Steven King, John Steinbeck and Charles Dickens all have a familial tradition of putting pen to paper and I must admit to holding a certain fascination with established lines of authors. Doing what they know - what they were brought up around - (I would think) gives them a bit of an advantage. For an author name recognition and connections cannot hurt when sending manuscripts to publishers and magazines. But sometimes I wonder if there might not be a bit of comparison at work amongst family members… The sneaking suspicion that, if Uncle so-and-so who didn’t know the difference between a lemon and a lime - and he could write great books why can’t I? They may get their foot in the door based on their name - but their imagination, hard work and ability is what keeps them in the game, so to speak.
Now I have no idea if Elizabeth Daly’s uncle knew the difference between his citrus fruits, but I do know he was highly influential theater figure in the mid to late 1800’s. John Augustin Daly was a playwright, theater manager, adapter and critic in both New York and London stages. Who caused George Bernard Shaw no end of consternation for his habitual unorthodox treatment of Shakespearian plays and his cutting the Bard’s text to suit his staging (Shaw believed that there wasn’t ever a good reason to alter Shakespeare’s works).
What remained relatively obscure until after John’s death in 1899 was how involved his brother, Joseph Francis Daly, was in his playwriting. Evidentially a significant amount of collaboration took place between the two brothers. Beyond his playwriting, Joseph also penned John’s biography (published posthumously) as well as many legal papers. Why? He was a Supreme Court Judge for New York County until his reelection defeat in 1898. Joseph had a whole slew of other credits to his name, but these are the salient details for today.
Most significantly or more precisely pertinent to this post is the fact that Joseph Francis Daly was Elizabeth Daly’s father (and father to her two brothers). As a teenager Elizabeth wrote and published some poetry but held a lifelong fascination with detective fiction. Elizabeth went on to graduate in 1901 from Bryn Mawr College and got her masters in English from Columbia University in 1902. She taught for several years at Bryn Mawr College until she moved on to producing plays for amateur theater companies. In the 1930’s she started writing again only this time focusing on detective fiction but failed to find a publisher…. Until 1940 when she created her famous refined but rumpled detective Henry Gamadge - Elizabeth was sixty-two years old (gives us all hope that we can achieve our dreams, not matter how long it takes!). She went onto write sixteen Gamadge mysteries and one stand alone over the next ten years. While her output wasn’t as prodigious as some of her golden age contemporaries, her contribution to the mystery genera as a whole was rewarded (beyond just publication, which I think is a huge in and of itself) in 1960 when she received an Edgar award for her body of work.
Continuing this fine literary tradition was Elizabeth’s niece, Eleanor Daly Boylan. Who wrote stories for Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock magazines and continued the Gamadge series. Only changing the mysteries up a bit from her aunt’s - by featuring Clara instead of Henry as her sleuth (Henry’s wife). Eleanor also participated in her family’s tradition of haunting the boards, focusing on children’s theater and unique puppet shows (incidentally she also wrote at least one book on puppetry) until her death in 2007.
Three generations of writers all making their mark in their respective genres in two different centuries. While Elizabeth Daly never married or had any children, her two brothers (Wilfred & Hamilton) on the other hand had five kids between them. And one of the five - Eleanor Boylan (the author) - who (when she passed away in 2007) had five children of her own, eleven grand children and one great-grand child. Now I wonder if any of them will take up the family tradition and make it four generations of writers spanning three centuries? Wouldn’t that be something!
Detective: Henry Gamadge 1st Book:Unexpected Night (1940) Last:The Book Of Crime (1951) No. of Books in Series: 16
Stand Alone:The Street Has Changed (1941)
Pastiches by Eleanor Daly Boylan: Detective: Clara Gamadge 1st Book:Working Murder (1989) Last:Murder Crossed (1996) No. of books in Series: 5