Helen White Eustis was born December 31, 1916, in Cincinnati, Ohio, the daughter of Henry Claypoole Eustis. She spent her childhood in Cincinnati, where she received her early education at Hillside School. She later attended Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, from which she was graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1938. While she was at Smith, she won an award for creative writing. Eustis subsequently did graduate work at Columbia University in New York City but did not earn an advanced degree.
When Eustis was at Smith College, she met and was eventually married to a professor in the English Department, Alfred Young Fisher. They had one son, Adam Eustis Fisher. The marriage ended in divorce. Eustis was married a second time, to Martin Harris, a press photographer, but was also eventually divorced from him.
Although she studied literature as an undergraduate and a graduate student, Eustis did not opt for a teaching career. Her interest in literature has been manifested in exercising her own creative talents. She has written novels, a number of short stories, and children’s literature. She has also translated a number of works from French to English, including Georges Simenon’s Quand j’étais vieux (1970; When I Was Old, 1971).
Eustis’s literary reputation is based on her first book, The Horizontal Man, which was awarded the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Allan Poe Award for the best first novel in 1947. This novel attracted much attention and elicited much admiration from critics and aficionados of the genre. Nearly a decade later she wrote a second novel, The Fool Killer (1954), which received less critical acclaim. She seems to have preferred the short-story format, for she has written much short fiction over the years. Not all of her stories are mysteries, but all of them involve psychological suspense. Eustis has lived and worked in New York for many years.