Charles Whiting (18 December 1926 – 24 July 2007), was a British writer and military historian and with some 350 books of fiction and non-fiction to his credit, under his own name and a variety of pseudonyms including Duncan Harding, John Kerrigan, Klaus Konrad and Leo Kessler.
Born in the Bootham area of York, England, he was a pupil at the Nunthorpe Grammar School, leaving at the age of 16 to join the British Army by lying about his age. Keen to be in on the wartime action, Whiting was attached to the 52nd Reconnaissance Regiment and by the age of 18 saw duty as a sergeant in France, Holland, Belgium and Germany in the latter stages of World War II. While still a soldier, he observed conflicts between the highest-ranking British and American generals which he would write about extensively in later years.
After the war, he stayed on in Germany completing his A-levels via correspondence course and teaching English before being enrolled at Leeds University reading History and German Language. As an undergraduate he was afforded opportunities for study at several European universities and, after gaining his degree, would go on to become an assistant professor of history. Elsewhere, Whiting held a variety of jobs which included working as a translator for a German chemical factory and spells as a publicist, a correspondent for The Times and feature writer for such diverse magazines as International Review of Linguistics, Soldier and Playboy.
His first novel The Frat Wagon, written while still an undergraduate, was published by Jonathan Cape in 1954 and by 1958 had been followed by three wartime thrillers, Lest I Fall (which was optioned by Rank but never filmed), Journey to No End and The Mighty Fallen. The first of these thrillers was awarded the George Dowty Prize at the 1956 Cheltenham Literature Festival which financed Whiting's study tour in North America and led on to a contract with the University of Maryland University College which at that time was providing degree courses for US military officers stationed in Europe. Whiting became a touring academic living in Spain, France, Germany, Turkey and Italy while teaching military history and strategy to the US Army. It was while doing this that he would meet his first wife, Irma, whose father had suffered persecution in Hamburg for his opposition to the Nazis, and eventually the couple settled in a remote Belgian village.
It was while living there that Whiting's writerly muse began to pour forth novels and non-fiction at an unprecedented rate, initially overwhelming his publishers. Between 1970 and 1976 in a prolific burst he wrote a total of 34 books which he described as "Bang-bang, thrills-and-spills". In dealing with his work rate, publishers would successfully develop a number of different markets for his output, publishing his work under his own name as well as the names Duncan Harding, John Kerrigan, and Klaus Konrad and, at the suggestion of publisher Anthony Cheetham, his most successful nom de plume, Leo Kessler whose annual sales would reach 60,000 copies during the 1980s. From 1976, he was a full-time author and would average some six novels a year for the rest of his life.
In addition to writing his novels, his weekly educational columns and dealing with his lecturing commitments, he also established a language centre in the German city of Trier and a European studies department at Bradford. He was also a prolific and popular military historian, who developed a niche market for writing about the Second World War from the point of view of the experiences of regular soldiers rather than the military strategists and generals.
One of his most famous books of non-fiction is York Blitz (also published as Fire Over York) about the German bombing of York in April 1942 while his most controversial is Hemingway Goes To War, about the (mis)adventures of the writer Ernest Hemingway during World War II. The latter is being republished in 2008 by Humdrumming Ltd which is also republishing some early Leo Kessler titles, kicking off with Fire Over Kabul (now available), as well as his very first novel: The Frat Wagon. Some early Duncan Harding titles are now available from GH Smith & Sons of York, or online via Amazon.
- Charles Whiting (1973), The End of the War: Europe April 15—May 23, 1945, New York: Ballantine.
- Charles Whiting (1973), The War in the Shadows, New York: Ballantine.
- Official Website
- G.H.Smith & Son, publisher
- Obituary in The Times
- Books by Charles Whiting, Published by Pen and Sword Books Ltd
- Works by or about Charles Whiting in libraries (WorldCat catalog)