Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Waif Wander: Mary Fortune (1833-19??)

Mary Fortune is a true woman of mystery. Her series of more than five hundred short detective stories was published in the Australian Journal and spanned more than forty years. At the time hers was the longest-running series in crime fiction. She also pioneered the case book form of writing detective stories, which was later used by Conan Doyle in his Sherlock Holmes stories. Seven of her stories were reprinted as THE DETECTIVE’S ALBUM: TALES OF THE AUSTRALIAN POLICE (1871), which was the first book of detective fiction published in Australia.

Mary also wrote poetry, serialized novels, worked as a journalist, and wrote an unreliable memoir. The latter contributed to the mystery surrounding her life. Nobody really knew who she was. Much of her work was published under the pseudonyms “Waif Wander” or just ‘W.W.” with her real name, identity, and, as W.W., even her gender hidden. In her autobiographical writing, there are a few clues to her life, but both she and the Australian Journal guarded her privacy.

Sadly, her desire for privacy was so pervasive that her death passed without any public attention. The exact date of her death remains a mystery. What little we know about her comes from a book collector, J.K. Moir, who began searching for ‘Waif Wander’ in the 1950s. Through his queries to people who might have known her, he located some manuscript poems and a letter signed "M. H. Fortune." It took another generation and the microfilming and indexing of documents from colonial Australia before more information about ‘Waif Wander’ was discovered.

Among the fragmentary information revealed in her autobiographical writing was the mention that she and her little son, George, immigrated to Australia from Canada in 1855. There was no mention of a husband. However, the clue of her immigration led to the discovery of an 1858 'Goldfields marriage' (a public marriage with no minister) of Mary Helena Fortune, nee Wilson to a mounted policeman named Percy Rollo Brett. His occupation also explained her knowledge of police procedures.

The marriage did not last, and in 1866 Brett married a second time without divorcing her. It seems, though, that Mary was the first person in the couple to commit bigamy. Her first husband, Joseph Fortune, died in Canada in 1861, six years after she and her son moved to Australia. There is no evidence that Joseph ever came to Australia, but in 1856 Mary named him the father of her second son, Eastbourne Vawdey Fortune.

The only surviving physical description of Fortune was part of a police inquiry: “40 years of age, tall, pale complexion, thin build; wore dark jacket and skirt, black hat, and old elastic - side boots. Is much given to drink and has been locked up several times for drunkenness. Is a literary subscriber to several of the Melbourne newspapers.”

What we know of her later life is from the 1909 letter J.K. Moir discovered. She was impoverished and nearly blind. Her magazine contributions stopped altogether in 1913. The Australian Journal granted her an annuity and continued reprinting her Detective Album series through 1919. After that, they hired other writers for the popular series which continued until 1933. She created the police procedural and developed the casebook style while Arthur Conan Doyle, who became famous for it, was still in the nursery.

Perhaps this final note on her death is the saddest commentary on her life. The impoverished author’s funeral was paid for by the Australian Journal and she was buried in someone else’s grave. Her final resting place remains unknown, as does whose name is on the gravestone.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

A Fresh Start

 I haven't been blogging for quite some time. There are so many writers' blogs out there that we don't need another voice telling readers about their writing journey or doing a "how to ..." blog. The simple truth is that I don't like talking about myself and don't have the kind of ego that leads me to want to be the expert of the day. 

So, what do I do with my writing blog?

After much thought about whether or not to remove the blog or use it, I have decided to talk about other writers, their journies, their struggles, and their work. I am going to focus mainly on women mystery writers because my favorite writers are all women and many of them don't get the attention they deserve. This is not to say that men will never appear on my blog. There are a few that I enjoy reading and will be happy to comment about their work. 

Oh, one more thing, expect history. I am a history junkie. In 2020 I did a presentation on women mystery writers who pioneered the genre. Many of them deserve more than a passing mention. I am going to profile some of them in my blog this year. 

If you stop by, you might discover a woman of mystery you didn't know before.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Pane and Suffering (A Webb's Glass Shop Mystery, #1)Pane and Suffering by Cheryl Hollon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Pane and Suffering is a fun mystery with a smattering of romance. A perfect read for a lazy summer day.

Savannah Webb comes home to St. Petersburg, Florida to bury her father and put his affairs in order after his unexpected death. Her plan to sell her father's stained glass business to his best friend and long-time business partner is shattered when he suffers a sudden “heart attack” that mirrors her father’s. The last thing she expected was to be caught up in a murder, but two unexpected heart attacks are too much to ignore. Soon she is struggling with threats to her safety, and dealing with a pair of oily businessmen who each want to buy and close her father’s business.

When she finds a cryptic note from her father warning her that she is in danger, she must break the codes to catch the killer. Savannah convinces the police to take a closer look.

Reality sets in when the cops confirm that both men were murdered. She knows she can't leave until she finds out who killed them. With the help of one of her students and the handsome pub owner next door, Savannah races against time to catch the killer before an innocent young man goes to jail.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Back in the Saddle Again

Okay, I'm not literally back in the saddle. Injuries from my ill-spent youth prevent me from being able to ride a horse, but I am working on several writing projects that I'm excited about. In later posts I'll tell readers about other projects. Today I wanted to let you know what's going on with Nessa Donnelly and her pals this summer.

Nessa is making use of that private railcar to do a bit of traveling. She, Doc Haydon, and two of the McGuire sisters are off to Chicago. The ladies are being properly chaperoned by Campbell Academy's housemother. Mrs. Ruffin doesn't think much of Ness, but with classes out for the summer, she is delighted to pick up some extra money and travel to the big city.

Not all of Nessa's friends are coming along. Sgt. Hamm is still recovering from a near fatal beating. Tad is busy getting a new house built and hard at work on his own investigation. And Beulah is putting the old Slaton farm in order with the help of her newly discovered grandson. Where Jake goes Professor Pettyjohn is not far behind. Who knows what Nessa will come home to with that crazy professor and his "helpful" improvements added to the remodeling efforts. I suspect she will have at least one clock in every room.

You and I know that Nessa isn't going to escape trouble by leaving town. The Black Hand has made its way up the Mississippi from New Orleans and discovered Chicago. When Sicilian assassins start encroach upon turf long controlled by Irish gamblers there is bound to be trouble. The question is: "How much trouble will our travelers stumble into?"

Monday, May 01, 2017

2017 Derringer Awards

BEST FLASH STORY (1 - 1,000 words)
The 2017 Derringer for Best Flash Story is presented to
Herschel Cozine
“The Phone Call” 
(Flash Bang Mysteries, Summer 2016)
“Aftermath” by Craig Faustus Buck
(Flash Bang Mysteries, Spring 2016)
“A Just Reward” by O'Neil De Noux
(Flash Bang Mysteries, Winter 2016)
“The Orphan” by Billy Kring
(Shotgun Honey, March 18, 2016)
“An Ill Wind” by R.T. Lawton
(Flash Bang Mysteries, Spring 2016)
Best Short Story (1,001 - 4,000 words)
The 2017 Derringer for Best Short Story is presented to
Linda Barnes
“The Way They Do It in Boston”
(Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, September/October 2016)
“Beks and the Second Note” by Bruce Arthurs  
(Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, December 2016)
“YOLO” by Libby Cudmore
(BEAT to a PULP, May 2016)
“The Woman in the Briefcase” by Joseph D'Agnese
(Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, March/April 2016)
“The Lighthouse” by Hilde Vandermeeren
(Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, March/April 2016)
Best Long Story (4,001- 8,000 words)
The 2017 Derringer for Best Long Story is presented to
Victoria Weisfeld
(Betty Fedora: Kickass Women In Crime Fiction, Issue 3, September 2016)
“Swan Song” by Hilary Davidson
(Unloaded: Crime Writers Writing Without Guns, ed. By Eric Beetner, Down & Out Books, April 2016)
“Effect on Men” by O'Neil De Noux
(The Strand magazine, Issue XLVIII, Feb-May 2016)
“The Cumberland Package” by Robert Mangeot
(Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, May 2016)
“Murder Under the Baobab” by Meg Opperman (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, November 2016)
Best Novelette (8,000 to 20,000 words)
The 2017 Derringer for Best Novelette is presented to
Terrie Farley Moran
“Inquiry and Assistance”
(Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, January/February 2016)
“Coup de Grace” by Doug Allyn
(Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, September/October 2016)
“The Chemistry of Heroes” by Catherine Dilts
(Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, May 2016)
“The Educator” by Travis Richardson
(44 Caliber Funk: Tales of Crime, Soul, and Payback, ed. by Gary Phillips and Robert J. Randisi, Moonstone, December 2016)
“The Last Blue Glass” by B.K. Stevens
(Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, April 2016)
Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer
For more information about this award, see its complete description here:
The 2017
Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer
is presented to
Robert Randisi

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Apocalyse was a Bust, Now What?

Yes, Donald Trump is headed to the White House and the four horsemen haven't put in an appearance. Now what?

Perhaps it is time to get back to our real lives. Say a prayer for the safety of our country, accept the results of our messy system of electing leaders, and get on with the day to day business of living.

If, by chance, you see evidence of the four horsemen in your neighborhood...there is nothing we can do about the end of the world.

On this Thanksgiving I am still thankful to live in a place where I can disagree with my neighbor and still respect him. I am thankful for a system of government that allows for a peaceful transition of power and the right to protest the changes. I am thankful that the Apocalypse was a bust.

We are still here. 

I suggest being thankful for the blessings we have is better than being bitter over the desires thwarted. Enjoy our day of binge eating, parades, and football.

I am doubly blessed today because I get to celebrate the coming of age of my first grandchild. It is hard to believe that the little guy I held in my arms twenty-one years ago is all grown up. I am blessed to have kept all the promises I made to him the day he was born. I am happy that in this imperfect world we muddle through, there are young people of courage who haven't stopped dreaming of a better world.