Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Dannay. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Dannay. Sort by date Show all posts

29 January 2013

The Art of Detection


    When I was in high school, back in the 1960s, I stumbled onto a paperback book entitled Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street.  The book, which was published in 1962, was not written by Arthur Conan Doyle.  The author of this “biography" of Holmes was W.S. Baring-Gould.  As a mystery fan I immediately purchased and then devoured the volume.

   Baring-Gould, as I later found out, was a Baker’s Street Irregular who had devoted much of his life to the study of Sherlock Holmes.  Among the things that interested me about the book were “facts” set down by Baring-Gould concerning the life of Holmes that were not elsewhere reflected in the Arthur Conan Doyle canon.  To wit, Holmes, according to Baring-Gould, was born on January 6, he lived to the ripe age of 108, and in his 108th year he completed an omnibus retrospective on his own life and work, The Art of Deduction

    As I have discussed at some length previously, I am a big fan of hidden alignments that seem to pop up in the world around us, facts that square up in ways that break the boundaries of coincidence and thereby hint at an underlying order.  And we now have yet another example of exactly such an alignment. 

    According to Ellery Queen’s 1957 novel The Finishing Stroke, Queen was born in 1905, the same year that his creators Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee were born.  So this year, 2013, would be Ellery’s 108th year.  And commemorating that event Professor Francis M. Nevins, the world’s preeminent Queen scholar (and a man whose own birthday, January 6, is the same as Holmes’) has published a true magnum opus on Ellery, entitled Ellery Queen:  The Art of Detection.  

     I shared a cup of coffee with Mike Nevins in St. Louis over Christmas (well, actually he drank soda) and he laughed off all of the Holmes/Queen alignments set forth in the previous paragraphs as mere coincidence.  The most he will get from me on this is a wink and a smile.  Unwitting or not, to my mind it is kismet that is playing with us here.

    Of course, the comparisons between Holmes at 108 and Queen at the same age, and between the works of Baring-Gould and Nevins, are not perfect.  For one thing, while Holmes’ The Art of Deduction never in fact existed, Nevins’ The Art of Detection, by contrast, is wonderfully real, all 351 pages of it.  But before getting to this encyclopedic tribute to all things Queen, let’s tarry just a moment and talk about Mike. 

Mike in St. Louis, December 23, 2012
    Mike Nevins  is Professor Emeritus at St. Louis University Law School, and is a magna cum laude graduate of St. Peters College and a cum laude graduate of New York University School of Law.  For many years he taught law, specializing in copyright law, in St. Louis.  But as all Queen aficionados know, Mike’s interests run well wide of legal matters.  He has written definitive literary analyses on subjects as disparate as Cornell Woolrich and Hopalong Cassidy.  Mike has also published six novels, two collections of short stories, several books of non-fiction and has also edited more than 15 mystery anthologies and collections.  More importantly, and, luckily for us, he is, without question, one of the world’s leading authorities on Ellery Queen and the collaborative team that was Queen:  Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee.  Mike has twice won  Edgar Allan Poe Awards for critical works, once for an earlier study of Ellery Queen and once for his volume on Cornell Woolrich.  Mike is also the author of one of the finest Ellery Queen pastiches ever written, Open Letter to Survivors. Who better to offer the reading public the definitive analysis of the works of Ellery Queen?

    As noted above, Mike’s 1974 Royal Bloodlines has already garnered an Edgar for its treatment of the Dannay and Lee writing team.  In the introduction to The Art of Detection the basis for his new second take on the same subject is explained by Mike as follows:
I think I just heard a question.  “Hey, didn’t you do that book already, back in the Watergate era?  Well, sort of.  But as I got older I became convinced that I hadn’t done all that good a job.  Fred Dannay was the public face of Ellery Queen, and in the years after we met he became the closest to a grandfather I’ve ever known, but I never really got to know the much more private Manny Lee.  He and I had exchanged a few letters, and we met briefly at the Edgars dinner in 1970, but he died before we could meet again.  Because of his untimely death, Royal Bloodlines . . .  inadvertently gave the impression that “Ellery Queen” meant 90% Fred Dannay.  One of the most important items on my personal bucket list was to do justice to Manny.
    That concern (notwithstanding that prior Edgar award) is completely addressed and fully remedied in The Art of Detection, which painstakingly traces the lives, times and collaboration of the two cousins who invented Ellery the detective and Ellery the writer and editor.  No matter how familiar you are with Queen, you will take away new knowledge when you finish reading The Art of Detection.  

    Like Joe Goodrich’s excellent volume from earlier this year, Blood Relations, which focused on the drafting of three of the best Queen novels in the late 1940s, much of the background material in The Art of Detection, notably including the legendary feuding between Dannay and Lee, is premised on the words of Dannay and Lee themselves, as forth in their letters, which are extensively quoted throughout the new Nevins work.  Also included are correspondence between Nevins himself and Dannay, and between Lee and legendary critic and writer Anthony Boucher, who famously opined that "Ellery Queen is the American detective story," and who contributed plotting to the Ellery Queen radio shows during times that family illnesses kept Dannay from performing that task.  The resulting narrative of the lives of these two writers, much of it in their own words, and of Queen, is a wonderfully detailed portrait.

    As already noted, The Art of Detection is encyclopedic in its coverage.  Beyond biography, the reader finds detailed discussions of all of the Queen books, as well as the various ventures into other media, including  the various radio shows featuring Ellery, the (often unsatisfying) Ellery Queen movies of the 1940s, the early television series, and the 1975 NBC series featuring Jim Hutton.  Mike has even offered detailed analyses of the infamous “ghosted”  Queen paperbacks, farmed out to other authors and then edited by Lee, which were commonplace on the paperback shelves of the 1960s.  In short, there is basically nothing about Ellery that is not addressed and answered by this fine work. 

    As any Ellery Queen fan is well aware, the Queen library, at least in the U.S., has teetered on the edge of extinction over the last few years.  Near the end of his book Mike comments on this as follows:
When the author dies, the work dies.  That is almost always the reality, and certainly it’s the rule in genre fiction.  There are always a few exceptions, like Agatha Christie and Louis L’Amour, but those authors are rarae aves.  I took it for granted that Ellery Queen was one (or two) of them.  I never thought I’d live to see the falling off into near oblivion of what had been a household name for more than a decade before I was born and for at least the first thirty years of my life.
    It is certainly true that it takes an historical perspective such as that provided by The Art of Detection to fully appreciate how much a part of mystery fiction Ellery was in the past, and how diminished his role is today.  But hopefully there is still time and space for resurgence.  Certainly excellent works such as The Art of Detection and Blood Relations, each of which has been offered to the reading public in the course of the past year, and Jeffrey Marks’ projected biography of Dannay and Lee, which should be out in 2015, contribute toward resurrecting the works of Queen.

    And speaking of kismet, another real indication of renewed interest in the works of Ellery Queen is evident on the very day this article is being posted.  Today, January 29, Calamity Town, a new play written by Joe Goodrich and based on the 1942 Queen novel that first introduced the upper New York State town of Wrightsville, has a "first reading" performance at the New Dramatists playhouse on West 44th Street in New York City.  Let's hope this is just the beginning for this latest Queen opus by Joe.

   There is also a new Ellery Queen pastiche (modesty compels me to not include the author in the foregoing list) coming out in EQMM sometime in the coming year.  And particularly eagerly awaited is the imminent re-issuance of 23 original titles in the Ellery Queen library, as reported by Janet Hutchings, editor of EQMM, in her editorial note following publication of Mike Nevin’s article End Time for Ellery? In the January 2013 issue of EQMM.  As Janet observed there, thanks to efforts such as Mike’s “Ellery Queen may soon enjoy a renaissance.”

    The once and future Queen?

27 March 2016

The Glass Village -- Suspending Disbelief?


Probable impossibilities are to be preferred to improbable possibilities.                                                                                             Aristotle
What do you know?! Haven't you heard of suspension of disbelief?                                                                                                    Ed Wood, Ed Wood 
Unfortunately, my disbelief is very heavy, and [at times] the suspension cable snap[s].                                                                     Roger Ebert
        It only seems proper on Easter Sunday for SleuthSayers to focus on Ellery Queen. What? Some of you may ask. After all, the Queen mysteries were written by Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee, who were born Daniel Nathan and Manford Lepofsky, respectively. Francis M. Nevins in Royal Bloodlines describes the two as follows: “Both were born in 1905, nine months and five blocks apart, of immigrant Jewish stock in a crowded Brooklyn tenement district.” So -- how do you get from there to Easter? 

       Well, while the basis for this remains an unsolved mystery, the holiday Easter is repeatedly referenced throughout the works of Queen. Those references, often hidden, could easily provide the basis for an Easter article. Unfortunately for me, that is an article that I have already written. Anyone wanting to re-visit (or visit) that previous discussion of Ellery Queen’s hidden (and mysterious) “Easter eggs” can do so by clicking here

       My re-visit to the Queen library this Easter is a bit more attenuated. Easter is a holiday premised on faith and belief; acceptance of that which we might otherwise deem to be impossible. Faith is an oft analyzed foundation of religious belief. But it is there that mystery fiction and religion part ways. By and large mystery readers take little on “faith." Instead, mystery fiction requires a well-grounded basis for “belief” premised on demonstrable logic in order to explain the otherwise inexplicable and thereby keep the reader in tow. 

       When fiction is at its best it immerses the reader in a believable world, one in which we can live comfortably; where occurrences, clues and characters are of a sort that we would expect to encounter. But often laying the foundation for such a world presents a formidable challenge to the author. This is particularly so in Golden Age mysteries, such as those of Ellery Queen. It is hard to reasonably anticipate, for example, a reasonable world that offers up dying messages or locked rooms. When the otherwise unbelievable occurs in theology (think Easter) the devout among us often are able to answer incredulity with faith. For the mystery reader, however, it’s a bit tougher. And the preferred bridge to believe the otherwise unbelievable is the literary tool "suspension of disbelief.” 

       This handy little device -- which was excellently discussed in guest SleuthSayer Herschel Cozine’s recent article and by Fran Rizer a couple years back -- is defined by our old pal Wikipedia as follows: 
Suspension of disbelief, or willing suspension of disbelief, is a term coined in 1817 by the poet and aesthetic philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who suggested that if a writer could infuse a "human interest and a semblance of truth" into a fantastic tale, the reader would suspend judgement concerning the implausibility of the narrative.
The trick to the tool, as the above quote suggests, is that “semblance of truth” requirement. The reader has to be given just enough to go along with the plot device that otherwise presents as implausible. And as the quote from Roger Ebert at top of this article also suggests, if that semblance of truth proves insufficient to tempt the reader down the author’s intended path, well, the suspension cable snaps, risking the loss of the reader. 

       And that brings us back to Ellery Queen and a particular mystery where, at least for me, that cable has never been sufficient to withstand the load the authors demand of it. My reference is to the 1954 mystery The Glass Village.

       In over fifty years of reading Queen The Glass Village has always been my personal stumbling block. Recently I confronted The Glass Village again and, after previous failed attempts this time I finished the novel. But not without some grumblings.

       Before getting to all of that, a little background is in order.

       My latest confrontation with The Glass Village began a couple months back after I wrote a SleuthSayers article focusing on some underlying riffs in Ellery Queen’s Calamity Town. Looking back on the completed article, particularly in light of some very erudite comments offered by some SleuthSayers readers, I decided that it was a good time to re-visit not only Calamity Town, but the Queen mysteries that immediately followed it. There was good reason for this re-visit. When I first started reading Queen in my teenage years the path I followed through Ellery’s adventures meandered a bit. Some volumes I checked out of the local library, but more often than not I acquired Ellery Queen mysteries piecemeal at used book fairs held often in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. (My Queen library still has many volumes from those book fares, each with a ten cent or twenty-five cent price inscribed inside of the cover.)

       The upshot of this approach was that I read the Queen library as I acquired it, which is to say out of order. I skipped from The Siamese Twin Mystery to Double, Double, and then proceeded to The Player on the Other Side before going back to Calamity Town. It was years before I reached Cat of Many Tails. It occurred to me lately, however, that it would be interesting to re-read these works, particularly those written in the 1940s and 1950s, in the order that they were published. I set this course so that I could more clearly follow the nuanced changes in Dannay and Lee’s writing, and in Ellery’s character, particularly his humanization as he coped with his own mistakes in the early Wrightsville stories, confronted those human foibles in Cat of Many Tails, and then moved on through other works, ending with 1958’s The Finishing Stroke, once intended as the last Queen mystery.

       In the midst of this span, is The Glass Village, published in 1954. 

       The Glass Village is a rarity among Queen mysteries. While there are many novels that profess to be “written” by Ellery Queen that do not feature Ellery and/or his father as essential characters, the vast majority of those books were not in fact written by Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee. Rather they were the infamous works franchised out to other writers. The Dannay and Lee contributions to these decidedly inferior stories amounted to little more than some final editing. But there are two exceptions to this rule. And aside from the 1968 police procedural Cop Out, The Glass Village is the only novel written by Dannay and Lee as Ellery Queen that does not feature Ellery or the Inspector.   

Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee
       As an aside, reportedly this almost was not the case. There is, some evidence that The Glass Village was originally intended as an Ellery Queen Wrightsville mystery that was then revised to remove Ellery and Wrightsville while the writing was already under way. (Indeed, the debut episode of The Further Adventures of Ellery Queen, broadcast on NBC on September 26, 1958, is based on The Glass Village and re-fashioned the story so that the detective-protagonist is, in fact, Ellery.) We can only speculate as to why Dannay and Lee decided on a different approach, but there are several possibilities. First, a key element of The Glass Village requires a finite and limited number of town residents, something that would not have been possible in the context of the larger community of Wrightsville. Second, Dannay and Lee frankly may have been uneasy concerning the descent into mob mentality that The Glass Village would have required of the residents of Wrightsville -- people Ellery often describes with admiration and affection. The story, after all, is an allegory to the McCarthy mania of the early 1950s, and Dannay and Lee may not have wanted the good citizens of Wrightsville to play the Mcarthy-ite roles required by the story. 

       So there were many reasons that I could have opted to avoid The Glass Village when I revisited Queen, principally revolving around the lack of Ellery. But it seemed to me that would be a bit unfair. The book was widely heralded, when published, as a celebration of 25 years of mysteries authored by Ellery Queen. And even though it is not directly part of the “Ellery as detective” canon, the authors made certain that it did not stray too far.  Shinn Corners, the locale for the novel, is geographically close to Wrightsville, the town Ellery frequents, and we know this from references in Ellery’s Wrightsville novels. There are other hints that also tie the mystery back to those in which Ellery is present, and the young detective protagonist in Glass Village is fashioned with several knowing winks to the avid Queen reader.  That character, “Johnny Shinn,” approaches the mystery as would Ellery, sports a name with the same number of characters as “Ellery Queen,” and one character in the The Glass Village persists in mispronouncing that last name as “Sheen.” In light of all of this I could only conclude that Dannay and Lee intended that I should read the book. So I (finally) did. 

       This brings us back to my problems with The Glass Village, which involve suspension of disbelief, how it works, and how sometimes it doesn’t.  The Glass Village begins very well, and contains some excellent prose and believable characters, but to me it grinds to a halt mid-way when it asks of the reader a suspension of disbelief that simply cannot easily be delivered.

       Specifically, a major premise of the story is that in order to calm the near riotous citizenry of Shinn Corners it is decided that a trumped-up trial must be conducted. Over the years each time I have attempted to read The Glass Village it is at this point that I roll my eyes, sigh, and set the book aside as my suspension cable snaps. I admit that a lot of this may be because I am an attorney, and the utter silliness of the kangaroo court imagined by Dannay and Lee and then convened in Shinn Corners has a particular personal grate to it. But there are problems here regardless of the reader’s background, and those problems (I believe) are sufficient that any reader, when asked to suspend disbelief, predictably would reply oh, come now

       For the “kangaroo trial” that is at the heart of The Glass Village to work the reader must accept the novel’s premise that the small town of Shinn Corners is so geographically remote from the rest of the world that, over a course of days, no higher authority could or would enter the town to rescue a prisoner threatened by an enraged town bent on mob vigilantism, and further that no higher judicial or legal authority would intervene to stop a trial so strangely assembled that jurors also serve, at times, as witnesses during the proceeding. Indeed, the story requires us to believe that governmental authorities outside of Shinn Corners in fact agree to step back and leave the town to its own devices in order to forestall mob violence. The attempts to explain away this citadel isolation of Shinn Corners -- largely that the town has become a mob that threatens any outside authority that attempts to intrude -- is simply not credible.  When would this ever occur in such a setting?
   
       What police force, what State government, would back down in such a situation? In effect, Dannay and Lee ask us, the readers, to buy into a thinly concocted premise, since that premise is necessary in order for elements of the story to work. But the leap of faith, at least for me, is too great. All I can do is roll my eyes. The premise fails the “semblance of truth” requirement for suspending disbelief. 

       Sadly, this flaw in the mystery spoils the whole endeavor for some, myself included. And it needn’t have. All the plot needed was a better “semblance.” Queen did this well, for example, in The Siamese Twin Mystery, where the setting is necessarily isolated from the rest of the world by a forest fire. That provides enough of a semblance of truth for us to suspend disbelief and proceed with the novel. So, too, in And on the Eighth Day it is not difficult to accept the premise that the town of Quenan is geographically (and historically) isolated from the rest of the world for a reason, again, necessary to the story. 

       Could Queen have provided a better “semblance of truth” in The Glass Village? Well, clearly. Stephen King did so in his miniseries Storm of the Century, in which a town, located on a remote island off of the Maine coast, is isolated from the mainland by a believable storm. And there are models for Glass Village-like seclusion in the real world -- towns located on islands off the coast of England, for example, that are inaccessible for months during winter, or Smith and Tangiers Islands located in our own Chesapeake Bay. Constructing such a locale, and then using it as the setting for The Glass Village could have provided that “semblance of truth” and thereby saved countless rolling eyes. 

     Many, including my friend, Queen scholar and emeritus law professor Francis Nevins, profess to have been able to move past this credibility stumbling block in The Glass Village without grumblings, and have praised the rest of the work as a very superior mystery. And I recognize their point -- the character development and cluing are fine; the narrative otherwise sparkles. But for me, that is still a pretty significant “otherwise.” Some things I can take on faith. But for a mystery to work, I need a reasoned basis to stay on board the ship.

       Ahh well. After all of these years I have finally completed The Glass Village. Eyes well exercised from rolling, it is time to move on. 

12 October 2018

Maintaining EQuilibrium


Josh Pachter
Josh Pachter
Introducing mystery guest Josh Pachter

    Josh Pachter has contributed crime fiction to EQMM, AHMM, and many other publications since 1968. He regularly translates Dutch and Belgian authors for EQMM’s “Passport to Crime” department and is the editor of The Man Who Read Mysteries: The Short Fiction of William Brittain (Crippen & Landru, 2018) and the co-editor of The Misadventures of Ellery Queen (Wildside Press, 2018) and Amsterdam Noir (Akashic Books, 2019).
    Besides writing and editing, Josh enjoys other arts including film, theater, music, and photography, as seen in his official web bio. He is a popular professor with the endearing and justifiable habit of endlessly bragging about his wife, Laurie, and daughter, Becca.
— Velma

Maintaining EQuilibrium
by Josh Pachter

When it comes to Ellery Queen, I suppose I have a fair amount of street cred.

I’ve been publishing in the magazine for half a century. Fred Dannay — who, with his cousin Manny Lee, was Ellery Queen — was the closest thing to a grandfather I’ve ever had. I’ve been on EQ-related panels at Bouchercon and other crime-fiction conferences, and was a panelist at the symposium celebrating EQMM’s seventy-fifth anniversary at Columbia University in 2016. I co-edited (with Dale C. Andrews, a former SleuthSayer) The Misadventures of Ellery Queen (Wildside, 2018), a collection of pastiches, parodies, and other fiction inspired by Dannay and Lee’s famous detective. And I am one of only eight honorary members of the West 87th Street Irregulars, “a band of established EQ experts and fans who collectively have committed themselves to the preservation and revival of Ellery Queen.”

This year, I embarked on another connection with Ellery’s world. Leigh Lundin has invited me to share with you about it here.

When Dale and I began work on Misadventures, I decided I ought to brush up on the available nonfiction material regarding EQ’s collaborative authors and their creation. So I read Mike Nevins’ monumental The Art of Detection (currently available in paperback on Amazon for a mere $899.99!), and Joe Goodrich’s fascinating Blood Relations: The Selected Letters of Ellery Queen, 1947-1950 (which you can find for as little as $6, and which is absolutely worth six times that amount or more!), Dannay’s second wife Rose’s My Life With Ellery Queen: A Love Story (a steal at $112.99 on Amazon, although I was able to dig up a Kindle edition cheap), and, ultimately, an unusual volume titled The Tragedy of Errors (Crippen & Landru, 1999), which consists of three very different sections.

The book opens with Fred Dannay’s detailed forty-page outline for what was to have been a new Ellery Queen novel, a novel that was never written (and thus, of course, never published), and closes with over a hundred pages of “essays, tributes, and reminiscences” about Queen the author, Queen the character, and Queen the editor, two dozen of them, contributed by such luminaries as Peter Lovesey, Michael Gilbert, H.R.F. Keating, EQMM editor Janet Hutchings, and many others.

It is the middle section of The Tragedy of Errors that I’ve been leading up to: six short stories which had never before been anthologized, five by Dannay and Lee, one (“The Reindeer Clue”) by Edward D. Hoch but published as by Ellery Queen (in The National Enquirer, of all places!) … and three cases for something Ellery Queen called the Puzzle Club.

There were five Puzzle Club stories in all. The three collected in Tragedy of Errors were first published in 1971, “The Three Students” and “The Odd Man” in Playboy and “The Honest Swindler” in The Saturday Evening Post. (The other two were older, first published in 1965 — “The Little Spy” in Cavalier and “The President Regrets” in Diners’ Club Magazine — and reprinted in 1968 in Q.E.D.: Queen’s Experiments in Detection.)

As I read the three included in the Crippen & Landru volume, steeped as I was at the time in all things Queenian, I found myself itching to write a new Puzzle Club story of my own.

So I did.

The central concept of the five-story EQ miniseries — which Isaac Asimov later co-opted for his much longer run of Black Widowers stories — was that six friends gathered at irregular intervals for a gourmet dinner, but before sitting down to eat one member of the group was ensconced in what was called “the Puzzle Chair,” and the other five presented an invented mystery for the evening’s designated solver to tackle. The group consisted of Syres (a wealthy oilman, whose Park Avenue penthouse was the setting for the club’s meetings), Darnell (a criminal attorney, known as “the rich man’s Clarence Darrow”), Dr. Vreeland (a noted psychiatrist), Emmy Wandermere (the Pulitzer Prize winning poet), Dr. Arkavy (the Nobel-winning biochemist) … and, of course, Ellery Queen (the famous novelist and sleuth). The five stories share several common elements: Dr. Arkavy is always absent (off lecturing at an assortment of international conferences and symposia), it’s always Ellery’s turn to sit in the Puzzle Chair, and each story is interrupted by the classic Queen “Challenge to the Reader,” in which we mere mortals are given the opportunity to match our wits with Ellery’s.

My first thought was to pick up where Dannay and Lee left off and set my own Puzzle Club story in 1972. But at the same time I was working on this story, I was also writing one to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the appearance of my own first contribution to EQMM, in which the protagonist of my first story is now fifty years older and challenged by the memory of a murder he failed to solve fifty years previously.

With that in mind, I decided to set my Puzzle Club story in the present day, too, making the regular characters fifty years older than they were when last we saw them. And I also decided that it was about time Dr. Arkavy put in an appearance.

I’d had an idea for a brief puzzle story rattling around in my head for some time — in fact, I’d recently asked my friend John Floyd for advice about crafting a short-short for Woman’s World, to which he has made umpty-eleven sales over the last decade or so. That idea seemed well suited for the Puzzle Club, so I wrote it up, titled it “A Study in Scarlett!” and submitted it to EQMM. Janet Hutchings liked it, but, because it featured the Ellery Queen character, she had to run it by the Dannay and Lee heirs for their approval. They agreed, and Janet bought the story, which should be appearing in the magazine in 2019.

I had so much fun writing “A Study in Scarlett!” that I found myself thinking I ought to write four more Puzzle Club pastiches, with the idea that they could appear in EQMM first and then, after they’d all been published there, perhaps the original five and my new five could be collected in a single volume: The Puzzle Club, by Ellery Queen and Josh Pachter. Janet liked the idea in principle, and Richard Dannay, who represents the heirs, was enthusiastic, so I set right to work on number two.

Over the years, I have more often than not begun my stories with a title — a phrase catches my eye, and I think, “Aha, that’s a story title!” So, before I began writing or even plotting a second Puzzle Club story, I began thinking about what to call it.

There’s no connection whatsoever between the titles of the five original stories, other than the (what I consider to be coincidental) fact that all five of them begin with the word “The” and follow it with another two words. Nowadays, though, it seems that a series will usually feature titles that relate to each other in some very obvious way, such as Sue Grafton’s alphabet novels and John Sanford’s “Prey” books.

Since my first Puzzle Club story’s title is a Sherlock Holmes pun (on, for the uninitiated, A Study in Scarlet), I thought it might be fun to use Holmesian puns for the subsequent stories in the series — and, since the first one puns on a Holmes title that involves a color, I thought it might be extra fun to continue in that vein.

So my second Puzzle Club story, which Janet has already purchased for EQMM, is called “The Adventure of the Red Circles” (punning on “The Adventure of the Red Circle”), and the third, which I’m working on now, will be called “The Adventure of the Black-and-Blue Carbuncle” (from “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle”).

I’m not sure what I’ll call the fourth one, although I’m thinking about other Sherlockian color titles, such as “The Five Orange Pips,” “The Adventure of the Yellow Face,” and “The Adventure of Black Peter.” (“The Five Orange Pipsqueaks”? “The Adventure of the Yellow Facebook”? “The Adventure of Black Paul and Black Mary”? Okay, maybe not any of those…)

For my fifth and final pastiche, I want to make it impossible for anyone ever to write another one. No, I’m not going to kill Ellery — I wouldn’t want to have his death on my conscience, and the heirs and Janet would never let me do it, even if I did want to. But something’s going to happen that will bring the series to a logical and inevitable conclusion.

And, for that last story, I’m going to use one more Sherlock Holmes pun, but this time without a color. In 1917, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a Holmes story called “His Last Bow,” and I plan to call my fifth Puzzle Club story “Their Last Bow.”

As mentioned earlier, “A Study in Scarlett!” should be appearing sometime next year, and I’m hopeful that Janet will schedule “The Adventure of the Red Circles” for the January/February 2020 issue — which would, as far as I can tell, make me the first person ever to publish new fiction in EQMM in seven consecutive decades.

I’m having fun bringing Ellery Queen’s Puzzle Club back to life after its forty-seven-year absence, and I very much hope you’ll have fun reading their new adventures!

10 April 2012

Easter Eggs – The Sequel


   Since Leigh has the Sunday domain at SleuthSayers, he drew Easter and offered a column this week that addresses a topic similar to mine today.  While I didn’t quite hit the holiday itself, apropos of the re-birth that is Spring, an article focusing, just a bit, on Easter beckoned me as well.  So today’s piece, similar to Leigh's, is about Easter Eggs.

   The Easter Eggs that we are hunting for today are not of the candy or hard-boiled variety.  Nor are they of the computer variety that Leigh addressed.  They are, however, hidden and, unlike those discussed by Leigh, the ones this article focuses on actually relate to Easter..  And consistent with the recurring themes of SleuthSayers, to find them one does not comb the back yard.  One combs mysteries. 

    An Easter Egg, as Leigh explained on Sunday, is a hidden message, or an “in joke.”  Leigh's column focused on Easter Eggs  in the context of computer programs, and it is there that the term itself first originated.  While the practice of embedding hidden messages has existed for many decades, the term “Easter Egg” reportedly was coined in the 1980’s in the context of the then-popular Atari Adventure games authored by programmer Warren Robinette, who was fond of dropping hidden messages into the midst of his games.  There are plenty of examples of Easter Eggs outside the computer gaming context however -- there is, for example, a popular pastime at Disney World of looking for the resort’s many “hidden Mickeys,” and just over a week ago John Floyd offered an article dedicated to Alfred Hitchcock’s habit of appearing in cameo in  his movies.  Each of these meets the definition of an “Easter Egg.”

    Some of the strangest Easter Eggs that you will encounter in mystery literature, however, are those found in the mystery novels of Ellery Queen.  Most of the hidden messages in the works of Queen are so obscure that you can read the mysteries they are contained in and never realize that they are there.  And generally Queen's Easter Eggs are completely unimportant to the underlying mystery story.  Usually these references are to dates that have a hidden meaning, and more often than not those dates have something to do with . . . the holiday Easter.   

    How strange is this? 

    Well, first of all, these hidden references – hidden messages that in fact refer in many cases to Easter – pre-date by decades the coining of the phrase “Easter Egg.”   And I know of no other Easter Eggs that actually reference the holiday Easter.

Manfred B. Lee and Frederic Dannay
    Secondly, this fixation on the Easter holiday, and the repeated obscure references to it, occur in books written by Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee, who were born Daniel Nathan and Manford Lepofsky, respectively.  Queen scholar Francis M. Nevins in Royal Bloodlines describes the two as follows:
Both were born in 1905, nine months and five blocks apart, of immigrant Jewish stock in a crowded Brooklyn tenement district.” 
Why would these two Jewish cousins begin hiding references to the holiday Easter in their works?  I asked that very question of Richard Dannay, Frederic’s son, at the 2005 Ellery Queen centenary symposium hosted by EQMM in New York.  Richard’s answer was “I have absolutely no idea.”

    A word of caution here:  to delve into the hidden meanings behind the dates in Ellery Queen mysteries is to invite a headache.  A comprehensive analysis of possible meanings of date and numerical references in the Queen oeuvre has been set forth in the webpages of Remi Schulz, the French Ellery Queen scholar.   Only some of Remi’s theories and analyses have been translated into English, but a summary of Remi’s reasoning also appears in two essays that can be found on Kurt Sercu’s Ellery Queen:  A Website on Deduction.  Remi’s theories concerning the Queen novels are Byzantine in their complexity, but today, fitting of the recent holiday, we will focus almost solely on Easter.

   With all of that as introduction, let’s jump onto the roller coaster.  Fasten your seat belts, and hold on tight! 

    What is likely the first reference to Easter in an Ellery Queen novel appears in The Four of Hearts, published in 1938.  There a character in the mystery dies on April 17, which, in 1938, was Easter.  The reference is obscure and, as with virtually all such references in the works of Queen, does not relate to the underlying mystery.  The story is, in many respects, an homage to Maurice LeBlanc’s Arsène Lupin mystery Le Triangle d’Or, which, itself, has many references to the holiday Easter.  Standing alone, the date in The Four of Hearts would likely mean nothing.  But, as will be seen, it hardly stands alone.

    Four years later, in Calamity Town, published in 1942, the first Ellery Queen mystery to be set in the Queen-created upper New York town of Wrightsville, a culminating episode occurs in chapter 27, which is titled “Easter Sunday:  Nora’s Gift.”  Interesting, but still, we could be dealing with coincidence.

    In 1950 another Wrightsville mystery was published, Double, Double.  The chapters in Double, Double are all titled with dates, beginning with April 4, and culminating events occur in the chapter entitled “Weekend, April 8-9.”  In 1950 that weekend was Easter.

    Dannay and Lee likely intended the Queen saga to end with the publication of The Finishing Stroke in 1958.  Easter did not figure into that story, which instead focused on Christmas week – and also on the date “January 11,” a reference that relates to Manfred Lee’s birthday.  The date has nothing to do with Easter, but it has some personal importance to me as well, which I previously explored in a Criminal Briefs article three years ago.

    But by 1963 Ellery arose from his literary death with the publication of The Player on the Other Side, and the Easter game was again afoot.  During the course of  Player we learn that a central character was born on the 20th of April, 1924.  You guessed it – Easter.

    That particular date is cloaked in at least two other obscurities.  First, exactly thirty-five years before, on April 20, 1889, Hitler was born.  Beginning with that reference in 1963 the works of Queen occasionally combine references to Hitler in tandem with Easter.  But second, in the circle of the year April 20 is precisely one half of a year separated from October 20, the day on which Frederic Dannay was born in 1905.  So just as The Finishing Stroke references Lee’s birthday on January 11, so to, The Player on the Other Side references, albeit more obscurely, Dannay’s birthday, and does so by tying the date to Easter. 

     Were there to be any doubt as to the recurrent Easter themes (as well as references to Hitler) in the works of Dannay and Lee, those doubts would be dispelled by And on the Eighth Day, published in 1964.  While this mystery is one of my favorites, many Queen fans do not like it at all.  The book is unlike any other Queen novel, much more of an allegory -- an Easter allegory -- than a mystery.  Although written in 1964, And on the Eighth Day recounts Ellery’s visit to a hidden southwest religious community twenty years earlier, in 1944.  As was the case in Double Double, the chapter headings in Eighth Day are dates, beginning with April 2 and ending, on April 9.  You guessed it – in 1944 this was Easter week.  Moreover, the story revolves around a book, thought to be a recovered religious tract long lost by the community, that had been re-discovered and purchased by the leader of the community on April 8, 1939 – yet another Easter. 

    One of the strangest aspects of And on the Eighth Day is the fact that there are many “clues” in the book that are never in fact dealt with or even addressed during the narrative.  These include a very significant (and Easter-related) anagram, which (because I hate spoilers) I will leave unexplained, just as Ellery did.  Also, the title of the actual lost religious tract is never disclosed, although I have speculated elsewhere as to what the title might have been.  (Remi Schulz took these speculations, much to my amusement, as gospel – here is a link to his discussion for anyone interested.) 

    And what does the title of the mystery itself mean?  An obvious answer is the fact that the story unfolds over an eight day period.  But, as always with Queen, there is more to it than that.  The book of Luke, 1:59, suggests that the Eighth Day was the “naming day,” or day of circumcision for Jesus. (“And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father.”)  Readers of And on the Eighth Day  will note that there is, indeed, a naming of sorts on the eighth day of the narrative.  There are also repeated and unexplained references to the number “50,” in And on the Eighth Day – as an example, the number “50” appears on the buttons of the leader of the community’s robe.  While the significance of this is never explained by Queen (the authors) or Queen (the detective),  there is one, and only one, book in the Bible containing precisely 50 chapters – the Book of Genesis; the book that begins with a recounting of what transpired beginning "on the first day.”  Finally, and I think most intriguing, is the fact that the Jewish “Eighth Day” holiday is Shemini Atzeret, a holiday that occurs on the eighth day of the Festival of Sukkot.  And why is that interesting?  In 1905 Sukkot began at sundown on October 20 – the day that Frederic Dannay was born.  So which of the foregoing oddities explains the title of the mystery?  My bet, knowing Ellery Queen, is “all of the above.”

    From the obvious Easter motifs in And on the Eighth Day Queen brings us back to Easter by way of obscurity.  In Face to Face, published in 1967, there is absolutely no reference to Easter.  However, near the end of the mystery Ellery is called upon to help find  someone to officiate at a wedding, that, contrary to Christian tradition, is planned for Palm Sunday.   Face to Face concludes the next day at a New York airport.

    Queen’s next book, The House of Brass, published in 1968, centers on the Inspector and has no Easter references.

    But then, in 1970 – fully three years after Face to Face –  Ellery is back in The Last Woman in his Life, which begins just minutes after Face to Face concluded -- on the same day and at the same New York airport.  The Last Woman in his Life nowhere uses the word “Easter,” but  if you start with the date of the Palm Sunday wedding in Face to Face, count the additional day in that book, which is also the day on which The Last Woman in his Life begins, and then calculate out the days that transpire in Last Woman it becomes apparent that the victim in Last Woman, who is the son of a carpenter, was  murdered on – Easter Sunday.

    So, there you have it.

    Given all of this, when I was working out the outline for The Book Case, an Ellery Queen pastiche in which a 102-year-old Ellery solves one last murder, I made certain that the reader could calculate that the murder, in fact, took place on Easter.  This seemed the right thing to do.  But if you asked me why it was the right thing to do, I still would have to shrug and give Richard Dannay’s answer – I have absolutely no idea!





22 October 2013

A Back Story


       My article today is going to be a little on the lite side. Mea culpa, but let me explain.

       Once a year I teach a graduate course at the University of Denver on the history of transportation development and regulation in the United States. My wife refers to this this as my annual “teachapalooza.” What I do is deliver a 7 hour lecture on transportation development in the United States. This means I cover about 38 years and hour. 

       Even though I have done this for five years now, the task is still daunting and preparation consumes a large amount of my time for a week or so prior to the course. This year’s teachapalooza was last Wednesday, and I flew back to Washington D.C. last Thursday. This would normally have provided me with ample time to pull together an article for Tuesday except for one little fact -- my wife and I were scheduled to leave Saturday for a family reunion in Nags Head North Carolina. And our beach cottage there has (believe it or not) no internet. 

Available at news stands!
       Everything, therefore, came down to Friday. And what you, faithful (I hope) readers have is a shorter entry this time around. So, what I thought I would do, within the constraints outlined above, is tell a funny back story about writing pastiches and, specifically, about writing my recent Ellery Queen story, Literally Dead, which appears in the December edition of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine

        One of the hurdles involved in writing a pastiche -- at least a pastiche concerning a character, such as Ellery, who is still in copyright -- is that each story I write has to be cleared prior to publication by the heirs of Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee.  Luckily for me submitting stories to the Dannay and Lee families is far from a burden -- they have always been accommodating and, more to the point, it has been great fun to get to know, and to exchange emails with, the likes of Richard Dannay and Rand Lee. This is something that, as an Ellery Queen fan for decades, makes my day. 

        But back to today's story.  As I have said on many occasions, I abhor spoilers. Nevertheless I’m going to tell you just a bit about what transpires in Literally Dead since the story that follows only makes sense if you have been forearmed. 

        To begin with, it hardy tells too much to point out that in every Ellery Queen story someone inevitably must bite the dust. No exception with mine. While that crucial (and lamented) central character takes a few pages in my story to be done in, if you have any background at all in reading “fair play” mysteries you will have seen it coming from the very beginning.  The story introduces a famous author, Jennifer Kaye Rothkopf, who has just completed the seventh, and (to the dismay of many) final, volume of a fantasy series that tells the story of a young man who has been educated in a famous sorcery school. As I said, you can easily guess what is going to happen to poor Jennifer. 

        When the story was accepted for publication by Janet Hutchings I sent it off, as usual, to RIchard Dannay, himself an intellectual properties attorney in New York City, so that he could share it with the other Dannay and Lee heirs for their (hoped for!) approval. In due course I received the following email from Richard: 
Dale: Well done! I must say that your description of the murdered victim, author of the seven-book fantasy series involving a young sorcerer, led me to believe that you would be invoking the last two words of "The Adventure of the Seven Black Cats." Anyway, here's the agreement [allowing for the use of Ellery and other Queen-created characters]. If okay, just email back a signed and dated copy. Best. -- rd 
        Okay. Even as someone who is sort of known for his supposed in-depth knowledge of the works of Queen I was completely stumped. I had only the vaguest memory of the story to which Richard referred. I immediately went to my Ellery Queen library and found the story, one of the entries in The Adventures of Ellery Queen, published way back in 1934. My copy of the short story anthology was no spring chicken itself -- the volume still had the receipt in it. I had purchased it for ten cents at a used book fair in St. Louis in 1961, when I was all of 12 years old.  I remembered reading the stories at the time, but not since. No wonder it had faded from memory. 

       I resisted the temptation to turn to the last page in search of the two words to which Richard alluded. Instead I sat down to re-read the story for the first time in 50 years. (Gad, I hate being able to say that!) 

        Suffice it to say this story, sadly, was not Ellery at his best.  It also featured more gore than the reader of a golden age mystery usually anticipates, including the serial demise of those cats. But I persevered, all the way to the last page.  And right up until the bottom of that page I had absolutely no idea what Richard was talking about. And then all became clear. 

        The last two words in The Adventure of the Seven Black Cats are “Harry Potter.”

[Correction Note:  The original version of this article referred to the works of Ellery Queen as being "in the public domain."  The obvious error in that statement is that it should have said "Ellery Queen is NOT in the public domain."  Oops, and sorry about that!  Richard Dannay, in an email, called my attention to this error.  The Queen works are not in the public domain and are, in fact, as Richard points out, protected under copyright laws.  The article has been changed to reflect that fact.  

Also deleted from this version is a reference to Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes works as being in the public domain.  That reference has been omitted in light of the continuing (and very interesting) litigation relating to the literary protections that currently are to be accorded to the Sherlock Holmes stories.  

-- Dale C. Andrews, January 5, 2015]

17 February 2013

The Reappearance of Ellery Queen


by Leigh Lundin

Today we bring you announcements. Two fine writers are joining SleuthSayers: Terence Faherty and Brian Thornton. You'll be learning more about them in the coming weeks, but they are taking center stage as Deborah Elliott-Upton and David Dean take sabbaticals.

David has asked for time off to write another novel. If his first is a clue, it's going to be terrific. As you probably know, David stepped down as a Jersey Shore police chief to join our fabulously highly paid staff of authors. We've all benefitted from his experience and his kind and gentle professional manner.

Deborah has been with John, Rob, and me since the beginning, the early years of Criminal Brief. She's finally taking time off for classes, but rumor has it she's been seen around town driving a fancy sports car. We've enjoyed the lessons she's shared with us as a teacher, as a writer, and as a friend. We're going to miss Deborah and David, but expect them to return from time to time.

Ellery Queen

I've always preferred fair play mysteries. To me, all mysteries should be fair play. This brings me to Emma Pulitzer of Open Road IntegratedMedia who sent me a gracious note asking SleuthSayers to mention they are republishing Ellery Queen novels in eBook form. Says Emma:
According to Otto Penzler of the Mysterious Press, “Ellery Queen clearly is, after Edgar Allen Poe, the most important American in mystery fiction.”

The master of the “fair play” mystery, Ellery Queen’s classic whodunits, starring the mystery author/sleuth of the same name, made the character the most famous fictional detective of the 1930s and 1940s.

Written by two Brooklyn-born cousins, Frederic Dannay and Manfred Bennington Lee, the stories were an instant hit and adapted into radio, television, film, comics, and games.

Open Road Media and MysteriousPress.com are pleased to announce the release of twelve of these important titles, including The Chinese Orange Mystery (1934), The American Gun Mystery (1933), and The Adventures of Ellery Queen (1940).

We have created an original mini-documentary about the crime-writing duo, featuring Dannay and Lee’s sons and Otto Penzler. The video can be viewed here and on YouTube. We hope you enjoy it!



Ellery Queen is the pen name of two cousins, Frederic Dannay and Manfred Lee, as well as the name of their famous fictional detective. Legendary editor Otto Penzler of Mysterious Press believes, "After Poe, I think it's true that Ellery Queen was the most significant and important writer of mystery fiction in America." In this video, Penzler and the authors' sons, Richard Dannay and Rand Lee, speak about the lasting influence of the Ellery Queen "fair play" mysteries.
Ellery Queen novels republished thus far include:
  • The Chinese Orange Mystery
  • The American Gun Mystery
  • The Dutch Shoe Mystery
  • The Egyptian Cross Mystery
  • The Siamese Twin Mystery
  • The French Power Mystery
  • The Greek Coffin Mystery
  • The Spanish Cape Mystery
  • Cat of Many Tails
  • Ten Days’ Wonder
  • And on the Eighth Day
  • The Adventures of Ellery Queen
Bear in mind one of the advantage of digital books is that most are searchable. If you're preparing an article, dissertation or term paper on the subject, these eBooks are the way to go.

Warning

I like Ellery Queen but my friend, colleague, and Dannay/Lee expert Dale Andrews loves Ellery Queen. If you spot him whilst visiting the eBookstore, I recommend clearing a path. Happy reading!

20 September 2011

If It's Tuesday, This Must Be . . . An Introduction


            Introductions, awkward always, remind me of the opening lines of Emily Dickinson’s poem:  I’m nobody, who are you?  Are you nobody too?  While I am in august company on SleuthSayers, I am still pretty new to this game.

            I came to fiction writing later in life, near the end of my stint as a Deputy Assistant General Counsel for Litigation at the U.S. Department of Transportation.  There I wrote and (even more) edited the writings of others for over twenty years.  But those writings were not narratives, worse still, they were legal briefs!  I left all of that behind when I retired in 2009.  Since then I list my occupation as “recovering attorney.”

            Although I have some stories “making the rounds,” and others solidifying in outline form on the hard drive of my lap top, my published mystery fiction (as of this writing) numbers two stories.  “The Book Case,” EQMM May, 2007, was written with the assistance of Kurt Sercu, proprietor of “Ellery Queen, a Website of Deduction.”  (More on Kurt and his great website another week.) The story won second place in the 2007 EQMM Readers’ Award competition (missing first place by one vote) and was nominated for the 2007 Barry Award for best short story.  “The Mad Hatter’s Riddle,” a prequel of sorts, was published in the September/October 2009 issue of EQMM.  Both stories are pastiches, tributes if you will, to a character with whom I literally (pun intended) grew up – Ellery Queen. 

            In a November 2010 column in Criminal Brief, James Lincoln Warren, during the course of commenting on his own efforts to write a Nero Wolfe tribute, said this of my stories:

But is it really a good idea to write these tributes, to put one’s own spin on someone else’s idea?
Well, in the case of Dale Andrews, the answer is a resounding yes, because if he didn’t write an Ellery story or two, he probably wouldn’t have published anything at all in terms of fiction, and the stories are very good. 

I love the reference, and not because it is one of the rare comments addressing my writing.  Rather, I love it because it is quintessential James.  It is a compliment surrounding a cold, hard truth.   For he is correct – at least at this stage my fiction is comprised solely of pastiches.

Ellery Queen --  Manfred B. Lee and Frederic Dannay
            As I pointed out some years back in a guest column I wrote for Criminal Brief, if you Google “pastiche” looking for a definition, the first one you will find is this: “a work of art that intentionally imitates other works, often to ridicule or satire.” You might guess, if you have been following this, that the definition I will offer up instead is one penned originally by Frederic Dannay, writing as Ellery Queen. Dannay wrote that “a pastiche is a serious and sincere imitation in the exact manner of the original author.” The readily apparent difference between the two definitions is that the former includes the parody – since it invites “ridicule or satire.” The latter, I would argue, correctly excludes both.

            My belief is that you have to approach characters created by other authors with reverence and with care.  My own rule for writing pastiches is also the basic cardinal principle for the practice of medicine: “first, do no harm.” To me this means that the protagonist who enters at the beginning of the story, and the one who emerges at the end, should be recognizable as the protagonist that you, the reader, expected.  Liberties can be taken, and I have done so in my stories, but it seems to me the author must always ask whether each of those liberties should be taken.  Constrained by Dannay’s definition, the writing style, the characters, and the plotting should, to the extent possible, emulate the original. As such, a strict pastiche is an homage, or as James Lincoln Warren notes in his aforementioned article, a tribute.  The pastiche, or tribute, is therefore a brittle form that calls for a deferential approach.

By contrast, liberties are taken regularly with Sherlock Holmes (a favorite subject of imitation since the Conan Doyle stories are now in the public domain).  Some of these I cannot read, and certainly would not write.  I remember as a teenager trying to read a Sherlock Holmes story that ultimately cast Holmes as Jack the Ripper and ended with Watson killing him.  I hurled the book across the living room and only picked it up again to deposit it in the trash.  Harm had clearly been done.

Benedict Cumberbatch as BBC's Holmes?
Martin Freeman as Dr. Watson?
Other transformations of Holmes are more difficult, perhaps, to judge.  Should Holmes be relegated to the role of secondary character to his “wife” (who isn’t even Irene Adler!) as Laurie King envisions the character in her very popular Mary Russell mysteries?  And what about the new BBC series, which cuts and pastes Holmes into 21st century London, relying on blackberries and laptops?  Inevitably it is up to the writers of pastiches to determine how far the rubber band can be stretched, and then up to the reader (or viewer) to determine whether the rubber band has, in fact, been snapped.

Jennifer Garner as Miss Marple??
            A new battle is currently brewing concerning the further adventures, if you will, of Agatha Christie’s timeless sleuth Miss Marple.  Christie (famously) did not like the portrayal of her character as envisioned by Margaret Rutherford in the 1950s. She reportedly complained in one letter: “[w]hy don’t they just invent a new character? Then they can have their cheap fun and leave me and my creations alone.”  One can only suspect the reaction Dame Christy might have to recently announced plans by Disney to cast Jeniffer Garner as a re-invented young, hip and sexy Miss Marple.  Seems to me harm may well ensue!

With Holmes there is no one to object when things go too far (as in the case of Holmes as the Ripper) since copyright protections have long since expired.  Recognizable or not, Holmes and Watson are now afoot in the public domain; not yet the case for Christie or Queen. 
 
 Thus, with Ellery even if I did not follow to the best of my ability the constraint of “doing no harm,” that constraint could nevertheless be imposed externally since each pastiche featuring Ellery as a character – whether by me, by Jon Breen, or by the late and truly lamented Ed Hoch –  must be read and approved by the surviving children of Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee before it is allowed to see print.  I did not include Francis Nevins, author of “Open Letter to Survivors,” surely one of the greatest Ellery pastiches of all time, in this list since Nevins never explicitly identifies his detective as Ellery.  I suspect, however, that that story also only saw print after Frederic Dannay, then still very much with us, gave it his seal of approval.

So much for this Tuesday.  What to expect in future weeks?  Well, I like Golden Age mysteries, whodunits that are "fair play" detective stories.  I also like to discuss how everyday events (and funny mistakes) can be re-cycled into ideas for stories and clues.  However, I am not certain exactly where Tuesdays are headed since I have yet to hear anything from my partner in crime (fiction) TBA who, I am sure, is “TB” to his or her friends.  I’d certainly like to hear from him or her by next week since I didn’t sign on to be the only “weekly victim” in this particular whodunit!

05 March 2018

Misadventures


by Dale C. Andrews                                                 
 

[A] pastiche is a serious and sincere imitation in the exact manner of the original author.  

    --  Ellery Queen
        The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes  (1944)   

We have been using the word "pastiche" for decades, at least since Ellery Queen's The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes, a collection of such stories, was published in 1944.  

     --  Chris Redmond 
          "You Say Fanfic, I Say Pastiche -- Is  there a
           Difference?” (2015) 

       This week (I am happy to announce) marks the culmination of a project that has kept me fairly busy for a good bit of the last year -- the publication of The Misadventures of Ellery Queen, co-edited by Josh Pachter and me, Dale Andrews. The anthology collects, for the first time, 16 stories, written over the course of some 70 years. The stories are “misadventures,” that is, pastiches, parodies and other homages, all inspired by author/detective Ellery Queen. For Josh and me putting together this collection has been a work of love. And it has also been a project that has been, well . . a long time coming.   

       Many of you may remember from previous SleuthSayer articles that Ellery occupies a particularly warm spot in my writing heart. Over the years I’ve written three Ellery Queen pastiches that have graced the pages of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and I’ve written numerous articles on Ellery and his exploits that have appeared on SleuthSayers. While some of the backstory to The Misadventures of Ellery Queen predates SleuthSayers, the recent story of how the collection came into being can be traced through various footprints throughout the history of this website.   

     Books collecting “misadventure,” that is, anthologies that carry forth the exploits of an established character but in stories penned by other authors, have a long pedigree. The best examples of misadventures are the many stories and anthologies offering up new Sherlock Holmes stories written outside of the established Arthur Conan Doyle canon. And the first collection of such stories was The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes, edited by none other than -- Ellery Queen in 1944. (The collection was quickly withdrawn from the public following a copyright challenge from the Arthur Conan Doyle estate. Luckily for all of us the collection is now once again readily available.) 

       It was only natural that a fan of Ellery Queen who has also written new Ellery Queen adventures (that would be me!) would reasonably be expected to ponder why the stories not originally drafted by Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee but nonetheless featuring their detective creation Ellery have not been previously collected. EQ pastiches and parodies are not as numerous as those featuring Sherlock Holmes, but nevertheless many have popped up with some regularity since at least 1947, when Thomas Narcejac wrote (in French) Le Mystere de ballons rouge featuring Ellery, and the inspector. Since then Jon L. Breen, Francis Nevins, Edward D. Hoch and a host of others, both famous and lesser known, have also contributed Ellery Queen stories. So wouldn’t an Ellery Queen “misadventures” anthology make some sense?   

The Japanese Misadventures
     That was precisely the question I pondered in one of my earliest SleuthSayers articles, “Fair Play Mysteries and the Land of the Rising Sun,” which posted on October 25, 2011. At the time the article was written I had just received a request to allow my first EQ pastiche, “The Book Case,” written in collaboration with my good friend Kurt Sercu, proprietor of Ellery Queen -- A Website on Deduction, to appear in exactly such an anthology. That volume, also entitled The Misadventures of Ellery Queen was published in 2012. But, as that earlier SleuthSayers post explains, the book, edited by Iiki Yusan, who also heads up the Ellery Queen Fan Club in Japan, was intended for the Japanese market and the stories it collects have been translated into Japanese. All of this is explained (and lamented) in that earlier article. Even back then, as I indicated in a response to a comment, I was ruminating over the possibility of an English language Misadventures anthology.   

       From 2012 on my author’s copy of the Japanese Misadventures just sat there on my own book case -- staring at me accusingly as nothing happened and the years slipped by. Since I don’t read Japanese about the only thing I could meaningfully ponder in Iiki Yusan’s Misadventures was the list of contributing authors, which appeared in English at the back of the book. The list included the likes of Francis Nevins, Jon Breen, Ed Hoch, and even me. 

        Also a guy named Josh Pachter.   

       Josh Pachter? Back in 2011 when I wrote that first SleuthSayers column the name meant nothing to me.   

       Josh, it turned out, has written many mystery stories during a career of almost fifty years -- including several homages featuring a character by the name of E.Q. Griffen. The reason I was unfamiliar with  these stories is the same reason that I had concluded that we needed a collection of Ellery’s misadventures -- Josh’s Ellery Queen homages were nearly impossible to find. Like almost all EQ pastiches, parodies and homages they were published originally in issues of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and that had occurred many years ago. As a practical matter those magazine issues were unavailable to the vast majority of the reading public. But even given this, I began to hear more and more about Josh, including the fact that he lived not all that far away from me, outside of Washington, D.C. in the Virginia suburbs.   

       So let's skip a few years and eventually alight in yet another SleuthSayers article.   

       In the summer of 2015 I received an email from my friend Francis (Mike) Nevins informing me that he would be traveling through Washington, D.C. that September. I immediately offered up our guest room, and Mike accepted. 

        Mike Nevins, as many of you will know, is an emeritus professor at St. Louis University Law School, a preeminent Ellery Queen scholar and the author of many short stories and books, including two seminal biographical works chronicling the lives and works of the two cousins who were Ellery Queen -- Fred Dannay and Manfred B. Lee: Royal Bloodline: Ellery Queen, Author and Detective (1974) and the more recent Ellery Queen: The Art of Detection (2013). Mike’s 2013 book was, in fact, reviewed by me right here on SleuthSayers in January of 2013.   

       Mike is also the author of one of the finest Ellery Queen pastiches ever written -- “Open Letter to Survivors.”   

       When Mike accepted my invitation by return email he told me that he would really like to get together with an old friend during his D.C. stay. Another author. Named Josh Pachter. As I said, by then I knew who Josh was. Mike and I contacted Josh by email and dinner was scheduled for a September evening in the backyard of my home. The dinner (you guessed it) was the subject of my SleuthSayers article of September 27, 2015.    

Josh, Mike and me in the backyard. 
(Animation courtesy of Google!)
     As we chatted that evening it turned out that I was not the only one who had contemplated a collection of Ellery Queen misadventures. Josh’s first EQMM story -- that E.Q. Griffen homage -- was published in EQMM when he was just 16 years old, at a time when Frederic Dannay was still editor-in-chief of the magazine. Josh had thereafter become close friends with Dannay and had even broached the possibility of exactly such a volume with him. But nothing came of it.   

       It didn’t take long for the gears to begin to mesh. Maybe each of us thought. Just maybe working together we could actually do this.   

       And, to make a longer story short, we did! The Misadventures of Ellery Queen, which we compiled over the course of almost a year, has one story by each of us -- “The Book Case” for me; “E.Q. Griffen Earns his Name” for Josh. The other 14 stories are by other authors.  We had a lot of stories to choose from, and the final volume differs in many respects from the Japanese Misadventures anthology. Our book includes the first ever English translation of that 1947 Thomas Narcejac pastiche “The Mystery of the Red Balloons,” as well as Mike Nevin’s “Open Letter to Survivors.” Readers will also find Jon Breen’s pastiche “The Gilbert and Sullivan Clue,” and a particularly sneaky pastiche by Ed Hoch, which spent most of its literary life masquerading as an Ellery Queen-authored story . There are stories by Lawrence Block. William Brittain, James Holding and others. And the book also includes what is probably the most recent Queen homage (a sort of pastiche with it’s own twist) Edgar winner Joe Goodrich’s “The Ten-Cent Murder.” All of those, and quite a few others by authors famous and authors obscure share one thing in comon --  each was inspired by Ellery.   

       Josh and I are particularly pleased with the final product shaped by our publisher, Wildside Press, which has made the collection available in hard covertrade paperback, and Kindle editions.  

Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee
Picture courtesy of "Ellery Queen -- A website on Deduction"
       Choosing the stories, writing  introductions, and otherwise putting this volume together has been a joy for Josh and me for many reasons. Perhaps the greatest joy is mirrored in an observation by Janet Hutchings, editor of EQMM.  In these Misadventures, she has written, “Ellery Queen lives again.” That's what we were hoping for.   Dannay and Lee, writing as Ellery Queen observed in their introduction to that 1944 Sherlock Holmes Misadventure anthology that pastiches and parodies are "the next best thing to new stories."  

       And that was always what we wanted most to accomplish -- bringing some of the many adventures of Ellery Queen written by authors other than Dannay and Lee together in one volume.  We hope that readers will enjoy diving into these alternative adventures as much as we have enjoyed collecting them.

       One final note -- in addition to availability on-line, The Misadventures of Ellery Queen will also be on sale at the Malice Domestic convention at the end of April.  And Josh and I will both be there.  Just in case anyone might want . . . uhh . . . a signed copy?