Monday, January 15, 2018

Guess Who's Coming to Murder? Death Shall Overcome (1966), by Emma Lathen

"WALL STREET RACISTS ON KILLING SPREE," screamed one headline.
"POISON AND BULLETS TO KEEP BIZ WHITE," said another.


"Ran into Glover this morning.  He tells me that Owen Abercrombie has gone crazy."
"How could he tell?" asked Thatcher with genuine interest.
"Says he's talking about a Wall Street Defense Council," said Robichaux.  "With rifles.  You remember they had to take his uncle Basil off the floor in a straitjacket in '29."
"I didn't," said Thatcher, considerably entertained.
"Bad blood," Robichaux said.

"Well I ask you," Robichaux replied reasonably.  "Would you want the Sloan mixed up with someone who wants to send Negroes back to Africa, abolish social security and drop the hydrogen bomb on Cuba?"

.... as he looked at Owen Abercrombie's ponderous, underslung jaw and glittering feral eyes, he was tempted  to think that he had receded though several major geological eras and was surrounded by Neanderthals.

"They're all against us.  They'll try to muzzle us, try to smear us.  Are we going to let them get away with it?
"NO!"
"You're the only ones left to defend America.  Are you going to let the pinkos take over?"
"NO!"

a broker exits

I'm always struck when I see people declare that a given eighty or fifty or even thirty year old detective novel is "dated," because it seems to me that the old adage, "the more things change, the more they stay the same," has something of the ring of truth to it--as does another, "those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.

Looking around today, I don't feel that Emma Lathen's fifth detective novel, Death Shall Overcome, is so all-round dated, despite the old-fashioned terminology ("negro" for black) and the fact that women play no role in the business world except as wives and secretaries. Where race is concerned, we still seem to be grappling with a lot of similar issues today.  A novel wherein one of the main characters is an old racist New York businessman of questionable mental stability who gives encouraging winks and nods to racial hate groups?  Not so dated, I think!

1966 was another troubled year for the United States and much of the rest of the world but an undeniably great year for crime writer Emma Lathen (the economist Mary Jane Latsis and attorney Martha Henissart).  With a fecundity which we associate with great Golden Age mystery producers like Agatha Christie and John Dickson Carr, Lathen that year published two detective novels about her appealing amateur sleuth, banker John Putnam Thatcher (Senior Vice President of the Sloan Guaranty Trust): Murder Makes the Wheels Go Round and Death Shall Overcome.  The pair of detective novels received boffo reviews at the time in both the United States and United Kingdom, sold like hotcakes over the years in paperback and today remain highly regarded by fans of classic crime fiction (even if the recent Thatcher eBook editions are disappointingly shoddy).

to me Lathen's cover sleuth John Putnam Thatcher
here looks like a cross between Dick Cavett and
Tom Wolfe--the latter, incidentally, an author,
it seems to me, to whom she might be compared,
just as she had been by some admirers to Jane Austen
Emma Lathen, who published her first Thatcher detective novel in 1961, would go on to produce pairs of Thatcher mysteries in additional years--1968, 1969 and 1971--as well as Thatcher singletons every other year between 1967 and 1972, for  a total of 14 Thatcher novels in the dozen years that spanned 1961 and 1972--one of the most remarkable achievements by any mystery writer, I believe, in the Silver Age of detective fiction. 

Lathen later managed two more sequences of Thatcher novels, five between 1974 and 1982 (including Double, Double, Oil and Troublereviewed here) and a final five between 1988 and 1997, the year of Mary Jane Latsis's death.  Then there were seven mysteries the pair wrote as RB Dominic, one pseudonym--as in the case of Carr and his incredibly prolific detective novelist friend John Street--not being enough to contain the pair's creative energies; these appeared in two spurts, 3 from 1968 to 1971 and 4 from 1978 to 1983.

Going back 52 years to 1966, when the Passing Tramp was but a Pramming Toddler and a mystery reader yet to be, Lathen's two detective novels from that year illustrate her three great strengths: puzzle plotting, business detail and social satire. 

Murder Makes the Wheels Go Round
is stronger on the puzzle side of the ledger, but Death Shall Overcome should be of great interest to readers today for its wry social detail.  Moreover, the puzzle is no slouch, though, like Dorothy L. Sayers's Gaudy Night, it tends to get overshadowed by the author's social interest.

As suggested by the title of Death Shall Overcome, which alludes to the social activist anthem "We Shall Overcome", in this novel Emma Lathen drew inspiration from the long struggle of black Americans for civil rights, which reached a climax, of sorts, in the Sixties.  On August 6, 1965, American president Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act; a week later the Watts riots erupted in a section of Los Angeles over allegations of police brutality.   In January of the next year local NAACP chapter president Vernon Dahmer was killed by a bomb in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and the Black Panther Party was founded in October, the same month Death Shall Overcome was published.  Martin Luther King, Jr. himself had only about a year-and-a-half left to live, before he was cut down by a white assassin at a hotel in Memphis, Tennessee.

A lot of writers, especially those of the more traditional sort of crime fiction, might well have left this touchy topic untouched, given all the controversy and all too real trauma and pain surrounding it, yet during her career Emma Lathen never shied from taking on topical events, right up to her last novel, published in 1997, which dealt with collapse of Communism in the former states of the Eastern Bloc.

In Death Shall Overcome, Wall Street has ructions aplenty when the octogenarian Nat Schuyler, the puckishly subversive eminence of ultra-prestigious brokerage firm Schuyler & Schuyler, announces that the firm plans to take  on as a new partner (fatefully with a seat on the New York Stock Exchange) distinguished multi-millionaire banker Edward Parry, who just happens to be a "negro," to use the terminology of the novel. 

Utterly appalled by this development are hidebound white racists Owen Abercrombie ("Wall Street's most vocal ultraconservative") and Dean Caldwell, young senior analyst of Schuyler & Schuyler ("He's from Alabama"), despite the fact that Edward Parry is "a replica of a Wall Street financier with a dark skin" who "in a happier era," Lathen drolly observes, "might have been a Republican."  Parry seems a true paragon of virtue, something like Sidney Poitier in the 1967 Katharine Hepburn-Spencer Tracy film Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?--though refreshingly to my taste the Lathen novel is vastly more acerbic than that well-meant but rather saccharine and didactic star-turning film.

At an elite social get-together, however, it is not Edward Parry who drops dead but rather another partner in S&S, Arthur Foote, who is shockingly done in by means of nicotine dropped into his Bloody Mary highball glass.  But was the true target actually Edward Parry?  This theory seems to get confirmation when someone takes an errant rifle shot at Parry, outside his home in a wealthy--and lily white--suburban neighborhood.  Of Parry's admittance into this august community comments Lathen sardonically, "they were perfectly prepared to embrace any one-home builder, provided only that he was a multimillionaire."

Actual detection gets sidelined for a long time as Lathen amusingly deals with the consequences of wealthy white resistance to Parry's elevation to the Stock Exchange. 

Black novelist Richard Simpson, who opportunistically  has formed the group CASH (Colored Association of Share Holders) indiscriminately threatens the elite of New York with a "March on Wall Street"--this an allusion to the 1965 Selma to Montgomery Marches, which had helped secure passage of the Voting Rights Act. (I was also reminded of, from more recent years, Occupy Wall Street.)

I think there's no doubt the women who wrote as Emma Lathen were fairly liberal on many issues and in Death Shall Overcome they rebuke white racists roundly; yet it seems to me that they also treat Richard Simpson as something of a posturing phony, more concerned with gratifying his own ego than meaningfully expanding civil liberty.  Is he based on the distinguished black author James Baldwin?  Here's the character's introduction to the reader:

Mr. Simpson, noted for his simpleminded and successful novels about an expatriate in Paris and his beautiful relationship with a sylphlike busboy, had the resonant voice of an actor, and a firm grasp on the microphone thrust before him.


Be that as it may, this novel managed to unite in a chorus of praise both the conservative critic Jacques Barzun and the liberal critic Anthony Boucher, both of whom were lovers of mystery fiction, though they frequently were at odds not only politically but aesthetically.  Barzun, a putative puzzle purist, was so impressed with Lathen's treatment of "the civil rights movement, with its attendant sing-ins and sit-ins," that he forgave her "playing down of mystery and detection in favor of social comment and superb characterization"; while in a contemporary notice Boucher proclaimed Lathen's latest her best work yet and a "wonderfully rational and pointed novel."

Traditionalists never fear, though: there is a good puzzle here, with impeccable clueing, if only sporadic investigation.  If you're a fan of classic crime fiction, Emma Lathen should overcome your entertainment doldrums.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Nixed in Norway: Death in a Cold Climate (1980), by Robert Barnard

not the land of the midnight sun
As we enjoy, if that's the right word, our first snowfall of the season in my particular neck of the woods and I eat some Icelandic yogurt with cloudberries, I see that the inoffensive country of Norway has popped up in American political news.  And what did Norway do to deserve this unsought distinction?

It was divulged the other day that the United States president (for lack, unfortunately, of another word) recently opined to a group of American congresspeople that the US needed more immigrants from Norway and fewer (apparently none would be his preference) from "shithole"--his word!--countries like Haiti and those comprising the continent of Africa.

Back in the 19th century, when the president's paternal grandfather--a man who was, like many of my ancestors, of German origin and who apparently went originally by the name of Drumpf--came to the United States, the US did get a lot of immigrants from Norway. 

Norwegian immigration to the US peaked in 1882, according to the Seattle Times, when nearly 30,000 Norwegian settlers came to American shores. Conversely in 2016--the year, incidentally, that the current American president was elected--only 1114 Norwegians immigrated to the US, about 500 fewer than the number of Americans who left the US that year to settle in Norway.

Contrary to what crime fiction tells us
Scandinavia does not lead the world in
serial killers--reason for happiness!
World Atlas lists the clear leader in this
bloody arena as the United States,
followed by England, South Africa,
Canada, Italy, Japan, Germany
Australia, Russia and India.
"Oil-rich Norway," according to the Seattle Times article, "ranks fourth in the world for GDP per person....boasts a universal health-care system, low unemployment, and $1 trillion 'rainy day' fund fueled by its offshore oil and gas resources that helps pay for generous pensions and other welfare programs."

"Last year, Norway soared to the top spot of the World Happiness Report.  The US was 14th in the latest ranking, down from No. 13 in 2016, and over the years Americans steadily have been rating themselves less happy."

If any Americans (or anyone else in the world, for that matter), feeling a tad glum about the state of their country lately, want to escape to Norway, but can't afford the trip, there's always, as there ever is, escape fiction.  And for readers of this blog, I presume, escape fiction means a nice murder tale. 

Yet today, in regard to Scandinavia, murder means so-called Nordic Noir, like the stuff written by world bestseller Jo Nesbo, whose latest opus, The Thirst, is a jolly little number described in the New York Times, where it has been listed as one of the best crime novels of 2017, as being about "a serial killer who stalks his victims on Tinder, rips out their throats with dentures made of metal spikes and drinks their blood."

To which I say, to quote Lucy from Peanuts: blech!  If I wanted that sort of thing I'd just read Edgar Wallace, who offers criminal thrills without all the disgusting gore.

cold indeed yet much cozier than
Jo Nesbo's crime thriller
But if you want a nice, classic deductive mystery set in Norway, how about Death in a Cold Climate (1980)?  It's a nearly four-decade-old crime novel by one of the great figures of the Silver Age of detective fiction, the late, and by me much lamented, British crime writer Robert Barnard (1936-2013).

I assume the title is an allusion by Barnard--who, at the time the the novel was written, taught literature in Norway at the University of Tromso, which had opened a few years earlier in 1972--to Nancy Mitford's popular novel Love in a Cold Climate (1949). 

Happily the title was allowed to stand by Barnard's capricious American publishers, who in the early years of his mystery writing career apparently often deemed Barnard's titles too subtle for American taste.

Thus Posthumous Papers became Death of a Literary Widow, Unruly Son Death of a Mystery Writer, Mother's Boys Death of a Perfect Mother, Little Victims School for Murder.  But then "Death," after all, is in the title of Death in a Cold Climate.  There's no question with this title that what we have a murder mystery here!

Aside from any allusion to Mitford's novel, Barnard's title for the novel is well-chosen as the story is structured around the chilled climate of Tromso, a Norwegian city located north of the Arctic Circle.  Back when Barnard lived there the population of Tromso was around 45,000 but the city since has increased to about 75,000, around a fifth of whom are college students.  But even 45,000 people is an ample enough number to provide suspects for a murder, as novelist Arnaldur Indrioason, who has made a lucrative career out of a critically-acclaimed detective series set in Iceland (pop. currently about 332,000), could tell you.

Barnard's narrative begins a few days before Christmas, during the polar night (when the sun is below the horizon), and ends the next year near the summer, when the midnight sun emerges and some thaw has commenced.  (Average high's in Tromso in December and May are, respectively, 31 and 47 degrees Fahrenheit.)

polar night in Tromso
the Arctic Cathedral, mentioned several times in Barnard's novel, is seen at lower left
By Osopolar - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5545764

Not surprisingly Barnard's novel tends to focus on Tromso's Anglo-American foreign-born community: people, like he was, connected to the college, or to the developing petroleum industry, made much of by the Seattle Times in its discussion of the sources of Norwegian contentment. Yet there are significant Norwegian-born characters too.

The murder victim in the novel is an English "boy" named Martin Forsyth--a young man in his twenties, fair-haired, "but with a rich, golden fairness that was not Norwegian."  Inspector Fagermo, the methodical but not hugely memorable Norwegian policeman investigating Martin's murder, makes a side trip to England to interview the boy's parents, but outside of that errand the story takes place entirely in Norway.

The novel devotes the first chapter to the last hours in the life of the shortly to be murdered English boy.  It is made clear that on the day of Martin's death he is on his way to some sort of assignation--but who is he meeting, and what does the meeting concern?  These are the questions that concern the Norwegian police after Martin's body in unearthed from the deep snow a few months later by a joyfully inquisitive dog being taken out on a walk by his master.  (Ruth Rendell has a scene like this in one her her later Wexford books, Not in the Flesh, when a truffle-hunting dog digs up not a truffle but an odoriferous human corpse.)

one of Tromso's attractive older wooden homes plays a role in Death in a Cold Climate
http://mondomulia.com/2014/03/06/tromso-norway-part-2/

Climate seems to me one of Barnard's more sober novels, which may be a plus or minus depending on your temperament.  I missed some of the wicked humor that is abundant in Barnard's English village tales.  However, Barnard does get in some amusing shots (as well as some coarse physical insults) at a truly horrid Norwegian literature professor who enjoys belittling the students he teaches in order to build up his own sense of self-esteem.

As I have discussed before
--see my review of Barnard's first crime novel, Death of an Old Goat (1974)--Barnard seems really to have loathed academia and must have been very happy indeed when his success with mystery writing allowed him to leave the profession for good before he turned fifty.

Death in a Cold Climate may not be as amusing as Death of an Old Goat, but Norway comes off much better at Barnard's hands than Australia, the setting of Goat and the country where Barnard, a native Englishman, had taught before going to Tromso.  Outside of the food, Barnard doesn't seem to have taken a dislike to things Norwegian, as he seemingly did to all things Australian.  The result is a far more sober--and far less fun (at least if you're not a sensitive Australian)--novel than Death of an Old Goat.

As a mystery Death in a Cold Climate boasts one excellent piece of misdirection, the sort of thing that brings to my mind the adjective Christiesque.  Among his generation of British mystery writers, Robert Barnard may have been the most openly admiring of Agatha Christie (certainly more so than was Ruth Rendell), and it shows in occasional flashes of brilliant technique, of which Climate offers one of the earlier instances.  So try out the book, you should enjoy the trip.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Murder's Little Helper: Hours to Kill (1962), by Ursula Curtiss

"Kids are different today," I hear every mother say
Mother needs something today to calm her down.
And though she's not really ill, there's a little yellow pill.
She goes running for the shelter of a mother's little helper
And it helps her on her way, gets her through her busy day.

"Things are different today," I hear every mother say
Cooking fresh food for her husband's just a drag.
So she buys an instant cake and she burns her frozen steak.
And she goes running for the shelter of a mother's little helper
And two help her on her way, get her through her busy day.

"Doctor, please, some more of these."
Outside the door, she took four more.


                                        --from "Mother's Little Helper," by the Rolling Stones

it helps get her on her on way--to where?!
But she went on wondering, while she put potatoes in to bake, took frozen vegetables out of the refrigerator, swept up some cereal Hilary had poked under the radiator....

Hilary was, loosely speaking, another human being, a voice and a full set of complaints to keep her occupied.  "Would you like some apple-sauce--that goes down easily--and milk? and I'll bring my coffee in, shall I?"

She felt caught in a dangerous spiral from which only activity, any kind at all, could release her.

Margaret could never remember having spoken aloud to herself, in whatever extremity; when she had heard people do it on stage, it smacked of self-consciousness.  Now, hands still tight against her face, she said to the neat blue and white pantry, "Oh God, what shall I do?"


A year after the publication of American crime writer Ursula Curtiss's novel Hours to Kill (1962)--quoted in the four excerpts above about the novel's angst-ridden protagonist, Margaret Russell--Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique--a non-fiction book about the angst-ridden lives led by many American women--appeared in print.  Having been asked in 1957 to conduct a survey of her former Smith College classmates for their 15th anniversary reunion, Friedan had concluded from the responses she received that dissatisfaction with their lot in life as housewives was rife among them.  This shocking finding--perhaps not so shocking to Friedan--led her to begin researching her book, which became the bestselling non-fiction book in the US in 1964. 

Two year later NOW (the National Organization for Women) was founded, with Friedan as its first president.  The group's professed aim was bringing women "into the mainstream of American society now in fully equal partnership with men.

The same year that NOW was founded that noted feminist British rock group (sarcasm!), the Rolling Stones, rose to #8 on the American pop charts with Mother's Little Helper, a catchy, snarky little ditty about Sixties wives and mothers popping Valium pills to get themselves through their days. 

Critics of The Feminine Mystique saw the book
as a society shattering attack on domesticity and
those who practiced it, while defenders saw it as
a legitimate and overdue airing of criticism of
a cruelly self-effacing social system--yet
however you see it yourself there is no doubt
but that the book was hugely influential

Social conservatives denounced all this as an attack on the sacred sex roles of wifedom and motherhood.  As late as 2005 the magazine Human Events even included The Feminine Mystique, in an interesting melange of  books devoted to expanding state power and expanding personal liberty, with The Communist Manifesto,  Mein Kampf, Quotations from Chairman Mao, Das Kapital, The Kinsey Report, John Dewey's Democracy and Education, Auguste Comte's The Course of Positive Philosophy, Freidrich Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil and John Maynard Keynes's General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, as one of the Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries. 

Feminism and the Holocaust, Friedan and Hitler--it's all pretty comparable to the folks at Human Events, evidently (Hitler comes in at #2 and Friedan at #7, that dynamic ideological duo Marx and Engels claiming the top spot as world harmers of the last 200 years). Tellingly, perhaps, the only woman Human Events apparently managed to find to serve on the panel of "15 scholars and public policy leaders" who served as judges was the late Phyllis Schlafley, the feminist-battling late president of Eagle Forum, whose last political act before her death was enthusiastically endorsing Donald Trump for president.

Meanwhile The Feminine Mystique rolls triumphantly on, over a decade after Friedan's death. A few years ago Norton published a special 50th Anniversary Edition, complete with a cover blurb by the Huffington Post's Arianna Huffington, drawn from O, the Oprah Magazine.  We are a divided country still.

Putting all the controversy aside, since this is, after all, a mystery blog, I couldn't help being reminded of all the above by the subject matter and the cover of the English edition of Ursula Curtiss's marvelous little (I mean this literally, the book at 160 pages is less than 60,000 words, and none the worse for it) 1962 suspense novel, Hours to Kill.

The artful jacket, by Christopher McCartney Filgate, depicts a jaded looking, orange-hued woman holding between her fingertips a little greenish-blue pill (actually a blue and yellow capsule in the book).  Though not in fact a Valium, the sinister pill, which is prescribed to a woman, plays a major role in the nightmare of horror that unfolds over a few days in the life of imperiled house-sitter and child-minder Margaret Russell.

mornidine: making cooking fresh food
for her husband fun again
When the novel opens, single, New York working girl Margaret Russell (the informal book flap description names the book's principals by their first names, omitting surnames entirely) has flown to a town in New Mexico to mind the rented house of her recently married sister, Cornelia, who is leaving on holiday with her husband, Philip, in order to recover from a recent serious bout with flu. 

Once arrived in New Mexico, helpful Margaret, who once had been engaged to Philip herself (awkward!), is tasked for a few weeks with caring for the attractive adobe house that Cornelia and Philip rented from a certain Mrs. Hadley Foale, as well as for the rambunctious eight-year-old little girl, Hilary Reverton, who was dumped on the  couple by her carefree, Greenwich Village denizen parents, who are said to be trying out a marital reconciliation in Mexico City. 

Margaret knows those Village Bohemian types, of course, who are frequent ill-favored stock characters in mid-century crime fiction: "Margaret had never seen Hilary's parents, but she was suddenly and uncomfortably sure that they were legendary Village types: sneakered, turtleneck-sweatered, so casual...."

It isn't long before Margaret has been left alone with Hilary at the house that she starts imagining all sorts of things, and that a sense of mounting unease slips in unbidden, whispering to her a series of insinuating questions....Where exactly is Mrs. Hadley Foale, anyway?  Why do these strange visitors keep coming to the house asking about her? 

Although naughtily inquisitive Hilary has been told to leave Mrs. Foale's possessions alone, she has a knack for snooping and finding the most cryptically unsettling things....

And why does she not hear from Cornelia and Philip?  Why don't they ever call?


in Hours to Kill
little Hilary Reverton
ties Margaret Russell
all up in knots (figuratively)
I hate to say too much about the plot of this splendid suspense tale, for fear of spoiling it, so I will leave it at that.  But to me it is a fascinating exploration of "domestic suspense."  This does seem to be a novel where domesticity becomes a snare for one woman, where thick adobe walls (Curtiss excels at making this unusual setting as menacing as any Gothic castle or old dark house) shut out the world, entrapping a woman in the home with horror--and an eight-year-old hellion, who adds to Margaret's headaches when she comes down with something like flu herself.

Margaret only ever manages to leave the house a couple of times, once to take Hilary to the movie theater, where--in an act that doubtlessly would be considered child endangerment today--she leaves the girl unaccompanied to watch a film so that she can get an hour of two of comparative peace.

Margaret becomes increasingly dependent on her phone, fretfully waiting for call that don't come, leaving her prone to fearful imaginings.  She occupies her time with domestic tasks, which start to overwhelm her, despite having "all the modern household conveniences," like jars of  instant coffee (now there's something scary to modern readers!) and bags of frozen vegetables in the fridge. Although even somethign as simple as making instant coffee can be a trial when you're...unsettled:

It was the kind of morning on which catastrophe seems built-in, a smell of smoke hovers just around the corner, cups and glasses topple of themselves.  Margaret had begun it by opening a fresh jar of instant coffee and, in her distraction, forgetting what happened when vacuum seals were punctured at high altitude. A geyser of brown powder shot up and then settled down over her hair, her dress, her hands.  It was somehow, at just this point, the most natural thing in the world, and after the merest washing of her hands she wore the powder as grimy as a hair shirt while she waited for water to boil.

another of mother's little helpers
Betty Friedan has been accused in The Feminine Mystique of ignoring the plights of women who weren't middle class and white, and, interestingly, in Hours to Kill Margaret gets no help from her demure and circumspect Mexican-heritage occasional maid, Lena, and is frankly fearful of a Mexican-heritage handyman she can't understand who pounds insistently on her door a couple of times. (Margaret pretends not to be home.)

"These people are gentle as a rule--courteous to an extreme," a (white) doctor, come to treat Hillary, tells Margaret.  "I suppose now and then one of them gets a wine-drinking streak on...."  There does seem to some distance, doesn't there?

To be sure, one can push this Friedan scenario too far.  Readers can judge for themselves just how feminist the resolution to Hours to Kill is.  In all the Ursula Curtiss books I have read there remains that stock figure of so much mid-century domestic suspense fiction: the handsome (and ultimately eligible) male who helps get our heroine out of her jam and promises pleasant romantic diversion in the future.

I suspect that Betty Friedan, a critic in The Feminine Mystique of the lulling content of mid-century women's magazines, would have been pretty dubious about these sorts of fictional happy endings. Among women domestic suspense writers in the English-speaking world, I think Margaret Millar and Celia Fremlin pushed a bit harder against comforting conventions.

Like Friedan, some of Curtiss's readers may well have found domestic life dull and dreary (and desperately unfulfilling), but I don't know that they all were willing to go as far along with Friedan in the search for prescriptions to ease that sense of personal malaise.

don't be deceived by appearances--danger lurks inside