Ruth Fenisong was born Ruth Feinsong on April 29, 1904 in New York City, the child of Jewish immigrants. During the Thirties she was employed by the Federal Theater Project, writing and staging plays, often with a Leftist slant. Fenisong began her mystery career during World War II with Murder Needs a Name, featuring Lieutenant Gridley Nelson, the Princeton-educated son of an upscale family who decides he wants to be a cop. Nelson was the hero of thirteen mysteries by Fenisong, written between 1942 and 1962. New York Times critic Anthony Boucher frequently praised her novels, singling Nelson out as a “quietly perceptive detective.” Fenisong lived for years in Greenwich Village with her life partner Kathleen Gallagher, an English teacher from Ireland, often traveling to Europe together and other locales together. Fenisong died in September 1978 in New York. (Source: Stark House Press).
Shortly after her death, Fenisong’s books fell out of publishing fashion until earlier this year, when Stark House Press, for the first time following nearly fifty years, offers a new generation of readers two Gridley Nelson mysteries in a single volume: Dead Weight and Deadlock.
Gridley Nelson, series: Murder Needs a Face (1942), Murder Needs a Name (1942), The Butler Died in Brooklyn (1943), Murder Runs a Fever (1943), Grim Rehearsal (1950), Dead Yesterday (1951), Deadlock (1952), The Wench Is Dead (1953), Miscast for Murder aka Too Lovely To Live (1954), Bite the Hand aka The Blackmailer (1956), Death of the Party (1958), But Not Forgotten aka Sinister Assignment (1960), and Dead Weight (1962).
Non-series: Jenny Kissed Me aka Death Is a Lovely Lady (1944), The Lost Caesar aka Death Is a Gold Coin (1945), Desperate Cure (1946), Snare for Sinners (1949), Ill Wind (1950), Widow’s Plight aka Widows’ Blackmail (1955), Homicide Honeymoon (1956), The Schemers aka The Case of the Gloating Landlord (1957), Villainous Company (1967), and The Drop of a Hat (1970).
Further reading: A Life of Crime: Ruth Fenisong (1904-1978) by Curtis Evans at The Passing Tramp.
Synopsis: Glen Williams is dead, shot through the chest. Lieutenant Gridley Nelson, Acting Captain of Homicide, has more than enough suspects since Williams had a large circle of friends to whom he offered hope and encouragement. To Joss and Morgan Woodruff he promised patronage for Morgan’s song-writing talents. To Tom Gaudio, help in promoting his photography. To Sarah Thrace, a has-been actress, he offered the chance of a comeback. And to Fred and Dora Storch, he promised care for their mentally handicapped son. Williams gathered them all around him like a guardian angel. But did he intend to deliver on his promises? Could one of his dear friends have had a reason to kill him?