Browne Popular Culture Library

PCL MS-19: Patricia McGerr Collection


Patricia McGerr was a fiction writer of mystery novels and short stories.  Between the years 1946 and 1975 she wrote 17 novels and over 50 short stories. The Patricia McGerr Collection is comprised of 1/2 linear feet and includes items produced by or used by McGerr during her research and writing process.  Some of these items include: research notes, manuscript drafts, newspaper articles, and correspondence.  McGerr’s research notes and literary manuscript for her novel Murder is Absurd forms the core of this collection.

 In 1969 McGerr transferred her manuscripts to the Browne Popular Culture Library.  The collection spans the years 1962-1965.  This register was compiled by Nancy White Lee, Popular Culture Library Associate II, in May 1986, updated July 1992 and reconditioned by Annie Rose Land, Popular Culture Library Associate I, in June 2013.

Biographical Sketch

Patricia McGerr was born December 26, 1917, in Fall City, Nebraska. In 1936 she received her B.A. from the University of Nebraska and in 1937 she received her M.S. from Columbia University. In 1948 McGerr became a self-employed writer. She started working as a lecturer and consultant for the Georgetown University Writers Conference in 1960. She died May 11, 1985 in Bethesda, Maryland.

McGerr's inverted whodunit writing style differs from other mystery writers of the time. Many of her novels would start by identifying the murderer at the beginning and seek out the identity of the victim throughout the novel. McGerr was a member of the Mystery Writers of America; she served as a member of the board of directors for several terms. She was also a member of the Catholic Interracial Council of Washington and the Northwest Washington Fair Housing Association. She obtained many awards, among them are: first prize, Catholic Press Association short story contest, 1950; Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere, France, 1952; and Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, short story contest, second prize, 1962, and first prize, 1967.

 Patricia McGerr's book, Follow, As the Night, was filmed in 1954 under the title One Step to Eternity. The Missing Years was dramatized on radio and television. Fatal in My Fashion was televised. Catch Me If You Can was presented on the radio. A film based on her short story "Johnny Lingo" has won two national awards and has been dubbed in fourteen languages. All of her books have been published in England, and some of them are published in as many as twelve foreign countries. In her 13th novel, Stranger with My Face, she was able to reclaim her full name Patricia, over the more masculine name Pat, as up until that point her publisher feared readers would be put off by a female mystery writer.

Scope and Content

The Patricia McGerr Collection houses the literary manuscripts for the book Murder is Absurd.  Included are related materials such as research correspondence, research notes, galley sheets, proof pages, and newspaper clippings used for research.  A large quantity of the material has been handwritten on the backs of old manuscript pages, letters, and envelopes.

Researchers interested in the mystery genre and progression of a novel will find this collection of research value.

Series Description

Research Correspondence
Arranged chronologically
This series includes correspondence between Patricia McGerr and Henry J. Dubester of the Library of Congress
Literary Productions
Research Notes
1963, 1965
Arranged chronologically
This series includes handwritten notes made during rehearsals and the opening night performance of Romulus, as well as the program for the show; handwritten notes of absurd literature readings; and handwritten preliminary notes of plot ideas, snatches of dialogue, and chronologies
Manuscripts (Literary)
Arranged chronologically
This series includes an original handwritten manuscript, final typed manuscript, page proof sheets, and final galley proof sheets
Printed Materials
Research Materials
1965, n.d.
Arranged chronologically
This series includes newspaper clippings, mostly from The Washington Post, about absurd theatre

Box/Folder Inventory

 Box 1
1Research notes from Library of Congress Theatre ProductionsApril 1 – 2 1962, n.d.
2Research notes from Olney Theatre, RomulusJune 18 – July 17, 1963, n.d.
3Correspondence with Henry J. Dubester, Library of CongressJune 25 – 26, 1963
Murder is Absurd
4Preliminary notes(June 3, 1965)
5Hand written, first draft, Ch. 1-5(June 3, 1965)
6Hand written, first draft, Ch. 6-9(June 3, 1965)
7Hand written, first draft, Ch. 10-12(June 3, 1965)
8Hand written, first draft, Ch. 13-14 (end)(June 3, 1965)
9Typed, final draft, ch. 1-4, pages 1-50(January 27, 1966)
10Typed, final draft, ch. 4-7, pages 51-101(January 27, 1966)
11Typed, final draft, ch. 8-10, pages 102-149(January 27, 1966)
12Typed, final draft, ch. 11-13, pages 150-200(January 27, 1966)
13Typed, final draft, ch. 13-14, pages 201-214 (end)(January 27, 1966)
14Galley proofsMay 23 – July 29, 1966
15Page proofsn.d.
16Photocopies of newspaper articles on Absurd Theatre1963, April 24– August 12, 1965

Back to A-Z Listing of Manuscript Collections