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Lee Thayer--An Unjustly Overlooked Mystery Writer


ATM is back from a one-week hiatus, wherein y_r friendly blogger was in Florida visiting friends and relatives, and a splendid time was had by all!

Emma Redington Thayer (nee Lee, 1874-1973), was a prolific mystery writer who published under the name Lee Thayer. She wrote sixty mysteries over a period of forty-seven years, ending in 1966 with the publication of Dusty Death which appeared when the author was ninety-two!  

All of Lee Thayer’s mysteries, starting with 1919’s The Mystery Of the Thirteenth Floor, involve the red-headed amateur sleuth-turned-policeman-turned-private eye Peter Clancy. In the 1929 title Dead Man’s Shoes Clancy was joined by (James) Wiggar, a kind of valet/companion/butler. Wiggar is veddy veddy British and apparently dedicated chiefly to massaging the ego of his employer.  

While certainly no wallflower, Clancy isn’t a traditional ‘tough guy’ crimebuster in the mode of Sam Spade, but a bit more thoughtful in his musings.  Even so, Thayer’s publisher, usually Dodd Mead, seemed to market the titles as at least noir-ish, with atmospheric dust jacket images that may or may not have been related to the story within.   

For example, the jacket of Accessory After the Fact (1945) offers the blurb ‘Clancy and Wiggar find MURDER in the Fog,’ while Pig In a Poke claims ‘Peter Clancy cuts the knot.’

Accident, Manslaughter or Murder offers up ‘Peter Clancy Decides’ over a grey valley with a red sign blaring Danger!  This cover art is signed ‘LT ‘45,’; the author was an accomplished artist and designed many a book cover, including quite a few of her own titles. And, in an atmospheric blue tinted courtyard, the jacket of Guilt Edged shows ‘Peter Clancy & Wiggar in a bizarre case’ and, innovatively, looking through a keyhole on the cover of Within the Vault, ‘Peter Clancy and Wiggar find the key.’  Clancy is adept at doggedly pursuing his man (or woman) and gathering and sifting evidence and no sedentary sleuth is he; the plethora of locales in which he plies his trade include Hollywood, Canada, Bermuda, New Orleans, Florida...seems like the detective likes the warm weather (except for Canada), and who can blame him? Clancy and Wiggar even tackle a crime on a boat, the good ship Sutherland.

Quite often Clancy relies on what might be called an early form of forensics, tracing bullet paths, examining footprints, and the like.  He’s even been known to dress to the nines in order to stroll into a white-shoe Wall Street office unmolested.  Clearly discretion and catering to the upper crust were his hallmarks. Clancy tended to work outside the purview of traditional authority, although he does team with Capt. O’Malley (ret.) and Lt. Kerrigan of the NYPD in some of the early adventures.  

Author Thayer was also an interior designer of note. This may be why room decor is described in detail in several of her books!

Bottom line:  

How can you not love an author who writes, ‘It was as dark as the inside of a cow?’


All titles in bold available here at Mysterious!  Call 212.685.1011 or write for details.  Call between 11am and 7pm and an actual person, right in the store, will answer the phone.  How about that?

Written by Ian Kern — February 23, 2017

Specializing in Mystery Fiction and all its subgenres, including Detective, Crime, Hardboiled, Thrillers, Espionage, and Suspense.

Located at 58 Warren St in New York City, we are open Monday-Saturday from 11am-7pm.

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