||Reviewer -- Noisy le sec, France
Meet Xavier Lechard, a very prolific and productive
contributor to discussion of mystery fiction on the web.
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.
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
||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."
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
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 ....
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
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
#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
||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.
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
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.
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
-- 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.
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
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
Discussion Group "SpeedReading.com"; Board "Mystery (rec.arts.mystery)"
||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.
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.
||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.
New York Times archives
||Anne R. Noble
||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.
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.
||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.
||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).
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
Visit DL's website at
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)
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
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
||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.
||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.
Discussion Group "Golden Age Mysteries"; Board "General"
||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
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.
"Out of the Past" column in June/July 2003 issue of
Mystery News, published by The Black Raven Press.
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
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
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.
NOTE: To learn more about this book visit
My favorite MD book is
"Walk Into Yesterday." Shivery and surprising!
REPLY: I agree. It is wonderful! (see also #4) --RKA
Additional keywords: Mildred B. Davis, murder mystery, crime fiction, suspense fiction
Site author / administrator:
Richard K. Aylesworth
Page last updated: 20-Aug-2008