Women Crime Writers: Four Suspense Novels of the 1950s: Mischief / The Blunderer / Beast in View / Fools' Gold (Library of America)
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The Library of America and editor Sarah Weinman redefine the classic era of American crime fiction with a landmark collection of four brilliant novels by the female pioneers of the genre, the women who paved the way for Gillian Flynn, Tana French, and Lisa Scottoline.
Though women crime and suspense writers dominate today’s bestseller lists, the extraordinary work of the mid-century pioneers of the genre is largely unknown. Turning in many cases from the mean streets of the hardboiled school to explore the anxieties and terrors lurking in everyday life, these groundbreaking novelists found the roots of fear and violence in a quiet suburban neighborhood, on a college campus, or in a comfortable midtown hotel. Their work, influential in its day and still vibrant and extraordinarily riveting today, is long overdue for rediscovery. This volume, the second of a two-volume collector’s set, gathers four classic works that together reveal the vital and unacknowledged lineage to today’s leading crime writers. From the 1950s here are Charlotte Armstrong’s Mischief, the nightmarish drama of a child entrusted to a psychotic babysitter, Patricia Highsmith’s The Blunderer, brilliantly tracking the perverse parallel lives of two men driven toward murder, Margaret Millar’s Beast in View, a relentless study in madness, and Dolores Hitchens’s Fools' Gold, a hard-edged tale of robbery and redemption.
his right hand and missed. Then his arm was jerked down with a sharp pain; his feet left the ground. At the sickening heave in his stomach, he closed his eyes and felt himself sailing in the air. He landed on one hip with an impact that rattled the windows. Kimmel was sitting on the floor. He looked at Corby’s fuzzy, elongated figure standing above him. Kimmel’s fat left arm rose up independent of his will, like a floating balloon. He touched it and found it had no sensation. “My arm’s broken!”
the washbasin he pressed the blade into the flesh that covered the veins of his left wrist. The razor was dull, the wound was hardly more than a scratch, but the sight of his blood oozing out made him dizzy with terror. He felt as if his knees were turning into water and his head was filling with air like a balloon. He tried to scream, “Help! Mother!” but the words came out like a whimper. As he fell forward in a faint his temple struck the projecting corner of the washbasin. The last sound
your way over to see a man who would make you immortal and you wanted me to come along.” “It doesn’t even make sense.” “Yes, yes, it does! I even remember the man’s name. Terola. Jack Terola.” Evelyn’s voice was quiet, insistent. “You went to see this man Terola?” “I don’t know. I think we—we both went, you and I. After all, I wouldn’t go to such a place alone and besides Terola was your friend, not mine.” “I never heard the name before in my life. Until I read the evening papers.”
excited.” Skip was full of a cold rage. He went on to describe in detail just what he should do to Willy, and what Willy could do with Big Tom. The two older men listened for a short while in silence; Willy in a warning stillness and Big Tom biting his lips. Then Big Tom said, “This isn’t getting us anywhere.” “You’d better listen to us,” Willy warned. Skip went on with the bitter tirade, and Big Tom stood up on his chair and all at once there was a gun in his hand. It was a shining and
unruffled. He hung up at once. Miss Ballew rolled a bit and sat up. She propped herself on the headboard. She was trembling. “This really—” she gasped. “I don’t know when I’ve been— What did happen? How did he—? Who—?” The girl, who had closed the door, came slowly around the bed and sat down on the other one. Her eyes were a trifle aslant and an odd blue. She clasped her hands in her lap. Unpainted nails. Dark, decent dress. Modest ankles, shabby shoes. Miss Ballew read all these signs as she