Gwen Bristow was born in Marion, South Carolina on September 16, 1903, the daughter of Baptist minister Louis Judson Bristow and wife Caroline Cornelia Winkler. Bristow attended Anderson Baptist College in Anderson, South Carolina and graduated from Judson College in Marion, Alabama in 1924. After college, Bristow studied journalism at the Pulitzer School of Journalism at Columbia University. Bristow’s parents could not support her financially, so Bristow had to earn her living by writing essays and theses for others, working as a nanny and as a secretary, and writing biographies of businessmen for trade magazines, in order to pay for her tuition. After one year at Columbia, Bristow took a summer job at The Times-Picayune in New Orleans. The newspaper offered Bristow a permanent position, and Bristow accepted. She didn’t return to Columbia.
Bristow met another journalist, Bruce Manning, while covering a murder trial, and the pair began dating. They eloped on January 14, 1929, and were married in a civil ceremony in St. Mary Parish, Louisiana. The escape was intended to avoid objections from Bristow’s family to Manning’s religion; Bristow was a Baptist and Manning a Catholic. Manning was born in Cuddebackville, New York on July 15, 1902.
Bristow published her first novel, The Invisible Host, in 1930. The mystery novel was co-written with Manning. The novel was a success and was adapted into a Broadway play called The Ninth Guest in 1931. Bristow quit her job at The Times-Picayune. The couple went on to collaborate on three other mysteries: The Gutenberg Murders (1931); Two and two are twenty-two (1932); and The Mardi Gras Murders (1932). They moved to Hollywood in the early 1930s, where Bristow established herself as a prolific and successful writer of historical fiction, while Manning became a respected screenwriter, producer, and director whose career ended in 1957, eight years before his death. They continued to live in California until their respective deaths: Manning’s on August 3, 1965 and Bristow’s on August 17, 1980.
Dean Street Press has recently published the four mystery books written jointly by this couple, which I look forward to reading soon. Stay tuned.