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Resnicow, Herbert 1921–1997

RESNICOW, Herbert 1921–1997

PERSONAL: Born May 28, 1921, in New York, NY; died of congestive heart failure April 4, 1997, in Roslyn, NY; son of Isadore (a grocer) and Fannie Gold (a homemaker) Resnicow; married Melly Engelberg (a teacher), July 14, 1946; children: Norman, Eva, David, Ruth. Education: Attended Brooklyn College, 1937–38, and Cooper Union Institute of Technology, 1938–41; Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, B.S. (civil engineering), 1947. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Jewish.

CAREER: Civil engineer and mystery writer. Architect, engineer, project manager, and builder of buildings in New York, NY, 1946–86; full-time writer, 1986–97. Also served as president or vice president of Narco Construction Corporation, HRB Holding Corporation, West View Hill Corporation, Harbinger Development Corporation, and Modular Technics Corporation. Temple Sholom, member of board of governors, 1953–54. Military service: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, served overseas during World War II.

AWARDS, HONORS: Edgar Allan Poe Award nomination, Mystery Writers of America, 1984, for The Gold Solution.

WRITINGS:

MYSTERY NOVELS; "GOLD" SERIES

The Gold Solution, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1983.

The Gold Deadline: A Whodunit, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1984.

The Gold Frame: A Whodunit, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1984.

The Gold Curse: A Whodunit, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1986.

The Gold Gamble, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1988.

MYSTERY NOVELS; "CROSSWORD" SERIES

Murder across and Down, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1985.

The Seventh Crossword, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1985.

The Crossword Code, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1986.

The Crossword Legacy, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1987.

The Crossword Hunt, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1987.

The Crossword Trap, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1988.

MYSTERY NOVELS; "BAER" SERIES

The Dead Room, Dodd Mead (New York, NY), 1987.

The Hot Place, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1991.

OTHER MYSTERY NOVELS

(With Fran Tarkenton) Murder at the Super Bowl, Morrow, 1986.

(With Pelé) The World Cup Murder, Wynwood Press (New York, NY), 1988.

(With Tom Seaver) Beanball, Morrow (New York, NY), 1989.

(With Ed Koch) Murder at City Hall, Kensington Books (New York, NY), 1995.

Contributor to periodicals, including Armchair Detective, MRA Journal, and Mystery and Detective Monthly.

SIDELIGHTS: Mystery author Herbert Resnicow began writing fiction while working as an architect and engineer in the New York City area. He wrote his first novel, The Gold Solution, during a lonely period in the summer of 1982 when a building project prevented him from accompanying his wife on vacation. The novel, featuring brilliant but abrasive engineering consultant Alexander Magnus Gold, was nominated for an Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America and inspired further "Gold" novels. In 1986, then in his mid-sixties, Resnicow finally abandoned his demanding construction career to write fiction full-time, having already authored two additional "Gold" novels in his spare time.

Each of Resnicow's "Gold" novels centers upon the unnatural demise of a Manhattan cultural figure: a famous architect in The Gold Solution; a ballet dancer in The Gold Deadline; the director of an art museum in The Gold Frame; an opera star in The Gold Curse; and a Broadway actress in The Gold Gamble. In each case Gold, the engineer-turned-private eye, is assisted by Norma, his talkative and unusually tall wife.

The first installment of the "Gold" series was well received by critics. Washington Post Book World reviewer Jean M. White described The Gold Solution as "an engaging, light-hearted tale," concluding that "Resnicow writes brightly with bouncy humor." While the next installment, The Gold Deadline, was generally deemed an unworthy successor, the third and fourth novels in the series received better reviews. Commenting on The Gold Frame in Armchair Detective, Robert A. W. Lowndes wrote, "This is one of the finest puzzle-murder mysteries of recent times." In a review of The Gold Curse, a Toronto Globe and Mail critic observed that "the plot is well-crafted … and Resnicow makes good use of the inside world of opera." The final installment, The Gold Gamble, also received positive reviews. According to Armchair Detective critic Allen J. Hubin, The Gold Gamble is "a pleasantly amusing story of the cerebral (i.e., lots of talk about alibis and timing) variety."

In addition to his "Gold" books, Resnicow has authored a series of "Crossword" novels and two books based on the character Ed Baer. The "Crossword" novels feature actual crossword puzzles in the story, each of which conceals a clue to the mystery and is integral to the narrative. The protagonist of Resnicow's "Baer" novels, The Dead Room and The Hot Place, is a widowed venture capitalist who, with his philosopher son Warren, solves the murder of an acoustical engineer in the first book and a country club executive in the second.

New York Times Book Review critic Newgate Callendar described The Dead Room as "a pleasant piece of work," while Hubin, again writing in Armchair Detective, concluded that it is "nicely entertaining." Commenting on The Hot Place, Armchair Detective reviewer Maria Brolley characterized the book as "a fun-to-read mystery," while a Publishers Weekly critic praised the novel as a "lively tale" with a "delightful" protagonist. However, a Kirkus Reviews critic found fault in the novel's "over-elaborate plot" and "repetitive, talky" narrative.

Resnicow has also collaborated with three professional sports stars—football quarterback Fran Tarkenton, Brazilian soccer great Pelé, and baseball pitcher Tom Seaver—and a New York political figure to produce murder mysteries relevant to his coauthors' respective backgrounds. For example, Murder at the Super Bowl, a book written with Tarkenton, centers on the murder of a championship football coach, while Murder at City Hall, written with former New York City mayor Ed Koch, involves Koch's role in solving a fictional murder that occurs at city hall while he is in office. Though reviewers dismissed Murder at City Hall as a crass exercise in self-promotion for Koch, critics found more to recommend in Murder at the Super Bowl. According to Callendar, again writing in the New York Times Book Review, Resnicow does "a thoroughly professional job" in translating Tarkenton's insider knowledge into a football thriller. As Callendar added, "thanks to Fran Tarkenton, there is a good deal of background information about football and football players that most readers will find of unusual interest." Commenting on the book in Globe and Mail, Margaret Cannon wrote, "It's not earth-shaking, but it's good clean fun—just like football used to be."

Resnicow once told CA: "My books are all classic whodunits, puzzle mysteries in which all clues are presented clearly at least twice. The murders are 'locked room' (i.e., impossible) crime problems in which howdunit and whydunit must be solved to find whodunit. Readers and reviewers claim that the lead characters in my books bear a suspicious resemblance to myself (I suffered a heart attack before I was forty-nine like Alexander Magnus Gold) physically and in personality. I hotly deny this and would like to point out that Alexander Magnus Gold is a quarter inch taller, and my wife, Melly, is only five inches taller, not seven."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Armchair Detective, summer, 1986, Charles Shibuk, review of The Gold Frame, p. 332; winter, 1987, Robert A. W. Lowndes, review of The Gold Frame, p. 91; spring, 1988, Allen J. Hubin, review of The Dead Room, p. 148; summer, 1990, Allen J. Hubin, review of The Gold Gamble, pp. 276-277; summer, 1991, Maria Brolley, review of The Hot Place, p. 346.

Booklist, September 15, 1988, review of The Gold Gamble, p. 123; September 15, 1995, Emily Melton, review of Murder at City Hall, p. 143.

Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), August 30, 1986, review of The Gold Curse; November 22, 1986, Margaret Cannon, review of Murder at the Super Bowl.

Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 1984, review of The Gold Frame, p. 1024; May 1, 1987, review of The Dead Room, p. 680; August 15, 1988, review of The Gold Gamble, p. 1196; December 1, 1990, review of The Hot Place, p. 1643.

New York Times Book Review, November 27, 1983, review of The Gold Solution; November 16, 1986, Newgate Callendar, review of Murder at the Super Bowl, p. 38; August 2, 1987, Newgate Callendar, review of The Dead Room, p. 29; October 30, 1988, Marilyn Stasio, review of The Gold Gamble, p. 28.

Publishers Weekly, October 26, 1984, review of The Gold Frame, p. 98; May 8, 1987, review of The Dead Room, p. 64; August 19, 1988, review of The Gold Gamble, p. 61; November 16, 1990, review of The Hot Place, p. 48; July 24, 1995, review of Murder at City Hall, p. 49.

Washington Post Book World, November 20, 1983, Jean M. White, review of The Gold Solution, pp. 10-11.

West Coast Review of Books, Volume 13, number 2, 1987, review of The Dead Room, p. 27.

OBITUARIES: PERIODICALS

New York Times, April 12, 1997, p. 28.

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