Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday Forgotten Book:
Atwater's Crime in Corn Weather (1935).

Was William Breen at that moment on a train or an airplane on his way to unextraditable ease with a few hundred thousands of the bank's funds in a modest suitcase at his feet? Mr. Vane knew how it could have been done. He had worked out a perfect system years ago. Now, of course, it would be too late—for him. Why hadn't he done it first? He pretended he believed it was his moral uprightness that had prevented, but as a matter of fact he was afraid of airplanes and got desperately seasick even in a rowboat on the lake. Of such things are virtue made sometimes. (Crime in Corn Weather 51)
A tyrannical banker from a rural town in the Midwest disappears, and his neighbors suspect foul play in Mary Meigs Atwater's only mystery novel. Atwater's focus is the effect of the event on the residents, and there is a great deal of wisdom in her observations of people seeking to capitalize on the case (merchants, reporters) and those with sadder legacies (a World War I veteran, a young woman, a henpecked husband). Younger readers may not know what a switchboard is, and there is one appearance of the six-letter "N" word (in reference to a lawn jockey) that contemporary readers may find disconcerting.

Mary Meigs Atwater (1878–1956) was referred to as the "dean of American handweaving" and as "gun toting" and "chain smoking" in the Interweave Press 1992 reprint of Crime in Corn Weather (iii). She was a granddaughter of Montgomery C. Meigs, the Union quartermaster general during the Civil War who later played a key role in the development of Arlington Cemetery, the Pension Building (now the National Building Museum), and the Washington Aqueduct. Her sister, Bryn Mawr professor Cornelia Meigs, received a Newbery Medal for Invincible Louisa, a biography of Louisa May Alcott. In the Interweave Press edition of Crime in Corn Weather, there is a tantalizing reference to an unpublished mystery manuscript by Atwater.

1 comment:

The Passing Tramp said...

Beth, I reviewed this a couple years ago, thought it was quite interesting!