Born Barbara Elizabeth Linington, 11 March 1921, Aurora, Illinois; died 5 April 1988
Also wrote under: Anne Blaisdell, Lesley Egan, Egan O'Neill, Dell Shannon
Daughter of Byron and Ruth Biggam Linington
Elizabeth Linington lived in California since 1928, graduating from Glendale College (B.A. 1942), where she began her writing career with radio and stage dramas. Her first novel, The Proud Man (1955), drew upon her family's 19th-century Irish immigrant background and was followed by other historical novels, including The Long Watch (1956), California Commonwealth Club Gold Medal winner for best historical novel by a California author. She turned to the mystery novel in 1960.
Under two pseudonyms and her own name, Linington has created four separate police routine series, each featuring a singular detective protagonist. Lt. Luis Mendoza, dapper, mannered Mexican-American sleuth, first appearing in Case Pending (1960) by Dell Shannon, lends class, Hispanic pride, and a sharp intelligence to the Los Angeles police department. Two series are by Lesley Egan: one with Detective Vic Varallo, an Italian rose-fancier of the Glendale police (A Case for Appeal, 1961) and a second with a tandem: New England Sergeant Andrew Clock of the Los Angeles police and his confrere, lawyer and amateur detective Jesse Falkenstein, a subtly Jewish character who quotes the Talmud (Some Avenger, Rise!, 1966). As Elizabeth Linington, she created Sergeant Ivor Maddox, a dedicated Welsh bachelor of Hollywood's Wilcox Avenue station (Greenmask!, 1965).
A strong point of interest in Linington's writing is her innovation of ethnic types endowed—most notably in the case of the Hispanic Mendoza—with a practical awareness of the pluralistic ethnic sociology of Los Angeles and its intercultural conflicts of race, class, politics, money, mores, and opportunity. The ethnicity of these characters, while not fully developed, actually predates the ethnic revolution of the 1960s.
In their scrutiny and judgements of the problems of the "One Big City," these books can also be considered in a more serious vein as novels of social problems or even modern novels of manners. Linington's detailed documentation of everyday life gives a new twist to more conventional formula approaches to the police procedural detective story format. In Linington's view, the detective novel is politically and ethically significant as the "morality play of the 20th century" and as a literary form whose influence and brilliance have both been overlooked and underestimated by critics and writers alike.
Linington has been cited as "Queen of the Proceedurals" and has been compared to masters of the genre such as Ed McBain, John Creasey, and Dorothy Uhnak. She admittedly bases her knowledge of police routine and law not on direct experience but on the basic texts used by police departments themselves and, for specific plots, on detective magazines.
Philosophically, she focuses on the theme of the irrationality of violence. Her concern is with the balance of good and evil within the delicate relationship between individual psychology and the social and political order. A Linington novel characteristically interweaves three or four distinct plot lines in a pattern that follows the natural outlines of actual police work rather than focusing on the ideal "single case" of crime fiction and drama. She also omits the customary summing-up scenario, forcing readers to trace the solution of the mystery backwards from the denouement themselves. Linington thus combines the conservatism of the law-and-order school of detective mystery with the style and art of the cerebral school to give her works an unusually broad appeal.
The Anglophile (1957). Monsieur Janvier (1957). The Kingbreaker (1958). The Ace of Spades (1961). Forging an Empire: Elizabeth I (for children, 1961). Nightmare (1961). The Borrowed Alibi (1962). Extra Kill (1962). The Knave of Hearts (1962). Against the Evidence (1963). Death of a Busybody (1963). Double Bluff (1963). Mark of Murder (1964). My Name is Death (1964). Root of All Evil (1964). Run to Evil (1964). The Death-Bringers (1965). Death by Inches (1965). Come to Think of It (1965). Detective's Due (1965). Coffin Corner (1966). Date with Death (1966). With a Vengeance (1966). Chance to Kill (1967). Nameless Ones (1967). Something Wrong (1967). Rain with Violence (1968). Kill with Kindness (1968). Policeman's Lot (1968). A Serious Investigation (1968). Practice to Deceive (1969). Crime on Their Hands (1969). Schooled to Kill (1969). Wine of Violence (1969). In the Death of a Man (1970). Unexpected Death (1970). Whim to Kill (1970). The Ringer (1970). Malicious Mischief (1971). Murder, with Love (1972). Paper Chase (1972). With Intent to Kill (1972). Crime by Chance (1973). No Holiday for Crime (1973). Spring of Violence (1973). Crime File (1974). Deuces Wild (1975). Scenes of Crime (1976). Streets of Death (1976). Appearances of Death (1977). Blind Search (1977). Perchance of Death (1977). Cold Trail (1978). A Dream Apart (1978). Look Back on Death (1979). The Hunter and the Hunted (1979). Felony at Random (1979). Motive in Shadow (1980). Felony File (1980). A Choice of Crimes (1980). The Miser (1981). Murder Most Strange (1981). Random Death (1982). The Motive on Record (1982). Exploits of Death (1983). Little Boy Lost (1983). Crime for Christmas (1983). Destiny of Death (1984). Chain of Violence (1985). The Wine of Life (1985). Chaos of Crime (1985). Blood Count (1986). Murder By Tale (short stories, 1987). The Scalpel and the Sword (1987). The Dispossessed (1988). Alter Ego (1988). Sorrow to the Grave (1992).
The papers of Elizabeth Linington are housed in the Mugar Memorial Library of Boston University.
Detecting Women (1994). Encyclopedia Mysteriosa (1994). St. James Guide to Crime & Mystery Writers (1996).
Armchair Detective (1982). Writer (March 1967).
—MARGARET J. KING