In Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives: Stories from the Trailblazers of Domestic Suspense, critic and fiction writer Sarah Weinman showcases 14 female pioneers of “domestic suspense” she thinks have been unfairly neglected.
What inspired this anthology?
I had started reading what I felt were a number of women who were critically and commercially successful in their day, but just weren’t being talked about any more. They were writing between the early 1940s and the mid-1970s, right around the time when there was this great social upheaval happening in America. How women were expected to behave and what they were thinking about were changing in dramatic ways. One thing that’s fascinating is that in these stories there’s this sort of covert feeling of menace and things that are lurking underneath.
How do you hope readers will react?
What I would love is for people to pick up this anthology and read a story like Dorothy Salisbury Davis’s “Lost Generation” and think, “That story was really cool. I wonder what else she’s written.”
Do you have a favorite author among those you selected?
Dorothy B. Hughes. There’s a robust elegance to her writing that I keep responding to again and again. I’ve read her novel In a Lonely Place about eight or nine times.
You have an M.S. in forensic science from New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice. What happened?
I was pretty serious about pursuing forensic science as a profession. In fact, I pursued an internship at the office of the chief medical examiner here in New York. I was studying more the forensic biology side, but the internship was actually with the investigations unit, which was a very eye-opening experience for me, especially since it was the summer just after 9/11. But when I pursued my thesis research, I realized that I wasn’t cut out for lab work and lab work wasn’t cut out for me.
Did your forensic studies influence the stories you subsequently wrote?
I think just being around a work place that involves the investigation of death can’t help being an unconscious influence. What I found is that by pursuing that graduate work I was actually not quite as interested in writing about it, but I was always interested in the people who were in that world. I think I always gravitated more toward psychological studies and how people behave in a variety of circumstances. Most of the stories that I tell tend to feature women who get caught up in certain situations—end up in some calamity or other. It’s not so much that they’re women-in-peril stories, it’s just that those are stories that I happen to like to write.