Mystery Minutes Archive

October 2021 Mystery Minute

by ZJ Czupor

Versatile and Ahead of Her Time

This mystery author was born on Christmas Day, 1907 in San Antonio, Texas. She was the daughter of W.H. Robbins and Myrtle Statham. In addition to the fifty novels she published in her lifetime, under four different names, she has enough first and last names to fill a short paragraph. Along with her six given names at birth, her mother’s two additional marriages, and her own two marriages she officially is known as Julia Clara Catherine Maria Dolores Robbins Norton Birk Olsen Hitchens.

If you’re keeping score: Norton and Birk are from her two stepfathers and Olsen and Hitchens are from her two marriages.

This prolific American mystery writer is better known as Dolores Hitchens (1907-1973) whose novels appeared during the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Her contemporaries were the better-known mystery and suspense authors Dorothy B. Hughes (1904-1993), Margaret Millar (1915-1994), and Patricia Highsmith (1921-1995). read more…

September 2021 Mystery Minute

by ZJ Czupor

The Mystery of a Hansom Cab

In the Gilded Age of the late 1800s, late one Thursday night in Melbourne, Australia, a drunken gentlemen wobbles down a dimly lit street. Another gentleman sees the drunken man and hails a cab for them both. While in passage, the sober man kills the drunken man with chloroform, hops out of the cab, jumps into another cab, and vanishes.

Thus begins the novel, The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, (1886), which became the best-selling mystery novel of the Victorian era. John Sutherland, a British journalist and author, called it “the most sensationally popular crime and detective novel of the century.” (1990). It was so popular, it inspired Arthur Conan Doyle to write A Study in Scarlet, (Ward Lock & Co.,1887) which introduced the world to his famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. read more…

August 2021 Mystery Minute

by ZJ Czupor

He’s a Complicated Man — No One Understands Him But his Woman — Shaft

Fifty years ago, on June 23, 1971, a New York City private eye debuted on the big screen at the Palms Theatre in Detroit. His name was “John Shaft,” a tough and cool Black detective. The film starred Richard Roundtree in his first movie role and gave Gordon Parks (1912-2006) his directorial debut.

Shaft (MGM, 1971) was an American crime action film about a Black private detective who is hired by a Harlem mobster to rescue his daughter from the Italian mobsters who kidnapped her. The film also explored themes like the Black Power Movement, race, masculinity, and sexuality.

Due to Shaft’s popularity, new opportunities were created for black filmmakers, actors, and technicians. The movie set off a movement known as “Blaxploitation” which dominated cinema for the next several years. read more…

June 2021 Mystery Minute

by ZJ Czupor

Mignon G. Eberhart

 

Who Was This “First Lady of Mystery?”

 

This prolific award-winning mystery author has an impressive resume and a name you may not know. Her novels have been translated into more than twenty languages and during the 1930s eight of her novels were adapted into films and her books continue to be published worldwide.

In her 60-year writing career, she was the most highly paid author after Agatha Christie. In fact, she was one of two writers dubbed “America’s Agatha Christie,” a title she didn’t like. It was a Miami News book reviewer who gave her the title and her paperback publisher took advantage quoting the Miami News on subsequent covers. Instead, she preferred the title, “First Lady of Mystery.”

Who is this author with the impressive resume? read more…

May 2021 Mystery Minute

by ZJ Czupor

A Storyteller’s Story of Tenacity and Tragedy

Through grit, determination, and tenacity this author overcame dyslexia. He was rejected by the U.S. Marines Corps. He self-published his first book. He was often panned by critics, never won a literary award but earned the loyalty of millions of readers. He was once asked by President George W. Bush where he got his information for the President thought the details in his thriller novels were too close to national secrets.

He was born in St. Paul, Minnesota to an Irish-Catholic family, the fifth of seven children. His mother was a successful wildlife artist and his father a high school English teacher and coach. By the time he reached fourth grade he was diagnosed as dyslexic and struggled with reading and writing all his life. read more…

April 2021 Mystery Minute

by ZJ Czupor

Forgetting is an Integral Part of Remembering

Perhaps you know this story: an unconscious man is picked up out of the Mediterranean Sea by Italian fishermen. He has two gunshot wounds in his back. A frame of microfilm has been implanted in his hip. His face has been altered by plastic surgery. He suffers from retrograde amnesia, meaning he has memory loss for past information, events, even his name. After he recovers his health, he races off to elude assassins while attempting to regain his memory and his identity.

That, of course, is the plot line for The Bourne Identity, (Ricard Marek, publisher), the 1980 spy thriller by Robert Ludlum read more…

March 2021 Mystery Minute

by ZJ Czupor

“No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.”

Mary Margaret Truman Daniel (1924-2008) was a college junior when her father Harry S. Truman (1884-1972, 33rd U.S. President) was thrust into the presidency upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt. With her blue-green eyes and dimpled cheeks she became a favorite “first daughter” with the media.

After graduating from George Washington University with a bachelor’s degree in history, she embarked on several careers including that of a classical soprano, actress, journalist, radio and television personality, New York socialite, and author of critically acclaimed intimate biographies of her father and mother and histories of the White House. In 1956, she married Clifton Daniel, who was then assistant to the foreign news editor for The New York Times and later its managing editor. They had four sons and five grandchildren.

But, for our purposes, what is of special interest is she also authored popular mysteries, or did she? read more…

February 2021 Mystery Minute

by ZJ Czupor

The Inventor of the American Police Procedural and More

Salvatore Albert Lombino (1926-2005) was born in East Harlem, New York, the son of a postal worker. He served as a radar man on a destroyer in the Pacific after World War II and to avoid boredom began writing short stories. They were all rejected by pulp magazines.

After his stint in the Navy, Lombino graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Hunter College in New York City where he majored in English. As he was beginning to establish his writing career, he was also newly married and with a growing family. He took a series of jobs in 1950 to make ends meet. He worked as a lobster salesman, substitute teacher, and as an executive editor for the Scott Meredith Literary Agency.

While at the agency, he began selling crime, adventure, westerns, and fantasy stories to pulp magazines under several pseudonyms such as S. A. Lombino, Curt Cannon, Hunt Collins, Ezra Hannon, Richard Marsten, D. A. Addams, and Ted Taine.

He said, “Sometimes I had three or four stories in a single magazine without the editor knowing they were all by me.”

An editor convinced Lombino he could sell more work if he changed his name. In those days, there was a conceived prejudice against writers with foreign names. So, at the age of 26, he legally changed his name to Evan Hunter. read more…

January 2021 Mystery Minute

by ZJ Czupor

Detective Couples Who Do It—Solve Crimes, That Is

There are many versions of crime-solving couples in novels. We’ve become well acquainted with the likes of Holmes and Watson, Batman and Robin, or spinsters with their too smart cats, working in concert to bring evil to justice.

But the mystery genre is also sprinkled with men and women who flirt and fight in on-again, off-again romances, laced with biting repartee often starting as friends and then tying the knot in marriage, all the while focusing on a way to find that missing person, capture that elusive spy, or disarm that serial killer.

Here are four fictional detective couples worth noting. read more…

December 2020 Mystery Minute

by ZJ Czupor

Don’t Gobblefunk Around With Words

Children who grew up on this author’s books continue to visit his grave in England and in a show of respect leave toys and flowers. When he died, he was mourned the world over. He was a British novelist, short-story writer, poet, screenwriter, medical inventor, and ace fighter pilot. His writing blended fantasy, humor, horror, heroism, and folklore into books that enchanted his readers.

He was a master of inventing new words, which sounded like gibberish but made perfect sense. In the children’s novel, BFG (1982), short for “big friendly giant,” he wrote, “Don’t gobblefunk around with words.”

Perhaps his most popular invented word is “Scrumdiddlyumptious,” which is still delicious to hear.

A personal tragedy in 1960 prompted him to invent a catheter which treats hydrocephalus in young children. The idea came to him after his 4-month-old son was struck by a taxicab in New York City. The accident left his son brain damaged. But the invention, named the Wade-Dahl-Till valve, helped save the sight of 3,000 children around the world.

I think this a good time to ask, why am I reading about a children’s author when this space is for mystery writers? Fair question. Because Roald Dahl (1916-1990) was also a British spy which set in motion his career as a writer, and furthermore, his mysteries earned him three awards from Mystery Writers of America. read more…