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Abbott, Megan

August 21, 1971

The American scholar and author Megan Abbott was born in Detroit and raised there and at Grosse Pointe, Michigan. She attended the University of Michigan and graduated with a Ph.D. in literature from New York University. She then taught there and at State University of New York, New School University, New York and the University of Mississippi. Abbott has contributed to a number of newspapers and literary periodicals, and she has written an acclaimed book on classic hardboiled American crime novels and noir films entitled The Street was Mine : White Masculinity in Hardboiled Fiction and Film Noir (2002). She now writes her own crime novels and short stories. Abbott lives in New York. She was married to the author Joshua Gaylord between 1998 and 2011.

Abbott’s first four books were hardboiled crime novels set in the 1930–1950s and written in the classic noir style, with one notable exception – they all feature a woman detective. Although her writing borders on pastiche, she is able to carry it off. Most of Abbott’s novels, including her debut, Die a Little (2005), have been shortlisted for several awards, she has also won a number of prizes, including the prestigious Edgar for best debut novel.

Abbott’s next three books were all more or less based on real events or persons. The Song is You (2007) featured the unsolved case of the dancer Jean Spangler who went missing in 1949, and the female gangster boss Gloria Denton in Queenpin (2007, another Edgar-winner) has some evident similarities with Virginia Hill, the notorious gangster boss Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel’s girlfriend. Bury Me Deep (2009) was based on the Winnie Ruth Judd case. Winnie Ruth Judd was a young doctor’s wife who was sentenced for the murder of two of her friends in 1939.

Megan Abbott’s novels are proof of her expert knowledge about mid-20th century hardboiled crime fiction, at the same time she has a realistic approach, so her books never feel dated; they are well plotted, they offer new angles and her descriptions of the flip side of American society still work.

Beginning with The End of Everything (2011), Abbott partly abandoned the classic noir style and began to explore the emotions, budding sexuality and relationships of modern teenage girls. These stories are less violent than her previous books; and although they all contain crime and police investigations, they cannot be characterized as pure crime novels, but more as psychological thrillers in the classic noir style. In The End of Everything, thirteen-year-old Evie goes missing, and frightening secrets are slowly revealed when her friend tries to find out what has happened, leading the police to a man who lives in the neighbourhood. Dare Me (2012) is about competition, jealousy, revenge and cruelty surrounding two cheerleaders and The Fever (2014) is loosely based on a real event, a strange "epidemic" that broke out in 2011 in the city of Le Roy, New York, when twenty young people, mostly girls, started to have tics and hysterical fits. The reasons were given as purely psychological, but in her novel Abbott has come up with some additional explanations.

As in most of her early books, the plots are driven both on an external and an internal level, through the relationship between the female protagonists. Megan Abbot, who is today hailed as one of America’s best crime writers, refers to these books as “female noir”. She has also contributed to a number of short story anthologies.

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