Born Helen White Eustis II on December 31, 1916, in Cincinnati, Ohio, daughter of Harold Clayton Eustis, a socially prominent stockbroker, and Bessie Langdon Eustis. Mother died on October 18, 1918. Father married Mabel Ethel Wood Pogue, who had a son from a previous marriage, Samuel Pogue, born in 1919 after his father’s death.
Attended Smith College in Massachusetts, where she won a creative writing award; graduated in 1938 with a bachelor’s degree in English literature. Married Alfred Young Fisher, a professor of English at Smith previously married to writer M.F.K. Fisher. They had a son, Adam Eustis (Genkaku) Fisher. Pursued graduate work in literature at Columbia University but did not finish her degree. Divorced Fisher and married Martin Harris, a press photographer; marriage ended in divorce. Father died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the Netherland Plaza Hotel in Cincinnati, Ohio, on December 3, 1945, after wife had filed for divorce.
Eustis briefly worked as a copywriter. Published debut novel The Horizontal Man (1946), loosely based on her experiences at Smith College; it won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel the following year. Story “An American Home” (1947) won an O. Henry Prize and was included in the collection The Captains and the Kings Depart, and Other Stories (1949). Published children’s book Mr. Death and the Redheaded Woman (1954), which had first appeared in the February 11, 1950, issue of The Saturday Evening Post; short stories “The Private Ghost of Benjamin Kell” (Cosmopolitan, 1952) and “Good-by To Oedipus” (Harper’s Monthly, 1953); and novel The Fool Killer (1954), a Civil War thriller echoing classic boys’ tales. The Fool Killer was adapted into the film of the same name, starring Anthony Perkins, in 1965. Translated several books from French including works by Georges Simenon (When I Was Old, 1971), Christiane Rochefort (Cats Don’t Care For Money, 1965), Didier Decoin (Laurence: A Love Story, 1971), Michel Salomon (Prague Notebook: The Strangled Revolution, 1971), Edmonde Charles-Roux (To Forget Palermo, 1968), and Romain Gary (The Enchanters, 1975.) Published short story “A Winter’s Tale” (1986) in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. Died in New York on January 11, 2015.
Books by Helen Eustis
The Horizontal Man (1946) (Edgar Award)
The Captains and the Kings Depart, and Other Stories (1949)
Mr. Death and the Redheaded Woman (1954)
The Fool Killer (1954)
Christiane Rochefort, Cats Don’t Care For Money (1965)
Edmonde Charles-Roux, To Forget Palermo (1968)
Georges Simenon, When I Was Old (1971)
Didier Decoin, Laurence: A Love Story (1971)
Michel Salomon, Prague Notebook: The Strangled Revolution (1971)
Romain Gary, The Enchanters (1975)