Two years after launching its Uncrowned Queens of Crime list, dedicated to female writers from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, Agora Books has signed six never-before-published manuscripts from classic crime author Henrietta Hamilton.
Agora Books launched the Uncrowned Queens list with Hamilton’s Answer in the Negative after discovering an old copy tucked away in a coastal bookshop.
It was previously thought that Hamilton had only written four novels in her career, but the author’s family recently brought to light thirteen unpublished manuscripts, six of which will be available over the next year for classic crime fans to read for the very first time.
The Man Who Wasn’t There will be the first unpublished manuscript to be released – along with the paperback editions of The Two Hundred Ghost and Death at One Blow – on August 12, 2021. Believed to be penned around 1956, The Man Who Wasn’t There follows amateur sleuths, and besotted married couple, Sally and Johnny Heldar as they try to clear a young woman of suspicion for murdering her unlikable employer. With everything from blackmail to plagiarism, long-lost family to wartime secrets, this cosy mystery has something for all fans of classic crime.
Henrietta Hamilton is the pseudonym for Hester Denne Shepherd who was born in Dundee in 1920 and was educated at St Hugh’s College, Oxford. During the Second World War, Hamilton served in the Wrens. Afterwards, she worked in a London bookshop, gaining first-hand experience of antiquarian bookselling – the background of her crime-solving duo, Johnny and Sally Heldar, who feature in the three titles Agora has published so far: The Two Hundred Ghost (which offers an original foreword from Sophie Hannah), Death at One Blow, and Answer in the Negative.
The remaining five unpublished manuscripts signed by Agora include two from the Sally and Johnny Heldar series and three standalone mysteries.
Publisher Sam Brace says: ‘I am delighted be bringing such a wonderful author’s work back to life. Her descriptions of women in her writing are refreshing while her plots are satisfyingly classic. I am sure these uncovered manuscripts will be a fast favourite within the Golden Age Detective Fiction community.’
Nick and Michael Shepherd, Hamilton’s nephews, say: ‘Our much-loved aunt Denne would have been thrilled to see new life breathed into her four published books, more than 60 years after they were issued. She would have been yet more amazed to be told that a book of hers that had never before been published was now to be issued for the first time. She felt all her manuscripts should be disposed of after her death, but left no clue as to her reasons. Perhaps she had lost confidence in them. But after looking at them, we couldn’t bring ourselves to do it, and we think she would have been proud to see these fine editions from Agora. She would have loved the idea that a publisher walked into a second-hand bookshop in Kent, saw one of her books on a shelf, bought and enjoyed it, and thought others might too. All this has followed. It is wonderful to see them in print, and we are so thankful to Agora for giving them their opportunity to be enjoyed by others.’