It seems fitting that in mystery novels, where things and people are seldom what they seem, you would also find a number of authors who write under pseudonyms, aliases, pen names, etc. Just like some of their characters, mystery authors use assumed names to conceal their identities for a variety of reasons.
Writing under an assumed name is not a new trend. Historically, many women would write under men's names to hide their gender in a male-dominated profession. One of the most well-known examples is English novelist Mary Anne Evans, who used the pen name George Eliot. Sometimes women authors would use initials instead of first names (P.D. James), or gender-neutral names.
But this particular use of pen names is not limited to women authors. Ralph McInerny (Father Dowling series) also wrote a mystery series as Monica Quill. Today there is a growing trend of men writing romance novels and many either use female names (Naomi Neale) or gender-neutral names (Leigh Greenwood, Leigh Williams, and Lee Willilams) to hide their identities. Obviously the book jackets would not include photos of the author!
Another reason to use a pseudonym is when when an author decides to write in another genre, or create a new series within a genre. Kathy Hogan Trochek wrote a mystery series featuring Callahan Garrity and is now writing fiction as Mary Kay Andrews. Nora Roberts, a prolific fiction author, writes a mystery series about Eve Dallas under the name J.D. Robb. And, as I mentioned in a previous blog, a local Cleveland author, whose real name is Constance Laux, writes three mystery series under the names Casey Daniels, Miranda Bliss, and Kylie Logan.
There are also a number of examples where a collective name is used by two or more authors. Mystery writer Susan Wittig Albert and her husband Bill Albert wrote a Victorian mystery series as Robin Paige. Several other examples in both mystery and fiction include Charles Todd (mother and son Caroline and Charles Todd), Judith Michael (husband and wife team of Judith Barnard and Michael Fain), P. J. Tracy (mother and daughter P. J. Lambrecht and Traci Lambrecht), and Perry O'Shaughnessy (sisters Pamela and Mary O'Shaughnessy).
Here is a sampling of the names of real mystery writers, followed by their pen name(s) in parentheses: Evan Hunter, legally changed from Salvatore Lombino, (Ed McBain), Marion Chesney (M.C. Beaton), Mary Stanton (Claudia Bishop), Keith Miles (Conrad Allen, Edward Marston), Barbara Mertz (Barbara Michaels, Elizabeth Peters), and Ruth Rendell (Barbara Vine).
One of my favorites is the author Inger Ash Wolfe, who has written two gritty mysteries about Hazel Micallef, a Detective Inspector in Ontario. No one has yet identified who Inger Ash Wolfe really is - now that's a mystery!