Patricia McGerr, daughter of Patrick Thomas McGerr and Catherine (née Dore) McGerr, was born December 26, 1917, in Falls City, Nebraska. A practicing Catholic all of her life, McGerr attended Trinity College in Washington, D.C., before receiving a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska in 1936. She then went on to receive a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University in 1937. She returned to Washington for her first job as publicity director for the American Road Builders’ Association, where she worked from 1937 to 1943. In 1943, she took a job in New York City as assistant editor of Construction Methods magazine, where she remained until 1948.
While working for Construction Methods, McGerr published two of her most original and experimental crime novels, Pick Your Victim (1946) and The Seven Deadly Sisters (1947). In 1948, the success of these books enabled McGerr to leave her editorial job in New York and return to Washington as a full-time writer. From 1960 onward, McGerr also served as a lecturer and consultant to the Georgetown University Writers’ Conference.
Never married, McGerr devoted herself to her writing career and to various liberal political and social causes. Her Catholicism found its literary outlet in two biblical novels, Martha, Martha (1960), the story of Lazarus’s domestic sister, and My Brothers, Remember Monica (1964), a novel about the mother of Saint Augustine. McGerr was an active member of the Mystery Writers of America and served several terms on its board of directors. She was treasurer and later president of the Catholic Interracial Council of Washington and treasurer of the Northwest Washington Fair Housing Association. She was also an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic National Committee of Washington, D.C. McGerr’s literary honors include first prize in the Catholic Press Association short-story contest in 1950, the French Grand Prix de Littérature Policière in 1952, and two awards for short stories from Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine (second prize in 1962 for “Justice Has a High Price” and first prize in 1967 for “Match Point in Berlin”). Patricia McGerr died of cancer on May 11, 1985, at the Carriage Hill Nursing Home in Bethesda, Maryland.