Monday, September 24, 2018

Mystery Monday: Who was Leslie Ford

Mystery Monday: Who was Leslie Ford

With all of my research into the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, I'm always surprised when I unearth yet another writer I've not heard of. Leslie Ford is the pseudonym for Zenith Jones Brown who also wrote under Brenda Conrad and David Frome. In the forty years she was active, she published over sixty novels. Her series characters were Lieutenant Joseph Kelly, Grace Latham, and Colonel John Primrose, Mr. Pinkerton, and Sergeant Buck.

Zenith was born in California in 1898 and grew up in Tacoma, Washington. Her parents were both from Maryland - her father from Chestertown, and her mother from the famous Calvert family. After graduating from the the University of Washington, she worked as an assistant to the editor and circulation manager for Dial magazine, a journal published intermittently between 1840 and 1929. Little is known about her husband Ford K. Brown, but at some point they moved to London where Zenith used her first nom de plume David Frome.

By 1931, the couple was back in the U.S. and living in Annapolis, Maryland where Zenith started writing mysteries under the name Leslie Ford. Many of her books ran as serials in The Saturday Evening Post, and she had quite a few short stories published in anthologies.

During WWII, she became certified as a war correspondent for the U.S. Air Force in England and the Pacific. In addition to her reporting, she wrote novels featuring nurses as the protagonists under the name Brenda Conrad.

According to an article in the Baltimore Sun, Ms. Brown was a fast writer, racking up as many as 12,000 words in one day. Fast paced, the books contained tangled plots and evocative descriptions of the locales such as Baltimore, Charleston, Georgetown, and Savannah.

She once state that "mystery fiction is written to entertain, not to instruct. I don't regard it as "literature" or of lasting value." In a 1946 interview Ms. Brown commented that "I believe in getting the murder over quickly and proceeding to the emotional complications." Prior to beginning a story, she would visit the location as well as speak to the local police.

Another prolific author whose books have faded into obscurity. Well worth a read, check with your local library to see if they're lucky enough to carry one or two of her novels.

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