Sunday, October 2, 2016

Early influences

By now, I know most of you have heard me tell the story of my father bringing home a copy of The Underdog and Other Stories by Agatha Christie, and thinking I might enjoy it.

However, in becoming a biographer, there were other influences that occurred around the same time. The first of these was brought back to mind by the EQMM conference I spoke at on Friday. Since I am writing about the men who wrote the Ellery Queen stories, I was there primarily as a biographer. During the discussion of the magazine covers, I recalled a series of covers from the 1970s, featuring a number of famous mystery authors. Those photos intrigued me. Who were these people? Why had they written?

I've put a few covers here to prove my point, and for the record, they were published in 1979, my final year of HS when I was reading every mystery book I could get my hands on. So these among the others were fascinating to me. I looked for biographies of many of these authors, but in the 1970s, the biographical and critical studies of the genre and its practitioners was not very far along.

 The other influence was the fact that a man from my church, Charles Norton, wrote a book about Melville Davisson Post (who you need to read if you have not yet.) I was so pleased that someone had answered questions I had about the authors of my favorite genre. Not just the Crime Queens or the best sellers, but a fascinating man who is not remembered today.

I can't find my copy; it has been 40 years or more since I read it. However, it did interest me in forgotten American mystery authors, and now I write of them as well.

I don't go to that church these days, and I believe that Mr. Norton has passed away, but I did come away with an avocation and a joy in reading mystery related biographies.