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

By Rick Cypert | Go to book overview

3
France, Chicago, and Gertrude Stein:
1932–1936

Murder was for the newspapers! For the dry, old court records,
for history, for anything but for her.

Never Look Back

AFTER EMBARKING UPON THEIR EUROPEAN JOURNEY IN THE WINTER OF 1931–32, the Eberharts ended up settling in southern France, north of Nice in the Alps Maritimes, at a small hotel that would later inspire the setting for Mignon’s seventh novel, The White Cockatoo. As Mignon indicated in a 1984 interview with the Mystery Writers of America newsletter, “We were staying at a little hotel-pension place. It was a very poor season on the Riviera in that part of Nice, so they gave me, for nothing, a little extra room to write in. It was cold and had no view, but a writer shouldn’t have a view.”1 Nonetheless, a columnist, jealous, no doubt, writing in the New York Evening Post about the number of writers leaving for warmer climes—Florida, the Riviera—and specifically mentioning Mignon Eberhart’s trip to Florence, quoted “the petulant remarks of a London critic”: “Any number of us could produce synopses of our careers which would look very dashing in cold print. After all, you or I, reader (granted that somebody would give us the money), could quite easily go off and add to our biographical records: ‘Has shot alligators on the Amazon, crocodiles in the Cashmere, and yaks in Tibet.’ A very picturesque effect can be produced by mere movement about the world.”2 Such articles, although included in Eberhart’s scrapbook, certainly did not slow her down in her travels or in her writing. Europe, the Alps Maritimes in particular, offered the potential for gothic atmosphere that she sought and added to the mystique of her ethos as a writer.

In a letter to her sorority sisters in Lincoln, Mignon described her stay abroad, commenting first on the challenges of being a married woman with a career in writing:

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