I read this book for the Vintage Mystery Bingo Reading Challenge 2014. The challenge is to read 6 or more Vintage Mysteries. All novels must have been originally written before 1960 and be from the mystery category.
I read this for N-5: Read one Mystery written under a Pseudonym
Death before Bedtime – Gore Vidal writing as Edgar Box, 1953
Gore Vidal wrote three mysteries as Edgar Box in the early 1950s. In this, the second novel, series hero Peter Sargent, ex-reporter and PR man, lands a contract with a Senator whose eye is on the Oval Office. On the day prior to his tossing his hat in the ring, he’s blown up in the study of his DC house. In a highly unlikely move, the cops keep all the suspects in the house while they try to identify the culprit.
Helping the cops as he writes sensational articles for a newspaper, Sargent interacts with a weird group of people. The nympho daughter. The too loyal aide. The distant widow. The smooth munitions manufacturer. The lefty journalist.The oily governor who appoints himself to fill the murdered Senator’s spot.
Vidal wrote as Edgar Box when publishers thought he was radioactive because of the fallout that came down over his novel about gay men, The City and the Pillar. When his publisher suggested he write mysteries under a pen name, Vidal says he said “I don’t think I’m sufficiently stupid to be a popular author.”
A man’s got to eat, though. Vidal was not a mystery writer so the mystery side of this novel is weak though the tone is confident, ironic and suave. It’s worth reading if one is into thrusts and jibes against the American ruling class in cahoots with conceited greedy politicians. If a reader likes the rude satire in Burr, 1876, and Hollywood, she will be entertained by this artifact of the Eisenhower era.