Raoul Whitfield

Raoul Falconia Whitfield (November 22, 1896 – January 24, 1945) was an American writer of hardboiled crime fiction.[1]

Raoul Whitfield
Raoul Falconia Whitfield

November 22, 1896
New York, U.S.
DiedJanuary 24, 1945(1945-01-24) (aged 48)
Emily Davies Vanderbilt Thayer
(m. 1933; her death 1935)

Early life

Whitfield was born in New York on November 22, 1896. He was the son of Mabelle P. Whitfield and William H. Whitfield, a civil servant.[2]

He spent part of his childhood in the Philippines with his father.[3]


In 1916, Whitfield fell ill and was returned to the U.S. for treatment. After recovering, Whitfield traveled to Hollywood and worked as a silent-film actor. Later, he joined the U.S. Air Force and served in the Flying Cadets in the last months of World War I.[4][5][6]

Writing career

Whitfield began writing for pulp magazines in 1924, and first appeared in Black Mask in 1926. Black Mask would become Whitfield's main market; the magazine's editor Joseph Shaw described Whitfield as a "hard, patient, determined worker".[5] Whitfield became best known in the magazine for his stories about Jo Gar, a Filipino detective. These stories, set in the cosmopolitan boiling pot of inter-war Manila, were published collectively in 2002 as Jo Gar's Casebook' (Crippen & Landru).[7]

Whitfield befriended Dashiell Hammett during his tenure on the magazine.[8] In addition to Black Mask, Whitfield also wrote fiction for Adventure, Air Trails, War Stories, Battle Stories,[5] Blue Book, Everybody's Magazine, Boys' Life and Breezy Stories.

Whitfield's debut novel, Green Ice, was published in 1930. In the New York Evening Post, Hammett praised Green Ice: "Here are 280 pages of naked action pounded into tough compactness by staccato, hammerlike writing".[9]

Whitfield ceased writing fiction and moved to Hollywood in the late 1930s. Although he was fairly wealthy, by the 1940s he had lost most of his money. Later, Whitfield contracted tuberculosis and had to be hospitalized.[10]

Personal life

Whitfield was married twice. His first marriage was to a fellow reporter. Shortly after marrying, they quit their jobs and went to Florida, where he began writing full time. They eventually divorced.[10]

In 1933, Whitfield married Emily O'Neill (née Davies) Vanderbilt Thayer (1903–1935).[2] Emily was the former wife of William Henry Vanderbilt III, son of Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, and Sigourney Thayer,[11] which both ended in divorce.[2] She was the daughter of Frederick Martin Davies, granddaughter of Daniel O'Neill, owner of the Pittsburgh Dispatch newspaper, and the grandniece of Frederick Townsend Martin, a prominent writer of the 1920s.[12] After beginning divorce proceedings, Emily committed suicide by self-inflicted bullet wound in 1935.[13] Whitfield was his wife's sole heir.[14]

Whitfield died from tuberculosis in Los Angeles, California on January 24, 1945.[5][15] He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC.[16]


  1. Encyclopedia Mysteriosa, edited by William L. DeAndrea. MacMillan, 1994, ISBN 0-02-861678-2 (p.374)
  2. "MRS. EMILY THAYER IS MARRIED AGAIN; Former Mrs. W. H. Vanderbilt Becomes Bride of Raoul Whitfield, Writer. A QUIET HOME CEREMONY Wedding Will Be Surprise to Their Friends, as There Had Been No Announcement of Engagement". The New York Times. 20 July 1933. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  3. Whitfield, Raoul (2014). West of Guam: The Complete Cases of Jo Gar. Open Road Media. ISBN 9781480462427. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  4. The American private eye: the image in fiction. David Geherin, F. Ungar Pub. Co., 1985, ISBN 0804422435(p. 30)
  5. Hard-Boiled: An Anthology of American Crime Stories edited by Bill Pronzini and Jack Adrian. Oxford University Press, 1997. ISBN 0-19-510353-X (pp. 65–66)
  6. "Raoul Whitfield". openroadmedia.com. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  7. 'Jo Gar's Casebook' Crippen & Landru, Norfolk VA 2002
  8. A Dashiell Hammett Companion by Robert L. Gale. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2000, ISBN 0-313-31095-5 (pp. 274–5).
  9. The Black mask boys: masters in the hard-boiled school of detective fiction by William F. Nolan. William Morrow, 1985 (p. 131)
  10. Marling, William. "Raoul Whitfield ( 1896-1945)". www.detnovel.com. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  11. "SIGOURNEY THAYER KILLED; Aircraft Executive, Ex-Flier, Dies in Auto Crash". The New York Times. 3 November 1944. Retrieved 30 March 2017.
  12. "OWN LIFE TAKEN BY EX-WIFE OF W. H. VANDERBILT". Chicago Tribune. May 25, 1935. Retrieved February 21, 2017.
  13. "MRS. R. WHITFIELD A SUICIDE IN WEST; Former Wife of W.H. Vanderbilt Found in New Mexico Home, Pistol in Hand". The New York Times. 25 May 1935. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  14. "WHITFIELD IS WIFE'S HEIR.; Author Was Estranged From the Woman Who Took Own Life". The New York Times. 28 August 1935. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  15. "DIED. Whitfield". The New York Times. January 28, 1945. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  16. "Obituary 6 -- No Title". The New York Times. January 29, 1945. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
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