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Forrest, Richard 1932-2005

Forrest, Richard 1932-2005

(Lee Evans, Richard Stockton Forrest, Rebecca Morgan, Stockton Woods)

PERSONAL:

Born May 8, 1932, in Orange, NJ; died of complications from pulmonary disorder, March 14, 2005; son of Williams Kraemer and Georgia Forrest; married Frances Anne Reese, December 20, 1952 (divorced, May, 1955); married Mary Bolan Brumby (a nurse), May 11, 1955 (died, 1996); married Patricia Whitton, June 28, 1999; children: (first marriage) Richard; (second marriage) Christopher, Remley, Katherine, Mongin, Bellamy. Education: Attended New York Dramatic Workshop, 1950, and University of South Carolina, 1953-55. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Unitarian Universalist.

CAREER:

Writer, playwright, and manager. Playwright, 1955-58; Lawyers Title Insurance Corp., Richmond, VA, state manager, 1958-68; Chicago Title Insurance Co., Chicago, IL, vice president, 1969-72; freelance writer, 1972-2005. Vice president of Connecticut Board of Title Underwriters. Military service: U.S. Army, Rangers, 1951-53; served in Korea; became staff sergeant.

MEMBER:

Mystery Writers of America.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Edgar Allan Poe Award, Mystery Writers of America, 1975, for Who Killed Mr. Garland's Mistress?; Porgie Award for best original paperback, West Coast Review of Books, for The Laughing Man.

WRITINGS:

MYSTERY NOVELS

Who Killed Mr. Garland's Mistress?, Pinnacle Books (New York, NY), 1974.

The Killing Edge, Tower Publications (New York, NY), 1980.

Lark, New American Library (New York, NY), 1986.

"LYON AND BEA WENTWORTH" MYSTERY SERIES

A Child's Garden of Death, Bobbs-Merrill (New York, NY), 1975.

The Wizard of Death, Bobbs-Merrill (New York, NY), 1977.

Death Through the Looking Glass, Bobbs-Merrill (New York, NY), 1978.

The Death in the Willows, Holt (New York, NY), 1979.

Death at Yew Corner, Holt (New York, NY), 1981.

Death under the Lilacs, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1985.

Death on the Mississippi, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1989.

The Pied Piper of Death, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1997.

Death in the Secret Garden, Severn House (Sutton, England), 2004.

Death at King Arthur's Court, Severn House (Sutton, England), 2005.

UNDER PSEUDONYM STOCKTON WOODS

The Laughing Man, Fawcett (New York, NY), 1980.

Game Bet, Fawcett (New York, NY), 1981.

The Man Who Heard Too Much, Fawcett (New York, NY), 1983.

(With Mary Forrest) The Complete Nursing Home Guide (nonfiction), Facts on File (New York, NY), 1990.

(With Mary Forrest) Retirement Living (nonfiction), Facts on File (New York, NY), 1991.

"SIGN" MYSTERY SERIES FOR ADULTS WITH LIMITED READING SKILLS

Sign of the Beast, NTC/Contemporary Publishing (Chicago, IL), 1998.

Sign of Blood, NTC/Contemporary Publishing (Chicago, IL), 1998.

Sign of Terror, NTC/Contemporary Publishing (Chicago, IL), 1999.

Author of the serials The Disappearing Airplane and Murder in the Big Apple, both 1999, both twenty episode mystery stories, both published in Asashi Weekly (a bilingual Japanese newspaper in Tokyo, Japan).

Author of the plays Cry for the Spring, The Meek Cry Loud, and The Sandhouse.

Author of the "Lexi Lane Nautical Mystery" series under the pseudonym Rebecca Morgan and the "Randy Holden Aeronautical Adventure" series under the pseudonym Lee Evans.

Contributor of short stories to periodicals, including Northeast Magazine, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and Mystery Monthly.

Several editions of Forrest's work have been published in Finnish, French, German, Italian, and Swedish. His manuscript collection is part of the Twentieth-Century Archives at Mungar Memorial Library, Boston University, Boston.

SIDELIGHTS:

Richard Forrest's crime novels combine the classic puzzle plotting of traditional mysteries with the element of corruption common in detective novels. His portrayal of human pain on an individual and personal level further distinguishes his work from that of previous authors. Susan Baker, writing in Twentieth-Century Crime and Mystery Writers, noted that "Forrest presents this mixture [of mystery novels, detective novels, and individual human pain] in consistently graceful prose and adds reasonably restrained moments of sex and violence." Most of Forrest's novels are about Lyon Wentworth, a children's book author and former English professor. He is also a keen amateur mystery-solver who works with the chief of the Murphysville police, Rocco Herbert, whom he met in the military while serving in Korea. Wentworth's wife, Bea, is a successful, independent politician and feminist. Her access to inside information frequently comes in handy during her husband's investigations. Bea's aide is Kimberly Ward, who led welfare mothers in a protest, met Mrs. Wentworth, and stayed to work for her. Forrest's characters intentionally do not fit into neat stereotypes. Rather, his work calls the reader's attention to the assumptions of stereotypes rather than perpetuate them. Wentworth's relationship with Herbert, for example, is not characterized by the macho exchanges one might expect based on their history together; both Wentworth and Herbert display brains and brawn. Forrest's mobsters are not stereotypical pinstriped goons, either. One of them reads Proust and another has created a home in the style and spirit of a Japanese haven. His characters are not created to lecture readers, but to make subtle social comments.

In describing Wentworth's children's books, Forrest's work tells us something about the author's own reasons for writing and the appeal of the murder mystery genre. Wentworth's doctoral dissertation was written on the subject of violence in Victorian children's literature. Baker observed: "Not surprisingly, then, he is conscious of the power of literature to exorcize fears, to render private terrors manageable." Wentworth's books, like Forrest's novels, tell stories of victory over monsters. Forrest, however, came to writing along a different path than Wentworth, who studied and then taught literature before dedicating himself to a writing career. Forrest once told CA that he "spent early years as a playwright until [a] growing family made business a necessity. Resigned [my] position as vice president of major insurance company on [my] fortieth birthday to write full time—why not?"

Baker summed up Forrest's work as "well-written, with thoroughly realized backgrounds and persuasively likeable characters. Occasionally in the earliest books, the machinery of planning creaks a bit too obviously, but the care and craft with which Forrest approaches his writing have led to increasing subtlety. There is nothing slapdash here; above all, Richard Forrest writes thoughtful mysteries, socially conscious and emotionally satisfying."

In Death at Yew Corner, Bea has lost her bid for re-election, but finds herself embroiled in the investigation of the death of her former philosophy teacher, found murdered at a hospital. Bea then discovers more murders, seemingly connected to labor racketeering. Before the story concludes, she faces the challenge of solving a locked-room murder. New York Times reviewer Newgate Callendar called the novel a "neat, well-plotted, expertly written job." The Pied Piper of Death finds Bea reinstalled as a U.S. senator. This time, Lyon Wentworth is involved in investigating the murder of Markham Swan, a writer who was researching the history of the wealthy Piper family but who ends up dead on the family's vast estate. As the investigation unfolds, disturbing stories of Swan's infidelity emerge, and the story takes unexpected turns involving Civil War memorabilia and family tragedy. GraceAnne A. DeCandido, writing in Booklist, commented that "The writing is stylish and the plotting swift and well knit: a pleasure." Death in the Secret Garden brings a rash of diverse deaths to the sleepy small town of Murphysboro, Connecticut. Pregnant teenager Boots Anderson is found shot dead in the state forest, and her ex-lover, car salesman Eddy Rashish, is killed by her grief-stricken father. Congressman Bill Tallman dies in the midst of clandestine sex with escort Ashley Towers. Brash church secretary Barbara Sykes is shot to death in her office. Police chief Rocco Herbert and the Wentworths search through a variety suspects, including a mentally ill Vietnam veteran, a local Lothario, and a church official, but none emerge as likely murderers. As the investigation continues, the state governor becomes convinced that Bea Wentworth is her husband's lover and sets out to destroy Bea's career and reputation. A Kirkus Reviews critic observed that "nobody will complain that Forrest doesn't keep the pot boiling or season the stew with occasional clues." Booklist contributor Emily Melton called the novel a "cleverly plotted procedural."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Twentieth-Century Crime and Mystery Writers, 3rd edition, St. James Press, 1991.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, September 1, 1997, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of The Pied Piper of Death, p. 63; December 1, 2004, Emily Melton, review of Death in the Secret Garden, p. 639.

Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2005, review of Death in the Secret Garden, p. 85; January 1, 2006, review of Death at King Arthur's Court, p. 18.

New York Times, March 8, 1981, Newgate Callender, review of The Death at Yew Corner.

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