Thursday, October 30, 2008



Author John Whitlatch is an absolute enigma. I’m sure there is somebody out there in the mystery genre who is familiar with Whitlatch, but they aren’t talking. All of the regular genre resources and personalities simply shrug their shoulders and admit to their mystification at the lack of information.

Between 1969 and 1976, Whitlatch ground out 11 novels published by Pocket Books, each filled with pulp-style action. While The Judas Goat was a WWII, Dirty Dozen style action thriller, and The Iron Shirt was a traditional western, his other novels all fell into the crime and adventure genre – most often with one lone man going up against everything from motorcycle gangs, to political conspiracies, to corrupt, third world, government regimes.

Whitlatch’s titles were somewhat generic (Cory’s Losers, Frank T’s Plan, Stunt Man’s Holiday, etc.), but the lurid paperback original covers made each title immediately collectible. Blazing primary colors set off action illlustrations torn from the Men’s Adventure magazines of the day. And while Witlatch was a more than competent, if straighforward, writer, it would be my guess the covers were the reason the books were repeatedly reprinted.


Usually, this little information about an author would indicate the use of a house owned pseudonym, with a number of authors penning the tales. However, this doesn’t appear to be the case with Whitlatch. First, I’ve read all eleven novels and each is has the same distinctive tempo and sentence structure.

Secondly, about twenty years or more ago, I tried tracking Whitlatch through his publisher. I was put in touch with Whitlatch’s agent who informed me Whitlatch was deceased. He did, however, provide me with a contact number for his family, warning me they would probably not want to be interviewed.

I actually made contact with (I believe) Witlatch’s sister in Arizona, but while polite, she refused to impart any information. A strange situation, especially when coupled with a tid-bit from mystery historian Al Hubin noting there have been no copyright renewals on Whitlatch’s titles – was Whitlatch or his work an embarrassment to his family? The work certainly shouldn’t have been.

My introduction to Whitlatch came through his second published title, Morgan’s Rebellion. This was a great adventure tale with our California hero being falsely imprisoned in Central America and having to overthrow the corrupt regime in order to get his life back and revenge on his wife and business partner.

Prison made a man of Morgan. And the man became a legend.

Jamey Morgan – a quiet California citizen – was arrestd on a business trip to Central America. Accused of aiding a revolution he knew nothing about, Morgan was deprived of all diplomatic rights, branded an international renegade, and sentenced to hard labor.

And so, the only way he could return to the United States was to overthrow the government that imprisoned him. He made the revolution his own.

After escaping fromprison, Morgan fled into the hills and joined the rebel forces.

An experienced bowman, he trained and organized an extrodinary guerrilla troop – Los Arqueros, the Archers – fifty rugged men on horseback, armed with bows and explosive arrows.

The exploits of this daring commando unit hhelp bring a ruthless dictatorship to its knees – and brough fame, love, and fortune to Captain Jamey Morgan.

This was great stuff! Morgan was a cool character with his archery background and his righteous American indignation. Whitlatch is hardly politically correct and he wears the male chauvinist lable proudly – definitely a product of his time.

Morgan eventually returns in a late Whitlatch novel, Morgan’s Assassin:

A squad of mean, smart killers was out to bring the nation to its knees. Only one man was tough enough to stop them –El Arquero!

The history books said bows and arrows had gone out years ago. But nobody has told Jamey Morgan. Armed only with his great longbow, he had led a revolution freeing a Central American nation from tyranny. His men were all arqueros, or archers, but he was the only one called “El Arcquero.”

Now back in the States, Morgan received another call for help – from the F.B.I. This time it was to foil an assassination attempt everyone else seemed powerless to stop. But then he discovered he was next on the assassin’s list!

It was kill or be killed – and as Morgan stalked his man, he discovered he was up against the most diabolical political fonspiracy America had ever seen. To defeat it, the arqueros would have to march again…

Both Morgan novels and Whitlatch’s two novels featuring his only other reoccurring character, Frank Gannon (Gannon’s Vendetta, Gannon’s Line), are fine examples of Whitlatch’s storytelling – but in the end, it is still the covers that standout as special.

If anyone out there has more information on Whitlatch, I’d enjoy hearing from you.


Bill Crider said...

I've tried to find out more about Whitlatch, too, but with no success. James Reasoner and I have talked about the problem from time to time. One of the Gannon books doesn't have the typical cover. I wonder if it sold as well as the others.

August West said...

Whitlatch's paperbacks had some of the best covers compared to any of those other 60s/70s testosterone adventure novels.

Every time I see one I say, WOW!

James Reasoner said...

Other than feeling fairly sure that Whitlatch was a real person and that was his real name, I know nothing about him. Like everybody else, though, I love those covers. Now I need to actually read the books one of these days.