Ursula Curtiss

Ursula Reilly Curtiss (April 8, 1923 — October 10, 1984) was an American writer of mystery novels.

Ursula Curtiss
A white woman's face from a 1948 newspaper.
Ursula Curtiss, from a 1948 publication.
Ursula Kieran Reilly

April 8, 1923
Yonkers, New York
DiedOctober 10, 1984
Albuquerque, New Mexico
AwardsRed Badge Mystery Prize (1948); Zia Award (1963)

Early lifeEdit

Ursula Kieran Reilly was born in Yonkers, New York, and raised in Westport, Connecticut, the daughter of Paul Reilly and Helen Kieran Reilly. Her mother was a mystery writer; so was her sister, Mary McMullen. Ursula Reilly's grandfather was James Michael Kieran, one-time president of Hunter College. Her uncle was journalist John Kieran.[1] Ursula Reilly graduated from a Catholic girls' high school, Lauralton Hall in Milford, Connecticut.[2]


Books by Ursula Curtiss include Voice Out of Darkness (1948), The Second Sickle (1951), The Iron Cobweb (1953), The Noonday Devil (1953), The Deadly Climate (1954), Widow's Web (1956), The Face of the Tiger (1958), So Dies the Dreamer (1960), , The Stairway (1961), The Forbidden Garden (1962) Hours to Kill (1962), The Wasp (1963), Child's Play (1964), Danger: Hospital Zone (1967), Don't Open the Door! (1969), Letter of Intent (1971), Dig a Little Deeper (1976), In Cold Pursuit (1977), The Menace Within (1978), Poisoned Orchard (1980), Graveyard Shift (1982), and Death of a Crow (1983).[3] She also wrote short fiction,[4] and several of her novels appeared in serial format in magazines such as Good Housekeeping[5] and The Australian Women's Weekly.[6][7]

Two films were made based on Curtiss's stories, I Saw What You Did (1965)[8] and What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice? (1969). She was also credited for stories on several television episodes in the 1950s and 1960s.

Curtiss won the Red Badge Mystery Prize in 1948, for best new mystery,[9][10]

and in 1963 she won the Zia Award as an outstanding New Mexico novelist.[11][12] In 1956, The Spectator called her Widow's Web a "little masterpiece of suspense and ambiguity...quietly, pursuasively done, combining realism with ingenuity to a degree as rare on the author's side of the Atlantic as on ours."[13]

Personal lifeEdit

Ursula Reilly married John Curtiss Jr. in 1947; her husband survived the Bataan Death March.[1] She wrote while raising their five children in Massachusetts,[14] and after 1960 in New Mexico. Ursula Curtiss died from cancer in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1984, aged 61 years.[12][15]


  1. ^ a b "Ursula Reilly Bride of Bataan Survivor" New York Times (May 25, 1947): 59. via ProQuest
  2. ^ "Miss Reilly Fiancee of John Curtiss Jr." New York Times (April 27, 1947): 56. via ProQuest
  3. ^ Ursula Curtiss, Fantastic Fiction database.
  4. ^ Ursula Curtiss, "The Doomsday Book" The Australian Women's Weekly (April 17, 1963): 3/22. via Trove 
  5. ^ Flo Wilks, "Ursula Curtiss Writes Novels of Suspense in Everyday Life" Albuquerque Journal (February 9, 1964): 17. via Newspapers.com 
  6. ^ "Our New Serial by Suspense Writer Ursula Curtiss" The Australian Women's Weekly (October 21, 1959): 68. via Trove 
  7. ^ "Suspense Novel by Ursula Curtiss is our New Three-Part Serial" Australian Women's Weekly (May 1, 1959): 69. via Trove 
  8. ^ "Ursula Curtiss Novel Produced for 'Movies'" Albuquerque Journal (June 13, 1965): 16. via Newspapers.com 
  9. ^ "Mystery Prize Awarded" New York Times (May 10, 1948): 19. via ProQuest
  10. ^ Paul F. Kneeland, "'I Never Knew Anybody' Title of her Next Book, She Says" The Boston Globe (June 13, 1948): 111. via Newspapers.com
  11. ^ "Zia Award Goes to Ursula Curtiss" Albuquerque Journal (July 21, 1963): 2. via Newspapers.com 
  12. ^ a b "Ursula Reilly Curtiss is Dead; New Mexican Mystery Writer" New York Times (October 12, 1984): D18. via ProQuest
  13. ^ "'Widow's Web'" The Spectator (September 21, 1956): 24.
  14. ^ "The Weekly Round" The Australian Women's Weekly (February 14, 1962): 2. via Trove 
  15. ^ "City Author Ursula Curtiss Dies After Illness" Albuquerque Journal (October 15, 1984): 31. via Newspapers.com 

External linksEdit