Eleanor Roosevelt and her son, Elliott.
Elliott Roosevelt, via a ghost writer, lent his mother’s visage and some of her personality to a murder mystery series. The first book, Murder and the First Lady, saw the author soundly and deservedly criticized for cheapening his mother’s legacy and for disrespecting her in general. That didn’t stop mystery fans from enjoying them however! At the same time, another Presidential child, Margaret Truman Daniel, had entered the New York Times Bestseller’s list multiple times with her murder series set, first, at the White House and, later, at other landmark buildings in Washington, D.C. [For more about Margaret Truman Daniel’s first mystery and how it helped my writing career, see this post].
My great-aunt, typical I suppose of the devotees to the Mrs. Roosevelt mysteries, was a fan from back in the day of her time as First Lady. (I do wonder though, if any other of the series’ fans refused to read male authors?) I delivered one of these books to her when I was home on a visit in the 1980s and, lacking other entertainment, enjoyed reading Murder at Hobcraw Barony–the Eleanor mystery I was to return for her. So a murder, solved by a now fictitious Eleanor, set at the real world country home of real life financier Bernard Baruch–Hobcraw Barony in South Carolina.
I actually enjoyed the story, but I could also easily see why Roosevelt was soundly criticized. Margaret Truman Daniel’s mysteries did not bring the legacy of a real life President, First Lady or even a famed Wall Street Financier into the story. Still, as paperback sleuths go, I found Eleanor did a great job of catching the baddies. And, let’s be honest. Mysteries are written to entertain not to edify.
This lady is Elizabeth MacKintosh, better known to the world as either Josephine Tay or Gordon Daviot. The first was her mystery writing nom de plume, the second was used for her plays. I’ve now thoroughly enjoyed two of her excellent mysteries—one of which I’ll review in a minute.
Since the 1990s however, Ms Tay (or should that be Ms MacKintosh? Mr. Daviot??) has been the fictional sleuth in her own series of mysteries authored by Nicola Upson. It was finding this series that jogged my mind about the Eleanor mysteries. I look forward to reading the first one sometime soon. An Expert in Murder by Nicola Upson.
Meanwhile, after a series period of the reading duldrums, I broke out of the gloom by reading the real Josephine Tey’s (or should that be the real Elizabeth MacKintosh’s?) mystery, Brat Farrar. This little book has it all! Horses to rival Dick Francis, a plot that keeps twisting and story line that immediately brings back the “Mummy” episode of Downton Abbey, season 2 (aka Melty-Faced Patrick) as well as the flickering of an almost forbidden romance. Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey is only $2.99 for Kindle.
Previously I read Tey’s mystery, Daughter of Time, which is included in Year 7 of the Ambleside Online homeschool curriculum (a fabulous reading list for anyone, by the way). In this little outing Ms. Tey/MacKintosh/Mr.Daviot sets out to prove that the Princes in the Tower were not killed in the manner told by history. And, the whole thing is done without the main character ever leaving his hospital bed. Now that’s a great read for a research geek like me! Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey.
Can you think of other real people turned into fictional sleuths? Leave me a comment, I’d love to hear about them.