Following in Footsteps

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?

22 Thoughts

  1. I couldn’t tell you much about any Golden Age writers that might need a spotlight because they have been forgotten.

    But one author I feel has been totally forgotten, partly due to her complete withdrawal from writing, is Karen Kijewski. She wrote the Kat Colorado series and I consider myself a big fan of the books.

    But I never hear her name mentioned anywhere anymore. And forget about finding her books unless you get lucky and find them in library used book sale.

    It’s a real shame because the series is just fantastic and more people should gain an appreciation of the books and the author who wrote them.

  2. I’ve heard of her! I have one of her books – Murder by Matchlight. If I’m not mistaken, it came in a book bag from either Bouchercon or Malice a couple years ago. It was good.

    Nice event last night, Edith!

  3. I’ve been fascinated with the Detection Club since I first learned of it. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be a fly on the wall at their meetings. I’ve not heard of ECR Lorac though. Now I’ll have to look her up. The Sayers comment about ECR’s gender is telling. I suspect ECR’s novels were more hard-boiled than common among women writers.

  4. I’ve read MURDER BY MATCH LIGHT and loved it. I got a copy at Malice Domestic a couple of years back. When I finished it, I checked my local library’s catalog, but it doesn’t have any of her books, unfortunately. Would be great to read more of her work. Thanks for shining a light in her, Julie!

  5. Love this, Julie. I’ve never heard of her. A newer author who I loved, but died to young was Barbara Parker. I met her at a small writers conference in the early 2000s. I got to talk to her and tell her how much I loved her books. She said she was there to refresh and get inspired.

  6. I’ve heard of most of the Golden Agers but sadly have only read a short story or two. It’s too hard to keep up with current authors (slow reader).

  7. I don’t know much about the Golden Age authors outside of Christie and Sayer, and even then what I know is very limited. I really should go back and explore that time period a bit more. If all of you would slow down on your writing so I had room in my TBR mountain range, that would be much appreciated. 🙂

  8. Late to the party here, because I could not think of anyone in the Golden Age of mystery writers that had not been mentioned. I have not read any books by E.C.R. Lorac, but will start looking for them in used bookstores when we can again get out and go. Someone who died much too early that was a food writer (reading cookbooks and food memoirs are a passion of mine) is the writer Laurie Colwin. Her books Home Cooking and More Home Cooking have a special place in our home library. She died unexpectedly at age 48. I want all my favorite authors to lead long lives and write prolifically.

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