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

By Rick Cypert | Go to book overview

8
Historical Novels and Famous Writers:
1960–1970

I knew Greenleaf Trace’s books; they were huge historical novels,
very long on romance but dangerously short on historical accu-
racy. Once he had been a best seller; he was so no longer, al-
though a certain pretense was kept up and the Sahib was loyal to
his authors. The Sahib said, “Leaf has made a great deal of
money for us. Treat him kindly.”

Witness at Large

IN JANUARY 1960, MIGNON EBERHART RECEIVED THE FOLLOWING LETTER from Maxine Lewis, editor of Family Circle Magazine, which had accepted her short story “The Gate at Number Ninety” for publication. In the story, Nancy, a clerk at a women’s dress shop, finds herself and two would-be boyfriends involved in a murder investigation involving the husband of Estelle, one of her customers. In Maxine Lewis’s letter, we learn a lesson in revising from an editor’s point of view, and pick up on some of the challenges Mignon Eberhart faced in writing:

Thanks for getting your story down early. We’ve enjoyed reading it
and are pleased to have a cockatoo so prominent in the garden scene
because this is exactly what the artist had included in his sketch. We
would like a few minor revisions (listed below), but for my part, I feel
there should be a somewhat major one in the last scenes.

The story goes great guns up to the encounter between Estelle and
Nancy in the garden room. Thereafter, it strikes me as a little on the side
of pat phrases in the dialogue, and the rescue scene is pretty much a
stock TV wind-up. I realize you were getting tight on word space by then,
but I think we could solve things a little better. What’s wrong, I feel, is
solving things in terms of direct action rather in terms of the emotional
conflict and motivation, which is rather weak here.

1. My suggestion would be that Nancy talk to Steve instead of his
answering service (this was, I think, your earlier idea) in order to
justify a bit Steve’s arriving on the scene and also to generate a

-203-

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