America's Agatha Christie: Mignon Good Eberhart, Her Life and Works

America's Agatha Christie: Mignon Good Eberhart, Her Life and Works

America's Agatha Christie: Mignon Good Eberhart, Her Life and Works

America's Agatha Christie: Mignon Good Eberhart, Her Life and Works

Synopsis

Between 1929 and 1988, American mystery writer Mignon Good Eberhart wrote fifty-nine mystery novels, at least as many short stories, and served a term as president and Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America. This study of Eberhart's life and work considers the influence of her childhood in Nebraska, her marriage and frequent travels, and her various professional and personal contacts in Chicago and on the East Coast. Eberhart's friendships with well-known literary figures, including mystery and romance authors, provide a fascinating glimpse into the social matrix of a bygone publishing world. Eberhart's experiences with Hollywood and Broadway show how the mystery genre, and writer, were transformed in an alternate medium. Leading women's magazines of the day also sought Eberhart's talent and inevitably transformed her writing. Eberhart's novels and correspondence provide insight into the social mores of her day, in particular about women's friendships, repressed sexuality, and closeted homosexuality. Those interested in cultural studies, women's studies, and twentieth-century popular literature will find this book valuable.

Excerpt

In 1965, a secretary wrote Mignon Eberhart to ask whether she would like the manuscript of her latest novel disposed of or returned. The production department at Random House was short of storage space and had asked that all authors be contacted about their manuscripts. Mignon promptly wrote back and asked for the manuscript’s return, noting, “there are always some requests from university libraries for these battered up manuscripts. I really cannot imagine why, but anyway one of them lately begged me to “Desist” [his word] and not to destroy any more of them but let him have them. So that’s what I’ll do and I hope he enjoys them!” The request of which Eberhart speaks came from Howard Gotlieb; that library was the Special Collections Department at Boston University. For the last forty years, this library department has become the home to the papers and belongings of significant figures of the twentieth century, such as Sterling Hayden, Bette Davis, and Mignon Good Eberhart, thanks to a tenacious director and equally assertive staff. The Boston University Library, along with the Rare Book and Manuscript Archives at Columbia University, and the Newberry Library in Chicago provided me the portals to unknown riches about the life of a mystery writer who had all but fallen out of public awareness, where once her name had been commonplace.

The mystery of M. G. Eberhart, however, began with an alumna of the school where I currently teach. A member of the sorority to which Mignon Eberhart had belonged, Betty Meisinger Dyer, had long championed Eberhart’s reputation, collecting a set of her novels for our university library and for the sorority house, and presenting programs about Eberhart’s life and works under sponsorship of the Nebraska Humanities Council. Dyer suggested that a book be written about Mignon Eberhart’s life. “Would you be interested?” she asked. I was. A year earlier I had scripted Eberhart’s second novel, While the Patient Slept, into a reader’s theater/mystery game that a group of alums performed during homecoming. A biography? Why not?

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