Early in his literary career, Gore Vidal managed to alienate the all-important literary critic of the New York Times. Vidal found himself banned from the pages of the Times. One of his friends suggested that he might be wise to write some potboiler mysteries under a different name - which he did, using the pseudonym "Edgar Box."
Those mysteries have now been republished, and the first of them, "Death in the Fifth Position," from 1952, is the subject of this week's review on the Classic Mysteries podcast. You can listen to the full review here.
Vidal claims that he "worked very hard at being a mystery writer, somewhat heavily reliant upon Agatha Christie." The result was three novels featuring Public Relations executive Peter Sargeant. In "Death in the Fifth Position," Sargeant is hired to do publicity work for a Russian ballet troupe that is visiting New York City. He's hardly begun work when one of the company's ballerinas is murdered - a wire is cut, causing her to fall to her death on stage in what balletomanes would call a perfect fifth position.
There are more deaths, to be sure, and a fair amount of surprisingly graphic (for 1952) sex, before Sargeant is able to help the police solve the case. It's a fun read and shows a side of Vidal that readers may not have suspected.