Murder With Southern Hospitality:
An Exhibition of Mississippi Mysteries

Exhibit Home » Golden Age Mysteries » Ben Ames Williams

Golden Age Mysteries

Ben Ames

A popular author whose books ranged from sea stories and mysteries to psychological dramas and historical fiction, Ben Ames Williams published over 400 short stories in magazines, 35 books, and almost 20 screenplays for the movies. Born in his mother’s hometown of Macon, Mississippi in 1889, his family moved to Ohio while he was still an infant. Williams, however, continued to spend summers in the Magnolia State during his youth. As an adult, he lived in Massachusetts and Maine.

On display is a 1947 letter written by the author in which he describes himself as “completely uninterested in ‘literature’ whatever that is. . .”

Williams wrote a number of mysteries during the golden era of the 1920s and 30s. Five of the plots were set in Maine: Silver Forest (1926), Dreadful Night (1928), Mischief (1933), Pascall’s Mill (1933), and Hostile Valley (1934). While Death on Scurvy Street (1929) and Crucible (1937) took place in Boston, and Hollywood provided the locale for An End to Mirth (1931).

Both Money Musk (1932) with its anonymous urban setting and An End to Mirth first appeared as Dutton Clue Mysteries. Right before the denouement and after the author had provided all the clues necessary to solve the puzzle, the publisher inserted a page on which the reader could write the name of the guilty party. After returning three such coupons to Dutton, the reader would receive a free mystery.

Popular Library later retitled Money Musk as The Lady in Peril (1948). The three 1940s paperbacks on display feature excellent examples of “Good Girl Art” in which attractive women appear in risqué or precarious situations. These collectable covers were part of a post-World War II trend to lure potential buyers with sexy, suggestive covers.

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