Schultz’s appeal was no mystery

Submitted photo“While the Wind Howled” was written by Batavia resident Audrey Gaines Schultz in 1940. She used her maiden name as her pen name.

Of all of the authors to come out of Genesee County, one in particular was able to reach lofty heights and even become a best seller.

Audrey Gaines Schultz, though she dropped her married name as her pen name, became a well-known mystery writer with a string of five well-received books from the late 1930s into the early 1950s. Gaines Schultz was not only an accomplished author but also an active community member who supported a variety of causes, locally and even internationally.

Audrey Willard Gaines was born in Alexandria, Va., on May 9, 1899 to Maurice Willard Gaines and Alice Edna Knott. Her early life growing up in the southern states had a definite impact on her writing, and her home state was often the backdrop for her works.

Audrey would eventually marry Lawrence Henry Schultz, and shortly after they would arrive in Batavia.

In 1926, Lawrence came to Batavia to run the Blue Bus Line from Buffalo to Rochester, after its purchase from the Western New York Motor Coach Company. After settling in to live in Batavia, Audrey focused on her joys in life, with reading being at the very top.

It was this love of literature that would lead her to become an author herself.

Audrey’s favorite genre was mysteries, but the Richmond Library failed to meet her standards when it came to her selection. Schultz would then remark to a friend that she could write just as well, if not better, than those which she had read.

This statement led to a challenge being issued, in which her friend gave her the chance to prove it. The challenge was for Audrey to write five books in the next 15 years, a rather arduous task even for veteran authors, let alone someone without any significant writing experience.

Always the go-getter, she accepted and set to work become a published author.

Schultz, though her covers displayed the name Audrey Gaines, would have her first novel, The Old Must Die, published in 1939 to moderate acclaim. The use of her maiden name was at the advice of the publisher as it rolled off the tongue better than Audrey Schultz.

Gaines’s style would come to closely reflect the “Who Done It?” theme that dominated the era. She would continue to be published with her next works While the Wind Howled in 1940; The Voodoo Goat in 1942; Omit Flowers, Please in 1946; and lastly No Crime Like the Present in 1952.

Omit Flowers, Please would go on to be a best seller.

After the publication of her fifth book, Audrey Gaines Schultz ended her writing career. She had written her five books in only 13 years, less than the 15 she had promised.

Outside of being an author, Audrey Schultz was also heavily involved in many local organizations. She was a member of the First Presbyterian Church, women’s committee of the Genesee Symphony Orchestra, and the Genesee Memorial Hospital Auxiliary.

Along with her husband, she would also take an active part in the World Federalist Movement during World War II, even serving as a judge for the World Peace Sermon. She would have one son, Lawrence H. Schultz, Jr., who would go on to be a Batavia City Court judge. Audrey Gaines Schultz would die on Sept. 10, 1968, at the age of 69. Though her books have not been popular for nearly 70 years, they are still available for today’s readers.

The Richmond Memorial Library still has copies of her novels in its catalog available to check out.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1