Friday, November 18, 2005

Harry Whittington

I was looking through a catalog for 50s paperbacks and naturally enough I came across Harry Whittington's name just about everywhere. He wrote for companies large and small, some so small that even today I've never seen one of their books.

This started me thinking of the one mystery about Harry I was never able to clear up even after three somewhat lengthy interviews and a couple of plain conversations.

The story is familiar to most people who have even a cursory knowledge of his career. One day, after dropping from the heights of Gold Medal and Crest, Harry found himself writing Man From Uncle Books for a flat $1000. But not even this was the bottom because soon enough his agent would tell Harry that Harry just wasn't marketable anymore. Period.

I asked Harry twice about this and he said that that was just the way it was so he went back to full-time work for the government. I remember that I seemed to surprise him when I asked why he didn't look around for a different agent. But again he just said that that was how things were and so back to full-time jobs.

Harry was a pro's pro. He did it all. I can understand how he stopped hitting the top markets in the mid-60s. The market was changing, his kind of lean, mean sex-and-murder book was no longer in fashion. But Harry could write anything. And all his agent could get was flat-fee work for hire? Harry Whittington?

A few years later, he did contact another agent and was almost immediately back in the saddle with adult westerns nd ultimately, back at Gold Medal/Fawcett, with Southern plantation epics. But I'm sure this agent could have sold him back when his came came to a so-called end.

I've often wondered if that was really all there was to it. That he would give up the fight so easily, take the word of a single agent that he was no longer marketable.

Anybody help me out with this?

2 Comments:

Blogger Bill said...

From something he said (or from something I read somewhere), I got the impression that he was really upset about the Man From U.N.C.L.E. deal because the book sold millions of copies, and he got nothing but the flat fee. He was very discouraged by that. Even then, I don't think he stopped writing entirely. I think he did some confession stories, and didn't he do those two nurse novels for Ace after the U.N.C.L.E. book? But I'm with you. The idea that Harry Whittington couldn't get work is mind boggling. Once he started again, he seemed to have no trouble, selling those historicals as Ashley Carter and Blaine Stevens, as well as mainstream novels under his own name.

7:22 PM  
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5:39 PM  

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