Virginia Coffman Papers

Identifier: 2005-23

Scope and Contents

The Virginia Coffman Papers consists primarily of materials related to Virginia Coffman's career as a popular novelist, including manuscript drafts, notes, proposals, and newspaper clippings, as well as articles, screenplay ideas, and correspondence relating to her film and screenwriter career. Additionally, a small amount of information about her family, including sister, Florence (Donnie) Coffman Micciche, brother-in-law John (Johnny) Micciche, her father William Milo Coffman, and mother, Edythe L. Deuvaul, is included.


  • 1907-1989
  • Majority of material found within 1959-1974


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials must be used on-site; advance notice suggested. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.

Biographical Note

Virginia Coffman was born on July 30, 1914 in San Francisco, California to Edythe L. Deuvaul and William Milo Coffman. She spent most of her childhood in Long Beach, California and attended Edison Elementary and Junior High School, and the Polytechnic High School in Long Beach, where she won three newspaper prizes. She and her sister, Florence (Donnie), wrote, produced, and acted in plays for friends and family while growing up. Her family survived the 1933 Long Beach earthquake, although the earthquake destroyed the schools she had attended. Edythe and the two girls moved to Oakland, California, where Virginia was a freelance movie reviewer for the Oakland Tribune newspaper from 1933-1940. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1938. Her parents divorced amicably during the 1940s.

Both Virginia and Donnie Coffman worked as actors during the late 1930s and early 1940s. Virginia believed her best roles were in The Damask Cheek and Voice of the Turtle. The family moved back to Hollywood in 1944, where Donnie pursued work in opera and musical comedy. Virginia preferred writing to acting and took a secretarial job with the Selznick Studios, hoping it would lead to an opening in the script department. She also worked for Columbia, Hal Roach, Monogram Pictures Corp., and RKO studios as a secretary and scriptwriter for both film and television during her early writing career, 1944-1956.

Coffman moved to Reno, Nevada in 1956 to focus on her writing. She worked for Henry F. "Chick" Bennett in Reno until her early novels proved to be financially successful, becoming a full-time writer in 1965. Her first published novel, Moura, was released in 1959, showcased by Library Journal, and became a bestseller. She was dedicated to meticulous research for her historical novels, drawing upon personal experience as a world traveler. Coffman attributed her love of France and interest in Napoleon Bonaparte to a maternal ancestor, Colour-Sergent Bertrand Neu, who accompanied Napoleon into Russia and later fought the British in New Orleans during the American Revolution. Her younger sister, Florence (Donnie) Coffman Micciche, a Reno artist and musician, accompanied her on several international cruises, along with her husband, John (Johnny) Micciche, who was employed by the First National Bank of Nevada in Reno.

Coffman used several pen names for her fiction: Anne Austen, Kay Cameron, Victor Cross, Jeanne Duval, Virginia C. Du Vaul, Diana Saunders, and Ann(e) Stanfield. Many of Coffman's historical romance and gothic mystery novels were translated into several European languages, as well as being published in large print English language and audio editions. By the mid-1980s, over five million paperback editions of her novels had been sold. By then, Coffman was recognized as "the author largely responsible for setting off the Gothics craze of the 1960s," earning her the reputation of "Queen of Gothics."

Coffman was recognized by Who's Who of American Women and Who's Who in the West. She was a member of the Screen Writers Guild, the Authors League of America, and the Mystery Writers Guild of America. In 1990, the University of Nevada, Reno inducted her into the Nevada Writer's Hall of Fame.

Coffman died in Reno on March 31, 2005.


3.042 Linear Feet (9 boxes)

Language of Materials



Virginia Coffman (1914-2005) was an American novelist best known for her Gothic novels. The collection consists primarily of materials related to Coffman's career as a popular novelist, including manuscript drafts, notes, proposals, and newspaper clippings, as well as articles, screenplay ideas, and correspondence relating to her film and screenwriter career. A small amount of personal and family material is also included.


Arranged into the following series: 1) Biographical and Family Materials; 2) Hollywood Screen Writing Career; 3) Popular Novelist Writing Career; 4) Photographs

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by the Virginia Coffman Estate in June 2005. One manuscript of Heaven of Frost was purchased from Linda Sue McElvaney in January 2009.

Separated Materials

Copies of Coffman's books transferred to Special Collections stacks under various call numbers.


Select bibliography of novels published by Virginia Coffman.
  • The Affair at Alkali. New York: Arcadia House, 1960; 1962 =Nevada Gunslinger.
  • The Alpine Coach. England: Ulverscroft, 1976, 1981.
  • The Beckoning (from Moura). New York: Ace Books, 1965, 1973.
  • Castel Barra. New York: Warner Paperback, 1966, 1974.
  • Castle at Witches Coven. Bath: Chivers, 1966, 1990. Large print edition.
  • Chalet Diabolique. (Lucifer Cove Series #5) Bath: Chivers, 1971, 1990. Large print edition.
  • The Chinese Door. London: Hale, 1967, 1971.
  • The Cliffs of Dread. New York: New American Library,1972.
  • Curse of the Island Pool. New York: Lancer, 1965.
  • Dangerous Loyalties. London: Severn House, 1993.
  • The Dark Beyond Moura. New York: Ace, 1965, 1968.
  • Dark Desire. New York: Warner [Popular Library], 1987.
  • The Dark Gondola. New York: Ace, 1968. 1969, 1973.
  • The Dark Palazzo. New York: Arbor House, 1973.
  • Dark Winds. New York: Arbor House, 1985.
  • The Demon Tower. New York: Signet: 1966.
  • The Devil Vicar. New York: Ace Books, 1966.
  • Dinah Faire: A Novel. New York: Arbor House, 1979.
  • Dynasty of Dreams. (original title The Lombard Cavalcade) Kensington, 1982, 1984.
  • Emerald Flame. New York: Severn, 1996.
  • The Evil at Queen's Priory. Bath: Chivers, 1973, 1981.
  • A Few Fiends to Tea. New York: Belmont, 1967.
  • Fire Dawn: A Novel. New York: Arbor House, 1977, 1978.
  • From Satan, with Love. (Lucifer Cove series #6) New York: Lancer, 1971, 1973.
  • The Gaynor Women. New York: Arbor House, 1978.
  • A Haunted Place. New York: Lancer, 1966.
  • The High Terrace. New York: Lancer, 1966.
  • The House at Sandalwood. Aylesbury, Eng.: Milton House Books, 1974, 1975.
  • Hyde Place. Greenwich, CT: Fawcett, 1974.
  • The Ice Forest. New York: Dell, 1975.
  • Isle of the Undead. New York: Signet, 1969, 1978.
  • Legacy of Fear. (Original title: A Fear of Heights) New York: New American, 1973.
  • The Looking-Glass. New York: Dell, 1978.
  • Marsanne: a Novel. (Lucifer Cove Series) Greenwich, CT: Fawcett Crest Books, 1976.
  • Masque of Satan. (Lucifer Cove series) New York: Lancer, 1971.
  • The Mist at Darkness. New York: New American Library, 1968.
  • Mistress Devon: a Novel. New York: Arbor, 1972.
  • Moura. New York: Ace, 1959.
  • Night at Sea Abbey. New York: Lancer, 1972.
  • Of Love and Intrigue. New York: Signet, 1969.
  • Pacific Cavalcade. New York: Arbor House, 1980, 1981.
  • Priestess of the Damned. New York: Lancer, 1970, 1973. (Lucifer Cove series #2)
  • The Rest is Silence. New York: Lancer, 1967.
  • The Richest Girl in the World. New York: Lancer, 1967, 1968.
  • The Secret of Shower Tree. New York: Lancer, 1966.
  • The Shadow Box. New York: Lancer, 1967.
  • The Small Tawny Cat. New York: Lancer, 1967, 1968.
  • Strange Secrets. New York: New Amer. Library, 1966, 1976.
  • To Love a Dark Stranger. London: Hale, 1969.
  • The Vampyre of Moura. New York: Ace, 1970.
  • Veronique: a Novel. Greenwich, CT: Fawcett Crest, 1975.
  • The Vicar of Moura. New York: Ace Books, 1966, 1971.
  • Passion's Rebel. New York: New American Library, 1983.
  • Blood Sport. New York: Award Books, 1966.
  • The Lady Serena. New York: Signet, 1978.
  • The Ravishers. New York: New American Library, 1980.
  • Masque by Gaslight. New York: Ace Books, 1970.
  • The Passion of Letty Fox: A Novel. New York: Donald Fine, 1986.
  • Tana Maguire. London: Severn House, 1985, 1987.
  • Royal Summer. New York: Ballantine, 1986.
  • "How to Write Today's Gothic," in Falk, Kathryn, ed. How to Write a Romance and Get It Published: Intimate Advice from the World's Top Romance Writers. New York: New American Library, 1984, pp. 297-301.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Betty Glass and Jessica Maddox in February 2018. During processing, standard archival preservation measures were taken to ensure the longevity of the materials. This includes rehousing into appropriate acid-free containers and sleeving photographic prints/other preservation information.

Photographs formerly transferred to the Special Collections photo archives as collection number UNRS-P2007-13. Photograph number no longer in use.


Guide to the Virginia Coffman Papers
Betty Glass and Jessica Maddox
February 2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department Repository

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
1664 N. Virginia St.
Reno Nevada 89557-0322 USA
775-682-5724 (Fax)