RARA-AVIS: RIP Dorothy Uhnak

From: JIM DOHERTY ( jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 26 Sep 2006

This has been a particularly bad year for hard-boiled mystery writers.

I just found out that Dorothy Uhnak, a cop who wrote cop novels before Joseph Wambaugh, and a woman who wrote about strong woman protagonists before Marcia Muller, Sue Grafton, or Sara Paretsky, died in July, apparently of a self-inflicted rug overdose.

According to her daughter, the 76-year-old had been depressed after suffering a number of accidents in recent years.

She'd been a decorated detective in the New York City Transit Police, when Transit was still a separate agency from the NYPD, and her fame helped her get her first book, a non-fiction memoir entitled POLICEWOMAN, published in 1964.

Her first novel, THE BAIT, which introduced her series character, Detective Christie Opara of NYPD's Manhattan DA's Squad, won the Edgar for Best First Mystery Novel (an award she shared with E. Richard Johnson's SILVER STREET).

After three Opara novels, she began to write longer, more epic cop novels like the multi-generational family saga, LAW & ORDER, an apparent fictionalization of the Alice Crimmins case, THE INVESTIGATION, and VICTIMS, which apparently fictionalized the Kitty Genovese case, many of which were NY TIMES best-sellers.

I'm sorry she's gone, and sorrier that she was so despondent in her later life that she felt compelled to end it herself.


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