Novelist Hillary Waugh, whose career introduced generations of mystery readers to small-town intrigue and police techniques rooted in real investigations, has died in Connecticut. He was 88.
HARTFORD, Conn. — Novelist Hillary Waugh, whose career introduced generations of mystery readers to small-town intrigue and police techniques rooted in real investigations, has died in Connecticut. He was 88.
Mr. Waugh died Dec. 8 in a nursing facility in Torrington, his son, Lawrence, said Saturday.
Mr. Waugh’s dozens of novels — almost 50, including some he wrote under pen names — earned him a Grand Master Award in 1989 from the Mystery Writers of America.
He was born and raised in New Haven and graduated from Yale University in 1942. He served as a U.S. Naval Air Corps aviator in World War II. His avocations ranged from boxing and badminton to songwriting and newspaper cartooning.
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His first novel, “Madame Will Not Dine Tonight,” was published in 1947 and began a long string of mysteries in which the characters used real police techniques to solve mysteries.
That was a clear departure from the genre in which a private detective, squirreling away facts and relying on his or her wits and instinct, emerged with all the answers.
“I was tired of reading about these superdetectives and a police force composed of a bunch of bumbling idiots,” Mr. Waugh told The New York Times in 1990.
“I wanted to get away from the neat little corpses with the perfect bullet through the head, and instead write a story as it really happened.”
One of his early works, the 1952 novel “Last Seen Wearing,” is listed by the Mystery Writers of America as one of the top 100 mystery novels of all time.
“Last Seen” follows a small-town police chief as he inches toward solving the case of a student who disappears from her small college in Massachusetts.
Based on a real case in Bennington, Vt., and on Mr. Waugh’s interviews with detectives, it is regarded as one of the best early police procedurals, a taut, terse, just-the-facts record of crime detection in which no clues are withheld from the reader.
Mr. Waugh used Connecticut as a setting for many novels, changing town names slightly but enjoying the juxtaposition of small-town life against the commotion caused by crimes in tight-knit communities.
Information from The New York Times is included in this report.