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Queen, Ellery

Page history last edited by barry_ergang@... 8 years, 3 months ago

Frederick Dannay

Source: Wikipedia

Ellery Queen is both a fictional character and a pseudonym used by two American cousins, Frederick Dannay (1905–1982) (right) and Manfred B. Lee (1905–1971) (below), to write detective fiction. In a successful series of novels that covered 42 years, Ellery Queen was not only the name of the author, but also that of the detective-hero of the stories. Movies, radio shows, and television shows have been based on their works. The two, particularly Dannay, were also responsible for co-founding and directing Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, generally considered as one of the most influential English crime fiction magazines of the last fifty years. During an extended period of writer's block, 'Ellery Queen' novels were turned out by a stable of writers from plot outlines provided by Lee.

 

Ellery Queen was created when Dannay and Lee entered a writing contest sponsored by a magazine for the best first mystery novel. They decided to use as their collective pseudonym the same name that they had given their detective. Inspired by the formula and style of the Philo Vance novels by SS Van Dine, their entry won the contest but before it could be published, the magazine was sold and the prize given to another entrant by the new owner. Undeterred, the cousins decided to take the novel to publishers, and The Roman Hat Mystery was published in 1929.

 

Manfred LeeThe Roman Hat Mystery established a basic formula: the unusual crime, the complex series of clues, the supporting characters of Ellery's father Inspector Richard Queen and his irascible assistant Sergeant Velie, and what would become most famous, Ellery's "Challenge to the Reader". This was a single page near the end of the book declaring that the reader now had seen all the same clues Ellery had, and asking if the reader could deduce the solution.

 

Ellery the character was himself a detective story writer, a snobbish, almost priggish intellectual who investigated and solved crimes solely because he found them stimulating. His mannerisms in the first nine or ten novels were apparently based on those of the extremely popular Philo Vance character of the same era and are today tiring, even irritating, to most modern readers—among other things he wore a pince-nez. Eventually these mannerisms were toned down or disappeared entirely, to the point where he became a near-faceless, near-characterless persona whose role in the books was purely to solve the mystery.

 

The Queen novels were the epitome of the classic "fair play", whodunit mystery, particularly during what was known as the "Golden Age" of the mystery novel. All the clues are made available to the reader in the same way they are to the protagonist detective, and so the reading of the book becomes an intellectual challenge as well. Mystery writer John Dickson Carr termed it "the grandest game in the world." Other characteristics of the early Queen novels were the intricately plotted clues and solutions. In The Greek Coffin Mystery (1932), often regarded as the finest Ellery Queen novel, multiple solutions to the mystery are proposed, a feature that would show up in later books, most notably Double, Double and Ten Days' Wonder.

 

In that same year, the cousins created Drury Lane under the name of Barnaby Ross, eventually writing four novels about Lane, a Shakespearian actor/detective. These novels were later reiussed under the Ellery Queen byline. For a while in the 1930s "Ellery Queen" and "Barnaby Ross" even staged a series of public debates in which one cousin impersonated Queen and the other impersonated Ross.

 

By 1938, with Ellery making the move to Hollywood to try his hand at scriptwriting, both his character and the character of the novels began to change. Romance was introduced, the solutions began to involve psychological elements as well, and the "Challenge" vanished from the pages. The novels also moved from mere puzzles to more introspective themes. Ten Days' Wonder (1948), set in the New England town of Wrightsville (a backdrop for several Queen novels during the 1940s), was even bold enough to show the limitations of Ellery's methods of detection. The 1950s and 1960s showed more experimental work, with one of the last novels to feature Ellery, And on the Eighth Day (1964), being a religious allegory touching on fascism. Although some of the later novels, especially Calamity Town and Cat of Many Tails, are considered classics, some criticize the combination of religious symbolism and detection in the later Queens as clumsy and pretentious. Some of the later Ellery Queen novels were ghost-written by science fiction writers Theodore Sturgeon, Avram Davidson, and Jack Vance.

 

Towards the end of their careers, the cousins also produced novels, mainly original paperbacks, written by various people under the Ellery Queen name that did not feature the character Ellery Queen as the protagonist. These included three novels featuring the governor's "troubleshooter" Mike McCall: The Campus Murders (1969, written by Gil Brewer); The Black Hearts Murder (1970, written by Richard Deming); and The Blue Movie Murders (1972, written by Edward D. Hoch). The science-fiction writer Jack Vance also wrote four of these books. One of them, A Room to Die in, is a particularly ingenious locked room mystery.

 

The Ellery Queen character and stories were adapted for a critically acclaimed but short-lived American television series in the mid-1970s starring Jim Hutton in the title role. Each episode would end with Queen breaking the fourth wall to go over the facts of the case and invite the audience to solve the mystery on their own.

 

Among the many variants were syndicated radio "filler" spots during the 1970s, called "Ellery Queen's Minute Mysteries". The spots would begin with a professional announcer saying, "This is Ellery Queen..." and would go on to describe a case in one minute. The radio station would then encourage callers to try to solve the mystery and win a sponsor's prize. Once they got a winner, the solution part of the spot would be played as confirmation.

 

The cousins, under their collective pseudonym, were given the Grand Master Award for achievements in the field of the mystery story by the Mystery Writers of America in 1961.

 


Ellery Queen's Drury Lane Mysteries (by 'Barnaby Ross')

 

There are only four books in this series, all written before 1933. This was still Depression - era and the authors wanted to publish as many books as they could and not overtax their publishers (and the reading public) with too many Ellery Queens, and they also wanted to introduce a new detective hero so as not to glut their Ellery readership. Later on (very soon), when EQ was became popular, they soon admitted authorship. The titles are Tragedy of X, Tragedy of Y, Tragedy of Z, and Drury Lane's Last Case. The detective is a top - notch retired Shakespearean actor, who had to quit the stage because of deafness, and has used his riches to build a huge feudal estate, complete with Elizabethan village, on the Hudson River near Tarreytown - populated with superannuated and destitute old actors and stage people, with names like Dromio, Quacey ('Caliban'), and 'Falstaff'.

 

For some reason, he is also an amateur detective of the classic Golden Age type, a real dilettante. Interesting concept, and well done for its period. Expect very logical detection (and far - out clues) with absolutely no realism in spite of the trappings. The first book is excellent, the last very entertaining, the two in the middle of interesting quality but not really first rate. If one wants to sample the EQ style without facing a whole bookshelf, try these books. As with all early EQ books, the official police are a combination of Keystone Kop and Gestapo, but that was standard in this type of book.

 

Note to fans: IPL reprinted all the Drury Lane mysteries in the mid - 1980s so you might still be able to find them without too much trouble.

 

Wyatt James

 


Mike Grost on Ellery Queen

 

Ellery Queen is the pseudonym of two cousins, Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee. They are the most important American detective writers of the Twentieth Century. Dannay largely plotted the Queen novels, and most of the writing was done by Lee. Dannay also edited Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine (EQMM) and numerous anthologies. His critical writings in that magazine, partly collected in In the Queen's Parlor, and his history Queen's Quorum, are the major critical works on the detective short story.

 

EQ's early works were strongly influenced by S.S. Van Dine. Gradually, he developed a more personal style, although he always was faithful to the puzzle plot, intuitionist tradition of the Van Dine school. Along with Agatha Christie and John Dickson Carr, he was one of the three major writers of the puzzle plot detective story.

 

The influence of the gifted, and today often underrated, Van Dine on EQ was extensive and profound. Ellery Queen is a genius amateur sleuth who works in close, respectful collaboration with the police, the same pattern as Van Dine's novels about Philo Vance. Both EQ and Van Dine set their novels in New York City, largely among its intelligentsia, artists, collectors and theater people. Both write in a rich, literate prose style. Both were early advocates of including non-stereotyped minority characters in their works, something discussed in detail in the article on Anthony Boucher.

 

Influence on John Dickson Carr

 

One writer I suspect EQ influenced, although this is not much discussed in history books, is John Dickson Carr. Carr's impossible crime plots are modeled after GK Chesterton. But his logical, systematic crime investigations remind me of Ellery Queen's. Both authors explore every aspect of the crime in great depth, constantly looking for new insights into its underlying causes, new clues, new information. Both put great emphasis on the movements of people within a building at the time of the crime, and their interactions, which they build up into complex patterns. Both are interested in direct, in-depth investigation of the crime itself, whereas Agatha Christie's sleuthing often looks into the background of the characters, their hidden past, their relationships, and so on: so do Green, Palmer, Rinehart and other writers out of the Green tradition.

 

Reader Mark Tilford sent interesting e-mail on this subject: "I was recently thinking about Carr's The Arabian Nights Murder, and realized it seemed to be rather Queen-like. In particular, Hadley's section (which was my favorite) reminded me of Queen's solutions: the detective notices several 'stray points': the disconnected beard, the fainting spell, etc., and puts them together with a beautiful chain of deductive reasoning which converges on the identity of the killer. The book also has two solutions, which EQ frequently did."

 

Another area where Carr's writings modeled themselves on Queen's was that of the radio play. EQ was apparently the pioneer author to move from prose fiction into the radio drama. Carr would follow along this path shortly after, as did Anthony Boucher.

 

Homages in Ellery Queen

 

The nurse is named Diversey in The Chinese Orange Mystery; one wonders if this is in homage to MacKinlay Kantor's first novel, Diversey (1928). Hammett is also mentioned by name in this book, as are the great adventure (and sometimes mystery) writers of an earlier generation (Doyle, Jack London, Robert W. Chambers, George Barr McCutcheon, Richard Harding Davis) in Chapter 22 of The French Powder Mystery. Many of these writers of classic romance are invoked again in "Miser's Gold" (1950).

 

Agatha Christie and S.S. Van Dine are mentioned in Chapter 1 of The Four of Hearts (1938). EQ makes clear in The Four of Hearts who his closest literary relatives are by referring to the imaginary mystery writer Ellery Van Christie. Similarly, The Tragedy of Y (1932) describes the "deductive-intellectual detective" tradition of Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie and Ellery Queen himself. In "The Adventure of Napoleon's Razor" (1939) a character tells Ellery that he is his second-favorite detective, after Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot. Doyle's Sherlock Holmes is invoked in "The Adventure of Mr. Short and Mr. Long" (1943). Rex Stout is discussed in The Finishing Stroke (1958) (Chapter 10). One also suspects that the use of the name Cazilis in Cat of Many Tails is in tribute to Mollie Casilis in Craig Rice's It Takes a Thief (1943). "The Three R's" (1946) mentions Anthony Abbot, G.K. Chesterton, Doyle, Poe, and Israel Zangwill. All of the above writers are members of what can be called the intuitionist tradition, the tradition to which Ellery Queen belonged himself.

 

Private eyes and Raymond Chandler are memorably satirized in the opening of "The Ides of Michael Magoon" (1947). "The Medical Finger" (1951) refers to Frederick Irving Anderson's The Notorious Sophie Lang. In the story "Cold Money" (1952), the bad guy keeps renting Room 913 of a hotel; as Francis M. Nevins pointed out, this recalls a similar situation in Cornell Woolrich's "The Room With Something Wrong" (1938), which also involves mystery in Room 913. The house dick of the hotel plays a major role in both tales, as well. This is clearly a homage to Woolrich and one of his best stories. I suspect that EQ has added little homages and in jokes to many of his works, playful references to other mystery writers' stories; I wonder if they are as numerous as Alfred Hitchcock's cameo appearances in his movies. One can also see references in The Player on the Other Side to Borges' "Death and the Compass". The publisher Dan Z. Freeman in The Finishing Stroke (1958) might be a homage to R. Austin Freeman, a writer Queen admired. The book explicitly mentions (Chapter 5) Anthony Berkeley's The Poisoned Chocolates Case (1929), a novel whose multiple solutions probably had a strong influence on Queen's own multiple solution mysteries, such as The Greek Coffin Mystery. Howard Haycraft is paid a charming tribute to in "Abraham Lincoln's Clue" (1965). And the suspects in The Chinese Orange Mystery and The Origin of Evil named Macgowan (with a small g) could be a reference to Kenneth Macgowan, who edited the anthology Sleuths (1931).

 

The Hollywood Novels

 

EQ's Hollywood novels are fairly minor works in the Queen canon. Both are likable in their storytelling, in a fairly mild way. EQ does not really like Hollywood; despite what one might think or expect about the Great Surrealist of the detective story finding an ideal home for his fiction in that topsy turvy city, the fusion never takes place. Dannay and Lee apparently had terrible personal experiences in that city, with their talent wasted on some small pictures, and a humiliating lack of personal success. The team would find a much more sympathetic home in radio, but their basically negative feelings about Hollywood permeate what could have been better books. The closest literary ancestors for Queen's portrait of Hollywood are such 1930's Broadway plays as Boy Meets Girl and Kaufman and Hart's Once in a Lifetime. These works take a comic and satiric approach to Tinsel Town, describing it as a place where talent is wasted and the normal laws of business do not apply. Queen does not essentially add much to this tradition. In addition, the first novel, The Devil To Pay (1937), never builds up a really interesting detective plot. Its best section is the opening chapter, which sets up the romance subplot. EQ's mystery plot ideas about men's camel hair coats would find more logical expression in his short story, "Mind Over Matter" (1939). By contrast, the second book, The Four of Hearts (1938), shows more of Queen's plotting artistry. It is also the only one of his Hollywood books to have a setting within the film industry itself.

 

Years later, EQ returned to Hollywood for a third novel, The Origin of Evil (1950). The book is filled with fairly unlikable characters, and once again, like The Devil To Pay, it deals with crooked businessmen in L.A., not the movie industry. The plot rings every possible change on a single detective theme (the avenger from the past) as if it were a Jack Ritchie short story swelled to giant size. There is some ingenuity here, but as a whole the novel seems pretty minor. The book expresses pessimism over the arms race, and describes Yugoslavia and Iran and Korea as possible places where war could break out: 50 years later this seems frighteningly prophetic. I did like the young hero, who lives in a tree house like Tarzan. His name, Crowe Macgowan, seems to be inspired by Cro-Magnon Man, suggesting he is an evolutionary throwback; an appropriate enough choice in a novel whose title derives from Darwin's The Origin of the Species.

 

Minimalism

 

The three novels, The Four of Hearts (1938), Calamity Town (1942), and The Murderer is a Fox (1945), all have similar puzzle plots. Each revolves around a poisoning, and in each it is hard to see how the crime took place. There is something "minimalist" about the plot of each, as if EQ were trying to find the smallest possible plot, a situation so narrow in its maneuvering room that it barely allows for an explanation. This is especially true of the last two novels; the first, The Four of Hearts, surrounds the central situation with Golden Age complexities; but underneath them it is very similar to the later two books.

 

Some of Queen's short stories fall in this category, such as "Man Bites Dog" (1939) and "The Medical Finger" (1951). Another minimalist poisoning tale is the radio play, "The Adventure of the Bad Boy" (1939). This disturbing tale combines imagery from The Tragedy of Y, ideas on poisons from R. Austin Freeman's "Rex v. Burnaby", and a strange but well constructed minimalist plot about poisoning. The story shows the sense of dark tragedy that will soon be found in Calamity Town and The Murderer is a Fox.

 

A possible model for the minimalist poisoning stories of EQ is C. Daly King's Obelists Fly High (1935). The Four of Hearts (1938), the first of EQ's series, has an airplane background, just like King's book. EQ was an enormous King enthusiast: see Queen's Quorum. There are also elements of King's solution that recall EQ books, such as There Was an Old Woman (1943).

 

The otherwise routine EQ radio mystery, "The Adventure of the Lost Child" (1940), takes place in a New England city, somewhere between Boston and New York. This medium size city looks like a rough sketch of Wrightsville to come, two years later in Calamity Town (1942). The local newspaper publisher is a principal character; the town hotel is a major setting; various local landmarks such as the Three Oaks Memorial are mentioned, and the town even has a Lower Village. All of this anticipates Wrightsville, with its profusion of specific places, civic leaders and local institutions. Like Wrightsville, this locale is a full-fledged city, with all the issues and social problems that beset other sizable American metropolises. The plot of the story also separates Ellery from working with the police as a whole, just as in the Wrightsville tales.

 

When EQ went to Hollywood in The Devil To Pay, he became separated from Inspector Queen, the New York Police, and the whole investigative mechanism of amateur sleuth working with the police that EQ had inherited from S.S. Van Dine. EQ does much of his investigation under a pseudonym in this book, further changing his normal modus operandi, and eliminating any attempt to appeal to his reputation to get him entrée into the police investigation. This situation is made even more extreme in the Wrightsville novels that followed Calamity Town. I confess that today I regret all of these changes in EQ's approach. I like the old EQ better, in general. I am impressed with the minimalism of EQ's 1940's novels; it is a one time tour de force, and somebody had to do it. But as a whole, my heart is more with complexity, and I would have preferred many more of the old style early EQ novels.

 

Calamity Town is the best of the Wrightsville books. This tragic novel has a remarkable sense of structure. The whole novel seems to built on railroad tracks, with events leading on with powerful logic.

 

Calendar of Crime and the Radio Plays

 

During the 1940's EQ wrote a large number of radio plays. Several of these were later converted into prose works and collected in Calendar of Crime. Others have recently been gathered into the collection, The Adventure of the Murdered Moths and Other Radio Mysteries, available from its publisher, Crippen & Landru. This book badly needs a sequel: there are over 350 EQ radio plays, most of which have never been published.

 

Many of EQ's previous stories had elaborate quasi-historical backgrounds, based in a family history, or an earlier crime. In "The President's Half Disme" (1946), EQ takes the plunge into fiction involving actual historical characters, solving a mystery involving George Washington. Later, he was to write a similar story about another US President, "Abraham Lincoln's Clue" (1965). The collectors who show up in these stories remind one of those in "The One Penny Black" and "The Glass-Domed Clock". Although W.W.II is not mentioned in the story, it reflects the atmosphere of wartime patriotism prevalent then. Arnold Schoenberg would pay a similar tribute to George Washington in his musical composition Ode to Napoleon Bonaparte. The tale is set in a lonely farmhouse in Pennsylvania. The solution of the puzzle involves mathematics, as did such earlier EQ tales as The Tragedy of Y (1932), "The Glass-Domed Clock" (1933), and "The Hollow Dragon" (1936). EQ's first mathematics-based solution, in The Tragedy of Y, seems modeled on the similar math-based deductions in Chapter 9 of S.S. Van Dine's The Benson Murder Case (1926), which follows a tradition leading from Gaston Leroux's Le Mystère de la chambre jaune (1907). EQ would also use mathematical patterns in "The Gamblers' Club" (1951). The use of mathematics seems related to EQ's deep commitment to logic and reasoning.

 

"The Three R's" (1946) is EQ's take on an R. Austin Freeman style plot. Like several stories in Calendar of Crime, it has elements of parody of standard mystery approaches. Like "The Inner Circle" (1947) and "The African Traveler" (1934), it has a University setting, something that always results in sophisticated wit and satire in EQ's work. "The Inner Circle" is especially satisfying as a work of storytelling.

 

"The Medical Finger" (1951) is one of the last and least of EQ's minimalist poisoning tales. It features the same sort of perverse personal relations as "The Bleeding Portrait" (1937). The pirate tale "The Needle's Eye" (1951) has an island setting, just like "Portrait", but otherwise it seems far more similar in its detailed enjoyable storytelling to "The Treasure Hunt" (1935). The islands in these tales recall Oyster Island, in The Egyptian Cross Mystery (1932).

 

"The Dead Cat" (1946) is not a great mystery plot, but it does have an intriguing background of a crime committed in near darkness, reminiscent of "The House of Darkness" (1935) and "The Adventure of the Mouse's Blood" (1942). The last is a radio play with some good storytelling, and a sports milieu like the Paula Paris stories of 1939. Its mystery plot recalls Melville Davisson Post's "The Straw Man".

 

"The Adventure of the Dying Scarecrow" (1940) deals with a series of corpses found in grotesque situations, like The Egyptian Cross Mystery. While the imagery in the earlier novel is startlingly original, in this radio play it seems derived from Frederic Arnold Kummer's The Scarecrow Murders (1936-1938). On the other hand, Kummer perhaps found partial inspiration in EQ's The Egyptian Cross Mystery (1932) - so this situation could be a two way street. The radio drama is mianly interesting in the long history of the killings, with hidden events and motivations eventually emerging to fill in the story - an EQ specialty.

 

Some of the radio plays are startling for the amount of sheer mystery they contain. "The Adventure of Napoleon's Razor" (1939) has both the impossible disappearance of some gems, and a full murder mystery. The two plots are essentially separate from each other, and the reader gets two entire and very clever mysteries for the price of one. This is one of the most delightful of the EQ radio plays. "The Adventure of the Black Secret" (1939) has three separate mystery plots, all fairly clued. While two of them are easy to solve, albeit well-constructed and imaginative, the actual murder mystery is a humdinger. It involves a clever dying message, and other ingenious situations to boot only tangentially related to the message.

 

"The Adventure of the Murdered Moths" (1945) investigates a crime scene, using some clever scientific ideas to interpret the history of the killing. In this it resembles "Last Man to Die" (1963). Both stories have some elements in common with their solution, too.

 

The radio plays and Calendar of Crime include a new character, EQ's secretary and gal Friday, Nikki Porter. She only shows up here and in a few novels, such as the excellent The Scarlet Letters (1953), but she seems an important part of the EQ saga. I first read the Calendar stories while I was a young teenager. They made a curiously long lasting impression on me: they seem to be the archetypal EQ tales. In fact, they seem in some ways to be embedded in my memory as the archetypal US detective stories. This is not to say that I regard them as better than other detective stories, either by EQ or other writers; some of the tales are weak, and even some good ones are not totally great. Yet if someone were to ask me to name some "typical" American detective short stories, I would immediately think of Calendar of Crime. It is unclear why this is so. Part of the answer to the impression these stories make, is in their portrait of EQ as a detective. He is helpful, responsive, flexible, with a full support team of Nikki, the Inspector, Sgt. Velie, and so on. He is open minded, intelligent, investigatory, exhaustive in his searches, fertile in coming up with new ideas, and deductive in his solutions.

 

Impossible Disappearances

 

Among the best of these works are the radio play "The Man Who Could Double the Size of Diamonds" (1943) and the Calendar of Crime story "The Dauphin's Doll" (1948). These works are both about seemingly impossible jewel robberies, and share a distinct family resemblance. Among the various kinds of impossible crimes, EQ specialized in tales of Impossible Disappearances. In these two stories, diamonds vanish; as do larger objects in "The Lamp of God" (1935) and "Snowball in July" (1952). People also evaporate in EQ's impossible crime tales, such as the radio play known variously as "The Adventure of Mr. Short and Mr. Long" or "The Disappearance of Mr. James Phillimore" (broadcast January 1943, published 1944), and the Q.B.I. tale "Double Your Money" (1951). Both of these latter two stories show some resemblances: both deal with the vanishing of a crooked financier, who is pulling the same swindle in both works, and both crimes' explanations have some features in common, as well as considerable differences in details. Both versions make terrific reading.

 

Although they did not specialize in impossible crimes, many members of the Van Dine school occasionally wrote about them, starting with Van Dine himself. Van Dine's The Dragon Murder Case (1933) is also about an Impossible Disappearance, as is Stuart Palmer's "The Riddle of the Dangling Pearl" (1933). EQ was also familiar with Impossible Disappearance stories by early writers. L.T. Meade and Robert Eustace's "The Man Who Disappeared" (1901) was reprinted by him in EQMM, causing this hitherto uncollected story to be rescued from obscurity.

 

These impossible disappearance stories intergrade with another EQ specialty, the exhaustive search. For example, stories about searches for the disappearing will in The Greek Coffin Mystery (1932), the vanishing gun in The American Gun Mystery (1933), the stolen gems in "The Trojan Horse" (1939), "The Treasure Hunt" (1935) and "The Adventure of Napoleon's Razor" (1939), and the hidden money in "Miser's Gold" (1950) and "Object Lesson" (1955) are halfway between the Impossible Disappearance and the search tale. The disappearance of these missing objects does not at first look impossible, but as they elude the most intensive searches, their vanishing looks more and more like a sheer impossibility. EQ's searches tend to be fascinating reading. They are extraordinarily surrealistic. They clearly fascinated EQ himself: see his comments on the search in Gaboriau's early tale, "A Disappearance", in Queen's Quorum.

 

WARNING: WE WILL NOW DISCUSS SOLUTIONS OF THE CONCEALED OBJECT TALES: The ancestor of these stories of search for a concealed object is Edgar Allan Poe's "The Purloined Letter" (1844). Poe was one of EQ's favorite writers. However, Queen's solution to the concealed object problem are slightly different from Poe's. In "The Purloined Letter", the missing letter is concealed in a conspicuous place, one that is so "obvious" that no one looks there. EQ's approach is related, but somewhat different. In EQ's tales, a public ritual of some sort is often taking place. There is a container at the center of this ritual, and the missing item is hidden inside the container. For example, in "The Trojan Horse", there is a football game about to begin, and the missing gems are hidden in the football itself. The football is the central object around which the whole mechanism of the football game revolves. The game is an elaborate public ceremony, and all eyes will be fixed in the football at its center. And hidden inside the football are the missing gems, unknown to everyone watching ... The containers can seem like womb or egg symbols. Often they will be propelled or ejected outside the perimeter of the main search area. The propulsive device is often another object, one with phallic or male symbolism. In "The Trojan Horse" these propulsive figures are the football players themselves. END OF DISCUSSION.

 

EQ also used searches for a different kind of puzzle plot, especially in some of his later works such as The King is Dead (1952). Here EQ conducts an in depth search among a dead man's clothing, looking for some item that never shows up, but which should have been there. The reader has to try to figure out which item is missing from the long list of clothing. Francis M. Nevins calls this approach the "negative clue". It was also noticed as an EQ trait by John Dickson Carr in his essay "The Greatest Game in the World" (1946), and delightfully burlesqued there. EQ was not the only author to use this approach; it also shows up frequently in Agatha Christie, for example in her novel Death in the Clouds (1935).

 

EQMM and the Detective Story

 

Frederic Dannay founded and edited Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine (EQMM) from 1941 until his death in 1982. Throughout that entire period, Dannay was a tireless champion of the true detective story, the kind of tale in which a mystery is investigated and solved by a detective. Even after some critics began to describe such stories as old fashioned, Dannay kept seeking them out and publishing them. Already in the 1950's, editor Joan Kahn was denouncing detective stories, and Julian Symons published his widely read manifesto, Bloody Murder (1972), in which he argued that detective tales were inferior to non-mystery oriented "crime fiction", mainstream-like tales of crime without any mystery or detection. Recently, some writers have suggested that Dannay agreed with Symons and Kahn, and downplayed detective fiction in his later years. The historical record strongly suggests that such ideas about Dannay are just plain wrong. Throughout the 1960's and 1970's, Dannay published numerous genuine detective series in EQMM, by such authors as Isaac Asimov, Lawrence G. Blochman, Jon L. Breen, William Brittain, Edward D. Hoch, James Holding, Patricia McGerr, Harold Q. Masur, Francis M. Nevins, Hugh Pentecost, Joyce Porter, James Powell, Bill Pronzini, S. S. Rafferty, Jack Ritchie and James Yaffe. Most of these writers contributed lengthy series to the magazine, and were prolific. It was under Dannay's editorship, for instance, that the unbroken run of Edward D. Hoch stories in every issue started in 1973, a run that continues till this day. Even before 1973, there was a Hoch detective story in nearly every issue of EQMM since 1965. This is an example of Dannay's enormous enthusiasm for publishing genuine mystery stories.

 

All of these authors' stories, and many others, owe their existence to Dannay and his EQMM. It played a major role in American culture.

 

Bibliography

 

Shorter works by Ellery Queen

 

The Roman Hat Mystery (1929)

The French Powder Mystery (1930)

The Dutch Shoe Mystery (1931)

The Greek Coffin Mystery (1932)

The Egyptian Cross Mystery (1932)

The American Gun Mystery (1933)

The Siamese Twin Mystery (1933)

The Chinese Orange Mystery (1934)

The Spanish Cape Mystery (1935)

Halfway House (1936)

The Door Between (1937)

The Devil to Pay (1938)

The Four of Hearts (1938)

The Dragon's Teeth (1939) aka The Virgin Heiresses

The Perfect Crime (1942) -- Novelisation of a screenplay

Calamity Town (1942)

There Was an Old Woman (1943)

The Murderer Is a Fox (1945)

Ten Days' Wonder (1948)

Cat of Many Tails (1949)

Double, Double (1950)

The Origin of Evil (1951)

The King is Dead (1952)

The Scarlet Letters (1953)

The Glass Village (1954)

Inspector Queen's Own Case (1956)

The Finishing Stroke (1958)

The Player on The Other Side (1963)

And on the Eighth Day (1964)

The Fourth Side of The Triangle (1965)

A Study In Terror (1966)

Face to Face (1967)

The House of Brass (1968)

Cop Out (1969)

The Last Woman in His Life (1970)

A Fine and Private Place (1971)

 

Short story collections

The Adventures of Ellery Queen (1935)

The New Adventures of Ellery Queen (1940)

The Case Book of Ellery Queen (1950) -- a compilation of the two above

Calendar Of Crime (1952)

QBI Queen's Bureau of Investigation (1955)

Queen's Full (1966)

QED Queen's Experiments In Detection (1968)

The Best Of Ellery Queen (1985) one previously uncollected}

The Tragedy Of Errors (1999) {a previously unpublished synopsis written by Dannay}

The Adventure of the Murdered Moths and Other Radio Mysteries {2005}

 

As Barnaby Ross

The Tragedy of X (1932)

The Tragedy of Y (1932)

The Tragedy of Z (1933)

Drury Lane's Last Case (1933)

 

Non-fiction

In the Queen's Parlour - collected articles and reviews (1957)

Queen's Quorum

Blood Relations: Selected letters between Dannay and Lee. Edited by Joseph Goodrich (2012)

 

EQ Paperback originals ghosted by other writers

See also QBI

 

By Gil Brewer

The Campus Murders (1969)

 

By Richard Deming

Death Spins the Platter (1962)

Wife or Death (1963)

The Copper Frame (1965)

Shoot the Scene (1966)

Losers, Weepers (1966)

Why So Dead? (1966)

How goes the Murder? (1967)

Which way to Die? (1967)

What's in the Dark? (1967) aka When Fell The Night

The Black Hearts Murder (1970)

 

By Fletcher Flora

The Golden Goose (1964) aka Who Killed the Golden Goose?

The Devil's Cook (1966)

 

By Hoch, Edward D

The Blue Movie Murders (1972)

 

By Henry Kane

Kill As Directed (1963)

 

By Stephen Marlowe

Dead Man's Tale (1961)

 

By Talmadge Powell

Murder With a Past (1963)

Beware the Young Stranger (1965)

Where is Bianca? (1966)

Who Spies, Who Kills? (1966)

 

By Charles W Runyon

The Last Score (1964)

 

By Walt Sheldon

Guess Who's coming to Kill You? (1968) aka Guess Who’s Going to Kill You?

 

By Jack Vance

The Four Johns (1964) aka Four Men Called John

A Room to Die In (1965)

The Madman Theory (1966)

 

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