Elisabeth Sanxay Holding
's story "The Stranger in the Car" is the second reminder I've received in recent months that domestic
in crime fiction need not mean cozy
. The first came when I read Dolores Hitchens
and Charlotte Armstrong
for a panel I moderated at Bouchercon 2015 on lesser-known writers of the pulp and paperback eras.
As part of that panel, I asked the estimable Sarah Weinman to what extent domestic subjects in mid-20th-century American crime writing were the property of female authors, and to what extent Armstrong, Hitchens, and other women drew from the same currents in American life that, say, Raymond Chandler did. (His novel The Big Sleep
emphasized the Sternwood family as a locus for drama more than did the celebrated Hawks/Bogart/Vickers/Bacall movie version.)
"Bit of both," Weinman replied, and as nearly as I can tell, she's right. "The Stranger in the Car" is terrific, atmospheric mystery, and the only twists are of the narrative kind. A prosperous businessman is the story's narrator, his wife and daughter figure prominently, and the story includes a fine example of hard-boiled wit. Said prosperous businessman is being driven to silent madness by the family music teacher's piano playing, and then she finally stops:
"'Very nice,' Charleroy said. `Very--' He sought for a word. `Very soothing.' he said.
"It tried to be nice!' said Miss Ewing. `It wanted to soothe you, Mr. Charleroy.'
'`Ha!' he said, with a benevolent laugh."
(Click on Holding's name at the beginning of this post to see why criminalelement.com
called her the Godmother of Noir.)
Sarah Weinman will talk about Elisabeth Sanxay Holding as part of a panel all moderate at Bouchercon 2015 called called "Beyond Hammett, Chandler, Spillane, and Macdonald." The panel features authors, editors, and other experts discussing their favorite crime writers of the pulp and paperback-original eras. It happens Thursday, Oct. 8 at 2:30 p.m. There's still time to sign up for Bouchercon. See you!
© Peter Rozovsky 2015
Labels: Bouchercon 2015, Charlotte Armstrong, Dolores Hitchens, Elisabeth Sanxay Holding, My Bouchercon 2015 panels, Sarah Weinman