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#1 Xavier Lechard Reviewer -- Noisy le sec, France
Meet Xavier Lechard, a very prolific and productive contributor to discussion of mystery fiction on the web.
He's everywhere!
Mildred Davis was one of the most important authors of the suspense era, and it's good to see she finally gets the web-recognition she deserves.  I wish her books to be back in print soon.
        I think mysteries of the fifties had the right balance between strong characterization and clever plotting, a balance now well lost for the most part, sadly.  I hope your website starts a revival of Ms. Davis's output, finally getting her the place she deserves in the suspense pantheon, near Charlotte Armstrong, Ursula Curtiss and Margaret Millar.
Source: MSN Group "Mystery Reader's Discussion Group"; Board "General"
REPLY: It is, indeed, my hope that the site can help to raise MD's profile again among devotees of traditional mystery fiction.  And, as you suggest, the re-issue of her novels is long overdue. --RKA
#2 Jeffrey Marks Mystery writer / editor -- Cincinatti, Ohio
From the author of The Atomic Renaissance, a study of women mystery writers of the 40's and 50's.
I would definitely agree with the assessment I've heard of Mildred Davis -- he is referring to another version of #1. She was almost an 8th chapter in "Atomic Renaissance."
Source: Yahoo Group "The Golden Age of Detective Fiction"; Messages
NOTE: The Atomic Renaissance has seven chapters, one on each of seven authors;  hence the reference to the "almost 8th" chapter.  Visit Jeffrey's website at www.jeffreymarks.com
#3 Annie Texas
Here's Annie, who has a special place in my heart, though I have not yet met her.  She was the very first person I encountered from beyond my narrow personal world who believed in the Mildred Davis project.  Her insightful comments and her sincere appreciation of MD gave me the support and encouragement I needed to confirm that I was on a fruitful path.
 
I love the site ....
 
#4 Fern Toronto, Canada
I have recently re-read a good quantity of the MD output, and I have decided that Walk Into Yesterday stands out as absolutely the best writing.  The description in the fire sequence is utterly stunning. And her evocation of the amnesiac mind is brilliant.  I wonder why someone who could could write so well turned out so much rather hum-drum prose, e.g. A Dark Place.
Source: see #5
#5 Annie Texas
She is replying to #4.  About seven or eight months ago, I re-read A Dark Place. I remember the book fairly well.  I think that all writers are inconsistent in their writing.  I don't know which book was written first but there is an element of writer experience.  Also, in Walk Into Yesterday, MD uses the consistent third-person subjective point of view exclusively for the one character, except in the first vignette with the assassination.  We are never in anyone else's point of view, and I think this strategy results in a strong reader identification with the character.
     In A Dark Place, as I recall, she uses the multiple-viewpoint third-person.  This strategy results in a certain diffusion of the overall impact.  At one point we are identifying with the demented woman, and at another with the woman who bakes pies to augment the income, etc.  The intensity of the experience for the reader just isn't there in A Dark Place.
Source: #4 and #5 are extracted from an exchange of personal emails. Thanks, Annie!
REPLY: In my opinion A Dark Place probably contains her weakest writing (though it certainly lacks nothing in the fiendishly-clever-plot department.)  I have often wondered whether this was due to deadline pressure;  its publication followed rather closely on that of They Buried A Man and Suicide Hour. --RKA
#6 Amy L. Davis  
Most welcome and gratifying approval from an unexpected quarter.
I have very much enjoyed reading the information that you have compiled for [this] website.  I am particularly interested because Mildred is my mother.  Mildred asked me to contribute to the discussion group, but I did not feel qualified to do that after reading the comments you have received to date.  An erudite group.  I thought I would make myself known to you in case you have suggestions for what I could contribute that might be of interest to your visitors.
        You might also hear from some of my sisters.  We are very grateful for the recognition of our motherís work, of which we are all very proud.  Thank you for developing such an excellent resource for her "fans".
REPLY: Amy, thank-you so much for your expression of feelings about the site.  I am delighted to hear from you, and I hope your sisters will communicate also.  It's good to know that Mildred has a close and supportive family. --RKA
NOTE: Amy Davis is the third of Mildred's four daughters.
#7 RKA  
A word from the moderator.

I hope no one will be put off by signs of "erudition" in other contributors' entries.  This is everyone's page, and I want to hear your opinions, your feelings and your stories. --RKA

#8 various  
A medley of comments to the site and discussion among friends
Thanks very much for this webpage.  I have all her books and enjoy them so it is great to have a new story. -- Marilyn
        And thanks from me too!  I was a big fan, and I saw two books in the bibliography that I might not have read.  I'm looking forward to the novella. -- Ellen C
        Add me to that list.  Mildred Davis had a way of getting under your skin that is all but gone in today's Patricia Cornwell literary atmosphere.  Her books are Hitchcock-like works set in the U.S.  And she plotted very well.  "They Buried a Man" is one of my all time favorite mystery books. -- Turk
        So what other authors are similar?  I like Charlotte Armstrong very much, not quite as dark, and I have a lot of Ursula Curtis's books, which I haven't read for a long time but I think had a bit of the same style. -- Marilyn
        I think you've picked two of the closest, at least in theme and character.  Curtiss was one of my favorites too.  I'd suggest early Celia Fremlin, Doris Miles Disney, Mabel Seeley, and Ruth Fenisong.  Although her later stuff is darker and more complex, you really can't go wrong with Margaret Millar, at least not the ones written from 1945 till 1980. -- Ellen C
Source: Discussion Group "SpeedReading.com"; Board "Mystery (rec.arts.mystery)"
#9 Mildred Davis Author -- Westchester, NY
The author herself pays us a visit with a reminiscence of school days.

        Dramatically, my ninth grade teacher stalked to the front of the classroom, spun around and, glaring at me, snapped, "Mildred, you're a fourflusher."
        What was a fourflusher?
        She enlightened me.  "You never wrote that review of Pride and Prejudice yourself. Who helped you?"
        "Nobody helped me. My family doesn't write." (meaning weren't writers)
        "Are you telling me you wrote that piece all by yourself?"
        Denials were useless.  She didn't believe me.  I received an eighty for the term and was promoted to a class of C students.
        At first it was all humiliation.
        But afterwards I realized the immense compliment she had paid me.
#10 Annie Texas
Dear Mrs. Davis,
        I would like you to know how much your work has meant to me over the years.  I was born in 1944 and was not exposed to television as a child, but I became a voracious reader with the Bobbsey Twins and Honeybunch books.  When I was about ten, my parents punished me for something I had done wrong (which I can no longer remember, as I often misbehaved) by depriving me of my library card for a period of time.  This was a devastating and effective punishment which, I suppose, is tantamount today to restricting a child's access to television or computers.
        At some point in the 1960's, I discovered your books at the public library, which was the source of all of my reading material.  Throughout the years it was such a joy to discover a new book by you in the shelves.  I remember, for example, coming across "The Sound of Insects," among the library stacks and grabbing it before someone else could get it.  I would take your books home, read them, and then wait impatiently for another one to be published.
        Of course, over the years I have read other authors, including Ursula Curtiss, Stanton Forbes, Dolores Hitchens, and Lucille Fletcher.  I consider all of you to have been the truly special authors of my life.  I read the work of many authors today, of course, still preferring reading over watching television.  Some of them are very fine, such as Ruth Rendell and P.D. James, but their works never touch me as yours do.  I re-read your books often.
        I would like to say this about my earlier comments regarding "Walk Into Yesterday" and "A Dark Place" (see #5):  they were not meant as criticism of any kind.  I think they are both fine books.  It's like comparing two paintings by the same artist.  It's possible to prefer one over the other but to love them both, as I do your books.
        I admire your talent tremendously and want you to know that you have had a similar effect on many people.  It is gratifying for me to be able to thank you for the endless hours of enjoyment which you have provided and are still providing for me.  Thank you very much.
#11 Anthony Boucher 26-Apr-53 Writer / reviewer -- New York, NY
Upon the publication of They Buried a Man, everyone's favourite guru wrote this in his New York Times critical column "Criminals at Large".
I had been fearing that Mildred Davis, whose quietly effective The Room Upstairs took the 1948 award, [would not publish another], but now at last, five years later, she has written They Buried a Man. ....
        This is in all respects more impressive than Miss Davis' debut, and than most of this year's psychological murder studies. .... While you are absorbed in the complex subtleties of a suspense story of the modern school, bordering on the straight novel in its illumination of character and motive, Miss Davis adroitly sneaks up on you with a legitimate surprise trick as technically pretty as anything in the pure puzzle-detective story.
        A highly gratifying book from any angle;  let's hope it's much less than five years before the next Davis appears.
Source: New York Times archives
#12 Anne R. Noble 26-Aug-79 New York, NY
From an interview with another Davis daughter, Katherine, after the publication of her second book.  The interview was titled "Typecast: Like Mother, Like Daughter".  It was published in the New York Times.
.... her Westchester childhood prepared her for writing.  Katherine .... grew up assuming that all mothers typed several hours a day.  "When I was very young, I really didn't know what she did except type. .... So I told everyone she was a secretary."  [Sometimes] when Mrs. Davis worked, she put all four of her daughters in the bathtub and fed them vegetables to keep them quiet.  "We had a lot of fun floating celery around in the bath water," Katherine remembered.
        At the age of seven, having discovered the real reason for her mother's typing, Katherine launched her own career as a writer.  Early efforts, however, were often frustrated by the restrictions of childhood.  Her toy typewriter, for instance, "made writing a novel difficult."  And her age precluded acceptance by the Famous Writers School when she was 8.
Source: New York Times archives
NOTE: Katherine, second of Mildred's four daughters, published two novels, the first, Lucifer Land (1977) co-authored with her mother.  Her second, The Letter of the Law (1979) was published under her married name, Roome.
NOTE ALSO: I hate to spoil a good story, but the 'celery' tale cannot possibly mean that the daughters were in the tub simultaneously, since the age span is about 15 years.
#13 Barb Writer / editor (not mystery) -- Ottawa, Canada
I really enjoyed your site.  The picture of Mildred Davis was cool and I particularly liked the thumbprint.  Although I've been reading mystery and crime stories since I was 7 or 8 -- my first real novel was called "The Big Bankroll" -- I've never read this author.  I certainly plan to now, starting with the download.  Mildred Davis' work sounds really intriguing.
#14 DL Browne Mystery writer / reviewer
Writer and musician DL (Diana) Browne looks in.
What a fascinating site!  I'd love to see an actual bio of Davis, who I confess I've never read (but will make an effort to locate now).
Source: Yahoo Group "Cozies"; Messages
REPLY: A biography of Mildred Davis is something we are not likely ever to see.  She is a very private person. --RKA
NOTE: Visit DL's website at www.girl-detective.net
#15 Bob Schneider Mystery author
Here's another author taking a careful look.
This is a well organized and visually pleasing site.  It is wonderful to see the result of your admiration of Mildred Davis' writing.
        I was not familiar with her work prior to reading your posts on the GAD website (see #2 Source) so I downloaded and read "Suicide Hour" to sample her fiction.  I can now clearly see that Ms. Davis was a master of her craft and certainly deserves the attention you are giving her.  Unfortunately, her genre is not a favorite of mine.  I prefer classic detection -- both cozy and hardboiled.  "Suicide Hour" must have been state-of-the-art when it appeared in Cosmopolitian in 1954 and it still holds up fairly well today though I think modern readers will figure out who did what and why fairly early in the story.  The style and plot is definitely geared to certain female readers considering all the emphasis placed on clothes, relationships, dances, dating and small town (or university town) social mores.
        Had the Continental Op, Lew Archer, Archie Goodwin or even V. I. Warshawski dropped into town during the story they would have solved the mystery, knocked together a few people's heads and left town by the 20th page.
        It really is not fair for me to criticize the story too harshly since I am not a fan of Ms. Davis' chosen genre but I have sometimes wandered into the suspense area and, although "Suicide Hour" is quality work, Mignon G. Eberhart was just as good at creating an atmosphere of suspense (writing 20 years earlier in some of her Susan Dare stories) with the added bonus of inserting some good detection.
        I say bravo to your efforts.  If only more neglected but deserving authors had champions like you.
REPLY: Thank Goodness that V.I. Warshawski was not around to knock people's heads together and bring a premature end to the story. --RKA
NOTE: Visit Bob's website at www.speedymystery.com
#16 Amy L. Davis  
Amy's back to set the record straight (see #12).
ALSO NOTE ALSO!
Actually, there were many evenings when at least 3 of the daughters were in the bath at the same time (we were and still are quite small) racing celery and orange wedge boats around the soapy tub.  Other hours were spent playing with trolls underneath her writing desk.  We found her shoes useful as troll shelters.  The challenge was to play quietly and narrowly enough to avoid tickling her legs and banishment to a more spacious play area.
#17 Dave Young Orthodontist -- California
What a great site!  Very well done.  I'm not familiar with her work but I will be sure and check out Suicide Hour.
Source: Discussion Group "Golden Age Mysteries"; Board "General"
#18 Marv Lachman July 2003 Mystery columnist and critic
... I get my greatest pleasure in writing about little known or forgotten writers of quality, such as Mildred Davis.  There is nary a word about her in any of the standard references in our field, except for the listing of her dozen novels in Hubin's bibliography. ...
        Her first novel, The Room Upstairs was as auspicious as a debut can be since it won MWA's Edgar ...  This was followed by five years of publishing silence but Davis broke the "sophomore jinx" with They Buried a Man, a book that was even better ...
        The subject of A Dark Place may not have been new, but Davis's handling of the people, even the killer, ... turned this into a fine character study and one of the most suspenseful novels I've read. ...
        Boucher compared her plotting to Agatha Christie. ... Not all of Davis' later books were as good as her first four. ...
        In Scorpion, Davis has her heroine reflect, "When I was a child my idea of heaven on a rainy day was to buy a mystery at the secondhand book store near our house, a chocolate bar, and then hide for the rest of the afternoon."  Perhaps we've learned a great deal about the mysterious Mildred Davis from that line she gave her heroine.
Source: "Out of the Past" column in June/July 2003 issue of Mystery News, published by The Black Raven Press.
#19 Fern Toronto, Canada
Mildred Davis seems to have taken a page out of Mignon Eberhart's style book in her tendency to provide her characters with names and nicknames that range from unusual to downright outlandish.  Alas, political correctness prevents me from giving many examples -- someone might be offended.  I leave it to others to notice the numerous instances in the novels of both writers; I will restrict attention to Suicide Hour.   First we have the heroine's girlfriend with the highly unusual name Selina.  Her boyfriend couldn't be a suitably dignified Jonathan or Martin; he has to be the astoundingly stuffy-sounding Eldridge.  And finally there is the unfortunate Professor Ordomenadroyd -- this is pure buffoonery on Davis' part.
REPLY: Perhaps Mignon Eberhart's need to punish her characters in this way reflects her feelings about her own first name, a name which looks and sounds quite weird in an English-speaking milieu.
    Speaking of names, it is interesting that
Suicide Hour's heroine gets through the entire adventure without ever revealing her name.  And Davis' writing is so smooth that we don't even notice!  Contrast this with Bill Pronzini's often clumsy and ham-handed treatment of his famous detective's namelessness. --RKA
#20 RKA  
Wonderful news!
With the collaboration of her daughter Katherine Roome (see #12), Mildred Davis has returned to the world of publishing and given us a brand new mystery novel, The Avenging of Nevah Wright. I have read this book and, believe me, she has lost none of her talent for pleasing prose, perplexing plot, strong characterization and the uncanny intensity of identification with the protagonist's experience. --RKA
NOTE: To learn more about this book visit www.murderinmaine.com.
#21 Joan Massachusetts
My favorite MD book is "Walk Into Yesterday." Shivery and surprising!
REPLY: I agree. It is wonderful! (see also #4) --RKA
...Mystery Bookroom
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Page last updated: 20-Aug-2008