Margaret Millar

Margaret Millar, née Margaret Ellis Sturm, crime novelist (born at Kitchener, Ont, 5 Feb 1915; died at Montecito, California 26 March 1994). Raised in the city of her birth, Margaret Millar attended the Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate Institute, at which she met her future husband Kenneth MILLAR. Her first published short story, "Impromptu," appeared in a 1931 issue of the school's student magazine. She continued her education, studying Classics at the UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO, but left before obtaining a degree. In 1938 she and Kenneth Millar married, settling first in Toronto, then Kitchener.

Millar maintained that she wrote her first book, the NOVELThe Invisible Worm (1941), as a result of her dissatisfaction with the mysteries of the day. More novels followed, at a pace of over one a year. The commercial success and subsequent sale of film rights for the sixth, The Iron Gates (1946), allowed Millar and her husband the financial freedom to pursue interwoven careers as mystery writers (SeePOPULAR LITERATURE IN ENGLISH). The couple relocated to Santa Barbara, California, the model for "Santa Felicia" (sometimes "San Felice"), the community that figures in much of Millar's fiction.

Unlike her husband, Millar set several of her novels in Canada, including Wall of Eyes (1943), Fire Will Freeze (1944), and An Air that Kills (1957). Often considered her finest work, The Iron Gates (1946) concerns a wealthy Toronto woman who breaks down and is institutionalized after receiving a mysterious package. The psychological element, typical of Millar's writing, is perhaps best exemplified in Beast in View (1955), for which she received the first of two Edgar Awards for Best Novel.

Millar's mysteries almost always contain domestic drama, an element that spills over into her novels outside the genre. In the first, Experiment in Springtime (1941), a staid but steady marriage is shaken when the husband nearly dies and becomes convinced that his wife is trying to kill him.

Arguably the most talented English-Canadian woman writer of her generation, as a genre writer who lived much of her life in the United States Millar is often ignored by Canadian critics. She had a gift for writing realistic yet entertaining dialogue that furthered plot and revealed character.

A prolific writer, she produced 26 novels and a memoir. In later years, her pace was slowed by her husband Kenneth's struggle with Alzheimer's disease. Millar herself suffered from macular degeneration, and came to rely on modern technology when writing. Millar's final work, The Couple Next Door: Collected Short Mysteries, was published after her death, in 2004, and edited by Tom Nolan, her husband's biographer.