Saturday, January 5, 2013

Mary Francis Shura (1923-1991)

Many, many years ago, one of my college English instructors remarked, "As you may know, I was married to a well-known writer . . . ." I never asked him who that writer was. I believe I was supposed to know and may have felt embarrassed that I didn't. In any case, I have wondered over the years who she was, but I have never gone looking for the answer. Instead the answer found me when I found the book Shoefull of Shamrock (originally published in 1965) and decided to show it on my blog.

Mary Francis Shura was born Mary Francis Young on February 23, 1923, in Pratt, Kansas. She studied at Maryville State College in Maryville, Missouri, and in 1943 married Daniel Charles Shura. Shura passed away in 1959. His widow's writing career must have begun at about that time, for her first book, Simple Spigott, was published in 1960. Dozens more books under a bewildering array of pen names followed over the next three decades. None of those names was a pseudonym. On the contrary, they were all combinations of her own name, her initials, and her married names. By the way, Mary's second husband, Raymond C. Craig, whom she married in 1961 and later divorced, was my instructor. A native of Joplin, Missouri, and an army veteran, Dr. Craig worked in publishing before becoming a teacher. Knowledgeable, easygoing, jocular, he was a fine teacher and one of my favorites. When I  knew him, Dr. Craig was working on a project on the humorist Hardin E. Taliaferro (1811-1875). He kept his research bound in string in the top drawer of his desk. I got the impression that it was a project that might never see print, but in 1987, the University of Tennessee Press issued Dr. Craig's book, The Humor of H.E. Taliaferro.

Mary Francis Shura died on January 12, 1991, in Maywood, Illinois. You'll find more on her in the Third Book of Junior Authors. In addition, her obituary appeared in the New York Times on January 15, 1991. Wikipedia has an entry on her, but information on Wikipedia should always be taken with a grain of salt. Finally, Mary's papers are located at the University of Oregon Libraries.

Cover illustration by Cathy Pavia
Text copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley

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