“When I’m doing a book, using all my concentration and powers, I feel fulfilled. It’s the best in me, the best I can do at that time. When I finish a book, I’ve lost all the connections and feel drained and useless. You are never sure when the impulses will connect again. A book comes at you sneakily, in strange ways…when you finally give in to its seductive ways, and try to make sense of it and put it down, sometimes it is all there, ready and waiting for you, dictating itself as it wants to be. It may develop into a good book…Maybe there’s a frustrated spirit floating around, with stories to tell. The spirit has all the time in the world and can pass the time having fun with you. If you follow directions, it may visit you again, sharing what it knows, what it sees that you don’t, what you should feel while you are still flesh and not spirit.”
— Kin Platt, My Way, Their Way, And No Way: A Life (autobiographical sketch) – 1996
Kin Platt’s long and varied career began with the drawing of theatrical caricatures in the 1930s. Thirty years later, he was writing fiction for young adults that spanned the spectrum from old-fashioned adventure yarns to introspective studies of deeply troubled kids. Platt took extreme, end-of-the-line cases as his starting point, eschewing comfortable, typical, and familiar protagonists or situations. He once elaborated on the motivation that made him keep breaking boundaries: “Publishers have been afraid of the kind of books I’ve wanted to do…I didn’t want to do ordinary books. I always felt that I had to stay ahead of everybody else, in my own mind at least…I don’t write to make money; I write because the story has to be told.” Platt followed his own dictum, and created a body of work that expands the boundaries of what constitutes young adult fiction.
It was a role Platt seemed tailor-made for. Born in New York, there was nothing comfortable or traditional about his own childhood. He had a difficult youth, running away from home at age seven, and he was always pushing the bounds of the acceptable. By ten, he was drawing all the time, copying cartoons and dreaming of having his own syndicated comic strip one day. He was also involved in sports, both running and baseball. And to fill any empty hours, he read voraciously and indiscriminately, up to five books per day. “I think boys read more in those days, before books became pretentious, hard-covered and high-priced, and pigeon-holed into age categories.” He read adventure stories: Tom Swift, the Hardy Boys, and the Rover Boys among others. Later came Jack London, Charles Lamb, Rabelais, Cervantes, and Freud.
With his first teen novel, The Blue Man, published in 1961, Kin set out on a new path that would bring his storytelling talents to millions. Working with a legendary New York literary agent [Marilyn Marlowe of Curtis Brown; Kin was one of her earliest clients, and was still in her "stable" when she died in 2003], Kin’s output was both prodigious and eclectic. Unlike most writers who specialize in a single genre, Kin’s books ran the gamut from beginners’ “I Can Read Books,” to heartwarming (and sometimes heart-breaking) books for teens, to sophisticated adult mystery titles. Kin saw 32 of his books published under his own name during his lifetime. A final Big Max “I Can Read Book” came out in 2005. A Mystery For Thoreau, the author’s only YA historical novel, was published in hardcover by FS&G in 2008.
Surviving Kin are at least 22 more manuscripts, as-yet unpublished, that represent a significant opportunity to showcase his talents to a new generation of readers.
A lifelong drinker and smoker, Kin Platt was dying of lung and bladder cancer when he took his own life, one week before his 92nd birthday.
Kin Platt: Biographical Notes
Personal: Born December 8, 1911 in New York City, to Daniel Platkin (a cantor and singer) & Etta Hochberg.
One son, Christopher.
Died December 1, 2003, in Los Angeles.
Hobbies/Interests: Golf, juggling, piano.
Agent: Marilyn E. Marlowe (died in 2003) of Curtis Brown Inc., New York, NY.
Career: Cartoonist, painter & sculptor, and writer.
• New York Herald Tribune Syndicate, NY, cartoonist (writer and illustrator) of comic strip, “Mr. and Mrs.,” 1947 – ‘63, and “The Duke and the Duchess,” 1950 – ‘54.
• Theatrical caricaturist for newspapers, including The Village Voice, and the Los Angeles Times.
• Radio comedy writer for Jack Benny, Stoopnagle & Budd, Burns & Allen, Ken Murray, and the National Biscuit Comedy Hour of 1936.
• Writer of animated cartoons for Walt Disney, beginning late 1930s (including the classic Fantasia); and Hanna-Barbera (including Flintstones, Top Cat, Yogi Bear, and The Jetsons), in the 1960s.
• Creator of Supermouse for Standard Comics, comic books in the 1940s. Later wrote numerous titles including Krazy Comics for Timely Comics Co., under the legendary Stan Lee and Vince Fago; and in the 1950s and 60s for National (DC) Comics (Fox and the Crow, Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis, Sgt. Bilko, to name a few) under Larry Nadell.
• Kin published his first book, The Blue Man, at age 50. Another 31 books were published under his name over the next 40-plus years.
Military Service: U.S. Army Air Force, Air Transport Command, 1943 – ’46; served in the China-Burma-India theater; received the Bronze Star.
Member: Writers Guild of America, Mystery Writers of America, National Cartoonist Society.
Awards, Honors: Recognition for Kin Platt’s books include: The Mystery Writers of America “Edgar” award for juvenile mystery, 1967, for Sinbad and Me; The MWA’s Edgar Allan Poe Award runner-up, 1970, for The Mystery of the Witch Who Wouldn’t, The Distinguished Book of the Year award, Southern California Council on Literature for Children and Young People, 1974, for Chloris and the Creeps; Notable Book citation, American Library Association, 1975, for Headman; and an award for outstanding contribution to children’s literature, Central Missouri State University, 1986.
Noteworthy: An extensive collection of Kin Platt’s lifetime of work, including manuscripts, personal papers, books and memorabilia is maintained at the Boston University Library, Special Collections, under the stewardship of Dr. Howard Gotlieb.
Prologue Books is very grateful to Christopher Platt for providing this short biography of Kin Platt.
Prologue Books by Kin Platt