Mystery Monday: Philo Vance
Needs a kick in the pance.”
At the age of 21, Wright secured a job at the Los Angeles Times as literary editor where he gained a reputation for scathing book reviews and irreverent opinions. He was particularly critical about romance and detective fiction. After being fired for “intentionally provoking the paper’s middle-class readership with his interest in unconventional and often sexually explicit fiction,” with help from friend H.L. Mencken, Wright found a job as editor with the New York literary magazine The Smart Set.
The mid-1920s found Wright bedridden for two years as the result of a nervous breakdown. Ironically, he devoured mystery fiction (after having derided it years earlier) and found it entertaining and intriguing. In fact, after his recovery he would write an essay that explored the history, traditions, and conventions of detective fiction as an art form.
Having exhausted the market of reading material, he decided to try his hand at writing in the genre. Embarrassed at turning from what he termed “intellectual fiction” to mass market fiction, Wright created the pen name S.S. Van Dine. In the books, Van Dine, referred to as Van acts as narrator much like Sherlock Holmes’s Dr. Watson.
Described in the first publication, The Benson Murder Case, Philo is “what many would call a
The book goes on to describe Vance’s physical features: “He was unusually good-looking, although his mouth was ascetic and cruel...a slightly derisive hauteur in the lift of his eyebrows. His forehead was full and sloping...his cold grey eyes were widely spaced. His nose was straight and slender, and his chin narrow but prominent, with an unusually deep cleft.”
Wright died April 11, 1939 at the age of 50, leaving behind a novelette that was published posthumously as The Winter Murder Case. Wright’s portrait, painted by his brother, hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.
Are you familiar with Philo Vance?
Murder at Madison Square Garden:
Photojournalist Theodora “Teddy” Schafer’s career has hit the skids thanks to rumors of plagiarism. With any luck, a photo spread with Charles Lindbergh at the America First Rally will salvage her reputation. After an attempted assassination of Lindbergh leaves another man dead, Teddy is left holding the gun. Literally. Can she prove her innocence before the police lock her up for a murder she didn’t commit?
Private Investigator Ric Bogart wants nothing to do with women after his wife cleaned out their bank account and left him for another man, but he can’t ignore the feeling he’s supposed to help the scrappy, female reporter who is arrested for murder at the America First rally. Can he believe her claims of innocence and find the real killer without letting Teddy steal his heart?
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