Emma Lathen: The Agatha Christie of Wall Street
This appears on the cover of one of her books. That might be pitching it a bit high, but I do agree that Emma Lathen is a very good read. She is one of those writers who is in fact two writers. This kind of joint venture mostly happens in the crime-writing world, though my very good friend, Sue Hepworth, has written two romantic comedies jointly. The Emma Lathen novels were written by two economists, Martha Hennisart and Mary J. Latis, and from 1961 until Mary Latis died in 1997.they produced around a book a year under the Lathen name and under the name ‘R. B. Dominic.’ I have probably read them all. The Lathen books feature as their investigator John Putnam Thatcher, urbane Vice-President of the Sloan Guaranty Trust, and it seems quaintly old-fashioned now that when these novels first came out – from 1961 onwards – a banker could act as a moral touchstone. The novels are witty and well-informed. In Thatcher’s work he is involved in approving investments and the novels employed a wide range of business setting: Murder to Go, which involves a fast food chicken franchise is especially good fun. Like Poirot, Thatcher doesn’t age: he is sixtyish in the first novel and remains sixtyish.
I’m currently rereading some of the novels, because I’m on the Forgotten Authors panel at Crimefest this year, talking about Emma Lathen and Harry Kemelman. Hope to see some of you there.