Reply
Moderator
becke_davis
Posts: 35,683
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

American Mystery Classics Double Feature: CHARLOTTE ARMSTRONG

[ Edited ]

Because I'm losing my mind while we're getting ready to move, I messed up the schedule. So this month we'll have a double feature of CHARLOTTE ARMSTRONG and ED MCBAIN aka EVAN HUNTER, and in July we'll feature ELLERY QUEEN. Sorry about the confusion!

 

In the meantime, let's learn about an old favorite of mine, CHARLOTTE ARMSTRONG!

 

This is from the Mysterious Press website: http://mysteriouspress.com/authors/charlotte-armstrong/default.asp

 

Charlotte Armstrong

Charlotte Armstrong

Bio

 

The Edgar Award-winning Charlotte Armstrong (1905-1969) was one of the United States’ finest authors of classic mystery and suspense. The daughter of an inventor, Armstrong was born in Vulcan, Michigan and attended college at Barnard, in New York City. After college she found work at the New York Times and the magazine Breath of The Avenue, before getting married and devoting herself to raising her family in 1928. For a decade she wrote plays and poetry, and though she had work produced on Broadway and published in the New Yorker, Armstrong was unsatisfied. In the early 1940’s, she began writing suspense.

 

Success came quickly. Her first novel, Lay On Mac Duff! (1942) was well received, spawning a three-book series. Over the next two decades, she wrote more than two dozen novels, winning critical acclaim and a dedicated fan base. The Unsuspected (1945) and Mischief (1950) were both made into films--the latter was renamed Don't Bother to Knock, starring Marilyn Monroe, Richard Widmark and Anne Bancroft. A Dram of Poison (1956) won the Edgar Award for best novel. The Chocolate Cobweb was made into Merci Pour La Chocolat by noted French Director, Claude Chabrol, in 2003She died in California in 1969.

 

Praise

 

“One of the few authentic spell-casting witches of modern times.” - Anthony Boucher, author of Nine Times Nine 

“Armstrong writes with bravura skill, piling up the agony and suspense.” - New York Times

“Charlotte Armstrong is the American queen of suspense novelists.” - New York Telegraph

 

 

Moderator
becke_davis
Posts: 35,683
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: American Mystery Classics Double Feature: CHARLOTTE ARMSTRONG

Charlotte Armstrong: Return Engagement, by Rick Cypert

Charlotte ArmstrongBorn on the U.P. in Vulcan, Michigan in 1905, Charlotte Armstrong enjoyed an idyllic childhood with supportive parents—a father who was an engineer and fostered her love of logic; a mother whose fertile and anxious imagination inspired her—and a younger sister for a companion. Armstrong attended the University of Wisconsin for a short period of time before moving East in 1924 to complete her B.A. degree in English at Barnard College at Columbia. 

While working in the newspaper business in Manhattan, she met and married an advertising man named Jack Lewi in 1928, and began writing for the theater, with, among others, two Broadway productions to her credit in 1939 and 1941.  Before long, she shifted her genre to mystery and suspense fiction, a move that would ultimately take her and her family in the mid-1940s to California. There, Armstrong would complete a career represented by thirty novels and many short stories, dying, too early, at age 64 in 1969 from cancer.   

One of my favorite images of Charlotte Armstrong comes from her childhood. She recalls regularly walking with her father and younger sister across a narrow suspension bridge above a dam that spanned the Sturgeon River between Michigan and Wisconsin, a bridge with nothing but cables for handrails. Halfway across the bridge, with water roaring underneath, her father, his faith in technology evident, would delight in bouncing and swaying to set the bridge in motion. 

Such an experience, exhilarating and terrifying, captures the essence and etymology of suspense as a noun and as a genre. As an established author, Armstrong would characterize the suspense writer’s job as one of “juggling hope, time, and fear.” 

These motion-filled images certainly seem to have guided Armstrong’s plotting as readers often accompany the protagonists and other characters on whirlwind, disorienting, rides (see, for example, The UnsuspectedCatch-as-Catch-Can, and A Dram of Poison). 

Sometimes, of course, Armstrong “juggles” in excruciating, painfully sweet, slow motion bringing the reader to the approximate mental and emotional anxiety of the characters for whom he or she is rooting (see, for example, MischiefA Little Less Than Kind, and The Chocolate Cobweb). 

Such narrative moves represent Armstrong at her best. 

Even Armstrong’s early mystery novels (The Case of the Weird SistersThe Innocent Flower), their titles and the name of their detective protagonist (Mac Dougal Duff) alluding to Armstrong’s fondness for Shakespeare, foreshadow the shift her career would take, from mystery to suspense, at the advice of an astute agent (Bernice Baumgarten) at the Brandt Literary Agency. 

In The Case of the Weird Sisters Armstrong draws upon her childhood hometown, a mining community in the upper peninsula of Michigan as the perfect metaphorical setting for a plot that rumbles deep within and shifts ground under characters and readers alike. 

The Innocent Flower, in contrast, provides a charming fictional glimpse into the life of Charlotte Armstrong’s family during their early years in New Rochelle, New York, a scene that quickly transforms into what writer Jan Burke characterized as suburban noir in Armstrong’s later novels set in California. 

By the mid-1940s, Charlotte Armstrong and family relocated from the East Coast to the West Coast and if the author’s hilly mining hometown in Michigan had provided inspiration for her writing, so too did the earthquake prone topography of Southern California and the wild pendulum swings of its film industry. Armstrong embraced her new home and it became the primary setting for her novels from then on. 

Never one to shy from innovation, Armstrong tried her hand at noir in The Black-Eyed Stranger and demonstrated the appeal of an unlikely character demographic in The Seventeen Widows of Sans Souci

A number of Armstrong’s stories and novels were transformed into screenplays for television and movies.  Filmmakers like Alfred Hitchcock were intrigued by Armstrong’s fiction, although he ultimately would not direct any of her worksIt was Michael Curtiz who brought The Unsuspected (1947) to the big screen with Claude Rains in the starring role. A few years later, the film version of Armstrong’s Mischief, titled Don’t Bother to Knock (1952) starred Marilyn Monroe, Richard Widmark, and Anne Bancroft in her film debut. 

More recently, French filmmaker Claude Chabrol pursued Armstrong’s work in his films La Rupture (The Break-Up based on Armstrong’s The Balloon Man) and Merci pour le chocolat (The Nightcap, based on Armstrong’s The Chocolate Cobweb).

Yet Chabrol’s most recent film (2000) based on an Armstrong novel was released more than a decade ago; Charlotte Armstrong’s final novel was published, posthumously, more than forty years ago. Happily, her plots resist tarnish, technological innovations notwithstanding. Charlotte Armstrong is definitely worth another look. I am delighted that MysteriousPress.com concurs and has brought her work back for a return engagement.


Rick Cypert is a Professor of English at Nebraska Wesleyan University. He has written a biography of Charlotte Armstrong and ofMignon G. Eberhart (Susquehanna University Press), as well as edited short story collections of these two authors for Crippen & Landru, the Armstrong collection forthcoming. 

Moderator
becke_davis
Posts: 35,683
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: American Mystery Classics Double Feature: CHARLOTTE ARMSTRONG

 

The Edgar Award-winning Charlotte Armstrong was one of the United States’ finest authors of classic mystery and suspense. Her first novel, Lay On Mac Duff! (1942) was well received, spawning a three-book series. Over the next two decades, she wrote more than two dozen novels, winning critical acclaim and a dedicated fan base. 

 

The Unsuspected (1945) and Mischief (1950) were both made into films--the latter was renamed Don't Bother to Knock, starring Marilyn Monroe, Richard Widmark and Anne Bancroft. A Dram of Poison (1956) won the Edgar Award for best novel. The Chocolate Cobweb was made into Merci Pour La Chocolat by noted French Director, Claude Chabrol, in 2003She died in California in 1969.

 

The Innocent Flower 

The Unsuspected 

The Gift Shop 

A Dram of Poison 

The Chocolate Cobweb 

The Seventeen Widows of Sans Souci 

The Turret Room 

Catch-As-Catch-Can 

Mischief 

The Black-Eyed Stranger           

Moderator
becke_davis
Posts: 35,683
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: American Mystery Classics Double Feature: CHARLOTTE ARMSTRONG

From Ed Gorman:

 

http://newimprovedgorman.blogspot.com/2007/05/charlotte-armstrong.html

 

Charlotte Armstrong

 

 
I believe it was Anthony Boucher who once described Charlotte Armstrong as a mixture of Cornell Woolrich and Shirley Jackson. I'm not sure I quite agree with that but it's headed in the right direction anyway.

Armstrong was pure 100% white bread. Well-bred, middle class if not upper middle class, traditional in virtually every respect, her forte was gently undermining the kind of women's fiction you found in the slicks of the 1940s and 1950s. (I've always remembered how she challenged the masculinty of a girl friend's lover. "He's the sort of man who's interested in women's hats." An her own lover says: "Lord." She was also good at spoofing the Martha Stewarts of her day. You ciould tell what she thought of a woman just by how she set her table. Too fancy was deadly.)

Her fiction is...odd. Nearly everybody in her stories is neurotic and overmuch. My favorite Armstrong is Michief, a short novel that made a much-denigrated film called Don't Bother To Knock, which features chilling performance by a young Marilyn Monroe as a mentally unbalanced babsyitter. It's a flawed movie but for me an entertaining one.

Her greatest success was with her novel The Unsuspected which became a smash hit with Claude Raines. The problem with the film is that running time doesn't permit all the really slick plot twists Armstrong brought to the novel. 

She died way too young, at sixty-four, at the heighth of her popularity. Her stories were regularly adapted for TV. She won the Edgar for her novel A Dram of Poison which again struck me as an...odd book. A clever book, a well written book, but one that always left me cold.

You see her at her best, I think, in her short stories, many of which are stunning. And you have to applaud the slick magazine editors of the time for publishing some of them. She published two collections during her lifetime and you won't find a bad one in the bunch. And a few of them are stunning, dark as noir but played out against middle class setting and situations. Even most of her cozier material has an edge (with one goofy exception).

I don't think she was nearly as good as Margaret Millar, whom she resembles in some way, nor Elizabeth Sanxay Holding, whom she also resembles, but she is certainly worth buying from used stores or the internet.
Moderator
becke_davis
Posts: 35,683
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: American Mystery Classics Double Feature: CHARLOTTE ARMSTRONG

From Fantastic Fiction:http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/a/charlotte-armstrong/

 

About Charlotte Armstrong
Charlotte Armstrong Lewi was an American author. Under the names Charlotte Armstrong and Jo Valentine she wrote over 28 novels, as well as working for the New York Times advertising department, as a fashion reporter for Breath of the Avenue (a buyer's guide), and in an accounting firm.
 
Series
MacDougal Duff
1. Lay On, Mac Duff! (1942)
2. The Case of the Weird Sisters (1943)
3. The Innocent Flower (1945)
     aka Death Filled the Glass
Lay On, Mac Duff!The Case of the Weird SistersThe Innocent Flower
 
Moderator
becke_davis
Posts: 35,683
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: American Mystery Classics Double Feature: CHARLOTTE ARMSTRONG

[ Edited ]

biography of Armstrong by Rick Cypert was published in 2008.

 

Bibliography

 

Lay On, MacDuff! (1942)

The Case of the Weird Sisters (1943)

The Innocent Flower aka Death Filled the Glass (1945)

The Unsuspected (1946)

The Chocolate Cobweb (1948)

Mischief (1950)

The Black-Eyed Stranger (1951)

Catch-As-Catch-Can aka Walk Out on Death (1952)

The Better to Eat You aka Murder's Nest (1954)

The Dream Walker aka Alibi for Murder (1955)

A Dram of Poison (1956)

The Albatross (short stories) (1957)

Duo (2 novelets) (1959)

The Seventeen Widows of Sans Souci (1959)

Something Blue (1962)

Then Came Two Women (1962)

A Little Less Than Kind (1963)

The Mark of the Hand (1963)

The One-Faced Girl (1963)

Who's Been Sitting in My Chair? (1963)

The Witch's House (1963)

The Turret Room (1965)

Dream of Fair Woman (1966)

I See You {short stories} (1966)

The Gift Shop (1967)

Lemon in the Basket (1967)

The Balloon Man (1968)

Seven Seats to the Moon (1969)

The Protege (1970)

 

As Jo Valentine

The Trouble in Thor aka And Sometimes Death (1953)

Moderator
becke_davis
Posts: 35,683
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: American Mystery Classics Double Feature: CHARLOTTE ARMSTRONG

Armstrong, Charlotte


 
 

The Black-Eyed Stranger coverCharlotte Armstrong

 

Charlotte Armstrong Lewi (b. 1905-05-02 Vulcan, Michigan, d. 1969-07-18 Glendale, California) was an American author. Under the names Charlotte Armstrong and Jo Valentine she wrote over 28 novels, as well as working for the New York Times advertising department, as a fashion reporter for Breath of the Avenue (a buyer's guide), and in an accounting firm.

 

 

Armstrong Lewi attended the University of Wisconsin and received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Barnard College in 1925. She had a daughter and two sons with her husband, Jack Lewi.

 

In 1957 Armstrong Lewi received an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for her novel A Dram of Poison. Two other mysteries were nominated for Edgars, both in 1967: The Gift Shop, and Lemon in the Basket. Her series character was MacDougal Duff.

 

Mike Grost on Charlotte Armstrong

 

Charlotte Armstrong's "The Hedge Between" (1953) displays a Rashomon-like complexity in its reconstruction of a past crime. Although Armstrong has a reputation as a pure suspense writer, here she delivers a tale of real mystery. It shows similarity with her "The Enemy" (1951). Both are detective stories in which the detection is performed, in part, by children. Both take place in the yards of a typical middle class neighborhood. Both have the format of sifting through a large number of subtly contradictory stories, searching for the truth. There is an iterative quality to the detective work, as the characters get gradually closer to the truth. "The Enemy" (1951) reminds me a little bit of Ellery Queen's "The Gettysburg Bugle" (1951). Both have a tragic tone, a public setting involving many townspeople, deal with poisoning, and have somewhat similar characters in the two daughters of the respective tales. A later Armstrong story with a teenager as detective is "The Cool Ones" (1967). This story, like the earlier "The Ring in the Fish", centers on codes and ciphers.

 

"The Enemy" is also one a large number of 1950's American crime stories that are constructed to double as political allegories. Plays like Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" (1953) and "A View From the Bridge" (1955), William Carlos Williams' "Tituba's Children", films like Nicholas Ray's Johnny Guitar (1954), Elia Kazan's On The Waterfront (1954), and mystery fiction like Ellery Queen's The Glass Village (1954) and Charlotte Armstrong's "The Enemy" (1951) were all part of this trend. These stories were commentaries on McCarthyism. Most of these works tend to show people operating as communities, often degenerating into mobs. Often the truth gets trampled in these works, as the mob makes up its mind who is guilty, and ignores all contrary evidence. The characters tend to be explicitly middle and working class, representing Average People. It is unclear where this terrible fear of mob hysteria comes from: McCarthyism, fear of the rise of a Hitler-like tyranny here, Communism, or what. One can also see certain elements in common among the authors of such tales. Aside from Ellery Queen (EQ), most are not puzzle plot genre specialists. Instead they tend to have "mainstream" labels. Despite this, most of these works have distinct elements of crime fiction about them, even if it is disguised by a setting in the old West, or Colonial America. At least some of these authors were acquainted with each other's works; Arthur Miller was EQ's neighbor in Connecticut, and EQ was the publisher of Armstrong's short stories.

 

Earlier than most of these McCarthyism stories are such works about lynching as Cornell Woolrich's "I'll Take You Home Kathleen" (1940) and "One Night in Barcelona" (1947), MacKinlay Kantor's "That Greek Dog" (1941), William Faulkner's Intruder in the Dust (1948), and movies including Fritz Lang's Fury (1936), William Wellman's The Ox-Bow Incident (1943), Clarence Brown's film version of Intruder in the Dust (1949), and Joseph Losey's The Lawless (1950). These works have much in common with the later McCarthyism stories, in their depiction of mob violence and the collapse of reason in searching for the real killer once the mob has settled on its victim. But they are not political allegories, in which the plot is a veiled portrait of some other topic. Instead, they are about their surface subject: lynching. The pre -1945 tales have white men as their victims, but after this date, their creators gather up their courage and show racial minorities as the victims, as was common in real life. These works seem to have an ancestral relationship to the 1950's McCarthy political tales. Armstrong's "The Enemy" can also be seen as being in this tradition; indeed, when EQ published it he added an afterword suggesting the story was about racial and religious tolerance. A mainstream tale, Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" (1948), is also relevant here; its meanings are obscure and much debated, but it is clearly related to both the lynching stories and the McCarthy tales of mob rule. Alan Dwan's The Woman They Almost Lynched (1953) is a film that is less political than many of the above works; it probably served as a model for Nicholas Ray's Johnny Guitar (1954), which was made by the same studio one year later. One might also examine the remarkable film, The Phoenix City Story (Phil Karlson, 1955), which does not fit easily into any of the categories we have been discussing.

 

Parallel to the McCarthy works is a film Western tradition, which includes Fred Zinneman's High Noon (1952), Alan Dwan's Silver Lode (1954), Joseph H. Lewis' A Lawless Street (1955), and Howard Hawks' Rio Bravo (1959). Like the McCarthy tales, these works were political allegories. But they were not specifically about McCarthyism; instead, they were constructed more as general purpose civics lessons. They tended to focus on the rights and responsibilities of individuals to the community. We know from interviews with Hawks thatRio Bravo was explicitly constructed as a response and reply to High Noon, and the Dwan and Lewis films also seem like films that build on that earlier, much discussed work. Political allegory was by no means confined to America - France had Camus' The Plague (1947), Anouilh's "Antigone" (1944), and Ionesco's "Rhinoceros" (1959), but most of these works do not involve mob rule in the American style.

 

Distinguished Wordsmith
maxcat
Posts: 4,011
Registered: ‎11-01-2006
0 Kudos

Re: American Mystery Classics Double Feature: CHARLOTTE ARMSTRONG

I love Charlotte Armstrong's mysteries....She writes gripping tales and they are full of suspense. The only one I've read is The Balloon Man.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep - Robert Frost
Inspired Wordsmith
eadieburke
Posts: 1,925
Registered: ‎01-27-2007
0 Kudos

Re: American Mystery Classics Double Feature: CHARLOTTE ARMSTRONG

Wasn't prepared for Charlotte Armstrong today. But I do have:

 

The Unsuspected 

Turret Room 

DRAM of Poison 

 

MARK OF THE HAND

 

INCIDENT AT A CORNER

 

Now, I have to find time to read them!

Eadie - A day out-of-doors, someone I loved to talk with, a good book and some simple food and music -- that would be rest. - Eleanor Roosevelt
Moderator
becke_davis
Posts: 35,683
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: American Mystery Classics Double Feature: CHARLOTTE ARMSTRONG


maxcat wrote:

I love Charlotte Armstrong's mysteries....She writes gripping tales and they are full of suspense. The only one I've read is The Balloon Man.


That's an old favorite of mine.

Moderator
becke_davis
Posts: 35,683
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: American Mystery Classics Double Feature: CHARLOTTE ARMSTRONG


eadieburke wrote:

Wasn't prepared for Charlotte Armstrong today. But I do have:

 

The Unsuspected 

Turret Room 

DRAM of Poison 

 

MARK OF THE HAND

 

INCIDENT AT A CORNER

 

Now, I have to find time to read them!


My apologies for messing up the schedule! I'm totally discombobulated with all the goings-on at my house. Total chaos here!

 

I hope you enjoy Charlotte Armstrong's books - I've read almost all of them. She's been a favorite of mine for years.

Distinguished Bibliophile
Ryan_G
Posts: 3,287
Registered: ‎10-24-2008
0 Kudos

Re: American Mystery Classics Double Feature: CHARLOTTE ARMSTRONG

Another author I don't know, but I'm going to get a hold of some of her books.

"I am half sick of shadows" The Lady of Shalott

http://wordsmithonia.blogspot.com
Moderator
becke_davis
Posts: 35,683
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: American Mystery Classics Double Feature: CHARLOTTE ARMSTRONG


Ryan_G wrote:

Another author I don't know, but I'm going to get a hold of some of her books.


I think you'll like her, Ryan!

Distinguished Bibliophile
dulcinea3
Posts: 4,372
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: American Mystery Classics Double Feature: CHARLOTTE ARMSTRONG

[ Edited ]

becke_davis wrote:
From Ed Gorman:   http://newimprovedgorman.blogspot.com/2007/05/charlotte-armstrong.html  Charlotte Armstrong

 

 
I believe it was Anthony Boucher who once described Charlotte Armstrong as a mixture of Cornell Woolrich and Shirley Jackson. I'm not sure I quite agree with that but it's headed in the right direction anyway.

Armstrong was pure 100% white bread. Well-bred, middle class if not upper middle class, traditional in virtually every respect, her forte was gently undermining the kind of women's fiction you found in the slicks of the 1940s and 1950s. (I've always remembered how she challenged the masculinty of a girl friend's lover. "He's the sort of man who's interested in women's hats." An her own lover says: "Lord." She was also good at spoofing the Martha Stewarts of her day. You ciould tell what she thought of a woman just by how she set her table. Too fancy was deadly.)

Her fiction is...odd. Nearly everybody in her stories is neurotic and overmuch. My favorite Armstrong is Michief, a short novel that made a much-denigrated film called Don't Bother To Knock, which features chilling performance by a young Marilyn Monroe as a mentally unbalanced babsyitter. It's a flawed movie but for me an entertaining one.

Her greatest success was with her novel The Unsuspected which became a smash hit with Claude Raines. The problem with the film is that running time doesn't permit all the really slick plot twists Armstrong brought to the novel. ...

Many years ago, as part of my introductory order when I joined The Mystery Guild, I had an omnibus edition of Armstrong's novels The Gift Shop, The Balloon Man, and Lemon in the Basket.  That book is long gone, but thanks to Becke, I have two to read for this feature - The Unsuspected and The Balloon Man!  I started The Unsuspected last night, since it is the earlier of the two.

 

In the front of the book is the quote by Anthony Boucher that is mentioned at the beginning of this quote from Becke.  It says, in part, "You are simply caught up, as you might be by a collaboration of Cornell Woolrich and Shirley Jackson, with all the former's insistent terror of the everyday-gone-wrong and the latter's combination of fantastic imagination and realistic feminine instinct."  I have no idea who Woolrich is, but the part he ascribes to him also sounds like Jackson - the terror of the everyday-gone-wrong.  I'll have to see if I agree with the comparison to Jackson, who is one of my favorite authors (and I know Ryan likes her, too!).

 

The quote about the man who is interested in women's hats is in the beginning of this novel, although the woman who says it is telling her nephew (who is about the same age as she) about another woman's husband.  I wasn't sure quite what to make of it - does it perhaps imply that he might be gay?  Their cousin has presumably committed suicide, but she believes it's murder and convinces the nephew (who may have been in love with the cousin) to help her investigate.  That's as far as I've gotten so far.

 

I've never seen the movie of this novel, but I like Claude Rains, so it should be good.  I have seen Don't Bother to Knock, and didn't know it was based on an Armstrong work.

 

This is the edition I have:

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Grand Dame of the Land of Oz, Duchess of Fantasia, in the Kingdom of Wordsmithonia; also, Poet Laureate of the Kingdom of Wordsmithonia
Moderator
becke_davis
Posts: 35,683
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: American Mystery Classics Double Feature: CHARLOTTE ARMSTRONG


dulcinea3 wrote:

becke_davis wrote:
From Ed Gorman:   http://newimprovedgorman.blogspot.com/2007/05/charlotte-armstrong.html  Charlotte Armstrong

 

 
I believe it was Anthony Boucher who once described Charlotte Armstrong as a mixture of Cornell Woolrich and Shirley Jackson. I'm not sure I quite agree with that but it's headed in the right direction anyway.

Armstrong was pure 100% white bread. Well-bred, middle class if not upper middle class, traditional in virtually every respect, her forte was gently undermining the kind of women's fiction you found in the slicks of the 1940s and 1950s. (I've always remembered how she challenged the masculinty of a girl friend's lover. "He's the sort of man who's interested in women's hats." An her own lover says: "Lord." She was also good at spoofing the Martha Stewarts of her day. You ciould tell what she thought of a woman just by how she set her table. Too fancy was deadly.)

Her fiction is...odd. Nearly everybody in her stories is neurotic and overmuch. My favorite Armstrong is Michief, a short novel that made a much-denigrated film called Don't Bother To Knock, which features chilling performance by a young Marilyn Monroe as a mentally unbalanced babsyitter. It's a flawed movie but for me an entertaining one.

Her greatest success was with her novel The Unsuspected which became a smash hit with Claude Raines. The problem with the film is that running time doesn't permit all the really slick plot twists Armstrong brought to the novel. ...

Many years ago, as part of my introductory order when I joined The Mystery Guild, I had an omnibus edition of Armstrong's novels The Gift Shop, The Balloon Man, and Lemon in the Basket.  That book is long gone, but thanks to Becke, I have two to read for this feature - The Unsuspected and The Balloon Man!  I started The Unsuspected last night, since it is the earlier of the two.

 

In the front of the book is the quote by Anthony Boucher that is mentioned at the beginning of this quote from Becke.  It says, in part, "You are simply caught up, as you might be by a collaboration of Cornell Woolrich and Shirley Jackson, with all the former's insistent terror of the everyday-gone-wrong and the latter's combination of fantastic imagination and realistic feminine instinct."  I have no idea who Woolrich is, but the part he ascribes to him also sounds like Jackson - the terror of the everyday-gone-wrong.  I'll have to see if I agree with the comparison to Jackson, who is one of my favorite authors (and I know Ryan likes her, too!).

 

The quote about the man who is interested in women's hats is in the beginning of this novel, although the woman who says it is telling her nephew (who is about the same age as she) about another woman's husband.  I wasn't sure quite what to make of it - does it perhaps imply that he might be gay?  Their cousin has presumably committed suicide, but she believes it's murder and convinces the nephew (who may have been in love with the cousin) to help her investigate.  That's as far as I've gotten so far.

 

I've never seen the movie of this novel, but I like Claude Rains, so it should be good.  I have seen Don't Bother to Knock, and didn't know it was based on an Armstrong work.

 

This is the edition I have:


I think I had the exact same omnibus edition! As to Cornell Woolrich, he's the author who wrote REAR WINDOW. (Made into a famous movie by Alfred Hitchcock.)

 

 

Rear Window and Other Stories 

The Black Angel 

Night Has a Thousand Eyes 

Rendezvous in Black 

Fright 

Deadline at Dawn 

Dark Melody of Madness 

 

I Married a Dead Man 

Love and Night 

Phantom Lady 

Blues of a Lifetime 

Four Novellas of Fear 

Night and Fear 

Manhattan Love Song 

 

Moderator
becke_davis
Posts: 35,683
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: American Mystery Classics Double Feature: CHARLOTTE ARMSTRONG

Interesting: http://people.uncw.edu/smithms/mystery_singles.html

 

CHARLOTTE ARMSTRONG (1905-1969; aka Charlotte Armstrong Lewis) was an advertising writer, fashion reporter and was one of the few authentic spell-casting witches of modern time, whose quick rise to popularity was due in part to her bestseller Mischief (1950 by Coward-McCann and 1951 PBO Pocket Books) and becoming the basis for the movie Don't Bother to Knock, which debuted a young Marilyn Monroe as a mentally unbalanced baby-sitter.


 

Distinguished Bibliophile
dulcinea3
Posts: 4,372
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: American Mystery Classics Double Feature: CHARLOTTE ARMSTRONG

Voice of the Trees  
becke_davis wrote:

Interesting: http://people.uncw.edu/smithms/mystery_singles.html

 

CHARLOTTE ARMSTRONG (1905-1969; aka Charlotte Armstrong Lewis) was an advertising writer, fashion reporter and was one of the few authentic spell-casting witches of modern time, whose quick rise to popularity was due in part to her bestseller Mischief (1950 by Coward-McCann and 1951 PBO Pocket Books) and becoming the basis for the movie Don't Bother to Knock, which debuted a young Marilyn Monroe as a mentally unbalanced baby-sitter.


 



That is interesting!  Although I think there are more than a few practicing witches in modern times.  I think there are a lot in Salem, MA alone, and I'm sure there are plenty more all over!  I read Tarot and the like, but I don't consider myself a witch or cast spells - although the latest one I bought does have some spells that involve little more than carving a ogham on a candle of a particular color and burning it, which sounds like fun.

 

 

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Grand Dame of the Land of Oz, Duchess of Fantasia, in the Kingdom of Wordsmithonia; also, Poet Laureate of the Kingdom of Wordsmithonia
Moderator
becke_davis
Posts: 35,683
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: American Mystery Classics Double Feature: CHARLOTTE ARMSTRONG


dulcinea3 wrote:
Voice of the Trees  
becke_davis wrote:

Interesting: http://people.uncw.edu/smithms/mystery_singles.html

 

CHARLOTTE ARMSTRONG (1905-1969; aka Charlotte Armstrong Lewis) was an advertising writer, fashion reporter and was one of the few authentic spell-casting witches of modern time, whose quick rise to popularity was due in part to her bestseller Mischief (1950 by Coward-McCann and 1951 PBO Pocket Books) and becoming the basis for the movie Don't Bother to Knock, which debuted a young Marilyn Monroe as a mentally unbalanced baby-sitter.


 



That is interesting!  Although I think there are more than a few practicing witches in modern times.  I think there are a lot in Salem, MA alone, and I'm sure there are plenty more all over!  I read Tarot and the like, but I don't consider myself a witch or cast spells - although the latest one I bought does have some spells that involve little more than carving a ogham on a candle of a particular color and burning it, which sounds like fun.

 

 


Several of my friends read tarot - I took a class once, but it was really complex. I thought this was very intriguing!

Distinguished Bibliophile
dulcinea3
Posts: 4,372
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: American Mystery Classics Double Feature: CHARLOTTE ARMSTRONG

I finished The Unsuspected last night.  I really liked it.  I guess it might be more suspense or thriller than mystery - a suspect is identified up front, and the tension comes more from whether they will be able to prove it, and how many more will die before justice is done.  There is a nice love angle, too.

 

Now, on to The Balloon Man!

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Grand Dame of the Land of Oz, Duchess of Fantasia, in the Kingdom of Wordsmithonia; also, Poet Laureate of the Kingdom of Wordsmithonia