The Works of Charlotte Armstrong

When my colleague Christine Shade heard I was featuring Glendale authors, she recalled her acquaintance with Charlotte Armstrong (1905-1969), a pioneering woman mystery writer. Armstrong was one of three famous residents featured in the North Cumberland Heights Historic District Application (page 21). The Glendale Public Library has many of her books, and I checked out a few.

I enjoyed the storyline and thriller/action-adventure/romance combination in The Gift Shop. The LA noir/psychological thriller The Turret Room was a gripping read, and I chose it because the title was based on the layout of a Laurel Canyon Blvd. home Shade and her husband lived in when Armstrong and her husband Jack Lewi used to visit. (Shade also told me that Lewi was the victim of a bizarre murder by a gardener’s assistant at their home in Glendale.)

Armstrong won the 1957 Edgar Award for A Dram of Poison. This review calls her books in the 40s, The Unsuspected and The Chocolate Cobweb, “works of suspense and terror with few equals in the field before or since.”

The Virtue of Suspense: The Life and Works of Charlotte Armstrong (2008) by Rick Cypert is unfortunately not at the library. Christine Shade, who knew Armstrong, writes: “It was a great read, especially for a writer. I was struck by how often she doubted herself, the problems with agents who didn’t want her to write outside her ‘suspense’ genre…I was delighted, however, that the writer’s research seemed really well done.”

Editor’s Note: This week’s additions to the virtual Glendale Bookshelf came about as a result of a random conversation. Thanks to the Glendale Public Library which still makes so many of Armstrong’s books available.