#236: Ellery Queen in Order at The Invisible Event + Murder on the (Givea)Way! Winner

EQ novels

A little while ago I read The Roman Hat Mystery (1929), the debut novel by Ellery Queen, the nom de plume of cousins Daniel Nathan and Emanuel Lepofsky, in turn better known as Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee.  I didn’t love it, but I’ve read about ten Ellery Queen books and found a lot to enjoy in some of them, and a great many people whose opinions I value assert that the work done by these two under this name was vital to the development of the genre.

In spite of that, I don’t really feel that I have any understanding or overview of the Queen oeuvre; tonally and quality-wise the ones I have read — and, if I’m completely honest, I’m a little shaky as to exactly which ones they are — are all over the place, as befits a four-decade career covering multiple media platforms.  But they definitely did hugely valuable work, and I wish to correct my ignorance.  So, I hereby formally announce that I shall be reading the 39 novels and one novella that Dannay and/or Lee worked on (the name was later farmed out for others to produce work under it) in order of publication and posting my findings, thoughts, and other esoterica as it occurs to me here.

I’ve created its own category here on the blog, so that it doesn’t get lost amidst the general ‘Reviews’ heading, and I’ll be chipping away at them over the next few years — I typically avoid reading books by the same author too close together, so I reckon this has a good six or seven years to run.  Hell, I may not even be blogging by the time I finish it, who knows what will happen?  And, yes, I shall even reread the ones I know I’ve read (Roman Hat being the exception, as that’s already catalogued on here), even though I distinctly remember The Egyptian Cross Mystery (1932), The King is Dead (1952), and possibly The Four of Hearts (1938) to be absolute stinkers.

people-happy-cheering

Wow, guys, I…I just don’t know how I could do this without your support.  Thank-you so much…

Dannay and Lee also wrote a large number of short stories, many of which I have read, but I don’t currently plan to include them in this.  That may — and if I enjoy myself as much as I’m expecting to, probably will — change, but at present I own all the novels and so we’ll start there.

So, that announcement made, next Tuesday I shall get officially underway by looking at The French Powder Mystery…

~

The instant I finished writing this post, Ben at The Green Capsule announced his intention of doing exactly the same thingCoincidence?  Well, yes, but if you want a war, Ben, then I’ll give you a war…

Oh, you don’t want a war?  Well, then, carry on.  Perhaps we’ll even overcome this initial animosity to team up at some point — if Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice has taught me anything, that’s a distinct possibility.

~

Murder on the WayI’m also delighted to tell you that the winner of my fiendish Murder on the Way! competition is…Andy William.  Congratulations, Andy!  Zombies, impossible shootings, and some truly wonderful writing is yours, all yours.  Bask in the glory of your win for the moment; I shall be in touch for your contact details, and will aim to get the book out to you by the end of the week.

~

The Ellery Queen novels of Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee (all books Dannay & Lee unless stated otherwise)

1. The Roman Hat Mystery (1929)
2. The French Powder Mystery (1930)
3. The Dutch Shoe Mystery (1931)
4. The Tragedy of X (1932) [as Barnaby Ross]
5. The Greek Coffin Mystery (1932)
6. The Tragedy of Y (1932) [as Barnaby Ross]
7. The Egyptian Cross Mystery (1932)
8. The Tragedy of Z (1933) [as Barnaby Ross]
9. The American Gun Mystery (1933)
10. Drury Lane’s Last Case (1933) [as Barnaby Ross]
11. The Siamese Twin Mystery (1933)
12. The Chinese Orange Mystery (1934)
13. The Spanish Cape Mystery (1935)
14. The Lamp of God, a.k.a. The House of Haunts [n] (1935)
15. Halfway House (1935)
16. The Door Between (1937)
17. The Devil to Pay (1937)
18. The Four of Hearts (1938)
19. The Dragon’s Teeth, a.k.a. The Virgin Heiresses (1939)
20. Calamity Town (1942)
21. There Was an Old Woman, a.k.a. The Quick and the Dead (1943)
22. The Murderer Is a Fox (1945)
23. Ten Days’ Wonder (1948)
24. Cat of Many Tails (1949)
25. Double, Double (1950)
26. The Origin of Evil (1951)
27. The King Is Dead (1952)
28. The Scarlet Letters (1953)
29. The Glass Village (1954)
30. Inspector Queen’s Own Case (1956)
31. The Finishing Stroke (1958)
32. The Player on the Other Side (1963) [Dannay w’ Theodore Sturgeon]
33. And on the Eighth Day (1964) [Dannay w’ with Avram Davidson]
34. The Fourth Side of the Triangle (1965) [Dannay w’ Avram Davidson]
35. A Study in Terror, a.k.a. Ellery Queen vs Jack the Ripper (1966) [w’ Paul W. Fairman]
36. Face to Face (1967)
37. The House of Brass (1968) [Dannay w’ Avram Davidson]
38. Cop Out (1969)
39. The Last Woman in His Life (1970)
40. A Fine and Private Place (1971)

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45 thoughts on “#236: Ellery Queen in Order at The Invisible Event + Murder on the (Givea)Way! Winner

  1. You’re doing yourself a disservice by leaving out the short stories! Queen was an expert in the short form, and I think no discussion of Queen is complete w/o the shorts.

    I’m finished reading all the books starring Ellery about two years ago, which was kind of a personal milestone: most of my mystery fiction childhood consisted of Christie, the Famous Five and Scooby Doo!, but after Detective Conan, and a chance remark about Ellery Queen there, I started reading Queen and it’s from that point on I really started to consume A LOT more mystery fiction. I seldom re-read books for review purposes for my blog, but I made an exception for Queen’s nationality novels because I really adore them and wanted to fanboy about them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I read The Adventures… and found them possibly a little forgettable (I can only recall one, though my memory for short stories ain’t the best). I’m not saying I’ll never read them — in all likelihood I will — but I don’t own any more, and wanted to make the novels my priority. If my enthusiasm is piqued as much as consensus thinks it will be (and it probably will) I’ll doubtless go about tracking them down in due course. Watch this space!

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      • Well, as I told Ben on HIS blog after HE announced that HE was doing the EXACT SAME THING as you, Calendar of Crime is an amazing collection, and even the later pair – Q.B.I. and Q.E.D. – focus on puzzles and are a lot of fun.

        Geez, do I have to reply to each of you SEPARATELY??? Or can I xerox my responses and double click somewhere. I need a student to explain computers to me again . . . oh God!

        Liked by 2 people

        • You can just comment on my blog, since, you know, I’m the original… Plus, I figure that if I simply just post my reviews on Monday and Wednesday, I’ll always be first to market. The gauntlet is thrown!

          It is funny though – as I was putting my piece together and looking through all of the reviews out there, I stumbled upon JJ’s post where he declared his intent to read Queen in order. Groan. What awful timing. Oh well, we’re both busy with plenty of other reading, so I imagine our posts will be months apart.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I’ve reviewed very little Queen on my blog, although he was always one of my favorites. I might post along as we go, but rest assured I have enough opinions to satisfy (or horrify) both of you! 🙂

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  2. Some of the recent blog-posts and comments have made me want to revisit (early) Ellery Queen, such as The French Powder Mystery and The Greek Coffin Mystery, to see if they stand up to re-reading.

    And Ho-Ling is absolutely right about the short stories. They were arguably better at writing short detective stories than full-length mystery novels. Something that’s became very apparent during their Wrightsville and Hollywood period. I detest the Wrightsville novels, but the short stories, collected in Queen’s Full, are quite good. It also has one of my favorite short-shorts/dying message stories, “Diamonds in Paradise,” which is a bit silly, but have always been very fond of it.

    So, yes, put the short story collections on that list. They’re not to be missed in an Ellery Queen study.

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    • Well, come along with me ‘n’ Ben, then! It’s an EQ-palooza!

      I’ll keep an eye out for the collections, but I’ll start the novels first and see how I go. Didn’t love Roman Hat, after all, so don’t want to over-commit before I even begin — I’ve made that mistake before, and the current investment of 40 books is enough to be going on with…!

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    • Well, as I commented on my blog, I’ll be getting to the short stories eventually. I do love a good short story, it seems like the perfect form for impossible crimes. At the same time, like JJ, I seem to have an awful memory for them.

      I don’t know if I would have sought out the Queen short story collections, but I got them as part of two big bulk purchases on eBay. I’m glad I did now, as the common consensus seems to be that they are excellent.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You remember The Egyptian Cross as a stinker! :0 I mean, it has such a wonderful premise!

    That aside, I think your project should prove to be fun. Like you, I don’t like to read too many books by the same writer all together – more than three in a row and I start to get restless. This ought to take you a while but having a long range plan like that is nice in itself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, the (broadly) chronological reading of Christie and Carr has really helped me appreciate their output, so it seems the way to go in order to get the most out of Queen. Though if I’m still doing it in fifteen years I may be in trouble…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Glad to hear that you’ll be working your way through the Queen novels. I confess that in my initial forays I enjoyed the Queen novels better than the Carr novels, but as time passed the scales eventually tilted to Carr’s favour. Nonetheless, I enjoyed ‘There was an Old Lady’, ‘Face to Face’ and ‘French Powder Mystery’. 🙂

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  5. I seem to recall a certain Maths teacher who started French Powder and gave up . . . So if you’re going to get snarky on the first round, you drop this project, Mister, and go do something positive . . .

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  6. I just checked and find that I have all the above 40 books. Regarding short stories, I have only 2 collections: The Adventures Of Ellery Queen and The New Adventures of Ellery Queen.

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    • Get the others if you can find them, Santosh! There are many to admire!! I heartily agree with TomCat and Ho-Ling regarding the Queens’ mastery of the short form!

      Ho-Ling, I sure wish you would translate some of the short fiction from Japan that serves as an homage to Queen. I know that there is at least one collection out there!

      Hey, look at me! Ordering a noted book translator around!!! 🙂 (Did it work??)

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  7. I love the book collection image at the top of the article. Are those the actual copies you have? If so, I’m really jealous, in particular of the first row. I lucked out with my purchases and got some fairly classic looking covers, although they are mostly 1962 Pocket Books and don’t have covers nearly as nice as the 1940 editions. I did end up with seven 1940s editions, six of which are featured towards the middle of my post.

    It’s great to see Queen getting so much attention right now. Hopefully some of the Queen veterans will put together a post or two to guide us newbies through the massive catalog and multiple periods.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The Tragedy Of Errors is available only in outline form. However the synopsis is detailed.
    As a general rule, Frederic Dannay devised the complicated plots of each Queen novel and story, and Manfred B. Lee did the actual writing—setting, character development, and much of the dialogue. Dannay completed his work on “The Tragedy of Errors,” but Lee died before he could turn it into a full-length novel.
    The following letter From Frederic Dannay To Manfred B. Lee regarding the outline makes interesting reading:

    Man,
    Now that you have read the outline, which you will have to read more than once—
    1.The Tragedy of Errors is intended to reflect, within the strict framework of the detective novel, the insanity of today’s world.
    2.The good man, the very good man, even the very best man, can be corrupted by the insanity of today’s world.
    3. The final scene reveals, among other things, a double motive for murder—the oldest one and the newest.
    Dan

    The outline of the novel is available in the collection The Tragedy Of Errors And Others (includes some short stories and essays) which is available at Amazon (both kindle and paperback).
    I have since obtained the collection.

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    • SPOLIERS for The Tragedy of Errors follows. Light ones, but still.

      I’ve read this book, and while it was good I think Dannay is hyping himself up quite a bit. The motive is banal, and if there was some deeper meaning to it all it shot right over my head. I’ve even re-read the thing a time or two just to make sure it wasn’t me being dumb, but no, still not seeing it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Aaah, but it’s lacking that Manny Lee magic. I always find it fascinating to see what someone usually best known for working as part of a duo or collective produces once they do that same thing on their own, to really tey to get a sense of what they actually provided to the duo or collective.

        Simon Pegg, these days best known for Hot Fuzz and being Scotty in the Start Trek movies, co-wrote my favourite sitcom of all time, Spaced, in the early 2000s with Jessica Stephenson. When Pegg went on to write Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and others without her, I began to realise how many elements of what I loved about the show Stephenson must have brought to it — for all Pegg’s solo success, he’s never matched the heights of Spaced for me, and I appreciate it even more now seing the different strands they each contributed.

        So, y’know, maybe this is like that.

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        • If you haven’t already, you should purchase and read BLOOD RELATIONS, Joseph Goodrich’s compendium of letters between Dannay and Lee. It is fascinating and frustrating, amazing insight into one team’s “writing process,” and it makes you wonder how these two ever got ANYTHING written together!

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      • Oh, I so agree with you, Dark One! I was excited at the chance of reading a “new” Ellery Queen, in whatever form I could. And Dannay makes such a big deal about how ToE extends the deep, rich existential and theological claptrap they imbued most of their late stuff with. And after all that hype, there really is no there there! It reminded me of A Fine and Private Place, and one has to be grateful, I guess, that ToE never got written.

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        • I wouldn’t say it’s *that* bad, I certainly liked it, at any rate, it’s just at the the time I was more focused on short story collections and locked rooms, so I didn’t dig into Queen more, which it tempted me to do. If he had just snipped the “Look how brilliant I am” part out it would be much better.

          Liked by 1 person

      • I agree … very much overhyped. The outline is confused about whether it’s trying to echo the thematic concerns of Hamlet or Othello, to start with, and I suspect that like others of EQ’s later efforts it would have bitten off way more than it could chew by the time it made it to a finished product.
        It did amuse me to consider that the actress with the (incomprehensible and unmotivated) fixation on Shakespeare may have bought Drury Lane’s former estate, but no, Dannay missed that. So there are two grandiose estates out there inspired by Shakespeare.

        Liked by 1 person

        • See above, I actually liked it, and if I’d been looking into novels at that time I would have snatched a few more Queens based on it. The problem is Dannay trying to show off and the killer being friggen Machiavelli (also an issue with The Phantom Passage JJ 😉 ). But other than that, it was good, and the stories and essays in that collection also interesting.

          SPOILERS

          Really tho, considering how I was into Othello at the time, I’m annoyed that I didn’t see the killer a mile off.

          Like

  9. The Tragedy Of Errors is only in outline form. However, the synopsis is detailed.
    As a general rule, Frederic Dannay devised the complicated plots of each Queen novel and story, and Manfred B. Lee did the actual writing—setting, character development, and much of the dialogue. Dannay completed his work on “The Tragedy of Errors,” but Lee died before he could turn it into a full-length novel.
    A letter from Frederic Dannay To Manfred B. Lee regarding the outline makes interesting reading:
    Man,
    Now that you have read the outline, which you will have to read more than once—
    1.The Tragedy of Errors is intended to reflect, within the strict framework of the detective novel, the insanity of today’s world.
    2.The good man, the very good man, even the very best man, can be corrupted by the insanity of today’s world.
    3 . The final scene reveals, among other things, a double motive for murder—the oldest one and the newest.
    Dan

    The outline of the novel is in the collection The Tragedy Of Errors And Others (which includes some short stories and essays) which is available at Amazon (both kindle and paperback). I have since obtained this collection.

    Like

  10. Pingback: The Roman Hat Mystery – Ellery Queen (1929) – The Green Capsule

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