Ellery Queen

From Academic Kids

Ellery Queen stamp issued by .
Ellery Queen stamp issued by San Marino.

Ellery Queen was a pseudonym used by two American cousins, Frederick Dannay (1905–1972) and Manfred B. Lee (1905–1982), to write detective fiction. Movies, radio shows, and television shows have been based on their works.

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. Towards the end of their career, the cousins also produced novels, mainly original paperbacks, under the Ellery Queen name that did not feature the character Ellery Queen. They also wrote four novels under the name of Barnaby Ross about a Shakespearian actor/detective named Drury Lane. These novels were later reiussed under the Ellery Queen byline. Some of the later Ellery Queen novels were ghost-written by Theodore Sturgeon, Avram Davidson, Jack Vance, and other prominent mystery writers.

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 S. S. 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.

The Roman Hat Mystery established the 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 himself was 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 Barnaby Ross byline. For a while in the 1930s "Ellery Queen" and "Barnaby Ross" 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.

There were many paperback novels written under the "Ellery Queen" name in the 1960s that did not feature Ellery 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.


Hardback Novels 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
  • 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 (neither Ellery Queen nor Inspector Queen in book)
  • Inspector Queen's Own Case - 1956 (Inspector Queen only)
  • The Finishing Stroke - 1958
  • The Player on The Other Side - 1963 (ghost-written with Theodore Sturgeon)
  • And on The Eighth Day - 1964 (ghost-written with Avram Davidson)
  • The Fourth Side of The Triangle - 1965 (ghost-written with Avram Davidson)
  • A Study In Terror - 1966 (Sherlock Holmes part written by Paul W. Fairman)
  • Face to Face - 1967
  • The House of Brass - 1968 (ghost-written with Avram Davidson)
  • Cop Out - 1969 (neither Ellery Queen nor Inspector Queen in book)
  • The Last Woman in His Life - 1970
  • A Fine and Private Place - 1971

External link

he:אלרי קווין ja:エラリー・クイーン nl:Ellery Queen sv:Ellery Queen de:Ellery Queen


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