By Susan Rogers Cooper
For the past few months my mind has been wandering back to a couple of mysteries I read back in the 80s. They were my second introduction to the mystery genre after I'd read everything John D. MacDonald had ever written. Of course I'd gone through Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys as a child, and Agatha Christie as a teenager, but it wasn't until my early thirties that I got back to the mystery genre. But, alas, those mysteries I'd read after Mr. MacDonald alluded me. I didn't remember the authors' names, the book titles, or even the characters' names. Which began to gnaw at me. But far be it from me to let a little thing like lack of knowledge stop me. I have access to the internet! Voila! And, after several aborted attempts, a lot of swearing, and a couple of phone calls to my eleven year old grandson, I was able to find what I was looking for. And was delighted to find out things about two of my early influences that I never knew.
The first author I found again was Dimitri Gat, author of the Yuri Nevsky series. These were written and were read (by me) before the fall of the Soviet Union, so “white” Russians in America were still the good guys, as opposed to the way they are portrayed these days. There were three Nevsky novels, NEVSKY'S DEMON, NEVSKY'S RETURN, and THE ROMANOV CACHE. I truly loved these books. Great characters and vivid descriptions. I was delighted to see that Mr. Gat is still writing, both under his own name and under pseudonyms. But then I found out something I never saw coming. Like I said earlier, I was a great reader of John D. MacDonald. But in Googling Mr. Gat, I discovered that NEVSY'S DEMON was admittedly a direct “homage” to Mr. MacDonald's THE DREADFUL LEMON SKY. Having read both within probably a year or two of each other, I was shocked I hadn't seen it. But it was such a direct “homage” that the publishing house had to recall the book and Mr. Gat was asked to apologize to Mr. MacDonald, which he did.
The second rediscovered author is Lucille Kallen who passed away in 1999. She was the creator of four C.B. Greenfield mysteries, INTRODUCING C.B. GREENFIELD, THE TANGLEWOOD MURDER (one of my favorite all-time reads), NO LADY IN THE HOUSE, and A LITTLE MADNESS. These were definitely cozier than the Nevsky books, which were rather dark, but an enjoyable read. Personally I can travel between cozy and hard-boiled without suffering any kind of whiplash. But in Googling Ms. Kallen, I discovered something I didn't know: She was the lone woman writer on Sid Ceaser's “Your Show of Shows,” and the prototype for such TV characters as Sally Rogers from “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”
In reading about Ms. Kallen and her books, it has dawned on me that perhaps I never read A LITTLE MADNESS. It appears that Amazon will be hearing from me shortly. But, in reality, I can't remember that much about the other books in the Greenfield series, or, to be honest, in the Nevsky series. So maybe I'll be adding a little to my Amazon cart. Oh, and I really should get another copy of THE FEARFUL YELLOW EYE, just for comparison's sake. But if I do that, I should probably restock my Travis McGee selection. Does anyone know if Amazon does lay-a-way?
I hope that someday, thirty or forty years from now, some other writer will re-discover my work and think as highly of me then as I do of these two now.