Guy Gilpatric

John Guy Gilpatric (January 21, 1896 – July 7, 1950) was an American pilot, flight instructor, journalist, short-story writer and novelist, best known for his Mr. Glencannon stories.


Guy Gilpatric was born on January 21, 1896, in New York. He was the son of a Scottish immigrant. When he was seven years old he saw an airplane for the first time (?Very unlikely: Age 7 from Jan 1903 to Jan 1904; 1st plane Dec 1903 in North Carolina) and decided he wanted to become a pilot. He succeeded at a very young age and in 1912 set the United States altitude record. He was a demonstration, stunt and test pilot and performed in various movies. For one movie it was planned he had to crash an airplane. Gilpatric did so and survived the crash. However, the recordings were not good so he had to do it again.

During World War I he was a fighter pilot for the US Army. He stayed in Europe and worked as a war reporter. After the war, Gilpatric lived in Antibes and worked as a publicity agent. It was there where he got the inspiration for his Mr. Glencannon stories, which were published in the Saturday Evening Post. In 1940, he and his wife Louise returned to the USA. In 1943, his book "Action in the North Atlantic" was made into a film.


Gilpatric is best known for his short stories about Scottish ship engineer Colin Glencannon, published in the Saturday Evening Post and bundled in numerous books. A 39 episode TV series starring Thomas Mitchell as Colin Glencannon was produced in 1959.

Other works include "Action in the North Atlantic", which was made into a movie starring Humphrey Bogart, and which was nominated for an Academy Award for best story in 1943. In Flying Stories Gilpatric describes the adventures of his early years as a pilot. His collection of short stories entitled Brownstone Front takes place in New York City during the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th. His novel French Summer is a humorous romance which revolves around vacationers at the French Riviera in the late 1920s.

His character Francis X. Olvaney, illustrated as a crooked Tammany Hall politician responsible for dangerous slum areas, appears in stories contained in both Brownstone Front and Flying Stories, lending credence to the opinion that many of Gilpatric's short stories are autobiographical in nature.

In 1938, Gilpatric published The Compleat Goggler (the archaic title a jocose reference to Izaak Walton's The Compleat Angler), considered the first comprehensive guide to spearfishing. It outlines methods of constructing equipment, and techniques for spearing and cooking the fish. It was republished in 1957 as a free giveaway with an annual subscription to SkinDiver magazine. It is now out of print, and copies sell for up to $1000 US.

In the late 1930s Gilpatric was living and spearfishing in the French Rivieram where he influenced diving pioneers like Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Hans Hass to begin spearfishing.[1][2]

Murder-suicide pact

When his wife, Maude Louise Gilpatric, learned that she had breast cancer in July 1950, they decided to commit suicide together.[3] While waiting for the diagnosis to be confirmed, they explored the confusing array of treatment options with multiple experts. He shot her in the back of the head, then shot himself. They left notes for friends and family, saying they chose "mercy bullets" over "magic bullets".[4] Their bodies were found in their Santa Barbara home by a house guest.

Although it was never proven, it is widely believed that the doctor had read the wrong medical chart and that Maude did not have cancer.[5]


  • Glencannon lapt de oorlog aan zijn laars (Dutch translation of Mr. Glencannon ignores the War - ISBN 978-90-70348-50-2; Smit & Wytzes 1992)
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Kulczyk, David. (2009). Death In California – The Bizarre, Freakish, and Just Curious Ways People Die in the Golden State. Craven Street Books. P90 ISBN 978-1-884995-57-6


  1. Ecott, Tim (2001). Neutral Buoyancy: Adventures in a Liquid World. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press. ISBN 0-87113-794-1. LCCN 2001018840.
  2. Hanauer, Eric. Diving Pioneers: An Oral History of Diving in America. p. 8.
  3. Time Magazine, Monday, July 17, 1950
  4. Olson, James Stuart (2002). Bathsheba's breast: women, cancer, and history. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-8064-5.
  5. Kulczyk, David. (2009). Death In California – The Bizarre, Freakish, and Just Curious Ways People Die in the Golden State. Craven Street Books. P90 ISBN 978-1-884995-57-6
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