Friday, April 26, 2024

Coronet and the Masters of Mystery, 1956

378 million copies sold 

Coronet Magazine did another illustrated article on mystery writers in 1956, eighteen years after the first one.  Six of the "masters" were the same, while three were new.  All are listed below, with scans from the article.

Erle Stanley Gardner

Agatha Christie

Mickey Spillane NEW

John Dickson Carr NEW

Rex Stout NEW

Frances and Richard Lockridge

Ellery Queen (Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee)

Lots of emphasis on family life, or in Erle's case his secretaries.  The thirty-eight-year-old Spillane is shown teaching his children the Bible (Did he tell them about "thou shalt not kill"?), along with what strikes me as something of an aggressively masculine beefcake shot.  (Did women thing Spillane was sexy?)  In a particularly patronizing moment, as written up anyway, Carr is shown "explaining a Hogarth etching to his wife."  (Better that than his extra-marital affairs, I guess.)  The writer didn't even bother to give Clarice's name, it was just "wife."   

Rex Stout is shown making salad and furniture.  Truly a Renaissance man!  The Lockridges evidently had no children but like a lot of childless couples, they had cats, which certainly feature in their many mysteries.  Jacques Barzun, a hater of felines (or any pets) in mysteries, termed the cats "intolerable."  

Of the new guys, none were really new, barring Spillane, relatively.  Carr and Stout well could have been on the '38 list.   Gone this time around were Helen Reilly, Leslie Ford and Dorothy L. Sayers.  Sayers had retired from crime writing and would pass away the next year, but Helen Reilly and Leslie Ford were still publishing mysteries.  

Reilly would produce five more crime novels before expiring in 1962, while Ford was slowing down, publishing just two more crime novels in the next five years, although she lived until 1983.  Both women published their last mysteries in 1962.  

Frances Lockridge would die in 1963, but her husband Richard kept writing mysteries into the Seventies, as did Gardner, Christie, Carr, Stout and Queen.  Actually Lockridge published his last detective novel in 1980 at age 82, titling it The Old Die Young.  Does mystery writing and reading keep you young?  Spillane's Mike Hammer novels appeared intermittently up though 1996, he being the baby of the bad bunch, having been born in the plagued, pestilent year of 1918.  Alone among this group he lived to see the 21st century, dying at age 88 in 2006.  

Query: Who would have been the nine or ten masters of mystery in 1974?  Christie and Stout might well have featured again, perhaps even Carr and Queen.  The latter authors had published their last novels slightly earlier, but they was that known at the time?  Gardner died in 1970, leaving unpublished mysteries behind him.  

1 comment:

  1. Hi! Haven't stopped here in a long time but I thought of you when I ran across this in "Death of His Uncle" by C H B Kitchin, keyword is humdrum!: "I have always maintained that when an ordinary member of the public is confronted with a crime or a mystery he bases his conduct on the detective stories he has read. I have read a good many detective stories and find them
    a sedative for the nerves. Oddly enough, what I like in them isn’t so much
    the puzzle of the plot, still less sensational hairbreadth escapes, but precisely
    the element which you would least expect to find in such stories—the
    humdrum background, tea at the Vicarage, a morning in an office, a trip to
    Brighton pier—that microscopic study of ordinary life which is the foil to
    the extraordinary event which interrupts it. A good detective story, I have
    found, is often a clearer mirror of ordinary life than many a novel written
    specially to portray it. Indeed, I think a test of its goodness is the pleasure
    you can derive from it even though you know who the murderer is. A
    historian of the future will probably turn, not to blue books or statistics, but
    to detective stories if he wishes to study the manners of our age. Middleclass manners perhaps. But I am old-fashioned enough to enjoy the
    individualism of the middle class."