Monday, June 10, 2019

G.E. Locke

G.E. Locke (b. Boston, 12 October 1887; d. Boston, 1945)

Gladys Edson Locke was the only child of Winfield Scott Locke (1861-1931), a "ladies underwear merchant" according to the 1900 US Census, and Caroline Augusta Edson (1862-1936), who were married in Boston on 2 December 1886.

She was graduated from the Girls' Latin School in Boston in 1906, and from Boston University (A.B. 1910; A.M. 1911) and Simmons College (Library Science, 1916).  She worked as a tutor in Latin, French and Italian from 1908-1914, and taught Latin and English at a high school in Milford, New Hampshire, for 1915-1916. In 1917 she became a cataloguer at the Boston Public Library, where she thereafter worked for many years. She was active in the Unitarian Church, and a member of the Boston Society for Psychical Research. Locke never married, and lived in the Dorcester area for the bulk of her life.

Locke's first book was a biography of Queen Elizabeth: Various Scenes and Events in the Life of Her Majesty (1913), as by Gladys E. Locke. Her first mystery novel, set in England like many of her books, came out the next year and was published as by Gladys Edson Locke, a byline she used until the early 1920s when it changed more simply to "G.E. Locke." In all she published eleven mystery novels, some with the recurring characters like Inspector Burton or Mercedes Quero. Beginning in 1922, her books were mostly published by L.C. Page of Boston, though two later titles came out in England only. The full list of mystery novels, in chronological order, is as follows:  That Affair at Portishead Manor (1914); Ronald o' the Moors (1919); The Red Cavalier (1922); The Scarlet Macaw (1923); The Purple Mist (1924); The House on the Downs (1925); The Golden Lotus (1927); The Redmaynes (1928); Grey Gables (UK only, 1929); The Fenwood Murders (UK only, 1931), and The Ravensdale Mystery (1935).

None of her novels are fantasies, but The Purple Mist comes perhaps the closest to being one. (It was first published in June 1924 by L.C. Page of Boston, and an undated reprint by A.L. Burt is often erroneously cited as the first edition.) The New York Times described the book as follows:  "The story takes its name from a supposedly supernatural phenomenon but recently revived in the old Devonshire village that straggles around Craghaven Castle, the scene of the book's strange goings-on. This regally tinted vapor, after a lapse of sundry centuries had, just before the story opens, begun to rise again to herald the passage across the Devon moors of a Phantom Coach, that brings death to any one who ventures to check or investigate its course. That forms but the initial mystery . . .  All in all, The Purple Mist remains sheer melodrama, as indeed it was the author's intention to make it. It has thrills; it has compelling onward sweep of narrative; it has moments of genuine interest. Readers not insistent on delicate shades and subtle overtones will find excitement, and find it in generous spasms, in G.E. Locke's pages" (13 July 1924).   The book has weird atmosphere throughout, though the Phantom Coach and purple mist are rationalized in the end as cover operations for smugglers.

Reviewers of other books by Locke were less kind.  Of The Scarlet Macaw, the New York Times opined: "In spite of an occasional crudeness in writing and a clumsiness in construction, The Scarlet Macaw is sufficiently supplied with suspense and unexpected incidents to qualify as an interesting detective story. . . . One fault that Mr. [sic] Locke has is an extremely mediocre prose, and this rather aggravates the reader's sensation of unreality" (28 October 1923). And of The Ravensdale Mystery, the New York Times concluded: "The story is far too long and not absorbing enough to hold the reader's interest throughout its 405 pages" (10 November 1935).

According to the Massachusetts Death Index 1901-1980, Locke died in Boston in 1945, but no specific death-date has been traced.

*Book illustrations courtesy of Steven Mayes.


  1. Doug,
    I must say I really enjoyed the book. The weird atmosphere surrounding the country house and nearby moor is sustained admirably and the many unexplained mysteries experienced by the participants nicely dovetail at the end of the book.
    Glad to see you found out so much about her life. With her interest in psychic research you have to wonder if at least a few more of her mysteries have "rationalized" supernatural occurrences. Only one way to find out! I'm reading The House on the Downs now . . .
    All best,
    Steven Mayes

  2. Thanks, Steven. I'll be interested in your views on The House on the Downs!