After reading Bury Me Deep I was interested in learning more about the author, Harold Q. Masur. It was no surprise after reading Bury Me Deep that he was a lawyer. I learned a great deal about Masur from a fascinating article and interview from Gary Lovisi in www.mysteryfile.com.
Masur was born in 1909 and died in 2005. He became a lawyer in the 1930’s and practiced full time for several years.
Thinking he could write detective stories like he read in pulp magazines of the day he wrote a story and sent it to Ten Detective Aces and was accepted.
Encouraged to write more he told Lovisi that he invested $2.00 which bought him 40 magazines at $0.05 per magazine. He taught himself about characterization:
Whenever I came across a character that interested me, I went
back to see how he was introduced, how the author developed
him, why I got interested in him in the first place. And I
developed some theories about characterization.
Living in New York City benefited Masur in that many pulp fiction magazines were edited and published in the city. He could take a subway to see an editor.
As a source of inspiration he used the real life Law Journal. I can understand how he used actual court cases to create plots.
In the interview in 1991, when he was 81, he spoke of taking a contemporary as the basis of a short story. It involved a battered woman who, after being acquitted of murdering her husband, sued an insurance company for the proceeds of a policy the husband had taken out naming her as beneficiary. As she was not guilty of murder she was eligible for the money. What made the story unique was her court case to claim double indemnity on the basis that the cause of death was accidental. The Maryland Court of Appeal ultimately found in her favour concluding there was an accident because there was an unexpected event that caused injury.
On how Masur's relationship to his character:
GL: Where did Scott Jordan come from? How much of Hal
Masur is in Scott Jordan?
HM: Well, he’s a lot smarter than I am. A lot braver. I think
that he is an idealized version of what I would have like to have
been. He was an idealized version of the kind of lawyer I would
have liked to have been, but I could not achieve. I’m not as
smart as Scott Jordan.
On who he wanted Scott Jordan to be like Masur said:
HM: And I learned a lot from them until I found my own voice.
I’ll tell you what I wanted for Scott Jordan. I wanted a guy who
was as ingenious in law as Perry Mason, but who was as bright
and as insouciant as Nero Wolfe’s Archie Goodwin. I wanted to
get a combination between those two. Whether I ever achieved
it or not, I don’t know. But that was the sort of a guy I wanted.
I thought Jordan in Bury Me Deep could have been Archie's brother. They had the same personalities and manner of speaking.
Of contemporary fictional lawyers the closest to Jordan would be Michael Connelly's lawyer, Mickey Haller, who has an equally lively personality. However, Mickey is not a pugilist. He is not a tough guy.
In developing plots Masur said that he liked to explore a different area of business in each book. I was reminded of the Emma Lathen series featuring New York banker, John Putnam Thatcher. Masur enjoyed research in new areas. For one book he studied art forgery. For another the stock exchange.
I plan to read more of Masur's books.
- Bill Selnes
- Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
- I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.