Document Type


Publication Date



women, special collections, mystery writers


The first Golden Age of Mystery was the 20 year span between the two world wars, from 1919 to 1939. Even after almost a century, its writers still remain familiar names with popular titles. What these Golden Age writers and their stories shared in common were three major themes: they each had a Great Detective in charge, who was a larger-than-life character whose deductive brain solved the murder and/or mystery, a puzzle that would stump the average person. Agatha Christie had her Hercule Poirot, Dashiell Hammett had his Nick and Nora Charles and Sam Spade, and Earle Stanley Gardener had his Perry Mason. In the shadow of the Second World War, returning American soldiers preferred the more realistic hard boiled detectives like Sam Spade over the gentile approach of Miss Marple. The grimness of the Cold War and McCarthyism produced another mystery genre: the spy novel which helped further demise of the cozy murder mystery. Female writers were rarely allowed into the male world of spies and gumshoe detectives. However, during the period from 1945 to 1960 American female mystery writers grew in number, and refocused their stories. They wrote of atypical protagonists and included psychological traumas in non-traditional locales. The female writers of this period termed the Atomic Renaissance recreated the murder mystery genre and set the foundation for the second Golden Age of Mystery that arose in the early 1980s.


"The Atomic Renaissance: the Emergence of American Mystery Writers" was presented during the Binghamton University Libraries' Special Collections Occasional Series Lecture A-Bombs, the Cold War and the Red Scare on October 31, 2016



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.