|Name||Whitney, Phyllis A.|
|Born / Died||1903–2008|
The Phyllis Whitney collection primarily consists of manuscripts; it also includes correspondence and printed material.
Manuscripts for books by Whitney in the collection include Seven Tears (1932); A Place for Ann (Houghton, 1941); Window for Julie (Houghton, 1943); Willow Hill (McKay, 1947); Island of Dark Woods (Westminster, 1951); Love Me, Love Me Not (Houghton, 1952); Step to the Music (Crowell, 1953); The Mystery of the Black Diamonds (Westminster, 1954); A Long Time Coming (McKay, 1954); The Highest Dream (McKay, 1956); The Secret of the Samurai Sword (Westminster, 1958); Mystery of the Haunted Pool (Westminster, 1960); Secret of the Tiger’s Eye (Westminster, 1961); Mystery of the Golden Horn (Westminster, 1962); Window on the Square (Appleton, 1962); Mystery of the Hidden Hand (Westminster, 1963); Seven Tears for Apollo (Appleton, 1963); Black Amber (Appleton, 1964); The Mystery of the Angry Idol (Westminster, 1965); Sea Jade (Appleton, 1965); Ever After; Columbella (Doubleday, 1966); Perfumed Death; Secret of the Spotted Shell (Westminster, 1967); Silverhill (Doubleday, 1967); Hunter’s Green (Doubleday, 1968); The Secret of Goblin Glen (Westminster Press, 1968); The Winter People (1969); The Mystery of the Crimson Ghost (Westminster Press, 1969); Lost Island (Doubleday, 1970); Secret of the Missing Footprint (Westminster Press, 1970); Listen For the Whisperer (Doubleday, 1972); Nobody Likes Trina (Westminster Press, 1972); The Mystery of the Scowling Boy (Westminster Press, 1973); Snowfire (Doublday, 1973); The Turquoise Mask (Doublday, 1974); Secret of the Haunted Mesa (Westminster Press, 1975); Spendrift (Doublday, 1975); The Golden Unicorn (Doubleday, 1976); Secret of the Stone Face (Westminster Press, 1977); The Stone Bull (Doubleday, 1977); The Glass Flame (Doubleday, 1978); Domino (Doubleday, 1979); Ponciana (Doublday, 1980); The Vanishing Scarecrow (Westminster Press, 1981); Vermillion (Doublday, 1981); Guide to Fiction Writing (The Writer Inc., 1982); Emerald (Doubleday, 1983); Rainsong (Doublday, 1984); Dream of Orchids (Doublday, 1985); Flaming Tree (Doublday, 1986); Silversword (Doublday, 1987); Feather on the Moon (Doublday, 1988); Rainbow in the Mist (Doublday, 1989); Daughter of the Stars (Crown, 1994) ; Amethyst Dreams (Crown, 1997); The Different One ; and The Vanishing Shadow .
Other manuscripts by Whitney in the collection include drafts of several dozen short stories written between the 1930’s and 1950’s.
Correspondence in the collection consists of approximately 385 letters to Whitney, written between 1940-1968 (also including carbon copies of letters from Whitney to others). Notable correspondents include Peter De Vries, Irene Haas, Sterling North, and Harriett Carr. Several files consist of letters from literary agents (dating from the 1930’s) regarding the selling of Whitney's stories. Whitney also kept records of stories that she sent out, as well as when the were sent and to whom. Also in the collection are several letters pertaining to her book The Stone Bull (1976-1977).
Printed material in the collection includes many book jackets and advertising fliers for her books; newspaper clippings about Whitney (1947-1967); clippings of children’s book reviews by Whitney (interspersed with some letters from the mid 1960’s); magazines containing articles by Whitney; articles about Whitney (the latest dating from the early 1990s); interviews with Whitney; several programs from the Mystery Writer’s Annual Edgar Allen Poe Awards Dinner that Whitney kept as souvenirs; and a program from the First Annual Connecticut Writers’ Conference held in 1950.
To view Phyllis A. Whitney holdings in other collections, click here.
Dubbed “America’s queen of romantic suspense,” Phyllis A. Whitney (1903 - ) began her literary career in the 1940s and went on to publish more than 75 books, one hundred short stories and numerous magazine articles. She has proven to be a master in various genres, most notably writing books and mysteries aimed at the young adult audience, as well as more psychological and/or romantic suspense works for adults. Whitney has continued to remain active into her second century by working on an autobiography.
Born Phyllis Ayame Whitney on September 9, 1903 in Yokohama, Japan, she was the daughter of Charles Joseph Whitney and his wife, the former Mary Mandeville. Whitney’s father was a representative of an American shipping line stationed in the Far East. Even as a child, she was aware of the prejudices of adults who were intolerant of the “natives,” something that often infuriated her liberal-minded mother.
While still a youngster, Whitney relocated with her parents to Manila, The Philippines, where her parents owned and operated a hotel. After seven years, the family moved once again, this time to Hankow, China, where once again her family ran a hotel. When Whitney was 15, her father died. She and her mother eventually returned to the United States, landing first in California before finally settling in San Antonio, Texas, where she enrolled in Alamo Heights High School. She was dealt another blow when her mother died. Whitney eventually ended up in Chicago where she lived with an aunt and finally completed her education at McKinley High School in 1924.
After graduation, Whitney took a job in a local department store selling children’s books. In her spare time, she wrote short fiction. In 1928, she sold her first story to the Chicago Daily News and over the next three years, she was able to sell one story per year. Eventually, she was able to place her work with pulp magazines and church papers, particularly those aimed at young adults. To earn money for support, Whitney worked in the children’s room at the local public library as well as at bookstores.
In 1941, Whitney’s first book, A Place for Ann (Houghton Miflin), was published and received positive notices. Over the next several years, she continued to turn out books for the same publisher that were aimed at the young adult audience with titles like A Star for Ginny (1942), A Window for Julie (1943) and The Silver Inkwell (1945). When Whitney wanted to tackle issues of race relations, her editor balked at the idea. Nevertheless, the author forged ahead and penned Willow Hill (McKay, 1947), about a Caucasian girl and her friends who must confront the integration of a housing project in their neighborhood.
The novel won awards, became a popular title in the author’s catalog, and garnered praise from The New York Times and the Saturday Review of Literature.
Concurrent with her burgeoning literary career, Whitney wrote and edited book reviews. She was first hired as editor of the children’s book page at the Chicago Sun in 1942. After four years, she left that job and eventually landed at the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1948. In 1945, she taught juvenile fiction writing at Northwestern University and at New York University from 1945 to 1958. During this, Whitney began publishing her adult novels, beginning with Red Is for Murder (Ziff-Davis, 1943). By 1949, she was producing juvenile mysteries for Wesminster with titles like Mysteries of the Gulls (1949), Mystery of the Black Diamonds (1954), Secret of the Samurai Sword (1958), and Mystery of the Haunted Pool (1960), which earned an Edgar Allen Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America. She received a second Edgar for Mystery of the Hidden Hand (Westminster, 1963).
By this time, she had achieved worldwide recognition and was called “one of the best genre writers” and “the only American in her field with a major reputation” on par with Great Britain’s Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt. by Time magazine. In 1975, Whitney served as president of the Mystery Writers of America and thirteen years later she was awarded a lifetime achievement award – The Grand Master – by the organization. She subsequently earned additional career achievement prizes from Malice Domestic (the Agatha) in 1989, the Romance Writers of America in 1990, and the Society of Midlands Authors in 1995.
Phyllis A. Whitney has been married twice. In 1925, she wed accountant George A. Garner, with whom she had one daughter, but that union ended in divorce in 1945. Her second husband was businessman Lovell F. Jahnke to whom she was married from 1950 until his death in 1973. She continued to publish new books into the 1990s. Since then, Whitney has reportedly been working on her autobiography.
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