By Julie, squeezing in as much enjoyment of the summer as I can
Like many, I love podcasts and have different genres I enjoy at different times. SheDunnit is a recent favorite. Caroline Crampton is a British academic who loved Golden Age mysteries. She covers all sorts of material, from real life cases that inspired writers to the writers themselves.
I catch up with these podcasts when I go out and run errands or take walks, so a recent book mailing post office visit combined with grocery shopping allowed me to binge and catch up. I listened to an episode on E.C.R. Lorac, and I’ve been thinking about it since.
E.C.R. Lorac was the pen name of Edith Caroline Rivett (1894–1958). E.C.R. Lorac was a member of the Detection Club and wrote 48 mystery novels. She also wrote 23 mystery novels under the name of Carol Carnac. She was called Carol, and Lorac is Carol spelled backwards. She published her first novel at 37, so she was quite prolific in a 25 year career.
Dorothy Sayers praised her work, and reportedly was surprised she was a woman when she showed up at a Detection Club dinner. That tells me that she was invited to join because of her craft, instead of who she knew. (The Detection Club fascinates me–a topic for another post.)
Recently the British Library has re-released several forgotten mysteries under the British Library Crime Classics imprint. Three of E.C.R. Lorac’s books were included, and I’ve downloaded one of them but haven’t read it yet. When you Google her you’ll find articles that include her, yet somehow she didn’t break through as one of the Queens of Crime: Allingham, Christie, Marsh, and Sayers. According to Wikipedia she did leave an estate of £10,602 in 1958, which is about $270,000 in 2020.
I’ve been wondering about ECR’s writing life. Was she delighted when she first got published? Did she envy the success of Sayers or Christie? Was she satisfied with her own journey? Was the second series her idea, or her publishers? Did she expect to be remembered, or did she not care? She wrote up until the end of her life. Did she have stories untold? Did she have the book she wishes she’d tackled?
When I think about my own writing life, I feel as though I follow in the footsteps of people like ECR Lorac, and I’m grateful for her example. She was prolific, well regarded in her time, and left a body of work. She started in her late thirties, but made up for lost time. She was a writer.
Have any of you read any of her books? What other “forgotten” writers should we all know about, and raise up?