Queen of Fiction : Overview

FPK, editing, c1930s

FPK, the editor at work.

In the late 1930s, Frances Parkinson Keyes’s life changed significantly because of the death of her husband and mother, her new faith and conversion to Catholicism, and her developing fascination with the state of Louisiana and its history. In 1945, Keyes moved into the Beauregard House on Chartres Street in New Orleans. It was in this house that she wrote many of the best-selling novels that led Life magazine to crown her one of the three American “Queens of Fiction” in 1959. The “Queens,” who included Edna Ferber and Taylor Caldwell, were “the standard-bearers of the big, old-fashioned novel, the kind that releases onto a variegated landscape swarms of characters who climb, crawl, fight, weep, stagger and triumph through a cavalcade of marriages, infidelities, deaths, grandchildren, earthquakes, whooping coughs and wars.” [1]

This essay examines Keyes’s career as a “Queen” of American fiction writing, concentrating on her career as a Southern novelist and her residency in New Orleans. Keyes had long been interested in historic preservation and this essay describes that interest and examines how, in New Orleans, she found the site that would become part of her legacy. The essay also examines the help she received in researching and writing her books and articles.


1) Robert Wernick, “The Queens of Fiction,” Life, April 6, 1959, 139-152.