Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Why Did Harry Quit?
Ed Gorman here: I ran across this old post of mine--five years ago--and realized I never did find the answer to my question. Maybe by now somebody knows.
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 phone 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?
Posted by Lee Goldberg at 3:23 PM