as the film Soylent Green (1973). He lived in various placed around the world, including Mexico, Italy and Denmark.
From the mid-1970s he split his time between Ireland, where he claimed citizenship on the basis of an Irish grandparent, and Brighton, Sussex. He died in Brighton on 15 August 2012.
- Alan Clark, Dictionary of British Comic Artists, Writers and Editors, The British Library, 1998, p. 73