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Saturday 8 November 2014

Harriette Cora Ashbrook

Forgotten Author Corner

Harriette Cora Ashbrook
1898-1946 )

  Harriette Cora Ashbrook was an American author  who also wrote under the name Susannah Shane.

Her series detective is Spike Tracy, a playboy who decides to try his hand at amateur sleuthing for a lark.  Tracy first makes his appearance in
 The Murder of Cecily Thane (1930).  Although Tracy has a playboy’s  philosophy of life, having no job, he has a down to earth quality. He is also keenly observant, but unfortunately also a smarty pants. When Tracy notices things the police overlook he relishes pointing out their faults.

Her early books are populated with lively characters and show an obvious love of the genre but derision for its tried formulae which she often spoofs in humorous asides. We get realistic detection with clever plot mechanics, neat insights into forensic police work not often seen in any of the American books of her contemporaries, and a smart alecky likeable playboy detective who is  interesting and funny.

She wrote seven books featuring Spike Tracy between 1931 and 1941. Though she was published by Coward McCann, a leading second tier American fiction publisher, she was never picked up by any of the leading paperback houses for reprints. Which is surprising as the books are entertaining, smart, and never dull. 

Only her last four titles in the Tracy series were reprinted in paperback editions (two by the obscure Green Dragon digest imprint and her last, The Purple Onion Mystery, by Penguin);  But not one book has been reprinted since the 1940s. *See note below

From 1941 until her death in 1946 she wrote six more detective novels under the name Susannah Shane. She
started out writing - women-in-peril suspense thrillers, but as she continued her offbeat sense of humour took over  and she wrote books that bear comparison with Alice Tilton and Craig Rice, Indeed her plots often surpass those of both these two better known writers.
In at least four of these the sleuthing was done by amateur man-about-town named Christopher Saxe. 

The information provided in this article was taken from  an article by John F Norris published on the Golden Age of Detection Wiki in May 2013. For more information visit

*Since this article was penned, all seven of the Spike Tracy novels have been republished by Black Heath Press on 20 September 2019 in Kindle format.

Books by Harriet Ashworth

Philip "Spike" Tracy Detective Novels
The Murder of Cecily Thane (1930)
The Murder of Stephen Kester (1931)
The Murder of Sigurd Sharon (1933)
A Most Immoral Murder (1935)
Murder Makes Murder (1937)
Murder Comes Back (1940)
The Purple Onion Mystery (1941) (AKA Murder on Friday)

As Susannah Shane

(most of these featuring Christopher Saxe)

Lady in Lilac  (1941)
Lady in Danger  (1942)
Lady in a Wedding Dress  (1943)
Lady in a Million  (1943)
The Babe in the Ash Can  (1944)
Diamonds in the Dumplings  (1946)

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