Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: ' Women Crime Writers, Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s & 50s', edited by Sarah Weinman.
These stories in the first book from the 1940s authors include, The Horizontal Man by Helen Eustis, In A Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes, Laura by Vera Caspary, and The Blank Wall by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding. This set of works will keep you enthralled with the psychological suspense that causes chills. There is much of the type of work that Hitchcock portrayed in his movies and you are both intrigued and repulsed at the occurrences.
Each work captures horror and suspense from that of a young career girl, to a campus thriller, moving on to a serial killer and then following up by a young wife in wartime that must take extreme measures when her family is threatened. Each work is packed with differing stories yet the theme of terror bleeds through and holds you enthralled. The physiological ploys involved seem very familiar to the crimes of today.
The second book entails the work of the woman crime authors of the 1950s and does not disappoint with works such as Mischief by Charlotte Armstrong, The Blunderer by Patricia Highsmith, Beast in View by Margaret Miller and Fools’ Gold by Dolores Hitchen. As with the 1940s volume, these works contain stories of terror and physiological harm, from the story of a child entrusted to the car of a psychotic babysitter, to the parallel lives of two men driven to murder, followed by a study of madness and followed up with a tale of robbery and redemption.
What you find is that the early women writers were quite imaginative and brilliant at creating that tenseness and terror that a good crime novel needs. The only differences from today’s works are the slang and words of the time, which actually makes the reading just a bit more fun, for it is more of what you see and hear in movies of the early years. It takes you back to that time and place.
If you are looking for a great holiday gift for the crime book aficionado in your family this would be a great find. Recently released by the Library of America it comes in a two book set that would be great for their library. Each writer has their own take and individuality on addressing and bringing forth terror and fear and you will find the entire set to be fascinating. Sarah Weinman has done a great job of editing and bringing forth this great work of historical significance in the writing world.