Whitney, Polly (Louise) 1948-
WHITNEY, Polly (Louise) 1948-
PERSONAL: Born October 22, 1948, in St. Louis, MO; daughter of Donald Van Leer (an actor) and Margaret Eden (maiden name, Head; present surname, Windsor) Seewoster; married Michael R. Whitney, October 25, 1969; children: Michael James, Elizabeth Daisy. Education: State University of New York, B.A.; Yale University, M.A. Politics: Democrat. Hobbies and other interests: The internet, the tropics, cities.
CAREER: Gulliver Preparatory School, Miami, FL, teacher of English, 1987-91; writer, 1991—. Short story writer for the internet news group DorothyL.
MEMBER: Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America.
AWARDS, HONORS: Nominated for Agatha Award, best first novel category, 1994, for Until Death.
Until Death, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1994.
Until the End of Time, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1995.
Until It Hurts, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1997.
(As Hialeah Jackson) The Alligator's Farewell, Dell (New York, NY), 1999.
Until All the Mysteries of the Universe Are Solved, WeGive You Some Quick Guesses and a Warp-Speed Whodunit (cyberbook), 1997.
This Is Graceanne's Book, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1999.
SIDELIGHTS: Polly Whitney has written three mystery novels—Until Death, Until the End of Time, and Until It Hurts—featuring the amateur sleuthing team of television producer Abby Abagnarro and his ex-wife, Ike Tygart, a news director. Speaking to Elena Santangelo, in an interview posted at the Polly Whitney Web site, Whitney explained how she chose the names of her two major characters: "Their names are more or less an accident. I wasn't making any gender statements or attempting any reversals. Ike just got her nickname from the jeans she was wearing when she and Abby met the first time. . . .As for Abby himself, that's a fairly natural shortening of his somewhat difficult Italian name (Abagnarro). I never once thought of their familiar names as being gender-specific. 'Ike' and 'Abby' are simply who those people are to me."
A serial killer is on the loose in Until the End of Time. Nicknamed the Yellow Man because that is the color he paints his victims' faces, the serial killer has been preying on homeless vagrants. But then a local doctor, who has been fighting the time-consuming Federal Drug Administration testing process for new drugs, is found murdered. His face is painted the characteristic yellow. Then Abby is mugged by a homeless man who claims he knows a secret, and Ike and Abby uncover family feuding between the murdered doctor's relatives. A Publishers Weekly reviewer found that "Whitney skates deftly through the maze of deadlines, backbiting and fragile relationships at the TV station while untangling the meaning of the murders on the streets in this briskly paced, absorbing mystery."
Until It Hurts focuses on the New York Knicks basketball player Archie "The Big Chill" Thorpe. Thorpe is taking his team to the playoffs, but instead of being a hero with the city's fans, he is resented. Fans know that his business interests in South America include ranches that are destroying the rain forest. When Ike and Abby manage to get Thorpe to agree to a rare interview, there is a shootout at the basketball court during practice and most of the team's players are injured. Thorpe himself is dead, but not from any gunshot wound. He was stabbed in the heart with a knife. While the New York police work on their investigation, Ike and Abby refuse to hand over what may be important videotape of the incident, hoping to solve the murder themselves. Harriet Klausner, in a review of the novel posted at the Under the Covers Web site, found Until It Hurts to be "witty, charming, and delightful." She also believed that "the chemistry between the two protagonists, who still love each other, enhances the engaging story line."
In addition to her mystery novels, Whitney has also written a cyberbook, available on the internet, entitled Until All the Mysteries of the Universe Are Solved, We Give You Some Quick Guesses and a Warp-Speed Whodunit. In this book, Whitney examines the various kinds of subgenres within the mystery field. She especially criticizes the frequent assumption in mystery stories, according to Peggy Itzen of the Austin American-Statesman, that "females do incredibly dumb things that no one would expect a man to do." Speaking of Whitney's own work as a novelist, Itzen called her "one of my favorite mystery writers."
Whitney once told CA: "I am motivated to write by a love of language and by the need to perform. If I weren't writing novels, I'd probably be on the stage. I suppose the greatest influence on my work is twofold: my education in canonical literature at Yale, which may seem like an odd thing for a mystery writer to say; and the need to be funny, which is probably a product of sanity.
"I am compulsive, disciplined, and thorough during the writing process. I revise each book at least seven times before I let it out of my hands. Behind each of my mysteries lie months of intensive research. I think mystery writers are archivists of their time, and they should present the social scene accurately.
"I write mysteries because, for me, this genre is the most suited for exploring human nature and for demonstrating how well human society is coping with human nature. We are killers and that fascinates me. I wouldn't kill anyone, and I am constantly amazed that people kill each other quite frequently. Society seems unable to stop us."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Austin American-Statesman, March 23, 1997, Peggy Itzen, "Smart Women, Foolish Mystery Plots," p. E10.
Library Journal, July, 1995, Rex E. Klett, review of Until the End of Time, p. 127.
Publishers Weekly, July 24, 1995, review of Until theEnd of Time, p. 50; March 31, 1997, review of Until It Hurts, p. 66.
Polly Whitney's Home Page,http://www.thewindjammer.com/polly/ (April 8, 2003), Elena Santangelo, interview with Polly Whitney.
Under the Covers, http://www.silcom.com/~manatee/whitney_until.html/ (March 23, 1997), Harriet Klausner, review of Until It Hurts.*