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Ashby, RC

Page history last edited by J F Norris 9 years, 6 months ago

R(ubie) C(onstance) Ashby (1899-1966), that is Rubie (Constance Annie) Ferguson née Ashby, was an English writer of detective and romantic novels. She was the daughter of a Wesleyan minister, brought up in Yorkshire and went to Oxford to read English. As R. C. Ashby she began writing detective stories for magazines and published eight thrillers with supernatural overtones from 1926 to 1934. In 1934 she married Samuel Ferguson. Afterwards she wrote mainly romantic novels and stories for children.

 

[Ashby]... left the uneasy feeling that the proceedings, for which no logical explanation was ever supplied, belonged not so much to mystery fiction as to those highly specialized excursions which explore the twilight hinterland. --- Scott, Sutherland in Blood in Their Ink

 

More information on her life and work can be found at Wikipedia.


R.C. Ashby wrote several Gothic detective novels decades before the trendy modern gothic suspense novel of writers like Phyllis Whitney, Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart.  Ashby's mystery novels followed the style of the fair play detective novels of her British counterparts but often included supernatural and bizarre elements that most often were rationalized in the denouement.  In one case (Out Went the Taper) the supernatural element turned out to be geniuine. Her first detective novel (Death on Tiptoe) is in imitation of Agatha Christie and has some interesting plot incidents but is rather thin stuff with too much emphasis on hysterical characterizations.  Only two years later she would write He Arrived at Dusk which is certainly her best work. A minor masterpiece in the subgenre of the supernatural detective novel it tells the story of an ancient Roman soldier who haunts a Welsh manor and a wicked murderer who exploits the legend for his own personal gain.  Ashby's use of mutliple narrators and a brilliant use of misdirection and misinterpretation is something to be admired for such an early work.

 

J.F. Norris

 

Bibliography

 

The Moorland Man (1926)

The Tale of Rowan Christie (1927)

Beauty Bewitched (1928)

Death on Tiptoe (1931)

Plot Against a Widow (1932)

He Arrived at Dusk (1933)

One Way Traffic (1933)

Out Went the Taper (1934)

 

Comments (2)

Jon said

at 10:04 am on Dec 12, 2009

R.C. Ashby's scarce Death on Tiptoe (1931) was republished this year by Greyladies, a small imprint based in Edinburgh.

The COC praises Death on Tiptoe as being a "creditable mystery and detection besides" while pointing out some "needless melodrama".

Jon said

at 10:05 am on Dec 12, 2009

Really?! I've read two of hers - Out Went the Taper and He Came by Night, but can't remember which was which. I found the one with gangsters in Wales fairly forgettable (similar to Heyer's Footsteps in the Dark), but liked the one in the north of England.

Nick Fuller

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