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Lockridge, Frances and Richard

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 3 months ago
Frances Louise Lockridge (1896-1963) nee Davis, and her husband Richard Orson Lockridge (1898-1982) became detective writers almost by accident when they developed two Thurberesque characters from newspaper vignettes and radio situation comedy - Mr and Mrs North, modelled on themselves - into the protagonists in a detective novel, The Norths Meet Murder (1940). From there they went on to write more than forty other books about the Norths, usually aided by their long-sufferering friend, New York Lieutenant Bill Weigand. The North books blend witty family cross-talk with classic detection; the other series are slightly more serious, but all of them have that lightness of touch which characterises the Golden Age cosy.

 

Richard Lockridge was born in Missouri and saw naval service in 1918. He married Frances in 1922 and became a journalist and ultimately drama critic of the New York Sun. He also wrote non-fiction. After Frances' death he married his agent, Hildegarde Dolson. Frances Lockridge was born in Kansas City Missouri and educated at the University of Kansas. Before her marriage she was a reporter and music critic for the Kansas City Post.

 

The North series was enormously successful, spinning off a movie starring George Burns and Gracie Allen, a long-running play on Broadway, a radio drama which lasted for thirteen years, and a popular television show, with Richard Demming and Barbara Britton, which aired for two years. Of the small number of married sleuths in the history of crime fiction, the Norths had the longest sustained series.

 

Their series characters were Mr and Mrs North, Lieutenant Bill Wiegand, Paul Lane, Nathan Shapiro, Bernard Simmons and Captain Merton Heimrich. They also wrote a juvenile fiction series about a cat.

 

Mike Grost on the Lockridges

 

The Lockridges are intuitionist detective writers. Their most famous detectives, the husband and wife team Pam and Jerry North, are classic amateur detectives, people who stumble into crimes and solve them through brain power, in the intuitionist tradition. Their police allies use sheer brain power too, not leg work to solve crimes. Inspector Bill Weigand looks first for discrepancies among suspects' testimony, in the early stage of an investigation. Later, when he has acquired a lot of facts, he tries to find the underlying pattern in the crimes. These methods are profoundly intuitionist. They involve reasoning, analysis, and attempts to shape facts into ideas and structures.

 

Mr. and Mrs. North books have several features of the Van Dine tradition. They are set in New York City, amid the upper middle classes. The characters are sophisticated. Many of the characters are intellectuals. Their novels feature murder mysteries among the same sort of literati one finds in Ngaio Marsh or Van Dine. Several of the books are set in the theater, always a Van Dine school favorite locale. The Norths have a relationship with a friendly police officer, Bill Wiegand, that recalls many other amateur detective- New York police alliances, such as Philo Vance and the DA, Ellery Queen and Inspector Queen, and Hildegarde Withers' friendship with Inspector Piper in Stuart Palmer's books. There is a continuing cast of police characters that recur from book to book, as in many of the Van Dine school writers. Many of the killings are bizarre, or use unusual murder methods, in the Van Dine school style. There is lots of intensive analysis on the murder scene after a crime, also a favorite Van Dine tradition. "Death on a Foggy Morning" (1955) contains that Ellery Queen favorite, a dying message.

 

The biggest strength of the North novels are the people in them. Pam and Jerry North are appealing human beings, and so are most of the suspects in the story. Unlike some detective authors, who mainly write about nasty characters, the denizens of a North tale tend to be civilized, intelligent, decent people. They are people whom one would love to know in real life.

 

"The Accusing Smoke" (1959) is a pleasant mystery story. The story is not fair play - the reader does not have enough facts to deduce the murderer - nor do the police actually solve the crime through their detective work. Rather, the murderer makes a Fatal Mistake that trips him up at the end of the story. In this, the tale resembles the version of Inverted Crime story that was popular in both the pulps and the slicks in the US, ones in which some miscalculation by the killer exposes an otherwise perfect crime. This miscalculation is supposed to be ingenious, and is often based on science: both of these are true in the Lockridges' tale. Unlike these inverted tales, in "The Accusing Smoke" we do not see the crime committed or know who the killer is in advance - the story has the format of a standard whodunit mystery tale. All of this is mixed in with the sort of milieu we expect in a Van Dine school tale, with a setting among art world people living upper middle class lives near New York City.

 

Bibliography

 

Mr and Mrs North (1936) {not detection}

The Norths Meet Murder {aka Mr & Mrs North Meet Murder} (1940)

Murder Out of Turn (1941)

A Pinch of Poison (1941)

Death on the Aisle (1941)

Hanged for a Sheep (1942)

Death Takes a Bow (1943)

Killing the Goose (1944)

Payoff for the Banker (1945)

Death of a Tall Man (1946)

Murder Within Murder (1946)

Untidy Murder (1947)

Think of Death (1947)

Murder Is Served {aka A Taste for Murder} (1948)

I Want to Go Home (1948)

The Dishonest Murderer (1949)

Spin Your Web, Lady (1949)

Murder in a Hurry (1950)

Foggy, Foggy Death (1950)

Murder Comes First (1951)

A Client Is Cancelled (1951)

Dead As a Dinosaur (1952)

Death by Association {aka Trial by Terror} (1952)

Curtain for a Jester (1953)

Death Has a Small Voice (1953)

Stand Up and Die (1953)

A Key to Death (1954)

Death and the Gentle Bull {aka Killer in the Straw} (1954)

Death of an Angel {aka Mr & Mrs North and the Poisoned Playboy} (1955)

Burnt Offering (1955)

The Faceless Adversary {aka Case of the Murdered Redhead} (1956)

Voyage Into Violence (1956)

Let Dead Enough Alone (1956)

The Tangled Cord (1957)

Practise to Deceive (1957)

Catch As Catch Can (1958)

The Long Skeleton (1958)

Accent on Murder (1958)

The Innocent House (1959)

Murder and Blueberry Pie {aka Call It Coincidence} (1959)

Murder Is Suggested (1959)

The Golden Man (1960)

The Judge Is Reversed (1960)

Show Red for Danger (1960)

The Drill Is Death (1961)

Murder Has Its Points (1961)

With One Stone {aka No Dignity in Death} (1961)

And Left for Dead (1962)

Night of Shadows (1962)

The Ticking Clock (1962)

First Come, First Kill (1962)

Murder by the Book (1963)

The Distant Clue (1963)

The Devious Ones {aka Four Hours to Fear} (1964)

Quest for the Bogeyman (1964)

 

Richard Lockridge alone

 

Death in the Mind {with GH Estabrooks} (1945)

A Matter of Taste (1949)

Murder Can't Wait (1964)

Squire of Death (1965)

Murder Roundabout (1966)

Murder for Art's Sake (1967)

With Option to Die (1967)

Murder in False-Face (1968)

A Plate of Red Herrrings (1968)

Die Laughing (1969)

A Risky Way to Kill (1969)

Troubled Journey (1970)

Twice Retired (1970)

Death in a Sunny Place (1971)

Inspector's Holiday (1971)

Preach No More (1971)

Something Up a Sleeve (1972)

Write Murder Down (1972)

Not I, Said the Sparrow (1973)

Death on the Hour (1974)

Or Was He Pushed? (1975)

Dead Run (1976)

A Streak of Light (1976)

The Tenth Life (1977)

The Old Die Young (1980)

Comments (2)

Mitchell Geller said

at 1:14 pm on Mar 27, 2012

Hildegarde Dolson, Richard Lockridge's second wife, was not his agent. She was a fairly succesful author of fiction and non-fiction in her own right, and while married to Lockridge wrote four mystery novels of her own, set in Southern Connecticut and with widowed artist Lucy Ramsdale, and her tenant, Inspector James McDougal, as protagonists. They are not bad; modestly entertaining and often very amusing.

Jim Benton said

at 2:32 pm on Jun 5, 2014

There is some confusion here. There are only 26 North mysteries -- plus the collection of original non-mystery stories. Furthermore, it should be pointed out that the Norths are never the detectives in the story. Pam -- to a lesser extent Jerry -- occasionally tries to 'help' with usually comically disastrous results -- in later books she is frequently joined by Dorian Weigand -- but the detective in the story is always the professional, whether Bill Weigand or, in two books, Merton Heinrich. And each of the other series characters are first introduced as minor characters and then given books of their own.

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