Monday, November 18, 2019

"The Missing Number" (1922).

Elisabeth Ellicott Poe, right,
1918. Library of Congress,
Prints & Photos Div.
Elisabeth Ellicott Poe (1886–1947) and Vylla Poe Wilson (1883–1969) trained women for national service during World War I and were longtime society and culture reporters for the Washington Post. Dubbed "the Poe Sisters," they were related to Edgar Allan Poe (their great-grandfather was a brother of Poe's grandfather). They were steadfast champions of their relative's work, with Elisabeth writing at least 20 articles on Poe's life and work; Vylla reviewing Dorothy Dow's take on Poe, Dark Glory, for the Post in January 1932; and the sisters establishing a short-lived, Poe-related journal, The Stylus, and coauthoring Poe: A High Priest of the Beautiful (1930). Elisabeth also painted, with some critics stating that her imagery resembled Poe's.

Vylla Poe Wilson, left, 1918.
Library of Congress,
Prints & Photos Div.
From May to June 1922, the sisters published "The Missing Number," a serial in 18 parts, in the Post. This mystery about the disappearance of a diplomat's wife in Washington, DC, that involves a Poe-like number cipher was trumpeted by the Post as "the first Poe mystery story in 73 years!" (see below). It featured a sleuthing female reporter, a disreputable medium, an energetic policeman, and more than one distraught family member and sinister servant. Although "The Missing Number" provided an interesting look at Washington life of the time (remember streetcars?), it is a not very successful literary work. It has an unknown half-brother (cheating, for many mystery writers and readers), some cloying romance, and portrayals of African Americans and a deaf-mute that would likely be unpalatable to modern readers.

The Poe Sisters are buried in DC's Glenwood Cemetery. Read Elisabeth's "Poe, the Weird Genius" (Cosmopolitan, Feb. 1909).

Excerpt from "The Missing Number," Washington Post, 31 May 1922.
Ad for "The Missing Number"
Washington Post, 19 May 1922: 2

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The return of Dorothy Bowers.

In the Shropshire Star Keri Trigg discusses the reprinting by Moonstone Press of the five detective novels of Dorothy Bowers (1902–48), a member of the Detection Club adept in the "fair play" mystery who died young from tuberculosis.

The books are:

Postscript to Poison (Inspector Dan Pardoe, 1938)

Shadows Before (Pardoe, 1939; Kirkus review)

A Deed without a Name (Pardoe, 1940; Kirkus review)

Fear for Miss Betony (Pardoe, 1941; Kirkus review)

The Bells at Old Bailey (Detective Inspector Raikes, 1947. "a literate and entertaining excursion into murder"—Jack Glick, New York Times)

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

"Rebecca" (1962).

This April 1962 version of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca aired on Theatre '62 and featured James Mason as Maxim de Winter and Joan Hackett as the second Mrs. de Winter. Nina Foch took on the role of housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, and Lloyd Bochner was Rebecca's cousin Jack Favell.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

The Chase (1946).

Based on The Black Path of Fear by Cornell Woolrich, The Chase features Robert Cummings as a troubled World War II veteran who becomes chauffeur to gangster Steve Cochran and entangled with Cochran's wife (Michele Morgan). Peter Lorre costars.

Monday, November 04, 2019

New exhibition on Rex Stout and his work.

The Burns Library at Boston College, the depository of Rex Stout's papers, has opened the exhibition "Golden Spiders and Black Orchids: A 'Satisfactory' Look into the Life and Mysteries of Rex Stout." The exhibition, which features Stout’s fiction and its adaptations, his activism, his pastimes, and his fandom, has interesting items such as a Nero Wolfe comic strip and Nero Wolfe postage stamps from San Marino and Nicaragua. The exhibition is on view until January 2020.