Gina Hildreth (who wrote under her maiden name Gina Dessart) and her husband Philip, also a writer, apparently lived, at least for a short time, in Ajijic in the mid-1960s. She wrote at least three suspense novels: A Man Died Here (1947), The Last House (1950) and Cry For The Lost (1959). All three works were published in New York by Harper & Brothers. The first two novels were set in New England, whereas her third novel was set in and around Tucson, Arizona.
Gina Hildreth also wrote a stageplay – By any other name, a comedy in three acts (1948) – and had a short story, “Counterpoint”, published in the Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine issue of November 1965.
Gina Hildreth was born in 1912 in Chicago, and grew up in New York and Europe. She gained a Masters degree in English. She and her husband Philip moved to Tucson, Arizona, in 1950, following a two month vacation there.
The precise timing, duration and motives for the couple’s decision to live in Mexico for a time in the mid-1960s are unclear, but by the late-1960s, they appear to be once again living in Tucson, Arizona.
Gina Hildreth was a lecturer in English and taught creative writing at the University of Arizona in the early and mid-1970s, at the same time that John Lee taught there.
It appears that Philip was also a writer, though I have found no definitive evidence that any of his work was published.
According to a Kirkus review, A Man Died Here (1947) tells the story of the Macklin family’s “attempts to piece out the happenings in the Williams family when as the new owners of the Williams house, their curiosity is first aroused by the house itself, later by the hints of gossip, hatred, evasion, in the town. Bob and Liz fit together each small fact, each tiny segment of character, and write finis to a story of bondage, cruelty, dishonesty, lifting the shadow from the house.”
In The Last House (1950), according to one reviewer, a Connecticut gal “gets herself shot in village kitchen. Suspicion falls on various neighbors, male and female.” The reviewer, William C. Weber found the book to be an “absorbing and capitally written mystery-suspense tale with interesting psychological overtones.”
A review of Cry for the Lost describes it as “a murder story that poses no problem of who committed the crime. The interest and excitement in this suspense story lies in following the effect of the murder upon the characters and lives of the people who had been closely associated with the man who is killed. Miss Dessart reveals with considerable understanding and a searching sympathy the inner probings that torment both the guilty and the innocent when faced with the bitter knowledge that one among them has been driven to taking a human life.”
- Mecheline Keating, “Cry for the Lost – review”, Tucson Daily Citizen, 3 October 1959, p 13
- William C. Weber, “The Last House, by Gina Dessart” in Tucson Daily Citizen, August 28, 1950, p 12