Phoebe Atwood Taylor was born in Boston on May 18, 1909. Her parents were natives of Cape Cod and descendants of the Mayflower Pilgrims; her father was a physician. Taylor attended Barnard College, was graduated in 1930, and immediately returned to Boston to live and write. She married a Boston surgeon, also named Taylor, and lived in the Boston surburbs of Newton Highlands and Weston. The Taylors also maintained a summer home in Wellfleet, Cape Cod.
Taylor’s literary debut was in 1931, with the publication of The Cape Cod Mystery. It sold more than five thousand copies, a huge number of sales for a first mystery. Over the next twenty years, Taylor was to write and publish roughly thirty detective novels, quite an accomplishment considering her harried schedule. She wrote between twelve midnight and three in the morning, “after housekeeping all day.” She claims to have written all of her novels “beginning three weeks before the deadline for the novel to be delivered to the New York publishers.” Her Leonidas Witherall novels appear to describe the author’s own life, as the detective endures a barrage of telegrams from his publisher and struggles to meet his deadlines.
Although Taylor’s last detective novel was published in 1951, her popularity with readers did not diminish, and many of her books have been reprinted in both hardback and paperback editions. Taylor died of a heart attack in Boston on January 9, 1976.