Vera Caspary Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Vera Caspary’s tales of life in large American cities and their suburbs are among the most evocative in the annals of mystery writing. Many of her works, however, have suffered the fate of less powerfully written works by lesser writers because they are out of print and hard to find even on library shelves. Without overtly judging the mores of her twentieth century America, Caspary nevertheless depicts a society of aloof, self-absorbed, and predatory loners and their unrealistic, selfless victims. Dreamers and romantics have little chance of seeing their dreams come true, and too many times they open themselves up to friendship or love, only to be hurt or killed by those whom they trusted.

Caspary’s characters each have individual voices and distinct, original, and often unforgettable personalities. The majority of her characters are developed as three-dimensional rather than as the often disposable, one-dimensional characters of much mystery fiction. Neither her main characters nor her richly constructed settings are easily passed over en route to the conclusion of her stories, for she spends time and effort making certain that they are as real as possible. Caspary writes not only to entertain but also to say something important about the kind of people and places she knows best.

Vera Caspary Bibliography

(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Bakerman, Jane S. “Vera Caspary’s Fascinating Females: Laura, Evvie, and Bedelia.” Clues: A Journal of Detection 1, no. 1 (Spring, 1980): 46-52. This comparison of Caspary’s most famous and striking female characters reveals the mechanics of the author’s representation of gender.

Carlin, Lianne. Review of Laura, by Vera Caspary. The Mystery Lovers/Readers Newsletter 3, no. 3 (February, 1970): 31. A review geared toward avid fans of the genre.

Caspary, Vera. The Secrets of Grown-Ups. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1979. The author’s autobiography; essential reading for those who seek her own opinions on her life and work.

Giffuni, Cathe. “A Bibliography of Vera Caspary.” Clues 16, no. 2 (Fall/Winter, 1995): 67-74. Useful checklist of Caspary’s works.

Huang, Jim, ed. They Died in Vain: Overlooked, Underappreciated, and Forgotten Mystery Novels. Carmel, Ind.: Crum Creek Press, 2002. Caspary’s Laura is a surprising entry in this book about underappreciated works of detective fiction.

Klein, Kathleen Gregory, ed. Great Women Mystery Writers: Classic to Contemporary. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994. Contains an essay on the life and work of Caspary.

McNamara, Eugene. “Laura” as Novel, Film, and Myth. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1992. Compares the novel and the film as texts, as well as discussing popular perceptions of each.

Malmgren, Carl D. Anatomy of Murder: Mystery, Detective, and Crime Fiction. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 2001. Includes discussion of Laura. Bibliographic references and index.

Penzler, Otto, ed. The Great Detectives. Boston: Little, Brown, 1978. Argues for including Caspary’s Detective Mark McPherson among the mystery genre’s “great detectives.”