Born in Chicago on October 23, 1906, Jonathan Wyatt Latimer was named in honor of an ancestor who served on General George Washington’s staff. Latimer was educated at a boarding school in Arizona and Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, where in 1929 he took a bachelor’s degree with high honors and earned membership in Phi Beta Kappa. He became a journalist for the Chicago Tribune, and for a brief period he served as ghostwriter for the retired secretary of the interior Harold Ickes. Latimer was married to Ellen Baxter Peabody in 1937, and together they had three children. He was married to Jo Ann Hanzlik in 1954.
While writing the five William Crane series novels, Latimer also launched a career as Hollywood screenwriter. From his detective novel The Lady in the Morgue (1936), he developed the script for the 1938 Universal Studios film of the same title. From 1938 to 1959 he wrote or collaborated on some twenty screenplays for various film companies, including the film noir classics adapted from Dashiell Hammett’s The Glass Key (1930), Kenneth Fearing’s The Big Clock (1946), and Cornell Woolrich’s The Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1945). The Hollywood period was interrupted by a tour of duty in the United States Navy (1942-1945). During the early 1960’s, Latimer turned to television writing for the Perry Mason series; he wrote forty-five original scripts and fifty adaptations of Erle Stanley Gardner’s books. Latimer’s postwar detective fiction included two novels, Sinners and Shrouds (1955) and Black Is the Fashion for Dying (1959). On June 23, 1983, he died of lung cancer in La Jolla, California.