Patricia McGerr

Patricia "Pat" McGerr (December 26, 1917 – May 11, 1985) was an American crime writer, primarily known for her puzzle mystery novels. She won an Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine/MWA prize for her 1968 story Match Point in Berlin and was awarded the Grand Prix de Literature Policiere in 1952 for her 1951 novel Follow, As the Night (adapted as the 1954 film Bonnes à tuer, aka One Step to Eternity). Her first novel, Pick Your Victim (1946), was selected as one of the Fifty Classics of Crime Fiction, 1900-1950.[1]

She was born in Falls City, Nebraska and grew up in Lincoln. She attended Immaculata Junior College in Washington D.C. before earning a bachelor's degree at University of Nebraska, Lincoln and a master's degree in journalism at Columbia University.[2][1]

She is principally known for having created a hitherto-unknown twist on the traditional whodunnit. Her best-known novel, Pick Your Victim (1946),[3] tells the story of a small group of American soldiers in an isolated Arctic base who are desperate for reading material and diversion. They find a torn scrap of newspaper which has arrived as the cushioning for a parcel. The torn scrap tells part of the story of a man who has been convicted of a murder, and who is known personally by one of the GIs—the murderer is identified, but the name of the victim has been torn away. The GIs form a betting pool and pump their informant for every bit of information about any potential victim to enable them to better place their bets, and the story told by the informant is the body of the novel. At the end, the name of the victim is revealed.

McGerr's other novels were sometimes ingenious but rarely commercially successful. The Seven Deadly Sisters (1947)[4] attempts a similar inversion of the whodunnit formula, with less success. The reader learns that one of seven sisters has murdered her husband, but which sister is not known until the end. Near the end of her writing career, McGerr created a continuing character, Selena Mead, who became involved in espionage-based plots in and around Washington, D.C.

A television series based on McGerr's Selena Mead short stories was announced by CBS in November 1964. Polly Bergen was signed to play the title character. An eight-minute presentation film was produced but the series never materialized.[5]

The 1954 French film One Step to Eternity was based on one of her novels. McGerr also wrote Johnny Lingo and the Eight Cow Wife, which was the basis for the 1969 movie Johnny Lingo made by the BYU Film Studio.[6] More recently, the 2003 film, The Legend of Johnny Lingo, was also based upon her story.



  • Pick Your Victim (1947)
  • The Seven Deadly Sisters (1948)
  • Catch Me if You Can (1949)
  • Save the Witness (1950)
  • Your Loving Victim (1951) (aka Follow As the Night)
  • Die Laughing (1952) (aka Death in a Million Living Rooms)
  • Fatal in My Fashion (1955)
  • Martha, Martha (1960)
  • My Brothers, Remember Monica (1964)
  • Is There a Traitor in the house (1965) (Selena Mead series)
  • Murder is Absurd (1967)
  • Stranger with My Face (1970)
  • Legacy of Danger (1970) (Selena Mead series)
  • For Richer, For Poorer, Till Death (1971)
  • Daughter of Darkness (1974)
  • Dangerous Landing (1975)


  1. Lincoln City Library Archived 2013-04-15 at
  2. "Author McGerr is Honored at Alumnae Party". The Washington Post. June 1, 1954. p. 43.
  3. Pick Your Victim as by Pat McGerr, Doubleday, 1946; Collins, 1947, also published as Dell mapback number #307.
  4. The Seven Deadly Sisters, Doubleday, 1947; Collins, 1948, also published as Dell mapback #412
  5. "The Mysterious Case of Selena Mead". Television Obscurities. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  6. Library thing list of McGerr's writing
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