As far as the individual entries in Al Hubin’s Crime Fiction IV are concerned, it’s easy to forget that there a life behind each and every one of them. There’s always much more than the listing can ever say, taken in isolation by itself. Here’s an example. The entry for Muriel Davidson looks like this:

DAVIDSON, MURIEL (1924-1983)

* The Thursday Woman (n.) Atheneum 1979 [Los Angeles, CA]
* -Hot Spot (n.) Marek 1980
* ’Til Death You Do Pay (n.) Marek 1981

   Two books which fall into the category of crime fiction, plus a third that’s only marginally so. The year of her birth, and the year of her death. You’d read this, glance at it for up to, say, several seconds, and then you’d go on to the next one, whichever the next one might be.

   Unless you were looking for her entry with a specific reason in mind, and until you happened to want more and decided to Google her name. There is another Muriel Davidson who has something to do with the Canadian census, and you’ll going to have to screen her out. Then you come to an entry that looks promising, you click on it, and that’s when you discover, quoting the following news item in the New York Times:

   AROUND THE NATION; Television Executive Found Slain on Coast

AP. Published: September 27, 1983

   A television executive who had reported receiving crank telephone calls was slain at her home in fashionable Benedict Canyon, the police said today.

   The police discovered the body of the executive, Muriel Davidson, 59 years old, at 1:45 A.M. today, Lieut. Dan Cooke said. There were no signs of a struggle. Neither the cause nor time of death was disclosed.

   Mrs. Davidson recently signed with Jay Bernstein Productions as vice president of film and television development.

   She wrote three mystery novels, The Hot Spot, The Thursday Woman and ’Til Death Do You Pay.

   Her husband, Bill, is a contributing editor to TV Guide.

    A followup story appeared the next day:

   AROUND THE NATION; Arrest Made in Slaying Of Hollywood Writer

UPI. Published: September 28, 1983

   A former aerospace worker who had received alcohol rehabilitation counseling from Muriel Davidson, a writer who published celebrity profiles and crime exposes in national magazines, was arrested today and charged with slaying Mrs. Davidson, who was also a television executive.

   The suspect, Robert Thom, 51 years old, was arrested at his home in Pasadena at 4:30 A.M. on information received from relatives and friends of Mrs. Davidson, who was found Monday shot to death at her home.

   To say that this was unexpected would be an understatement of some magnitude, and that’s putting it mildly.

   Now the reason I was looking up Mrs. Davidson was that I was doing some research on a made-for-TV movie entitled The Wednesday Woman, which was supposedly based on her novel The Thursday Woman, included in CFIV and mentioned in the first Times article above. I kept looking, hardly expecting to discover anything else of significance. That a mystery writer was murdered herself was unusual enough. That there was a second chorus coming would never have occurred to me. (You may remember the incident yourself, though, especially if you were living on the West Coast at the time.)

   It turns out that the made-for-TV movie, The Wednesday Woman, (CBS; Wed., May 24, 2000, 9 p.m.) if I am understanding the course of events correctly, was not exactly based on Mrs. Davidson’s book, but on her life, which in turn imitated the book that she had written earlier, The Thursday Woman. The movie was fiction based on a real-life sequence of events, which tragically mirrored the earlier work of fiction.

    I don’t suppose I’m making myself as clear as I should be. I realize this because it took me a while myself to put the chain of events into some sort of order. The website that seems to tell the story best is this one, but allow me to quote the essential passages, and then if you’re so inclined, you should certainly go read the rest of the story for yourself.

   First, however, a quote from the book itself:


    “The most absorbing compelling novel I have read in years. It reminds me of the psychological novels of Georges Simenon.” Dr. William Nolen. Pure chance takes an average woman, Martha, into the courtroom of wife-murderer Everett. She has visceral sexual reaction to the accused criminal and becomes obsessed with “love” for a man she doesn’t know…

   And now the chain of events that I mentioned:

(1A) In addition to TV scripts, celebrity profiles and other magazine articles and books, the real Davidson wrote a novel titled The Thursday Woman, about an addictive woman who has an affair with a dangerous fruitcake.

(1B) Besides writing for a magazine, the movie Muriel (played by Meredith Baxter) writes a novel with a similar plot titled The Wednesday Woman.

(2A) The real Muriel was murdered by Robert Thom, an alcoholic whom she met at a hospital where she counseled alcoholics once a week. A police report called the two “quite close.” A county probation officer said that just prior to her murder she had tried to sever her sporadic sexual relationship with Thom, who pleaded no contest to second-degree murder and was given a sentence of 17 years to life.

(2B) In the movie, Muriel is a recovering alcoholic, as is her psychotic lover (Peter Coyote) who tries to kill her after she wants to end their relationship.

Wednesday Woman

(3A) and (3B) The kicker that comes next, is that the real life Muriel is murdered. In the movie, she is not, to widespread critical disapproval. If you are portraying real events as closely as this movie does, they said, how can you get away with changing the ending, even if it’s one that leaves the viewer pleased and satisfied that everything in the end, um, ended well?

   You’ll have to answer that one yourself. I can’t give you any advice. I’m still marveling over the sheer audacity of real life to imitate fiction so closely in the first place, in this one single secluded entry in CFIV.


UPDATE [01-30-07] From a brief email sent by Victor Berch:

   The California Death Index gives MD’s birth date as March 21, 1923; born in St. Paul, Minnesota. This seems to be verified in the 1930 US Census taken on April 8, 1930, where her age is given as 7 years old. Her maiden name was Friedland, so her entry should read: