Saint Paul’s Nationally-Acclaimed
Jean Potts was born in Saint Paul, Nebraska on Nov. 17, 1910 to Lola and Will Potts. Ms. Potts graduated from St. Paul High School and attended Denver Women’s College and graduated from Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln. She worked for the Phonograph newspaper in St. Paul for a brief period. While on a visit to New York City to see her older sister Edith, an accomplished pianist who was in New York to study at Juilliard School of Music, Jean became entranced by the city and has lived there ever since.
Ms. Potts would go on to write several short stories for Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Magazine and Women’s Day, to name a few. It was her mystery novels that caught the attention of the critics. Her first novel, Go, Lovely Rose, brought Potts national attention by winning the prestigious”Edgar” Award from the Mystery Writers of America. Some believe she possibly used Saint Paul and Saint Paul characters as the back drop for this award-winning novel.
International attention was given to her from a London film studio when they wanted to make the novel into a film. Several of her books are still in print in Great Britain (where all were also published) and one has been made into an audio cassette. Other novels followed, 14 in all.
As of 1997, Jean lived in New York City.
Mystery Novals by Jean Potts
Go, Lovely Rose
The Only Good Secretary
Death of a Stray Cat
The Footsteps on the Stairs
The Trash Stealer
The Man With a Cane
The Little Lie
Home is the Prisoner
An Affair of the Heart
Lighting Strikes Twice
The Trouble Maker
The Evil Wish
My Brother’s Killer
Mystery writer with Saint Paul
roots achieves international acclaim.
By Ron W. Sack
Taken from historically speaking
In a 1962 speech delivered by President John F. Kennedy, value was placed on the artist and the writer. He admired them so much because of what they could give back to society. They “knew the midnight as well as the high noon [and] understood the ordeal as well as the triumph of the human spirit.” He also said, “In serving their vision of the truth, the artist and writer best serves their nation.”
Jean Catherine Potts wrote about the human condition. About the tragedy and mystery of life. In 1997, research was started on Potts’ incredible career by the Howard County Historical Society. 1998 saw the research grow into an extensive exhibit completed in October 1998. Brochures have also been produced on Potts’ writing career.
A few highlights from Jean Potts’ writing career are as follows:
Hometown: St. Paul, Nebraska.
Education: Graduated from high school at St. Paul. Attended Denver Women’s College and graduted from Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln.
After completing college, Potts worked for the St. Paul Phonograph newspaper. Since then, she has lived in New York City.
Writing Career: Published 15 novels. Over 37 short stories appeared in McCall’s, Collier’s, Ellery Queen’s, Hitchcock’s, Redbook, and Liberty, just to name a few.
Honors/Special Achievemnts: Edgar Award for Go, Lovely Rose in 1954, Edgar runner-up Award for The Evil Wish in 1963. The Evil Wish was to be made into a motion picture starring Barbara Stanwyck and Sir Ralph Richardson.
Potts’ mystery novels were also published in over seven foreign languages. Charles Scribner’s sons were her publishers in the Unitied States. Gollancz was the publisher in Great Britain. The British always expressed an sincere fondness for the works of Jean Potts, too.
A look at the Potts collection.
Jean Potts lived a very sophisticated life in New York City. She vacationed often at a friend’s summer home in Southampton, traveled to Europe, and was part of a devoted group of friends and writers.
When the Howard County Historical Society began research nearly a year ago, it was a hope to have a few items donated which documented Potts’ writing career. Potts and friend Emer Murphy were more than generous.
Pictured here are are just a few of the artifacts, documents, and photographs donated. Several hundred have been recorded and many included in an exhibit entitled, “Jean Potts: St. Paul’s Internationally-Acclaimed Mystery Writer.”
We would like to extend our appreciation to the following individuals who either helped gather the information, donated the items, or funded the expenses incurred for their shipping:
Jeans Potts, New York, NY | Emer Murphy, New York, NY | Maxine Joy Lewis, New York, NY | Venus Potts Bardanouve, Harlem, MT | Marian Potts, Saint Paul, NE
Information researched by Ron Sack.