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.
gloom. To the left and right were the closed doors of two apartments occupied by very old ladies. He climbed the stairs to his own rooms. Opposite his own was the apartment of an emaciated and ancient professor emeritus of Greek who ate health foods, and would, if you allowed him, discourse for hours on the benefits of eurythmics and Dalcroze. On the third floor, in what had formerly been the servants’ rooms lived Miss Penny, the landlady, who was quite as elderly as the rest. Among them,
woman answered; he held on while she called Brub. Then Brub’s voice, a little curious, “Hello.” He was excited just hearing the voice. There wasn’t anyone like Brub, those years in England wouldn’t have been real without Brub. He was gay as a boy, calling, “Hello there, Brub,” wanting Brub to guess or to sense who it was. But Brub didn’t know. He was puzzled; he asked, “Who’s calling?” Excitement titivated him. “Who do you think’s calling?” he demanded. And he cried, “It’s Dix. Dix Steele.” It
He said, “Sylvia, this is Laurel.” And to Laurel, “This is Sylvia. My friend, Brub Nicolai’s, wife.” They acknowledged the introduction in monotone, in the same manner of social courtesy, but it did not diminish the gulf. There was nothing could diminish the gulf. He said, “Let me take your coat, Laurel. Drink?” “No, thanks. I’ve just had dinner.” Her eyes were strange amber flowers. She opened them full on him. “I’ve been trying to call you for hours. Where have you been?” She was a dirty
things to get in the drugstore,” Bee said. “Let’s take the car.” “No,” said Lucia. “I’d rather save the gas for sometime when we really need it.” They were both ready and waiting when the taxi came; Lucia in an old red and white checked gingham dress, stiffly starched, Bee in gray slacks and a white shirt, and that look she sometimes had of severely perfect grooming, her blonde hair pinned up under a blue bandanna, her arched, delicate brows a little darkened. She looked older this way; only
her coffee-cup. “And just what do you suspect me of?” I tried to be impersonal. “Why did you lie to Shelby about going to Waldo Lydecker’s for dinner on Friday night?” “So that’s what’s bothering you?” “You lied, Miss Hunt.” “Oh, I’m Miss Hunt to you now, Mister McPherson.” “Quit sparring,” I said. “Why did you lie?” “I’m afraid if I told you the truth, you might not understand.” “Okay,” I said. “I’m dumb. I’m a detective. I don’t speak English.” “I’m sorry if I’ve hurt your feelings,