Criticism & Features

NBCC Reads

Sara Paretsky on Dorothy Salisbury Davis

By Eric Banks

This fall the NBCC queried our membership as well as former winners and finalists to ask them which works of fiction or nonfiction they would most like to see republished (click here to view the results). Here's what Sara Paretsky, a 2007 finalist in autobiography for her Writing in an Age of Silence had to say about Dorothy Salisbury Davis.

I'd love to see Dorothy Salisbury Davis’s oeuvre brought back into print. She is a thriller writer whose work was well known in the fifties, sixties, and seventies, but these days no one seems to know her name. She is one of the most deeply insightful thinkers into the human condition I've ever known. An awareness of how easy it is for ordinary people to do nasty or wicked deeds is the hallmark of her writing. She lived among bootleggers, immigrants, sharecroppers, and itinerant workers in her early years, and there's a richness to her understanding of the human condition that is missing from most contemporary crime fiction. If I had to pick one or two books, I'd choose A Town of Masks and Enemy and Brother. I also love Davis's short stories. “Christopher and Maggie,” in the 2001 collection In the Still of the Night, is a beautiful little conte à clef from Davis's Depression-era job as an advance woman for a very inept magician.