The Detective’s Daughter – B’More in Literature

The Detective's Daughter


Kim in Baltimore sipping a hot cup of  Gypsy Cold Care tea.


This month as we celebrate matters of the heart, I’m going to share with you two things that are very close to my own heart – the city of Baltimore and literature. What’s that, you say? All the literary giants are in New York? I’m here to set the record straight.

In 1987 Mayor Kurt Schmoke declared Baltimore The City That Reads. Most turned up their noses at such a slogan considering the problems our city faced. Many were heard to say, “the city that bleeds is more likely.”   Maybe they should have read more to learn that our Baltimore, Charm City, has quite the long list of literary figures that called this place home.

It was Ogden Nash [who raised his family in his in-law’s Baltimore home] who wrote “I could have loved New York had I not loved Balti-more.”  My sentiments exactly.

Edgar Allan Poe House

We’ve all heard the tales of how Edgar Allan Poe lived – and died – here, and we know that it was the home of Francis Scott Key who penned the poem that would become our national anthem. But did you know that F. Scott Fitzgerald, a distant relative of Key’s, also called Baltimore home? He had a few residences in the area including the Stafford Hotel and the last house he ever shared with his wife Zelda was in the Bolton Hill area of our city.

The Fitzgeralds had come to Baltimore seeking treatment for Zelda. She was a patient at both Johns Hopkins Hospital and Sheppard Pratt. It was in the Bolton Hill House that Fitzgerald finished Tender is the Night, believed by many to be his best work.

F. Scott Fitzgerald House, Bolton Hill

One of Fitzgerald’s friends, Gertrude Stein, also had two homes here. Edna St. Vincent Millay was known to read her poetry at the Emmanuel Episcopal Church in the Mount Vernon area of the city. Zora Neale Hurston came to Baltimore in 1916 and resided with her sister while attending Morgan Academy.

Emily Post, the authority of etiquette, was born and raised here. Anne Tyler and Alice McDermott came to Baltimore later in life. Clare Booth Luce also spent a great deal of time here, though she called Washington D. C. home.

Let us not forget the dean of hard-boiled detective fiction Dashiell Hammett. He was born on the Eastern Shore in Maryland, but soon made his way to Baltimore. In 1915 he began to work for the National Pinkerton Detective Agency which had a branch here at 210 Baltimore Street. [Now known as 1 Calvert St.] It’s believed that the metal birds on this building inspired him to write The Maltese Falcon.

And finally, there’s Dorothy Parker. She visited Baltimore, but was never a resident until after her death. Her ashes are buried at the headquarters of the NAACP.  The  plaque above her resting place reads “Excuse My Dust.”  What a great line!

I’m sure I’ve missed a few, but I’ll leave the others for you to discover.


Dear Reader, is one of your favorite authors from your hometown? Who is your favorite and where did they get their start?

***REMINDER: Tonight is the Wicked Book Club for Kneading to Die! Join us on the Wicked Facebook page for a live discussion with Liz Mugavero, hosted by Julie Hennrikus!***


21 Thoughts

  1. Thank you, Kim! I didn’t know about some of those writers’ connection to your fair city. I wrote about my hometown yesterday here. Wikipedia doesn’t show any writers from Temple City, so I guess I’m it! (Must revise that Wikipedia page…)

  2. As I whined earlier this week, I don’t really have a single home town (and most of the places I lived didn’t have much of a literary presence). But I found myself thinking of an event at the Mark Twain House in Hartford CT (sponsored jointly by Sisters in Crime and Romance Writers of America, if I recall correctly), which said a lot about the writer. The ground floor was perhaps one of the most magnificent interiors I have ever seen (designed by Tiffany), the second floor was nice but not special, and the third floor was where the servants lived–and where Twain wrote. His workspace was starkly plain, and contained little more than a pool table and a small desk with a typewriter on it.It was clear that he didn’t want any distractions while he wrote.

    1. Sheila, that’s what I need in my office – a pool table! I have this desire to take a cross country road trip to see the houses of all the great writers. This one is definitely on my list.

  3. Well, the most famous author from my home town is me, which should tell you the size of my hometown….I will claim Kate Chopin as the most famous author from my home area, and she has been a great influence on my work. Like F. Scott Fitzgerald–another of my favorite authors–she knew how to use the small space of a short story with beauty and efficiency. I was fortunate to have a high school teacher who loved Fitzgerald, so I read him when I was young. Babylon Revisited might be my favorite short story.

    1. I do love Fitzgerald, but it’s really Zelda I’m most interested in. I think she had great influence on his writing and, if rumors are to be taken seriously, contributed to his work in more ways than just support.

  4. Love this post, Kim! (Always look forward to seeing the detective’s hat on my screen.) Salem, MA is my home city so of course, I’ll claim Nathaniel Hawthorne.

  5. LOve this post, KIM! (I always look forward to seeing the detective’s hat pop up on my screen.) My home city is Salem, MA so of course, I’m claiming Nathaniel Hawthorne.

  6. Hi Kim–Right now I’m in Key West, where I’ll offer Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Wallace Stevens, Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, Shel Silverstein, Thomas McGuane, and currently, Judy Blume.

  7. Hi Kim:

    What a great post!

    I thought I knew a lot about Dorothy Parker, but I hadn’t heard about “Pardon My Dust.” Her final epigram was one of her best.

    Sacramento has two very famous literary lights. Mark Twain famously was a reporter for The Sacramento Union when he wrote “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”. And, of course, Joan Didion grew up in Sacramento.

    There are probably others, but I’m not aware of them.

    1. I just went and Googled “Sacramento Authors” and found a list of 55 people on Wikipedia. I even know two of them personally, and consider one a very dear friend. Isn’t it odd how things that should be right at our fingertips vanish when we work at listing them.

      In any event, here are a few of the better known ones from the Wikipedia list (presented alphabetically:

      Dustin Lance Black
      Herb Caen
      Biba Caggiano
      Greta Gerwig
      Nicholas Sparks
      Lincoln Steffans
      Cornel West

      Who knew? Clearly not moi.

  8. Always love your blogs, Kim. Fort Wayne, Indiana boasts of a lot of famous people, but Wikipedia doesn’t list any authors I’m familiar with. I’ll just continue to read the Wicked’s and the writers they recommend.

    1. I am an aspiring author as SinC calls me, or a Guppy, as others like to call me, and I am from Ft. WAYNE, IN. We have to meet. My mother was a journalist on both newspapers at different times.

      1. Congrats on taking on the big job of becoming an author. I don’t have it in my to take the rejections. Then again, at my age, I’ve have more than my share, and I’m relaxing on my laurels for all my successes. I haven’t been back to Fort Wayne since 2001 not long after my mother died. I have no reason to go back. I never liked it when I lived there and haven’t changed my mind about it. Sorry. I’ve never written for a newspaper, but my husband and I owned a radio station for 14 years in Pennsylvania, so I’m very familiar with the media. Good luck!

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