Joseph Shallit was born Joseph Shaltz in Philadelphia on February 7, 1915. The son of Jewish immigrants from Vitebsk, Russia, he attended the University of Pennsylvania. Because of a clerical error when his parents emigrated from Russia in 1912, the family name "Shallit" (which means "governor" in Hebrew) was misrecorded as "Shaltz". He changed his name back to the correct "Shallit" around 1940.
He became a newspaper reporter, writing for the now-defunct Philadelphia Record. At the time, only authorized commercial photographers were permitted to take a picture of the Liberty Bell in Independence Hall. In a 1942 publicity stunt for the Record, Shallit took a picture of the Liberty Bell and was arrested. The resulting public outcry led to the rule being changed.
During World War II, Lieutenant Shallit served in the Army Signal Corps, and saw service in the Philippines. After the war, he began to write mystery novels. The Billion-Dollar Body was published in 1947 by Lippincott. Yell Bloody Murder and Lady, Don't Die on My Doorstep were published in 1951, and Kiss the Killer was published in 1952. Take Your Last Look, under the pseudonym Matt Brady, was published in 1954. The first four novels were reissued as paperbacks by Avon and translated into many languages. Currently all five books are available in reprints from Ramble House.
He wrote a number of stories for science-fiction and fantasy magazines, including "Education of a Martian" (Galaxy Science Fiction, August 1952), "Mating Time" (Startling Stories, May 1953), "Wire-Haired Radical" (Beyond Fantasy Fiction, September 1953), "Wonder Child" (Fantastic, January/February 1953), "Escape" (Startling Stories, January 1954), and "Wrong Analogy" (If, August 1956). "Wonder Child" was anthologized in a number of collections, including Best SF Stories 1954.
Joseph Shallit later worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad and Conrail as editor of their employee magazine. He retired in 1980 and died on June 13, 1995, after a seven-year battle with Alzheimer's disease.
Joseph Shallit is remembered for his unflagging good humor and his early support of causes such as civil rights for blacks. His story "Education of a Martian" is a thinly-disguised plea for racial tolerance, published two years before Brown v. Board of Education.
His wife, Louise Lee Outlaw Shallit, is a short-story writer and romance novelist and has published under her own name, as well as the pseudonyms Juliet Ashby and Lee Canaday. His two sons are Jonathan Shallit, a music professor at the State University of New York, Oswego; and Jeffrey Shallit, a computer science professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.