Saturday, March 22, 2014

Update: Mysteriously romantic (2 of 3)

17 more authors of mystery and romance in this batch, and lots of fun covers too.

I'm particularly infatuated by some of the covers of books by DESEMEA WILSON (who wrote as Diana Patrick).  Mind you, this doesn't necessarily mean that I would be infatuated with the books themselves, but if, at next month's giant spring book sale, I were to come across a copy of the above with an intact dustcover, I wouldn't expect my powers of resistance to kick in even a little.  Clearly Wilson's publisher went to some trouble to get talented artists and designers for her books.

Rather more surreal, but still interesting, is the cover of The Toasted Blonde, a novel by DOROTHY WEBB (writing as Christopher Reeve—not to be confused with Superman!).  One wonders about the meaning of the said blonde's disembodied head floating in (I believe) the shadow of the man's cocktail glass...

At the opposite end of the spectrum are the covers of some of MAY CHRISTIE's romances, especially The Jazz Widow, which certainly sounds like a literary masterpiece to me…

On the other hand, I found the cover of Christie's The Gilded Rose, though as cheesy as a plate of macaroni, to be rather appealing.

And while paperback reprints aren't known for their subtlety or artistic value, as in the case of this HERMINA BLACK reprint…

…occasionally they offer something rather interesting, as in the case of the bizarre but striking cover of ELIZABETH SAX ROHMER's Bianca in Black.  (More pressing than the question of why the bride wore black, it seems to me, is what she had done to anger her hairdresser to the point that she wound up with that hair color at her wedding?)

For some reason I find this reprint of NETTA MUSKETT's Plaster Cast somewhat compelling too, though I'm not sure why—something about the rather despairing look on the young woman's face, perhaps?

For the most part, Muskett's publisher wouldn't get any design awards from me, but there's something naïvely striking about this one:

And with all this focus on judging books by their covers, I don't want to neglect to mention that EVELYN BALFOUR seems to have been quite an interesting figure quite apart from her book covers.  A pioneer of organic farming, Balfour wrote the classic environmentalist text The Living Soil after having written three earlier mystery novels.

Evelyn (Eve) Balfour

All 17 authors are listed below (as well as a few more of their book covers), and all have already been added to the main list.

(aka Hearnden Balfour, combined pseudonym with Beryl Hearnden)

A pioneer of the organic farming movement, Balfour is best remembered for The Living Soil (1943), considered a classic environmentalist text, but she also published three mystery novels—The Paper Chase (1927), The Enterprising Burglar (1928), and Anything Might Happen (1931).

(married name Guichard)

Journalist and novelist whose fiction—often focused on Jewish life in Poland and Russia—includes When Summer Comes Again (1915), Baldwin's Kingdom (1917), and Passover (1920); she later wrote three novels with Elliot Monk which may be mysteries, including The St. Cloud Affair (1931).

HERMINA BLACK (1893-????)

Prolific author of romance and romantic suspense from the 1930s to 1980s; titles include The Love Hotel (1935), Passion's Web (1937), Sweet Pilgrimage (1943), Moon Over Morocco (1951), Jennifer Harlow, M.D. (1957), Private Patient (1962), and Danger in Montparnasse (1967).

(married name Byrde)

Children's writer and author of romantic novels set in exotic locales, including The Sleeping Princess (1941), Say Not Good-Night (1943), Journey to Venice (1949), An Oak for Posterity (1952), and The One Black Swan (1955); she also published short fiction of suspense and horror.

MAY CHRISTIE (1894-1946)
(married names Martin and Stamatiadis, later changed to Mazzavini)

Prolific author of romantic novels in the 1920s and 1930s—and many more published serially; titles include At Cupid's Call (1921), The Girl in the Corner Flat (1923), The Girl Who Dared (1925), Kitty Sees Life (1929), The Jazz Widow (1930), Playgirls in Love (1932), and Women in Love (1937).

(pseudonym of Annie Ada Clapperton, née Reeves)

Author of a single novel, The Other Richard Graham (1911), described as a mystery adventure set in New Zealand; Saturday Review called it "a story which grips the reader and holds the attention from the first page to the last."

MARJORIE DOUIE (c1888-1946)

Author of three mystery/thrillers set in exotic locales, including The Pointing Man: A Burmese Mystery (1917), The Man from Trinidad (1918), and The Man Who Tried Everything (1919).

One of Helen Eastwood's pseudonyms

HELEN EASTWOOD (1892-c1984)
(née Baker, aka Olive Baxter, aka Fay Ramsay)

Enormously prolific author of romantic suspense under her own name and her pseudonyms; her catchy titles include To Be Worthy of Shadows (1938), Green Eyes for Torture (1939), Synthetic Halo (1940), Ken's Watery Shroud (1942), Destiny for Jill (1961), and Sweet Trespasser (1978).

(née Mackenzie)

Apparently the author of a single novel, 'Ware Wolf (1928), which, according to a contemporary review, "tries to reconcile the old Were Wolf legend with modern science and constructs a romance on this subject which has as a background the conspiracy for a world revolution."

JOAN KENNEDY (1885-1965)
(pseudonym of Alice Mabel Gibbs, married name Morrison)

A prolific romance novelist from the 1920s to 1960s; her many titles include The Muck Pond (1923), Miss Lavender of London (1929), Ragged Orchid (1932), Magnolias in the Rain (1948), Flaming Days (1950), and Love in the Mist (1953), as well as a memoir, Myself the Pilgrim (1952).

(aka John Milbrook)

Author of at least a dozen novels of the 1910s and 1920s, including The Honest Lawyer (1916), His Grace of Grub Street (1918), The Turning Sword (1922), Sheriff's Deputy (1924), So Speed We (1926), The Bride’s Groom (1928), and—under her pseudonym—A Bridport Dagger (1930).

Netta Muskett

(née Hill, aka Anne Hill)

Prolific author of romance and gothic novels under her own name and her pseudonym; titles include The Jade Spider (1927), The Flickering Lamp (1931), The Shadow Market (1938), Love In Amber (1942), Cast The Spear (1950), The White Dove (1956), and The Fettered Past (1961).

NANCY OAKLEY (1894-????)
(née Rainford)

Author of two mystery novels with husband John Oakley—The Clevedon Case (1923) and The Lint House Mystery (1925).

(pseudonym of Rose Elizabeth Knox Ward)

Wife of thriller writer Sax Rohmer and the author of a single mystery of her own, Bianca in Black (1958), about a model who believes herself to be cursed; she later collaborated with Rohmer's former assistant on Master of Villainy: A Biography of Sax Rohmer (1972).

PHILLIPA TYLER (?1876-????)

More research needed; author of at least three novels—The Lushington Mystery (1919), The Manaton Disaster (1920), and A Quest for a Fortune (1924).

A reprint edition of Webb's The Toasted Blonde

(née Stephens, aka Jermyn March, aka Christopher Reeve)

Author of mysteries and thrillers under several names; titles include Rust of Murder (1924), Dear Traitor (1925), The Man Behind the Face (1927), The Ginger Cat (1929), The Toasted Blonde (1930), Murder Steps Out (1942), The House that Waited (1944), and Lady, Be Careful (1948).

DESEMEA WILSON (1878-1964)
(née Newman, aka Barbara Desmond, aka Diana Patrick)

Prolific romantic novelist from the 1920s to 1940s, mostly under the name "Diana Patrick"; titles include The Islands of Desire (1920), Dusk of Moonrise (1922), Dreaming Spires (1923), Gay Girl (1927), Outpost of Arden (1930), Fragile Armour (1936), and A Little Season (1943).


  1. I had your page open, went away for a moment and came back to find you'd posted. What wonderful covers! I want to live in a Diana Patrick novel and wear those frocks. Most of the authors are unknown to me, though I remember shelving Hermina Black and Netta Muskett in the library I worked in in the 70s. Judging the books by their covers, I suspect there's little literary merit but I'd treasure them for the covers

    1. Oh, you're right, sometimes I look more at the colors and compositions of the covers, but now that I look more closely there are actually several nice frocks in this post, aren't there? Even the Hermina Black cover of Romance for Romany has a pretty nice one--on the perky side perhaps, but still nice. Perhaps that should have been the theme of the post!

  2. I'm pretty sure Hermina Black and Netta Muskett were names I saw all the time in the seventies on paperback "romantic novels" (a convenient catch-all category for many women writers), while browsing the bookshop shelves for Mary Stewart and D E Stevenson. Other names that come to mind are Iris Bromige, Denise Robins, Lucy Walker.

    1. Amazing to think of the array of women who have been marketed as "romance" at one time or another, isn't it? It gives me pause sometimes when I add these writers. Are they really romance in the narrower, Mills & Boon-ish sense, or are they really something more? Who knows?

      As it happens, Iris Bromige will be in my next big update. Denise Robins is already on the list, but clearly I must look more closely at Lucy Walker. Always more to add! Thanks, Susan.

  3. Lucy Walker was Australian, so I suppose she won't make the cut. She wrote standard romances of her era, but also a series of books based on an Australian-Irish family, the Montgomerys that I always enjoyed.


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