My guest today is Emma Pulitzer of Open Road Integrated Media. She celebrates Women in Mystery this Women's History Month, publishing works both new and old.Historically, writing has been one of the few professions that have largely accepted women into its professional ranks. Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Caroline Keene and dozens of other multiple-best-selling female authors have placed high on Must Read Mystery lists over the last century. This year, we are taking a new look at women writers who have taken on “unlady-like” stories and characters. From Charlotte MacLeod’s murderous mayhem to Dorothy Uhnak’s tough-talking lady cops, the last hundred years have seen women fight crime, dig up clues, and chase bad guys at the same pace as their male peers. Here’s my list of 5 Women Mystery Authors to celebrate:
|Patricia Wentworth helped challenge society’s perception of the “stay-at-home woman” with her Miss Silver mysteries. Similar to the author, Miss Silver is an unassuming detective, because of her age and gender and expectations of women at the time. Despite this, she proves that, more often than not, she is able to find clues that even the most astute police officers overlook. Not only did Wentworth upend stereotypes of women with characters like Miss Silver, but her popularity in mystery fiction also helped advance women writers during the early 20th century.|
|Although she was always described as a “true lady” (she was never seen without her dainty white gloves), Charlotte MacLeod was a force to reckoned with. Born in 1922 in Canada, she moved to the United States at a young age, and eventually became a US citizen. During the 1940s and 1950s, while most women were expected to stay home and care for the kids or work as a secretary until marriage, MacLeod worked as a copy writer, then moved to join the staff of N. H. Miller & Company, an advertising firm, where she become vice president. During this time she wrote many mysteries, including the Peter Shandy series and the Sarah Kelling and Max Bittersohn series. Her books went on to sell over a million copies, and continue to be loved for their humor, wit, and beloved characters.|
|Dorothy Uhnak used her fourteen years as a policewoman with the New York City Transit Authority—twelve of which she spent as a detective—as inspiration for her gritty crime novels. Her heroic efforts protecting the city even gained her a bit of fame when she was in the news for taking down a mugger who held her at gunpoint. When she retired in 1967, she claimed she left the force because of criminal discrimination. Despite her change in careers, however, Uhnak continued to look at life through the eyes of a cop, and translated her experiences into a number of successful novels, including Law and Order, The Bait, and her memoir about her time as a law enforcer, Policewoman.|
|Even with her early success as a senior editor for Seventeen magazine, Susan Isaacs, a self-proclaimed feminist, yearned for work that felt more substantial and began to freelance as a political speechwriter. Isaacs notes that this job taught her one of the fundamentals of writing fiction: drawing out the characters. By observing politicians and understanding the messages they wanted to convey, she learned how to adapt her writing to their different styles. Later she transitioned into writing fiction, and her first novel, Compromising Positions, was an instant bestseller. Since achieving success as a fiction author, Isaacs still finds herself writing about politics, but in a much more sinister medium.|
|Susan Dunlap’s career as a mystery writer was inspired by two things: an Agatha Christie novel and a dare. While reading the mystery, she mentioned to her husband that she too could write a mystery novel. “Well go ahead then,” he responded, and to show him she meant business, she put paper in the typewriter and began to type. Five years and five manuscripts later, Karma sold. But being a writer (she has written over seventeen books) is only part of her story. She is one of the original co-founders and served as the president of Sisters in Crime (SinC), a national organization that promotes and supports women crime writers and helps them to achieve equality in the industry. Speaking about the organization, Dunlap says, “It is a vehicle that brings women together, and makes them realize that they don’t have to only read mysteries–they can write them too.”|
SleuthSayers celebrate our own Women in Mystery: Deborah, Elizabeth, Eve, Fran, Jan, and Janice, as well as our friends over at Women of Mystery. They're damn good writers!