Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Josephine Tey: Scottish Crime Writer

 From The Herald:

Mention the name Elizabeth MacKintosh at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival, say, or Bloody Scotland – or, indeed, any other event where fans of noir gather to talk plot twists and big reveals – and you’ll likely be met with blank stares and puzzled looks. And this despite her being arguably the first (and some say the finest) Scottish female crime writer.

The recognition factor may be higher in the Highland town where MacKintosh spent most of her life and where she wrote all her novels sitting at the kitchen table or in the garden shed. But not by much. Even throwing out book titles won’t help. To Love And Be Wise, anyone? How about The Franchise Affair, The Daughter Of Time or A Shilling For Candles?

If there’s a trivia nerd or a film buff in the company, those last two might jog memories as the penny starts to drop. Was she using a pseudonym, perhaps? Didn’t Alfred Hitchcock do something? Wasn’t there some kind of famous list?

Answers: she was, he did, there is.

First, the list. In 1990, the UK Crime Writers’ Association published a now-celebrated rundown of the 100 Top Crime Novels Of All Time. Nestled in the number one spot, ahead of Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep and John le Carre’s The Spy Who Came In From The Cold – and well ahead of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca and the grand-daddy of the detective novel, Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone – you’ll find The Daughter Of Time, published in 1951. The Franchise Affair, from 1948, is at 11.

As for Hitchcock, he filmed A Shilling For Candles as Young And Innocent in 1937, barely a year after the novel had been published. Along with his 1936 film Sabotage and 1938’s The Lady Vanishes it proved enough of a calling card for Hollywood to come knocking. By July 1938 he was in Los Angeles readying his first project for legendary producer David O Selznick: an adaptation of Rebecca starring Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier which would go on to win two Oscars.

The Elizabeth MacKintosh question is a trick one, of course, because the woman born on July 25 1896 and raised in an Inverness fruit shop did indeed write under a pseudonym: Josephine Tey (pictured below). But even learning that may cause some head scratching. Although famous enough in her lifetime, particularly in her early career when she wrote plays as well as novels, there’s no doubt her star has slipped since her death in 1952 aged just 55. (Read more.)


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