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Dame Ngaio Marsh (Dame Edith Ngaio Marsh) (pron. Ny-o) Biography

(1899–1982), (Dame Edith Ngaio Marsh), A Play Toward, Play Production, A Man Lay Dead

New Zealand detective novelist, born in Christchurch, New Zealand, where she studied art and worked in the theatre as an actress and producer. In the 1940s she produced many plays at Canterbury University in Christchurch, was made an honorary lecturer in drama, and published two books on the subject: A Play Toward (1946) and Play Production (1948). In 1962 a new theatre at the university was given her name and in 1966 she was awarded the DBE for her work. Her interest in the theatre is reflected in her detective novels, many of which have a stage background; a number are set in New Zealand. The first, A Man Lay Dead (1934), was written during her first visit to England, when she worked as an interior decorator in London. It introduced her detective, Roderick Alleyn of Scotland Yard, who features in all her thirty-two novels. The charge of snobbishness has been brought against her work, which has possibly worn less well than that of her contemporaries, Christie, Allingham, and Sayers. The earlier books are to be preferred, and included Enter a Murderer (1935), The Nursing-Home Murder (1935; in collaboration with Henry Jellett), Death in Ecstasy (1936), Artists in Crime (1938), Death in a White Tie (1938), Overture to Death (1939), Surfeit of Lampreys (1941; published in the USA as Death of a Peer, 1940), and Opening Night (1951; US title Night at the Vulcan). An autobiography, Black Beech and Honeydew, appeared in 1965 (revised 1981), and a life by Margaret Lewis in 1991.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Madras House to Harriet Martineau Biography