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Atomic Renaissance: Women Mystery Writers of the 1940s and 1950s Hardcover – September 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews


ATOMIC RENAISSANCE is a must read for any mystery lover. -- Round Table Reviews, September 2003

Mr. Marks has the ability to write attention-grabbing non-fiction. --, Martha Hopkins

This is a book for readers willing to explore the roots of the mystery genre; -- I Love a, Bill Vande Water

About the Author

Jeffrey Marks was born in Georgetown, Ohio, the boyhood home of Ulysses S. Grant. Although he moved with his family at an early age, the family frequently told stories about Grant and the people of the small farming community.

At the age of twelve, he was introduced to the works of Agatha Christie via her short story collection, The Underdog and Other Stories. He finished all her books by the age of sixteen and had begun to collect mystery first editions.

After stints on the high school and college newspapers, he began to freelance. After numerous author profiles, he chose to chronicle the short but full life of mystery writer Craig Rice.

That biography (which came out in the US in April 2001 as Who Was That Lady?) encouraged him to write mystery fiction. The Ambush of My Name is the first mystery novel by Marks to be published although he has several mystery short story anthologies on the market. His work has won a number of awards including the Barnes and Noble Prize and he was nominated for a Maxwell award (DWAA), an Edgar (MWA), an Agatha (Malice Domestic) and an Anthony award (Bouchercon). Today, he writes from his home in Cincinnati, which he shares with his dog.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 182 pages
  • Publisher: Delphi Books (September 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0966339770
  • ISBN-13: 978-0966339772
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 9.2 x 6.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,771,730 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Lorraine Talbot on July 30, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book contains biographies of seven women whose writing careers reached their heights in the 40's and 50's.

The writers included are: Margaret Millar, Leslie Ford, Phoebe Atwood Taylor, Dorothy B. Hughes, Charlotte Armstrong, Patricia Highsmith, and Mignon G. Eberhart.

The lives are all interesting if you enjoy reading biography. The author has done a credible job of analysing the work of these women, summarizing the plots of their best work and also pointing out the shortcomings of the books that were not up to each woman's best effort. And, of course, he has included the usual biographical data, date and place of birth, family, education and awards. He has included a bibliography of each writer's work in their section, and a short list of the names of writers currently in publication who write in a similar style. Also, the book is fully indexed.

While I have read some work of at least five of the seven women, my favorite is Phoebe Atwood Taylor and her inclusion is the reason I bought the book. I have read and sometimes re-read all of her books. Her life had none of the drama of Millar's, for example, whose life had elements of tragedy and periods of anguish, or Highsmith, who was angry, usually lonely and who acknowledged being lesbian at the age of 69. I was saddened to read that of all these writers who garnered such awards as Mystery Writer's of America Grand Master (Millar) and two Edgars (Hughes) and the Malice Domestic Lifetime Acheivement (Eberhard) plus numerous others, Atwood Taylor received none, not even a nomination.

But then I was comforted by an imagined "tea" in the corner of heaven reserved for mystery writers.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Killian HALL OF FAME on March 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Jeffrey Marks' thesis might have been developed a little bit more, but in general you get the feeling his instincts are wholly on target, and that the explosion of the atom bomb is a potent analogue for the explosion of female thriller talent around the time of Second World War. Though several, in fact nearly all, of his seven chosen subjects began writing somewhat earlier. However, the seven women are so distinctive that I have trouble finding enough similarities to each other to prove any point one way or the other. Marks, whose biography of Craig Rice is one of the shining achievements of biography within the past 15 years, has worked up his research into a solid grab bag of amusing profiles, and he respects his readers enough to leave us wanting more, for each of the writers he surveys deserves a full length "life of her own."

He admits defeat in a few cases, and we never really get to know either Leslie Ford nor Phoebe Atwood Taylor very well--there just doesn't seem to be much of an "in" in either case. Readers have long wondered why Atwood Taylor abandoned writing right at the peak of her career and, even though she lived another 20 plus years, never touched a pen after her middle-aged marriage. Was she just tired of writing? Did she give up her career to please her husband? Did her husband provide her with enough money so she did not need to continue? Marks doesn't really know and neither do we. With Dorothy Hughes, and a similar career twist, Marks is on firmer ground--the demands of her family, and a subtle sort of "graylisting" connected to her left wing political affiliations, prevented her from writing fiction for years at a stretch.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By KATHLEEN KASKA on April 13, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
Atomic Renaissance is never too far away when I'm writing my mystery series, which is set in the 1950s. Jeff's book is more than a collection of biographies of women mystery writers from the 40s and 50s, it offers an in-depth and insightful view into the decade that stands as a turning point in the mystery genre. These seven women, Margaret Millar, Patricia Highsmith, Leslie Ford, Charlotte Armstrong, Dorothy B. Hughes, Mignon Eberhart, and Phoebe Atwood Taylor were the trailblazers of their time taking the mystery genre from private-eye stories to those with richer more modern themes that reflected the every-changing time. This book should be on the shelf of every mystery reader and writer. Kathleen Kaska
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By William S. Shepard on July 15, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
Jeffrey Marks has written a thorough, insightful and entertaining account of the lives and writings of seven prominent women mid-twentieth century mystery writers. They are Margaret Millar, Leslie Ford, Phoebe Atwood Taylor, Dorothy B. Highes, Charlotte Armstrong, Patricia Highsmith and Mignon G. Eberhart.

They are a diverse lot, united only by gender, timing and writing genres. All have their little secrets, worth understanding for clues to what actuated their writing and the plots they spun, whether from domestic tragedy (Margaret Millar, Patricia Highsmith) a successful regionalism (Leslie Ford's Chesapeake Bay, Phoebe Atwood Taylor's Cape Cod), or quite simply, the times in which they lived (Dorothy Hughes' evocation of the Spanish Civil War, and a sort of post traumatic stress syndrome affecting her main character in "The Fallen Sparrow:" Charlotte Armstrong's bone chilling evocation of the nightmare babysitter in "The Unsuspected," successfully transferred to the movies in "Don't Bother To Knock.")

Patricia Highsmith of course, following "Strangers On A Train," has a deserved celebrity that was in part delayed, owing to the edgy nature of her Ripley books. She seems absolutely current today. On the other hand, one of my favorites, Mignon G. Eberhart, seems quite dated. She could tell an interesting story, but her plots now seem rather forced and quaint, and even, as Marks notes with his reference to her "HIBK style (`Had I But Known')," subject to some caricature.

Marks helpfully provides for each writer a comprehensive list of their works, and notes which other writers are active in the same school of writing. His acknowledgments are generous and thorough.
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