Author Phyllis Whitney Dies at Age 104

Prolific American author Phyllis A. Whitney has died in Virginia at the age of 104. Although she did not write her first book until she was nearly 40, she published more than 100 short stories, 73 works of fiction, many magazine articles, and three books about how to write fiction (including Writing Juvenile Stories and Novels, 1976, and Guide to Fiction Writing, 1982).

Whitney was born in Japan and spent much of her early life in China, where her father worked. After his death when she was 15, she and her mother lived in Berkeley, California, and then in San Antonio, Texas. She got married in 1925 and gave birth to her only child, a daughter, in 1934.

Whitney began her career as an author with short stories. She supplemented her income from her stories by working in the Chicago Public Library’s children’s room, where she learned about children’s reading preferences. Her first books were A Star for Ann, 1941, and A Window for Julie, 1943, both of which were novels aimed at career information for girls. She also worked as children’s book editor for the Chicago Sun and, later, for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and taught a juvenile fiction writing course at New York University between 1947 and 1958.

Her third novel, Red Is for Murder, 1943, was a mystery. She continued to write mystery novels for both children and adults. She twice won the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award for the best children’s mystery story of the year.

In addition to her early life in Japan and China, Whitney traveled extensively. Locales such as the Philippines and Hawaii provided the setting for many of her novels.

Her last novel, Amethyst Dreams, was published in 1997. She was working on her autobiography at the time of her death.