By now I believed I’d pretty much acquainted myself with all of the important Golden Age mystery authors, or at least up until the 50s. Even if never read, I recognize their names as ones that wrote classic or bad mysteries, or even mediocre ones. But the other day in trying to locate info about Stanton Forbes, a favorite from the 1970s, I stumbled upon a website devoted to a Mildred Davis. Ok, the name seemed familiar, but I quickly realized that was because she has the same name as a silent screen movie star, the wife of famous comedian Harold LLoyd. Not the same person.
So, I ask myself, what could she possibly have written? Couldn’t have been any good, or I would have found her decades ago and devoured her work.. Well according to the website devoted to her works, she wrote 12 suspense novels between 1948 and 1977–not the most prolific output, maybe that’s why I’d not come across her before. Maybe it was because she wrote most of her work in the period I read the least. Plus, she would go for years without a single published word, hard to find an author if she isn’t writing. So how good could she be? Well, according to many whom I respect, she’s great. So how in heaven’s name could I have missed her all these years?
At this point I’m thinking, well, I just don’t remember her name, it’s quite likely I’ve read her books and not comprehended that this woman Mildred Davis wrote them. So, I study the list of titles.
The Room Upstairs–1948
They Buried a Man–1948
Suicide Hour–1954–novella in magazine–not reprinted until now
The Dark Place–1955
The Voice on the Telephone–1964
The Sound of Insects–1966
Walk into Yesterday–1967
The Third Half–1969
Walk into Midnight–1971
The Invisible Boarder–1974
Tell Her What’s Her Name Called
Not one title sounds remotely familiar. But the Mildred Davis website has some detailed synopsis’ and I’m sure I’ll recognize at least one of the books, but no, nothing strikes a cord, and this is really disturbing, because the plots sound super, the kind of thing I’d love to read, and yet, I’d no idea they existed.
Oh, it gets worse! Her first book, ‘The Room Upstairs’ won the Edgar Award for First Novel in 1948! What??? And I still hadn’t found her?
And then the age old question flits across my brain–if this were a male author, even with the limited output, would she be this far under the radar? And my answer is, no, she would have at least been acknowledged within some tomes regarding the mystery genre. It’s simple reality that women are not as well respected within the crime fiction world, even back then–despite the success of Agatha Christie and a handful of other women–they wrote most often in the soft boiled genre, whereas authors such as Margaret Millar, Stanton Forbes, and Mildred Davis dipped their pen into pyschological suspense, something they aren’t particularly credited for. Even though Millar has gained an excellent reputation within the field, it’s her husband, hard-boiled writer, Ross MacDonald that gets all the lines in mystery histories. Was he such a ‘better’ writer? No, just different. And of course in my opinion, not as good as Millar. Stanton Forbes wrote a slew of books, many excellent pieces, and yet, I bet I’d be hard put to find many even within the mystery community familiar with her work.
Happily though, this means I can look forward to 12! fantastic novels! And whoa! Ms. Davis is alive and well and co-authored 3 new novels with her daughter, a series titled,’Murder in Maine’.
And oh frabjous day! Her novella is downloadable, for free!! At the website–the link is below.
And why should any of this matter to someone other than myself? Because my gain may be your gain too, if you are like me and love finding new ‘old’ authors to delve into and enjoy a little murder within the pages.
Richard A. Aylesworth created the Mildred Davis website with her permission, and there are many more details and info there if your interest is a piqued as mine.