Thursday, February 20, 2020

"NEW" AUTHORS: mysterious women (1 of 2)

Another installment of telling you a bit about the 100+ new authors added to my main list last October. Those authors included at least 16 who wrote one or more volumes of mystery or suspense, some of them quite intriguing. I would say I'm surprised to still be finding so many interesting authors at this stage of the list, but after six years of making fairly regular updates and additions I'm not really very surprised at all!

The biggest mystery in this post is the identity of JANE BOYD herself. This was the pseudonym used on a single mystery novel, Murder in the King's Road (1953). The publisher noted that this was the pseudonym of "a crime writer of distinction," but no one has yet determined which one. 

I enjoyed it and reviewed it here, where you can also see a sample of the writing as well as my brainstormed list of possible author-suspects. But my speculations have been to no avail thus far—can you do better?

Next up is a prolific and talented author of mysteries whose work is currently being reprinted by my friends and colleagues at Dean Street Press. MORAY DALTON wrote 29 mysteries and thrillers beginning with The Kingsclere Mystery (1924). Fifteen of these feature her series character Inspector Hugh Collier. In her non-series titles, she occasionally made forays into other genres, including the post-apocalyptic The Black Death (1934) and the wartime adventure Death at the Villa (1946). Other titles include The Shadow on the Wall (1926), One by One They Disappeared (1929), The Night of Fear (1931), The Strange Case of Harriet Hall (1936), Death in the Forest (1939), The Art School Murders (1943), and The House of Fear (1951). Curtis Evans wrote about her life and writings here when the first batch of Dean Street reprints appeared.  A second batch has just been released.

A title by MARGARET SCUTT has also been recently published. Scutt was a schoolteacher who published only two novels in her lifetime—I Do But Follow (1947) and And Some There Be (1950), the latter of which is historical in theme though details are lacking. 

But she apparently wrote several more novels that have remained unpublished. The first of these, Corpse Path Cottage, a mystery set in a Dorset village, was written in the 1960s but only published in 2018. Has anyone come across it yet?

I can find no trace of a CAROLINE COMSTOCK in public records, which makes me wonder if the name is a pseudonym (and could she have written other books under other names?). But her one and only novel (under this name at least), The Bandar-Log Murder (1956), subtitled "A Museum Street Thriller," sounds rather intriguing. The Observer said it was a "[c]hattily readable little London mystery set among the futilitarian, un-dead, neo-delinquent, mews-dwelling, contemporary youth." One hardly knows what to think of that description, but the book's cover is also eye-catching and a bit bewildering, so I might have to sample the book to ease my curiosity.

And then there's FELICITY SHAW, who published 25 mysteries under her pseudonym Anne Morice, most featuring her actress sleuth Tessa Crichton. Curtis Evans wrote about her family history here and discussed her mysteries here. Her sister Angela was an actress and, having married actor and agent Robin Fox, produced a line of successful actors, including Laurence Fox of Lewis fame (who is now working with great determination to destroy his career by making an ass of himself on British talk shows). 

Shaw had earlier published two satirical novels under her own name. The Happy Exiles (1956) is a sendup of dying British colonialism set in an apparently unspecified tropical colony—the Philadelphia Inquirer said, "For all its sting, Mrs. Shaw's way of telling a story is witty, her eye for detail devastatingly observant, her commentary on the social aspects of British colonial policy shrewdly apt. The Happy Exiles is wondrous summer entertainment." Her second novel, Sun Trap (1958), also has a tropical setting.

BERYL SYMONS also started out writing non-mysteries. Her first three novels—A Lady of France (1910), The Roses of Crein (1912), and Prince & Priest (1912)—were all set in medieval France. She then fell silent for well over a decade before returning with a cheerful romance, Daffodil Jane (1928), and then turning her hand to thrillers, which included The Leering House (1929), The Opal Murder Case (1932), Haunted Hollow (1934), and Through a Glass Darkly (1938). It's her five final novels, however, that sound the most intriguing, and feature spinster detective Jane Carberry (and perhaps some wartime settings as well?). Those titles are Jane Carberry Investigates (1940), Jane Carberry: Detective (1940), Magnet for Murder (1941), Jane Carberry and the Laughing Fountain (1943), and Jane Carberry's Week-End (1947).

And finally, last but not least (or possibly least as well for all I know), comes JOAN MACKENZIE, who published five novels—The Homeward Tide (1935), The Deadly Game (1939), Linda Walked Alone (1944), All for the Apple (1948), and The Wayward Heart (1951). From a short review, Deadly Game is clearly a thriller, and a blurb explains that All for the Apple is "about a girl who takes up a job in a country house down in the Scottish Borders, owned by a famous and wicked surgeon." Ooh, famous and wicked!

Next time, eight more "new" mystery authors, including one I'm planning to sample very soon.
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