Women Crime Writers: Four Suspense Novels of the 1940s: Laura / The Horizontal Man / In a Lonely Place / The Blank Wall (Library of America)
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The Library of America and editor Sarah Weinman redefine the classic era of American crime fiction with a landmark collection of four brilliant novels by the female pioneers of the genre, the women who paved the way for Gillian Flynn, Tana French, and Lisa Scottoline.
Though women crime and suspense writers dominate today’s bestseller lists, the extraordinary work of the mid-century pioneers of the genre is largely unknown. Turning in many cases from the mean streets of the hardboiled school to explore the anxieties and terrors lurking in everyday life, these groundbreaking novelists found the roots of fear and violence in a quiet suburban neighborhood, on a college campus, or in a comfortable midtown hotel. Their work, influential in its day and still vibrant and extraordinarily riveting today, is long overdue for rediscovery. This volume, the first of a two-volume collector’s set, gathers four classic works that together reveal the vital and unacknowledged lineage to today’s leading crime writers. From the 1940s here are Vera Caspary’s famous career girl mystery Laura, Helen Eustis’s intricate academic thriller The Horizontal Man, Dorothy B. Hughes’s In a Lonely Place, the terrifyingly intimate portrait of a serial killer, and Elizabeth Sanxay Holding’s The Blank Wall, in which a wife in wartime is forced to take extreme measures when her family is threatened.
with liquor and provocative questions. We discussed the insurance policy, the false alibi, and, at my subtle instigation, Shelby’s familiarity with firearms. “He’s quite the sporting type, you know. Hunting, shooting, and all that. Once had a collection of guns, I believe.” Mark nodded knowingly. “Have you checked on them? How do you go about getting all these items of information? Or did Shelby confess that, too?” “I’m a detective. What do you think I do with my time? It was a simple matter
emotion from a friend. “The bottles aren’t empty. Come back.” “Oke.” At the door, Brub hesitated. “Leaving town soon?” Dix was surprised at the question. As much as if it had been a police warning. He remembered then and he laughed easily. “Now that the book’s done? Oh, I’ll be around a couple of more weeks at least. Maybe longer. Depends on Laurel’s plans.” From the doorstep he watched Brub start away. Watched Brub stoop on the walk and a splinter of doubt again chilled him. But Brub turned
are—simply idiotic. If you’re found with him, you won’t have a chance. I’m sure any doctor would know how he’d been killed. You want me to tell people I left you having an ‘argument’ with him. I suppose you mean to swear you killed him in self-defense. Well, nobody would believe that. Not when you choked him.” “I will manage,” he said. He stood there, so big, so slow, so vague. “You’re a perfect fool!” she cried. “You’ve got to get him away. I’ll bring my car to the door, and you——” “I cannot
P.M. They were to have been married by this time and on their way to Nova Scotia. This was the bridal night. The lamp shone on her face. Her voice was gentle. “Do you believe I killed her, Mark? Do you believe it, too?” PART THREE A STENOGRAPHIC report of the statement made by Shelby J. Carpenter to Lieutenant McPherson on Friday at 3.45 P.M., August 27, 1941. Present: Shelby J. Carpenter, Lieutenant McPherson, N. T. Salsbury, Jr. Mr. Carpenter: I, Shelby John Carpenter, do hereby swear that
strength on people she scarcely knew. Remember that model, Shelby, the girl with the fancy name? Laura got me to give her my leopard coat. It wasn’t half worn out either. I could have got another winter out of it and spared my mink. Don’t you remember, Shelby?” Shelby had become infatuated with a bronze Diana who had been threatening for years to leap, with dog and stag, from her pedestal. Auntie Sue continued naughtily: “And Shelby’s job! Do you know how he got it, Mr. McPherson? He’d been