Charlotte Armstrong

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Charlotte Armstrong Lewi (May 2, 1905, in Vulcan, Michigan – July 7, 1969, in Glendale, California) was an American author. Under the names Charlotte Armstrong and Jo Valentine she wrote 29 novels, as well as short stories, plays, and screenplays.[1] She also worked for The New York Times' advertising department, as a fashion reporter for Breath of the Avenue (a buyer's guide), and in an accounting firm.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Armstrong Lewi graduated from Vulcan High School in Vulcan, Michigan, in June 1921. She attended the junior college program at Ferry Hall in Lake Forest, Illinois for one year (1921–22), during which time she served as Editor-in-Chief of the student publication, Ferry Tales. She attended the University of Wisconsin and received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Barnard College in 1925.[2] She had a daughter and two sons with her husband, Jack Lewi.

Style and Themes[edit]

In 1939, Charlotte Armstrong began her career as a writer publishing the script for the play The Happiest Days and two years later for the play Ring Around Elizabeth. Another two years later, Armstrong progressed into the next stage in her writing career publishing novels in mystery fiction with The Case of the Weird Sisters (1943) and The Innocent Flower (1945). Mystery fiction is a genre of fiction that usually centers around solving crimes or mysteries. Recognized as pioneer of domestic suspense, Armstrong frequently induced suspense in her stories to keep the reader on their toes in the protagonist’s journey to solve the mystery.[2] Later adapted into the film, Talk About a Stranger, Charlotte Armstrong’s 1951 novel, The Enemy, is just one example of Armstrong’s mystery novels that employ suspense domestically as a device to enhance the mystery fiction genre.

Many of Armstrong’s novels such as The Enemy also embedded hidden political allegories.[3] In these mystery stories, developed characters grouped into mobs to try to solve the mysteries. Mobs tend to jump to the first proposed conclusion on who is guilty, and in the process ignore any other contradictions no matter how relevant or logical. Around the same time as Armstrong published these novels, fear of Communist influence in American institutions and the infiltration of Soviet spies started the era known as the McCarthy era. During this time, hundreds of American were accused of being communist or working with communists despite questionable and usually exaggerated evidence leading to destroyed careers and unemployment. In The Enemy, mob rule is prevalent as people grouped together make up their mind on where the guilt lies ignoring all contrary evidence, paralleling McCarthyism as it dominated politics at the time.


In 1957, she received an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for her novel A Dram of Poison.[1] She wrote two other Edgar-nominated novels: The Gift Shop (1966) and Lemon in the Basket (1967). Three of her short stories, all published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, were nominated for Edgars: "And Already Lost" (1957), "The Case for Miss Peacock" (1965), and "The Splintered Monday" (1966).[3]


  • The Happiest Days, 1939 (play)[4]
  • Ring Around Elizabeth, 1941 (play)
  • Lay On, Mac Duff! 1942[4]
  • The Case of the Weird Sisters, 1943
  • The Innocent Flower, 1945 (also known as Death Filled the Glass)
  • The Unsuspected, 1945/6, Coward-McCann
  • The Chocolate Cobweb, 1948
  • Mischief, 1951
  • The Black-Eyed Stranger, 1952
  • Catch-as-Catch-Can, 1953 (also known as Walk Out on Death)
  • The Trouble in Thor, 1953 (as Jo Valentine; also known as And Sometimes Death)
  • The Better to Eat You, 1954 (also known as Murder's Nest)
  • The Dream Walker, 1955 (also known as Alibi for Murder)
  • A Dram of Poison, 1956
  • The Albatross, 1957 (short story collection)
  • Incident at a Corner, 1957
  • The Seventeen Widows of San Souci, 1959
  • The Girl with a Secret, 1959
  • Something Blue, 1959
  • Then Came Two Women, 1962
  • The One-Faced Girl, 1963
  • The Mark of the Hand, 1963
  • The Witch's House, 1963
  • Who's Been Sitting in My Chair?, 1963
  • A Little Less Than Kind, 1964
  • The Turret Room, 1965
  • Dream of Fair Woman, 1966
  • I See You, 1966 (short story collection)
  • The Gift Shop, 1966
  • Lemon in the Basket, 1967
  • The Balloon Man, 1968
  • Seven Seats to the Moon, 1969
  • The Protege, 1970
  • Night Call and Other Stories of Suspense, ed. Rick Cypert and Kirby McCauley, Crippen & Landru Publishers, 2014


  • "Incident at a Corner", episode of Startime, dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1959
  • "The Summer Hero," episode of The Chevy Mystery Show, 1960
  • Three episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents: "Sybilla" (dir. Ida Lupino); "The Five-Forty-Eight" (adapted from the John Cheever short story); and "Across the Threshold", 1960
  • The Mark of the Hand was adapted for an episode of the Thriller television series.[4]


The following films were adapted from Armstrong's novels and stories.


  1. ^ a b Wright, Erica (October 12, 2018). "The Book You Have Read: "A Dram of Poison," by Charlotte Armstrong". The Rap Sheet. The Rap Sheet. Retrieved October 13, 2018.
  2. ^ Unger, Lisa. "Mischief by Charlotte Armstrong | Women Crime Writers of the 1940s and 50s". Retrieved February 14, 2019.
  3. ^ "Armstrong, Charlotte". Retrieved February 14, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c Khan, Irman (January 29, 2015). "Perilous Discoveries: The Feminist Murder-Mysteries of Charlotte Armstrong". PopMatters. Retrieved October 13, 2018.


  1. ^ Detective Fiction
  2. ^ Swartley, Ariel (April 30, 1999) "Guns and Roses: The Women of Noir". LAWeekly.
  3. ^ Mystery Writers of America Edgar Awards Database
  4. ^ Fantastic Fiction
  5. ^ "The Mark of the Hand" at IMDB

Further reading[edit]

Burke, Jan (Summer 2007). "The Last Word: The Mean Streets of the Suburbs, the Kindness of Strangers—A Tribute to Charlotte Armstrong". Clues: A Journal of Detection. 25.4. pp. 65–69. Archived from the original on June 29, 2013.

Cypert, Rick (2008). The Virtue of Suspense: The Life and Works of Charlotte Armstrong. Selinsgrove: Susquehanna University Press. ISBN 978-1-57591-122-9.

External links[edit]