Pat and Jean Abbott
Created by Frances Crane (1896-1981)
When JEAN HOLLY married the PAT ABBOTT, one of the more interesting married teams of detectives was born. He's the slightly older slick and dapper San Francisco gumshoe and she's the not-quite-bubbleheaded little wifey running a small antique shop in New Mexico, who has a habit of stumbling into trouble and doing her best thinking while sitting in a bath tub. They meet "cute" in the first book, marry in the third and eventually settle down in a Southern mansion in New Orleans, but their adventures take them all over the map. A sort of globetrotting Nick and Nora, Pat and Jean venture to such places as Tangiers (The Coral Princess) and New Mexico (Horror on the Ruby X).
The books were all narrated by Jean, and it's through her that we are treated to some particularly well described settings and secondary characters; ironically, we never really get to know either her or Pat. Twenty-six novels in all, originally published in England, with a colour in the title of each one, a gimmick neatly scooping John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee by over twenty years. A good mixture of cozy and soft-boiled (in some of the books, they stumble over a body, and others revolve around a case of Pat's) that proved successful enough to even spawn a radio show.
And in 2004, plucky little Rue Morgue Press began the ambitious task of reprinting the entire run of the then almost-forgotten Abbott mysteries. Some stellar detective work on the part of Rue Morgue's Tom and Enid Schantz, revealed in the intro to the series debut, The Turquoise Shop, are worth the price of admission alone.
It seems that Crane was an American writer living in England and Europe who regularly sold pieces to The New Yorker, and moved to Germany in the late thirities, where her outspokeness clashed with the current Nazi regime and eventually lead to her expulsion. Recently divorced, with a college-age daughter, Nancy, in tow and in desparate need of money, she moved back to the States and started writing mysteries, which one of her editors had assured her was a "hot market." It was certainly hot enough for Crane -- she enjoyed a long, productive and successful career, her final mystery published when she was 78 years old, having had a "better run than many women mystery writers of the era... publishing well into the 1960s."
One of the more interesting facts revealed in the introduction is that Nancy, a sculptor and writer, eventually married Black Mask pulp writer Norbert Davis, who committed suicide in 1949 by sitting in a closed garage and running a car's engine. A few years later, Nancy, now his widow, driving the very same car, was hit by a drunk driver and declared dead on the spot, only to miraculously survive and go on to even have a child several years later.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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