Ellery Queen is both a fictional character and a pseudonym used by two American cousins from Brooklyn, New York—Daniel Nathan, alias Frederic Dannay (October 20, 1905 – September 3, 1982) and Emanuel Benjamin Lepofsky, alias Manfred Bennington Lee (January 11, 1905 – April 3, 1971)—to write, edit, and anthologize detective fiction. The fictional Ellery Queen created by Dannay and Lee is a mystery writer and amateur detective who helps his father, a New York City police inspector, solve baffling murders.
- 1 Career of Dannay and Lee
- 2 Fictional character
- 3 Fictional style
- 4 Novels as Barnaby Ross
- 5 In other media
- 6 Bibliography
- 7 Awards and honors
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
- 10 External links
Career of Dannay and Lee
In a successful series of novels and short stories that covered 42 years, "Ellery Queen" served as a joint pseudonym for the cousins Dannay and Lee, as well as the name of the primary detective-hero they created. During the 1930s and much of the 1940s, that detective-hero was possibly the best known American fictional detective. Movies, radio shows, and television shows were based on Dannay and Lee's works.
The two writers, particularly Dannay, were also responsible for co-founding and directing Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, generally considered one of the most influential English-language crime fiction magazines of the last sixty-five years. They were also prominent historians in the field, editing numerous collections and anthologies of short stories such as The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes. Their 994-page anthology for The Modern Library, 101 Years' Entertainment: The Great Detective Stories, 1841–1941, was a landmark work that remained in print for many years. Under their collective pseudonym, the cousins were given the Grand Master Award for achievements in the field of the mystery story by the Mystery Writers of America in 1961.
The fictional Ellery Queen was the hero of more than 30 novels and several short story collections, written by Dannay and Lee and published under the Ellery Queen pseudonym. Dannay and Lee also wrote four novels about a detective named Drury Lane using the pseudonym Barnaby Ross. They allowed the Ellery Queen name to be used as a house name for a number of novels written by other authors, most of them published in the 1960s as paperback originals and not featuring Ellery Queen as a character.
Dannay and Lee remained circumspect about their writing methods. Novelist and critic H.R.F. Keating wrote, "How actually did they do it? Did they sit together and hammer the stuff out word by word? Did one write the dialogue and the other the narration? ... What eventually happened was that Fred Dannay, in principle, produced the plots, the clues, and what would have to be deduced from them as well as the outlines of the characters and Manfred Lee clothed it all in words. But it is unlikely to have been as clear cut as that."
According to critic Otto Penzler, "As an anthologist, Ellery Queen is without peer, his taste unequalled. As a bibliographer and a collector of the detective short story, Queen is, again, a historical personage. Indeed, Ellery Queen clearly is, after Poe, the most important American in mystery fiction." British crime novelist Margery Allingham wrote that Ellery Queen had "done far more for the detective story than any other two men put together".
Although Frederic Dannay outlived his cousin by ten years, the Ellery Queen name died with Manfred Lee. The last Ellery Queen novel, A Fine and Private Place, was published in 1971, the year of Lee's death.
Ellery Queen was created in 1928 when Dannay and Lee entered a writing contest sponsored by McClure's 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 closed. Undeterred, the cousins took their novel to other publishers, and The Roman Hat Mystery was published in 1929. According to H. R. F. Keating, "Later the cousins took a sharper view of the Philo Vance character, Manfred Lee calling him, with typical vehemence, 'the biggest prig that ever came down the pike'."
The Roman Hat Mystery established a reliable template: a geographic formula title (The Dutch Shoe Mystery, The Egyptian Cross Mystery, etc.); an unusual crime; a complex series of clues and red herrings; multiple misdirected solutions before the final truth is revealed, and a cast of supporting characters including Ellery's father, Inspector Richard Queen, and his irascible assistant, Sergeant Velie. What became the most famous part of the early Ellery Queen books was the "Challenge to the Reader." This was a single page near the end of the book declaring that the reader had seen all the same clues Ellery had, and that only one solution was possible. According to novelist/critic Julian Symons, "The rare distinction of the books is that this claim is accurate. There are problems in deduction that do really permit of only one answer, and there are few crime stories indeed of which this can be said."
The fictional detective Ellery Queen is the author of the books in which he appears (The Finishing Stroke, 1958) and the editor of the magazine that bears his name (The Player On The Other Side, 1963). In earlier novels he is a snobbish Harvard-educated intellectual of independent means who wears pince-nez glasses and investigates crimes because he finds them stimulating. He supposedly derived these characteristics from his mother, the daughter of an aristocratic New York family, who had married Richard Queen, a bluff, man-in-the-street New York Irishman, and who dies before the stories began. From 1938, Ellery spends some time working in Hollywood as a screenwriter (in The Four of Hearts and The Origin of Evil), and solves cases with a Hollywood setting. At this point, he has a slick façade, is part of Hollywood society and hobnobs comfortably with the wealthy and famous. Beginning with Calamity Town in 1942, Ellery becomes less of a cypher and more of a human being, often becoming emotionally affected by the people in his cases, and at one point quitting detective work altogether. Calamity Town, two sequels, and some short stories are set in the imaginary town of Wrightsville, and subsidiary characters recur from story to story; Ellery relates to the various strata of American society as an outsider. However, after his Hollywood and Wrightsville periods, he is returned to his New York City roots for the remainder of his career, and is then seen again as an ultra-logical crime solver who remains distant from his cases. In the very late novels, he often seems a near-faceless, near-characterless persona whose role is purely to solve the mystery. So striking are the differences between the different periods of the Ellery Queen character that Julian Symons advanced the theory that there were two "Ellery Queens"—an older and younger brother.
Ellery Queen is said to be married and the father of a child in the introductions to the first few novels, but this plot line is never developed and Ellery is mainly portrayed as a bachelor. The character of Nikki Porter, who acts as Ellery's secretary and is something of a love interest, was encountered first in the radio series. Nikki's curiosity and her attempts to encourage Ellery to work as a detective are responsible for a number of radio and film plots from the early 1940s. Her first appearance in a written story is in the final pages of There Was An Old Woman (1943), when a character with whom Ellery has had some flirtatious moments announces spontaneously that she's changing her name to Nikki Porter and going to work as Ellery's secretary. Nikki Porter appears sporadically thereafter in novels and stories, linking the character from radio and movies into the written canon. The character of Paula Paris, an agoraphobic gossip columnist, is linked romantically with Ellery in one novel, The Four of Hearts, and in short stories during the Hollywood period, but does not appear in the radio series or films, and soon vanished from the books. Ellery is not given any serious romantic interests after Nikki Porter and Paula Paris disappear from the books.
The Queen household, an apartment in New York shared by the Queens father and son, also contains a houseboy named Djuna, at least in the earliest novels and short stories. This young man, who may be of gypsy origin, appears periodically in the canon, apparently ageless and family-free, in a supporting role as cook, receiver of parcels, valet, and as occasional minor comedy relief. He is the principal character in some, not all, of the juvenile novels ghost-written by other writers under the pseudonym Ellery Queen, Jr.
The Queen novels are examples of the classic "fair play" whodunit mystery, and are textbook examples of what became known as the "Golden Age" of the mystery novel. Because the reader obtains clues in the same way as the protagonist detective, the book becomes an intellectually challenging puzzle. Mystery writer John Dickson Carr termed it "the grandest game in the world".
The early Queen novels were characterized by intricately plotted clues and solutions. In The Greek Coffin Mystery (1932), The Siamese Twin Mystery, and others, multiple solutions to the mystery are proposed, a feature that also showed up in later books such as Double, Double and Ten Days' Wonder. Queen's "false solution, followed by the truth" became a hallmark of the canon. Another stylistic element in many early books (notably The Dutch Shoe Mystery, The French Powder Mystery and Halfway House) is Ellery's method of creating a list of attributes (the murderer is male, the murderer smokes a pipe, etc.). Then, by comparing each suspect to these attributes, he reduces the list of suspects to a single name, often an unlikely one.
By the late 1930s, when Ellery Queen—author and character—moved to Hollywood to try movie scriptwriting, the tone of the novels began to change along with the detective's character. Romance was introduced, solutions began to involve more psychological elements, and the "Challenge to the Reader" vanished from the books. Some of the novels also moved from mere puzzles to more introspective themes. The three novels set in the fictional New England town of Wrightsville, starting with Calamity Town in 1942, even showed the limitations of Ellery's methods of detection. According to Julian Symons, "Ellery ... occasionally lost his father, as his exploits took place more frequently in the small town of Wrightsville ... where his arrival as a house guest was likely to be the signal for the commission of one or more murders. Very intelligently, Dannay and Lee used this change in locale to loosen the structure of their stories. More emphasis was placed on personal relationships, and less on the details of investigation."
In the 1950s and 1960s, the authors tried some more experimental work, especially in three novels written by other writers, all based on detailed outlines by Dannay. The Player on the Other Side, ghost-written by Theodore Sturgeon, delves more deeply into motive than most Ellery Queen novels. And on the Eighth Day (1964), ghost-written by Avram Davidson, was a religious allegory touching on fascism. Davidson also wrote The Fourth Side of the Triangle.
Toward the end of their careers, the cousins allowed some crime novels, mainly paperback originals, to be written by various ghostwriters under the Ellery Queen name. These books did not feature the character Ellery Queen as the protagonist. They included three novels featuring "the governor's troubleshooter", Micah "Mike" McCall, and six featuring private eye Tim Corrigan. The prominent science-fiction writer Jack Vance wrote three of these original paperbacks, including the locked room mystery A Room to Die In.
There are also several collections of Ellery Queen short stories. These were praised by Julian Symons as follows "...in some ways the short story is better suited than the novel to this kind of writing... This is notable especially in the case of Ellery Queen. The best of his short stories belong to the early intensely ratiocinative period, and both The Adventures of Ellery Queen (1934) and The New Adventures (1940) are as absolutely fair and totally puzzling as the most passionate devotee of orthodoxy could wish... (E)very story in these books is composed with wonderful skill."
Novels as Barnaby Ross
Beginning in 1932, the cousins wrote four novels using the pseudonym Barnaby Ross about Drury Lane, a Shakespearean actor who had retired from the stage due to deafness and was consulted as an amateur detective. The novels also featured Inspector Thumm (at first of the New York police, then later a private investigator) and his crime-solving daughter Patience. The Drury Lane novels are in the whodunit style. The Tragedy of X and The Tragedy of Y are variations on the locked room mystery format. The Tragedy of Y bears some resemblance to the Ellery Queen novel There Was an Old Woman: both are about eccentric families headed by a matriarch.
In the early 1930s, before Dannay and Lee's identity as the authors had been made public, "Ellery Queen" and "Barnaby Ross" staged a series of public debates in which one cousin impersonated Queen and the other impersonated Ross, both of them wearing masks to preserve their anonymity. According to H.R.F. Keating, "People said Ross must be the wit and critic Alexander Woollcott and Queen S.S. Van Dine..., creator of the super-snob detective Philo Vance, on whom 'Ellery Queen' was indeed modeled."
The cousins also allowed the Barnaby Ross name to be used as a house name for the publication of a series of historical novels by Don Tracy. (See Ellery Queen (house name).) From the 1940s, republications of the Drury Lane books were mostly under the Ellery Queen name.
In other media
On radio, The Adventures of Ellery Queen was heard on all three networks from 1939 to 1948. During the 1970s, syndicated radio fillers, Ellery Queen's Minute Mysteries, began with an announcer saying, "This is Ellery Queen..." and contained a short one-minute case. The radio station encouraged callers to solve the mystery and win a sponsor's prize. Once a winner was found, the solution was broadcast as confirmation. A complete episode guide and history of this radio program can be found in the book The Sound of Detection: Ellery Queen's Adventures in Radio, published by OTR Publishing in 2002. The Adventure of the Murdered Moths (Crippen & Landru, 2005) is the first book edition of many of the radio scripts.
Helene Hanff, best known for her book 84 Charing Cross Road, was a scripter for the television series version of The Adventures of Ellery Queen (1950–1952), which began on the DuMont Television Network but soon moved to ABC. Shortly after the series began, Richard Hart, who played Queen, died and was replaced in the lead role by Lee Bowman. The series returned to DuMont in 1954 with Hugh Marlowe in the title role. George Nader played Queen in The Further Adventures of Ellery Queen (1958–1959), but he was replaced with Lee Philips in the final episodes.
Peter Lawford starred in a television movie, Ellery Queen: Don't Look Behind You, in 1971. Veteran actor Harry Morgan played Inspector Queen, but in this film he was described as Ellery's uncle (perhaps to account for the fact that Morgan was only eight years Lawford's senior, or for Lawford's English accent). This film is loosely based on Cat of Many Tails.
The 1975 television movie Ellery Queen (a.k.a. "Too Many Suspects"—a loose adaptation of The Fourth Side of the Triangle) led to the 1975–1976 Ellery Queen television series starring Jim Hutton in the title role (with David Wayne as his widowed father). The series was done as a period piece set in New York City in 1946-1947. Sergeant Velie, Inspector Queen's assistant, was a cast regular in this series; he had appeared in the novels and the radio series, but had not been seen regularly in any of the previous television versions. Each episode contained a "Challenge to the Viewer" with Ellery breaking the fourth wall to go over the facts of the case and invite the audience to solve the mystery on their own, immediately before the solution was revealed. Each episode of the 1975 television series featured a number of Hollywood celebrities. Eve Arden, George Burns, Joan Collins, Roddy McDowall, Milton Berle, Guy Lombardo, Rudy Vallée, and Don Ameche were among the guests. Richard Levinson and William Link, the creators of the series had won a Special Edgars Award for creating the Columbo and Ellery Queen TV series.
- The Spanish Cape Mystery (1935) Donald Cook as Ellery Queen, Guy Usher as Inspector Queen (based on The Spanish Cape Mystery)
- The Mandarin Mystery (1936) Eddie Quillan as Ellery Queen, Wade Boteler as Inspector Queen (loosely based on The Chinese Orange Mystery); this film is now in the public domain
- Ellery Queen, Master Detective (1940) Ralph Bellamy as Ellery Queen, Margaret Lindsay as Nikki Porter, Charley Grapewin as Inspector Queen (very loosely based on The Door Between)
- Ellery Queen's Penthouse Mystery (1941) Ralph Bellamy as Ellery Queen, Margaret Lindsay as Nikki Porter, Charley Grapewin as Inspector Queen
- Ellery Queen and the Perfect Crime (1941) Ralph Bellamy as Ellery Queen, Margaret Lindsay as Nikki Porter, Charley Grapewin as Inspector Queen (loosely based on The Devil To Pay)
- Ellery Queen and the Murder Ring (1941) Ralph Bellamy as Ellery Queen, Margaret Lindsay as Nikki Porter, Charley Grapewin as Inspector Queen (loosely based on The Dutch Shoe Mystery)
- A Close Call for Ellery Queen (1942) William Gargan as Ellery Queen, Margaret Lindsay as Nikki Porter, Charley Grapewin as Inspector Queen
- A Desperate Chance for Ellery Queen (1942) William Gargan as Ellery Queen, Margaret Lindsay as Nikki Porter, Charley Grapewin as Inspector Queen
- Enemy Agents Meet Ellery Queen (1942) Ralph Bellamy as Ellery Queen, Margaret Lindsay as Nikki Porter, Charley Grapewin as Inspector Queen
- La Décade prodigieuse (1971) (English title, Ten Days' Wonder) directed by Claude Chabrol and starring Anthony Perkins, Orson Welles. There is no character named Ellery Queen but Michel Piccoli plays "Paul Regis", the investigator. (Based on Ten Days' Wonder)
- Haitatsu sarenai santsu no tegami (1979) (English title, The Three Undelivered Letters) a Japanese movie directed by Yoshitaro Nomura (based on Calamity Town but apparently not containing Ellery Queen or any detective character)
Comic books and graphic novels
- Ellery Queen stories appeared in issues of Crackajack Funnies beginning in 1940, a four issue series by Superior Comics in 1949, two issues of a short-lived series by Ziff-Davis in 1952, and three comics published by Dell in 1962. Mike W. Barr used Ellery as a guest star in an issue of his Maze Agency #9 in February 1990, published by Innovation Comics, in a story titled "The English Channeler Mystery: A Problem in Deduction."
- Queen (the character) is highlighted in volume 11 of the Case Closed manga's edition of "Gosho Aoyoma's Mystery Library, a section of the graphic novels (usually the last page) where the author introduces a different detective (or occasionally, a villain) from mystery literature, television, or other media. The character Heiji Hattori also mentioned that he prefers Ellery Queen to Arthur Conan Doyle in volume 12.
Board games and jigsaw puzzles
The name of Ellery Queen was attached to a number of games, including 1956's (Ellery Queen's Great Mystery Game) Trapped, 1971's The Case of the Elusive Assassin by Ellery Queen, a jigsaw puzzle in 1973 called "Ellery Queen: The Case of His Headless Highness" and a board game in 1986 called "Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine Game". There is also a VCR-based game from the early 1980s called "Ellery Queen's Operation: Murder" (loosely based on The Dutch Shoe Mystery).
- 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
- The Lamp of God—1935†
- Halfway House—1936
- The Door Between—1937
- The Devil to Pay—1938
- The Four of Hearts—1938
- The Dragon's Teeth AKA The Virgin Heiresses—1939
- Calamity Town—1942
- There Was an Old Woman AKA The Quick and the Dead—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) (Grand Prix de Littérature Policière winner)
- The Fourth Side of The Triangle—1965 (ghost-written with Avram Davidson)
- A Study in Terror AKA Ellery Queen vs Jack The Ripper—1966 (Movie tie-in or novelization of a movie of the same name about Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper, with Ellery Queen added as a character in the framing story. The Sherlock Holmes part was written by Paul W. Fairman with Dannay/Lee input.)
- Face to Face—1967
- The House of Brass—1968 (ghost-written with Avram Davidson) (A sequel to Inspector Queen's Own Case with a minimal appearance by Ellery.)
- Cop Out—1969 (neither Ellery Queen nor Inspector Queen appear)
- The Last Woman in His Life—1970
- A Fine and Private Place—1971
† The Lamp of God is a long short story or a short novella, originally published in Detective Story magazine in 1935, first collected in The New Adventures of Ellery Queen (see below) and published separately (alone) as #23 in the Dell Ten-Cent Editions (64 pages) in 1951.
Two collections of true crime stories (based on material gathered by anonymous researchers) written by Lee alone that had been originally published in The American Weekly were collected into volumes.
- Ellery Queen's International Case Book (1964)
- The Woman in the Case (1967)
Short story collections
- The Adventures of Ellery Queen—1934
- The New Adventures of Ellery Queen—1940 (Contains "The Lamp of God" —- see "Novels" above)
- The Case Book of Ellery Queen—1945 (reprints five stories from the two previous collections, plus three scripts of radio dramas)
- Calendar Of Crime—1952
- QBI: Queen's Bureau of Investigation—1955
- Queens Full—1966
- QED: Queen's Experiments In Detection—1968
- The Best Of Ellery Queen—1985 (includes "Wedding Anniversary," otherwise uncollected, and a complete list of Ellery Queen short stories)
- The Tragedy Of Errors—Crippen & Landru, 1999 (a previously unpublished synopsis written by Dannay, which was to be a Queen novel, plus all the previously uncollected short stories)
- The Adventure of the Murdered Moths and Other Radio Mysteries—Crippen & Landru, 2005
Other short story collections exist, such as More Adventures of Ellery Queen (1940), which reprints stories from two previous collections.
As Barnaby Ross
- The Tragedy Of X—1932
- The Tragedy Of Y—1932
- The Tragedy Of Z—1933
- Drury Lane's Last Case—1933
- The Ellery Queen Omnibus—1934
- The Ellery Queen Omnibus—1936
- Ellery Queen's Big Book—1938
- Ellery Queen's Adventure Omnibus—1941
- Ellery Queen's Mystery Parade—1944
- The Case Book of Ellery Queen—1949
- The Wrightsville Murders—1942
- The Hollywood Murders—1957
- The New York Murders—1958
- The XYZ Murders—1961
- The Bizarre Murders—1962
- The Detective Short Story: A Bibliography—1942
- Queen's Quorum: A History of the Detective-Crime Short Story As Revealed by the 100 Most Important Books Published in this Field Since 1845—1951
- In the Queen's Parlor, and Other Leaves from the Editor's Notebook—1957
- Mystery League—1933
- Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine—1941 onwards
Anthologies and collections
- Challenge to the Reader—1938
- 101 Years' Entertainment, The Great Detective Stories, 1841–1941—1941
- Sporting Blood: The Great Sports Detective Stories—1942
- The Female of the Species: Great Women Detectives and Criminals—1943
- The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes—1944
- The Best Stories from Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine—1944
- Dashiell Hammett: The Adventures of Sam Spade and Other Stories—1944
- Rogues' Gallery: The Great Criminals of Modern Fiction—1945
- To The Queen's Taste: The First Supplement to 101 Years' Entertainment, Consisting of the Best Stories Published in the First Five Years of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine—1946
- The Queen's Awards, 1946—1946
- Dashiell Hammett: The Continental Op—1945
- Dashiell Hammett: The Return of the Continental Op—1945
- Dashiell Hammett: Hammett Homicides—1946
- Murder By Experts—1947
- The Queen's Awards, 1947—1947
- Dashiell Hammett: Dead Yellow Women—1947
- Stuart Palmer: The Riddles of Hildegarde Withers—1947
- John Dickson Carr: Dr. Fell, Detective, and Other Stories—1947
- Roy Vickers: The Department of Dead Ends—1947
- Margery Allingham: The Case Book of Mr. Campion—1947
- 20th Century Detective Stories—1948
- The Queen's Awards, 1948—1948
- Dashiell Hammett: Nightmare Town—1948
- O. Henry: Cops and Robbers—1947
- The Queen's Awards, 1949—1949
- The Literature of Crime: Stories by World-Famous Authors—1950
- The Queen's Awards, Fifth Series—1950
- Dashiell Hammett: The Creeping Siamese—1950
- Stuart Palmer: The Monkey Murder and Other Stories—1950
and many more
Awards and honors
The writing team of Ellery Queen received the following "Edgar" awards from the Mystery Writers of America:
- 1946: Best Radio Drama (tied with Mr and Mrs North)
- 1950: Special Edgar Award for ten years' service through Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine
- 1961: Grand Master Edgar Award
- 1962: Best Short Story ("Ellery Queen 1962 Anthology")
- 1964: Best Novel (The Player on the Other Side)
- 1969: Special Edgar Award on the 40th anniversary of the publication of The Roman Hat Mystery
The Mystery Writers of America established the Ellery Queen Award in 1983 "to honor writing teams and outstanding people in the mystery-publishing industry."
Ellery Queen was featured on a postage stamp issued by Nicaragua as part of a series of "Famous Fictional Detectives" to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Interpol in 1973 and a similar series of famous fictional detectives from San Marino in 1979.
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