Fletcher Flora. Born in Parsons, Kansas, 1914. Died in 1968.
Fletcher Flora’s novels are filled with wit, irony, and black humor. The best word to describe Flora’s writing style might be “sardonic”. His stories are likely to remind you of those marvelously wicked Roald Dahl short stories, or of many of the wry episodes of tv’s Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
Flora spent his early years in Kansas. In 1943, he was drafted into the US Army and, unfortunately, sustained major injuries. He received numerous shrapnel wounds in both legs and in his right arm. These injuries dogged Flora throughout his life. After his release from the Army, he became an education adviser in the Department of the Army at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, from 1945 until 1963.
Flora started writing short stories in 1952, just as pulps like Dime Detective were dying out, and digests like Manhunt were beginning. He wrote more than fifty short stories for the digests. His first novel was the lesbian-themed paperback, Strange Sisters (1954; the success of this book led to other writers using its title as a catch-all for lesbian-themed novels). The story is about a woman who experiences a mental breakdown after her involvement in three abusive lesbian relationships. Flora followed-up this novel with another lesbian-themed book, Desperate Asylum (1955, a.k.a. Whisper of Love).
An excellent example of Flora’s use of black humor is Skulldoggery (1967). The story is about a group of greedy relatives who believe they’re going to inherit $10 million when the family patriarch dies. When they discover the money is instead left to the patriarch’s Chihuahua, with the provision that the inheritance will pass to the relatives should the Chihuahua and all her pups die, the relatives plot the Chihuahua’s demise. Flora’s writing style in Skulldoggery owes a tip of the hat to the work of Oscar Wilde.
Flora’s other notable books in the hard-boiled vein include The Hot Shot (1956), Leave Her To Hell (1958), and Park Avenue Tramp (1958).