Zenith Brown, nee Jones, (December 8, 1898 – August 25, 1983) was an American crime fiction writer who also wrote for a time in England. She wrote under the pseudonyms David Frome, Leslie Ford, and Brenda Conrad. As Leslie Ford, she is perhaps best known for a mystery series featuring Mrs Grace Latham and retired Army officer Colonel John Primrose, though some of her earlier standalone work has been praised. She was born Zenith Jones in Smith River, California and grew up in Tacoma, Washington. Brown was educated at the University of Washington in Seattle. She married Ford K. Brown, a professor, in 1921. The couple had one daughter. Zenith Brown became the Assistant in the Departments of Greek and Philosophy, then the Instructor and teacher of English for the University of Washington between 1921 and 1923. After that she was Assistant to the Editor and Circulation Manager of Dial Magazine in New York City. She became a freelance writer after 1927. Brown began writing as “David Frome” in 1929 while staying in London with her husband. She returned to the United States in 1931, and the couple settled in Annapolis, Maryland. Brown used the pen name “Leslie Ford” for her mystery novels published in the United States. During World War II, she wrote several novels about nurses under the name “Brenda Conrad”. Ms. Ford was a correspondent for the United States Air Force both in the Pacific area and in England during the Second World War. Her series characters were Lieutenant Joseph Kelly, Grace Latham and Colonel John Primrose. Her books often appeared in serial format in The Saturday Evening Post before being published. Brown also wrote short stories, which were published in various periodicals and anthologies. Brown died at the Church Home and Hospital in Baltimore at the age of 84.
Bibliography: Books as David Frome at Fantastic Fiction. Books as Leslie Ford at Fantastic Fiction
- Mike Grost article on Leslie Ford / David Frome is at A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection, with links to several reviews at Mystery File.
- Mind Your Murders: Leslie Ford’s Murder in Maryland (1932) and The Clue of the Judas Tree (1933) at The Passing Tramp.
- J. F. Norris articles on Leslie Ford are at Pretty Sinister Books.
- Aidan’s articles on Leslie Ford are at Mysteries Ahoy!
The Woman in Black (1947) is one of Ford’s better novels, mixing social commentary with comedy and some interesting mysteries surrounding the title character (Mike Grost).
(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC.Charles Scribner’s Sons (USA), 1947)
Product Description: Who is the Woman in Black? A living ghost, dressed in black, crashes a Washington cocktail party — and touches off a chain of violence and murder. Who is the Woman in Black? The answer is a matter of life and death for a pretty young matron, a legendary captain of industry, a rich and dazzling hostess — and for lady sleuth Grace Latham and her friend Col. Primrose. (Source: Wildside Press)
The Woman in Black has been reviewed, among others, at Golden Age of Detention Wiki, Mystery File, and Pretty Sinister Books.