Offord, Lenore Glen

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OFFORD, Lenore Glen

Born 24 October 1905, Spokane, Washington; died 24 April 1991

Also wrote under: Theo Durrant

Daughter of Robert and Catherine Grippen Glen; married Harold R. Offord, 1929, children: one daughter

Lenore Glen Offord's father was a newspaperman and her mother a piano teacher. Offord attended Mills College, where she graduated cum laude in 1925 with a degree in English. The next year, she attended the University of California at Berkeley. She experimented with writing short stories, dancing, dramatics, and running a rental library before producing her first novel, Murder on Russian Hill (1938).

This mystery novel was well received by the critics. But before returning to detection, Offord would produce two nonmysteries: Cloth of Silver (1939), a romance with backbone (in which the heroine seeks wifely independence), and Angels Unaware (1940), a comedy of manners.

In 1941, Offord returned to mystery with The Nine Dark Hours. The next year she produced a second mystery featuring the heroine of Murder on Russian Hill, Coco Hastings. This novel, Clues to Burn, is both a detective novel and a spoof of the formula.

Skeleton Key (1943) introduced Georgine Wyeth and her soon-to-be-husband, Todd McKinnon, a crime "faction" writer, as amateur sleuths. All of Offord's remaining mysteries, with the exception of My True Love Lies (1947), feature the McKinnons. Offord's last published mystery novel, Walking Shadow (1959), involves McKinnon's investigation of a murder/impersonation plot at the Ashland (Oregon) Shakespeare Festival. This unusual locale was inspired by the participation of Offord's daughter, Judith, in the festival. Enchanted August (1956), her only novel for young adults, also focuses on the Ashland Festival.

Offord's mystery fiction is noted for its humor and characterization. Her light touch and humanity, plus a keen sense for domestic terror, have caused her to be labeled "a respectable member of the re-treaded Had-I-But-Known School." Critics at once recognized the essential female character of her mysteries, and yet were self-conscious in their praise. It is as though they found it somehow surprising that a "feminine" mystery writer should show such skill and good sense. Offord's mystery novels are both skillful and female in their use of women as focal characters, their compassionate (often reluctant) sleuths, and their effective use of suspense within a realistically drawn domestic setting.

Over the years, Offord has written several accounts of actual crimes. In 1957, she collaborated with Joseph Henry Jackson in producing The Girl in the Belfry, about a 19th-century murder.

Besides mystery fiction and true crime writing, Offord served the mystery genre as one of its most respected critics. From 1950 to 1982 Offord was the mystery critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, and is largely responsible for this paper receiving the Mystery Writers of America Edgar award for best criticism in 1951. She was also active in the Mystery Writers of America. Offord was given "titular investiture" into the Baker Street Irregulars (the American Sherlock Holmes society) as "The Old Russian Woman." She was the first woman so honored.

In recent years, Offord continued her critical career and produced some mystery-oriented light verse, including the often-reprinted "Memoirs of a Mystery Critic." Although she didn't produce another novel after 1959, she remained one of America's most charming and distinguished mysterywomen.

Other Works:

The Glass Mask (1944). The Smiling Tiger (1949). The Marble Forest (by T. Durrant, collectively written, 1951; film version, Macabre, 1958).


Reference works:

Catholic Authors (1948). Encyclopedia Mysteriosa (1995).