And while many of those on the sidebar list published only one or two crime/thriller/mystery novels (often via small publishers or overseas publishers, as the bigger publishing houses in New Zealand, until relatively recently, didn't really embrace Kiwi 'popular fiction') either in amongst other writing, or in total - in amongst those sidebar names there are also far more New Zealand authors who produced several mystery novels over the years, but have been largely forgotten.
Freda Bream, for instance, wrote a mystery novel almost ever year, featuring the Reverend Jabal Jarrett, while she was in her mid 60s and 70s (having retired from working life as a teacher, amongst other things) - 13 mysteries in total during the 1980s and early 1990s. Laurie Mantell wrote five mystery novels featuring Detective Steve Arrow between 1978 and 1984, as well as publishing the standalone crime novel MATES in 1996. Edmund Bohan published five historical mysteries centred on Inspector O'Rorke (set in the late 1800s) between 1996-2003.
Yesterday when I was in Rotorua, I spent an hour or so browsing through the local library's charitable book sale, searching for any books from Bream, Mantell, Bohan, or other such overlooked and out-of-print Kiwi crime/mystery/thriller authors. Amongst my finds was LET US PREY by Dorothy Eden. When I got back to Auckland I did a little research on Ms Eden, and was stunned to discover that LET US PREY was just one of many suspense novels the Canterbury-born author had written during her lifetime. Eden in fact wrote more than 40 books (some were suspense/mystery, others romance).
Eden was born in 1912 and raised in the rural area outside Christchurch (the city where Dame Ngaio Marsh was born and raised, and where Paul Cleave now sets his thrillers). Eden worked as a legal secretary, and published her first novel, THE SINGING SHADOWS, in 1940. She eventually moved to England in 1954 following a world trip - by that time she had already published ten books, including LET US PREY (1952), which was also published as CAT'S PREY. In that book, Antonia Webb travels to New Zealand to celebrate the wedding of her cousin and the opening of a small hotel Simon and his new bride had bought with money they had inherited. But instead of lighthearted festivities, Antonia's arrival is met by danger...
After her move to England, Dorothy Eden continued to write fairly profically until her death from cancer in 1982. Her 43rd and final book, AN IMPORTANT FAMILY (a historic adventure saga and mystery set amongst the colonisation of New Zealand), was published in the same year. You can read her New York Times obituary here. According to Good Reads, she was "best known for her many mystery and romance books as well as short stories that were published in periodicals. As a novelist, Dorothy Eden was renowned for her ability to create fear and suspense. This earned her many devoted readers throughout her lifetime." According to FantasticFiction.co.uk, "Eden was best known for her writings in the historical, suspense, and Gothic genres. In addition to writing novels, she also contributed to magazines, including Redbook and Good Housekeeping."
The more I research, the more I am having 'how did I never hear about this author?' type moments. It's a real shame - I have been a crime/mystery fiction fan since I first started on the Hardy Boys books almost 25 years ago, and I was open to New Zealand authors in the genre as a young adult (I bought/read one-off books from the likes of Nigel Latta, Simon Snow, and Michael Laws, as well as some from Ngaio Marsh, Chad Taylor, and Paul Thomas) - even before I became much more interested in the subject in the past 18 months. And yet, there are so many authors I've never heard about - even though I was interested. It's not until I've done a lot (and I mean a lot) of digging, that I've stumbled across some of them - even when they'd written several books that got good reviews at the time. No wonder the general Kiwi reading population knows little or nothing about most such writers.
Have any of you read any of Dorothy Eden's books (mystery or romance)? If so, what did you think? Have you come across other Kiwi authors that I haven't mentioned much (or at all) on this blog yet? Thoughts and comments welcome.