Sunday, February 17, 2008

Phyllis A. Whitney - A Lifetime Of Words.

For a person with a voracious reading habit, there was a recent piece of writing that I wished I never laid eyes on - an obituary. Beloved American novelist Phyllis A. Whitney, whose romantic suspense tales has sold millions of copies, passed away recently at the age of 104.

Born in Yokohama, Japan, the superb and gifted story teller wove her magic for more than 80 years and words were her life even before she began writing professionally. She started writing at the age of 12 while still a student, and worked in libraries and bookstores, eventually serving as Children's Book Editor of the Chicago Sun and the Philadelphia Inquirer in the 40s'.

After graduation from Chicago's McKinley High School in 1924, Phyllis began to write seriously, starting with short stories. A prolific writer, her first hardcover success came in 1941 with A Place For Ann, a book for teenagers, and by 1960, had 37 books and hundreds of short stories.

Hailed by Time Magazine as "one of the best genre writers" in 1971, her popularity reached international proportions by the mid 1960's, particularly in England and the Scandinavian countries.

While she had great success with juvenile mystery, turning to adult fiction brought her international fame. Striking a chord with readers, her adult romantic mysteries always had a vulnerable female protagonist, offered optimism and have happy endings. Among her bestsellers were Feather On The Moon, The Flaming Tree, Daughter Of The Stars and her last novel in 1997, Amethyst Dreams.

Re-known for her exhaustive research, Phyllis A. Whitney also won many literary awards and accolades.

In 1961, Whitney's sixth juvenile mystery, Mystery of the Haunted Pool, received the prestigious Edgar Allen Poe Award for best children's mystery story of the year from the Mystery Writers of America. She won the same award again three years later with The Mystery of The Hidden Hand.

In 1975, Phyllis A. Whitney was elected President of the Mystery Writers of America. In 1988, she was named a Grand Master, the pinnacle of achievement for a mystery writer, by the Mystery writers of America, honoring her high quality work and contribution to the genre. With this lifetime achievement award, Phyllis A. Whitney joined the exalted ranks of former honorees like Alfred Hitchcock, John le Carre and Agatha Christie. She also received another lifetime achievement award - the Agatha in 1989 from Malice Domestic.

Phyllis A. Whitney's 1956 novel The Trembling Hills was also recently reprinted in the United Kingdom as part of the Hodder Great Reads series "celebrating the best and most-loved popular classics of the 20th Century." All in, she wrote more than 75 books and her works have been published in more than thirty countries.

* Fans of Phyllis A. Whitney can sent their condolences here

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Keli said...

This is so interesting. When I was a teen, I absolutely loved reading Phyllis A Whitney books. I had forgotten about her until your post. 104! Incredible!

My Den said...

Hi Keli,
I know this is going to sound corny but I am going to miss her. While I have never read any of her romantic suspense novels, I have read many of her juvenile mystery books like The Mystery of The Hidden Hand as a kid.

Her writing reminds me of Agatha Christie and is a literary tradition that I honestly loved and that is, sadly, fast disappearing. I am hard pressed to find works like Phyllis A Whitney and Agatha Christie for my daughter to read.

Thanks for dropping by. Regards.

Margaret said...

My! I remember reading Ms. Whitney's books while a teenager growing up in Florida. She introduced me to a love of suspense that is still with me to this day.

There are not many writers of her caliber and the void she leaves will be hard to fill.


Carolyn B. said...

I used to read her books all the time and thought she had long since passed away. I was surprised and pleased to hear that she had lived such a very long life.