Tuesday, April 5, 2016

World's Fair

While she was already writing two series, Bennett Cerf of Random House approached Taylor in 1938. He wanted a mystery novel that would take place at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. However, he wanted the book to be published prior to the fair for the sake of advance publicity. Taylor agreed to write Murder at the New York World’s Fair, under a second pen name of Freeman Dana, another concoction from her family history. She toured the fair site in Flushing Meadows, New York, in April of 1938 and then set to work. Taylor had to use her active imagination, because the fair site was nothing more than muddy fields when she began to write the book. She surrounded herself with publicity materials, architectural renderings of the buildings and a map of the fair site. In 31 days, she had finished a first draft of the novel.

The book differs from her other two series. Taylor was known for her eye for detail and attention for the small things that brought reality to the surreal plots. Since she was unable to see the site, she could not accomplish that in this book. The names of the various parts of the fair are given, but little detail is provided on how each one looked.

Additionally, the build-up to get the main characters to the fair and to dump a dead body in their lap takes up a considerable portion of the book. The real investigation only begins with the second half of the book. There’s no emotional impact in the discovery of the victims, who are unpleasant people, but certainly worth a paragraph of regret.

The book suffered a number of editorial revisions, something that Taylor was not used to. She chafed a bit under the direction, and the correspondence between author and editor was less than pleasant. The book was published in November 1938 with a first printing of just 900 copies. Taylor considered the book so insignificant that she didn’t even bother to list it in her credentials. The book is available now as an eBook, for those interested in reading more from Taylor.

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