Monday, November 1, 2021

Paperback Warrior Primer - Lionel White

Lionel White (1905-1985) wrote a lot of heist and caper books for Fawcett Gold Medal and other paperback houses beginning in 1953. He was a big influence on Donald Westlake's acclaimed Parker series and Quenton Tarantino's classic film Reservoir Dogs. Many of his books have been reprinted as doubles by Stark House Press, and each of those has an introduction discussing different aspects of his work and life. For biographical information, no one is better than author Ben Boulden from Utah who dug into census and other records to piece together information from Lionel White’s shadowy life. Boulden wrote the introduction to the Stark House double collecting Lionel White’s Hostage for a Hood and Operation-Murder, and his piece called "Lionel White: The Caper King" is my primary source for this Primer.

Lionel Earle White was born in Buffalo, New York in 1905. His father was a superintendent at a car manufacturing facility. When he was a teenager, his family relocated to San Joaquin, California following his father's new job. White dropped out of high school after his sophomore year and began to work menial jobs. At some point, he was able to obtain a job as a crime reporter in Ohio in 1923. In 1925, White relocated to the Bronx in New York City to work as an editor for True Confession magazine. By 1930, he obtained a position as a proofreader for one of the newspapers in New York City. He continued working as an editor and was earning $4,000 per year by 1940. In 1943, he joined the U.S. Army, but was released after just five months.

When White was 47 years old, his career as a published writer began. His debut was the digest-sized book called Seven Hungry Men. It was later reworked into his novel Run Killer Run. His first mass-market paperback was The Snatchers, published in 1953 by Fawcett Gold medal. That novel was adapted into the film The Night of the Following Day. After The Snatchers, White became a productive writer with nearly 40 novels published between 1953 and 1978. In 1966, he used the pseudonym L.W. Blanco to write the espionage novel Spykill. In 1966, he co-wrote The Mind Poisoners, the 18th installment in the Nick Carter: Killmaster series. His 1963 novel The Money Trap and his 1955 novel Clean Break were both adapted to film.

Lionel White passed away in Asheville, North Carolina at age 80. He left behind a legacy that serves as a triumphant cornerstone of crime-noir literature. For more information on Lionel White, visit our review link HERE and listen to our podcast episode HERE.

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