Joan Kahn

Called “publishing’s grande dame of detective stories” by the LA Times in 1988, Joan Kahn had such a gift for choosing and editing bestselling mystery novels that her publisher put her name on their book covers to entice readers. Kahn studied at the Yale School of Art, Barnard College, and the Art Students League and wrote two novels, To Meet Miss Long in 1943 and Open House in 1946, before becoming editor of the new Harper Novels of Suspense line for Harper Brothers in 1947. One of her first selections, The Horizontal Man by Helen Eustis, won the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Allan Poe Award for best first novel of that year. It was one of many novels she would shepherd to award status. She edited the works of Tony Hillerman, Dick Francis, and John Dickson Carr, and introduced American audiences to British writers like Dorothy Sayers. She also wrote four children’s books and edited eleven mystery anthologies. In 1985, she received the Ellery Queen Award from the MWA for her lifetime of service to the industry, and upon her retirement in 1989 received a special Edgar for her remarkable career.


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Date of Birth

New York, NY
United States

Date of Death
Writer, Editor

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Joan Kahn ." (Viewed on August 8, 2020) <>.


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