George, Elizabeth


George, Elizabeth
▪ 2006

      By her own account, American mystery writer Elizabeth George scored a great success in allowing an unprecedented calamity to befall Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley, one of the main characters in the March 2005 release With No One as Witness, the 13th in George's series of best-selling novels about the sleuthing British aristocrat and his working-class assistant, Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers. “It is the job of the novelist to touch the reader, and this book has clearly done that,” George said in an interview following the book's release. She was referring to the magnitude of her audience's response to Lynley's tragedy, a development that some readers, writing in various Internet forums, declared could only mean the end of the detective's career—and the series. Other fans, outraged by what they considered her betrayal of their loyalty, swore off reading any future books by George. Nevertheless, one month after its release, With No One as Witness was in its seventh printing, and it spent six weeks on The New York Times best-sellers list. One bookstore owner suggested that the author's willingness to allow one of her protagonists to be harmed, a rarity in detective fiction, might have attracted new readers seeking greater realism in the genre. Indeed, it was her meticulously researched portrayal of the dreary, often harrowing work of Scotland Yard detectives—in prose as captivating as it was famously accurate—that had initially won George her huge following on both sides of the Atlantic.

      Susan Elizabeth George was born on Feb. 26, 1949, in Warren, Ohio, and was a prolific writer from childhood. She studied at Foothill Community College (now Foothill College) in Los Altos Hills, Calif., and the University of California, Riverside, receiving a B.A. from the latter institution in 1970. She earned an M.S. in counseling/psychology from California State University, Fullerton, in 1979. George taught high-school English for more than 13 years in California before publishing A Great Deliverance (1988). The novel won the 1989 Agatha and Anthony awards for best first novel and the 1990 French Grand Prix de Littérature Policière. Its success enabled George to quit teaching and write full-time. Her third novel, Well-Schooled in Murder (1990), won Germany's MIMI award for international mystery fiction. Beginning in 2002, the British Broadcasting Corporation and WGBH in Boston co-produced a television series based on the Lynley novels. In addition to the Lynley books, George published two short-story collections and Write Away (2004), a guide for aspiring writers. She eventually returned to teaching and led writing seminars at universities in the U.S., Canada, and England.

Janet Moredock

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Universalium. 2010.

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