The start of it all: Elisabeth Sanxay Holding

I discovered Elisabeth Sanxay Holding back in the early 1980s. I had been a big collector of Ace science fiction doubles, and I started to collect some of the Ace mystery doubles as well. I can’t remember what Holding book I read first. I do remember getting hooked immediately. I loved the way she captured the monomaniacal nature of her characters, from the mother who seeks to protect her daughter from a murder she thinks she committed, to a frantic alcoholic who tries to manage everyone around him as he works to get rid of his young wife.

In Holding books, the plot quite often starts with a little lie on the part of the protagonist, then quickly escalates beyond the character’s ability to control the situation into a full scale disaster. It’s like watching one of those old movies where the dam is about to break. It starts with a crack. Then another. And before long, the whole structure gives way and floods everything in its path.

Holding’s also got the market cornered on aging male alcoholics. In The Obstinate Murderer, which we just published, the hero wants nothing more than to be left alone to drink. He doesn’t want to have to solve any mysteries, he doesn’t want any romantic interests. He just wants to feel sorry for himself. Holding makes this character both sympathetic and gives us a reason to care about his plight as he gradually begins to pull himself together and feel for the people around him.

When I started reprinting mysteries at Stark House Press, there were certainly a lot of interesting authors who were languishing out of print. But I wanted to start with Holding because I felt that she had inspired me to take on the project in the first place. So many authors….so many books…but who was taking up the banner for Elisabeth Sanxay Holding?

Author/editor/bookstore owner Maxim Jakubowski, had written an article in the UK about her for The Guardian in 2001. Chicago Review Press had managed to bring The Blank Wall and The Innocent Mrs. Duff back into print. But what about all those other great Holding novels: Net of Cobwebs, The Girl Who Had to Die, Too Many Bottles? Or those obscure hardback editions which had never even been published in paperback like Lady Killer, Miasma and The Strange Crime in Bermuda.

I decided to take up the cause for Mrs. Holding here in the States, and as my first act of estate sleuthing, tracked down the grandson of Holding and eventually acquired the rights to two of her books. It matters not a bit whether they sell like crazy or not. For me, it’s personal. I just love the Elisabeth Sanxay Holding touch.

Greg Shepard, publisher


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