Thursday, February 25, 2016

Rereading The Ellery Queen Canon

A few weeks ago, I offered an entry on the way that I re-read the Nero Wolfe Corpus, as the collection of Wolfe novels, novellas, and related ephemera are known. It was an essay that I wrote a couple of years ago for The Gazette, the journal of the Wolfe Pack.
http://www.17stepprogram.blogspot.com/2016_01_01_archive.html

At the same time that I initially produced that essay, I also wrote a companion piece, parallel in many ways, regarding how I return regularly to the world of Ellery Queen, and how I go about reading those stories as well. That essay was written for a specific website and webmaster that, in the end, did not follow through on certain promises, so I withdrew it, waiting for another opportunity to release it into the world.

Having recently started re-reading the Queen Canon again, and more specifically, having seen a blog entry by the most excellent Dan Andriacco that referred to one of the lesser known works of Mr. Queen, I decided to update my own little effort a little bit and put it out there. Besides referring to the main topic, EQ, there are also connections to Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe.

And so, here are my thoughts on:

Rereading The Ellery Queen Canon

I’m currently making my way through my latest rereading of the Ellery Queen canon, after realizing a month or so ago that it had been several years since I'd taken a literary trip to West 87th Street. Whenever I read about the lives of Ellery Queen and the Inspector, I like to approach the stories chronologically, as the events of their lives unfold, rather than following publication order. But I don't just read the established novels and short stories featuring Ellery and stop there, and I don’t actually start with The Roman Hat Mystery, the first published book. There are stories to read before that, are a lot of other stories to read afterwards as well.

Mr. Marcum Discovers Mr. Queen

I first encountered Ellery Queen in October 1975, when I was ten years old. However, it was several years later before I actually began to admire him. In 1975, I had recently started my lifelong frenzied fascination with the life of Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and was just beginning to expand my interest from the Sleuth of Baker Street to some of the other Great Detectives. While reading the October 11, 1975 issue of TV Guide magazine, I came across an article by Rand Lee, providing details of the creation of Ellery Queen by both his father, Manfred Lee, and Manfred’s cousin, Frederic Dannay. Of course, at that time the great Queen show starring Jim Hutton was premiering on television, but I didn’t watch it then. (I’ve always been a reader first, and often while growing up I only discovered the media adaptations of my literary heroes at much later dates, after the character was already set in my imagination. For instance, I had read and re-read the James Bond books for years before I ever actually saw my first Bond movie, something for which I'm eternally grateful. But I digress . . . .)

For some reason, I tore the Rand Lee article out of the magazine and saved it. (I still have it.) At that time, the small town where I lived – and still live – was even smaller, but we did have an excellent little used bookstore, where my father would often take me on Saturday mornings. On our next trip there, I found a tattered paperback copy of The Vanishing Corpse, which stated on the cover in small print that its original title was Ellery Queen, Master Detective. I recalled that this title was the very book that had been used as an illustration on the first page of the TV Guide article, and I talked my dad into buying it for me. And then I read it. And I’m afraid . . . that I didn’t like it very much.


Of course, that might be because I was only ten years old, and wasn’t a very seasoned mystery reader at that point. Or possibly it was because that story wasn’t one of the better Queen books. After all, although it was vetted and approved by the cousins, Dannay and Lee, at the time it was written, it still was really a novelization of an old EQ movie, which itself had been lifted from the original Queen novel, The Door Between.

In any case, I abandoned Ellery at that point for a few more years. My next meeting with him was in 1978, by way of famed attorney Perry Mason. It was at that time that I encountered my first Perry Mason book, a meeting which eventually forced me to repeat algebra, since I spent most of that year reading Mason books in class instead of listening to the teacher, who didn’t care enough about teaching to make me pay attention. (I may have to take a little of the blame too.) At the time I starting reading about Perry Mason, I convinced my mother to take me to that same local used bookstore to find some additional Mason novels. While there, I came across more Ellery Queen books, and she agreed to buy me a few of those as well. (I recall being somewhat embarrassed as I asked her to pay for them, since those particular editions featured mostly-unclothed models posing on the covers. However, my mom laughed, and said that she knew that Ellery Queen books weren’t like that on the inside. Thanks, mom!)

And so I now owned some more Queen books, but even then I never quite got around to reading them. Over the years, I picked up a few more here and there, because somehow I sensed that I was going to want to read them someday, just not quite yet. It wasn’t until 1983 that I truly discovered what makes reading the Queen Canon so electrifying. At that time, I was working at my first job, in the college library where I would go on to achieve my first bachelor’s degree. It was the summer before my freshman year was due to start, and I was sitting at the main desk near the front door, trying to stay awake. Someone brought back a book, and it was my job to check it in. I picked it up and saw that it was the omnibus edition of The Wrightsville Murders. For some reason, probably because I was slightly acquainted with Ellery from earlier years, I flipped to the front of the book, and started reading. Little did I realize that I was starting with what I - and many others - still believe to be the best of all the Queen novels, Calamity Town. And to paraphrase Frederic Dannay, all the Queen’s horses and all the Queen’s men couldn’t put David together again.

That, for me, began the magical year of Ellery Queen. I read the trilogy of books in that omnibus, and felt that in some ways I had never read anything better in my life. The library had one other Queen book, The Hollywood Murders omnibus, and I quickly read the three novels in that one as well. I read the few Queen novels that I had accumulated at home, and then I was out of luck. It turned out that many of the Queen titles that I had bought over the years (such as Blow Hot, Blow Cold, The Golden Goose, or The Four Johns,)didn’t actually feature Ellery at all, and in fact were those Queen books from the 1960’s that had nothing to do with the character of Ellery Queen. Rather, they were the non-Ellery titles that had been ghost-written by other authors, some about completely different characters, as Tim Corrigan or Mike McCall, and published under the house name of Ellery Queen. And I soon found out that there weren’t a lot of actual EQ books about Ellery and the Inspector to be found at the used bookstore anymore, either.

I am so grateful to my father during this time for feeding my fledgling Queen addiction. He was a law enforcement agent who had been employed since the 1960’s for the state Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), responsible for an area covering several counties and helping assist local law enforcement officers as needed. (Sort of a Tennessee Scotland Yard Inspector.) While growing up, he had occasionally let me accompany him on investigations, and he had always let me read his files that he kept at our home, which also served as his office. As a child, I’d always had an interest in criminology, and I felt a special kinship with Ellery, the son of a police inspector. Since my dad traveled every day to many different towns, I asked if he would keep his eyes open for other used bookstores, and to carry a checklist of EQ books that I didn’t yet own with him. He agreed, and so for the rest of that school year, into the spring of 1984, every week or so he would surprise me with a few more EQ books.

Fortunately, several years earlier I had acquired Otto Penzler’s excellent book The Private Lives of Private Eyes, which contained a very informative chapter concerning Ellery Queen. From this book I had learned about the different ways that Ellery had been presented over the years, and the different phases of the Queen novels, including the early days with pince-nez and brain-busting puzzles, the Hollywood novels, the amazing middle-period books, especially concerning Wrightsville, and the later, more experimental tales. Therefore, even though my dad was bringing me the books in a very odd and out-of-order sequence, I was able to place them as I read them where they belonged in the big EQ picture.

Of all the books I read during that year, I remember saving The Finishing Stroke until I reached the end of my first extended visit to West 87th Street. I could tell that the story bracketed the whole Queen Canon as I understood it at that time, from approximately The Roman Hat Mystery to the end. And as usual, I wasn’t disappointed. Several years later, in the late 1980’s after I had graduated college and was married, I re-read the entire Queen narratives again, this time in order of publication. At that time, I believed that those stories were all that I would be able to find about Mr. Queen. Of course, I was mistaken. There were many other Ellery stories out there, in other formats, but they were going to be difficult to track down, especially in those dark days before the internet.

Playing “The Game” With Mr. Queen

Along with my admiration for Mr. Queen, I have always been a fanatical follower of the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, both the original stories and the literally thousands of pastiches that have appeared over the years in the form of short stories, novels, radio and television shows, movies, scripts and comics. For those who are not aware, there is a school of thought when reading the Holmes stories that is called playing The Game, where Holmes and Dr. Watson are treated as real historical people, and their lives are examined as if their adventures took place in the real world. I truly enjoy playing The Game, and have since done so since I was a boy. And over the years, as I’ve read about some of the other Great Detectives, I have expanded The Game to include them too, including Ellery.

There are a number of chronologies that have been written over the years attempting to define exactly when this or that original Holmes story or event in Holmes’s life took place. Since the mid-1990’s, I have maintained my own Holmes Chronology that not only defines the dates of the original Holmes canon, but all of the thousands of pastiches that I have read and collected over the last forty-plus as well. This came about because in the mid-1990’s, I realized that I had collected a lot more Holmes pastiches than I had actually gotten around to reading. I seemed to keep rereading the original Holmes stories and a few of the same favorite pastiches over and over again. I decided to catch up on all those other stories that I had acquired but had never gotten around to reading, simply putting them on the shelf. I began to read every Holmes story that I had collected, in no certain order, trying to get ahead of what I had missed. As I did so, I kept a small binder with me, containing maps of England and other relevant facts that added to the experience. I made notes about each story that I read, and I started to jot down the date in which each story took place. When I finished, I found that I had a very rough chronology of the stories - all the stories – that I had read and how they related to the events in Holmes and Watson’s lives.

I’ve revised this overall chronology of Holmes and Watson’s lives several times since then, adding in all the new Holmes pastiches that are continually appearing and that I have acquired. During the intervening years, I’ve also reread the Queen Canon several times, as well as books relating to my other “book friends” (as my son used to call them when he was young,) including Nero Wolfe, Solar Pons, Hercule Poirot, and Perry Mason.

Somewhere along the way, I realized that I enjoyed reading about the other characters’ lives in chronological order the same way that I did about Holmes’s life, so I started constructing chronologies for these other Great Detectives as well. Now, when I reread the Queen stories, I take them in a certain specific order that has nothing to do with their publication date. And along the way, I add in all the radio and television stories that I could find, as well as other pastiches that I’ve discovered over the years, at the chronologically correct location.

Rereading the Queen Canon – The Entire Queen Canon

When rereading the Ellery Queen stories, I don’t just read the novels and short story collections. I try to include all of the published and otherwise available radio scripts that I’ve been able to acquire as well. I listen to all the remaining Queen radio shows that I can find, and I also watch all the old Queen movies, and the remaining available episodes of the 1950’s television shows. Now the amazing Jim Hutton/David Wayne series from the mid-1970’s is finally available on DVD. I’ve also been able to read most of the surviving Ellery Queen comics. All of these stories, even though some are weaker than others, provide a more complete and well-rounded picture of the life of Ellery Queen.

I’m still trying to locate some of the old radio scripts that were published in obscure magazines in the 1940’s, but my time and resources limit my ability to track them down. I know that there are some old radio shows available at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., but I haven’t been able to get up there to listen to them yet. Luckily, a little research still reveals the occasional new discovery now and then. For example, a couple of years ago I found a website, www.planetmegamall.com, that sells television and film scripts. They offer eight scripts from the 1975 EQ television show, including the pilot episode, as well as one for “The Grand Old Lady,” an episode which was never actually produced, but instead was later reworked without Ellery and the Inspector and filmed as an episode of the television show, Murder, She Wrote.

As I reread about Ellery’s adventures, I even include – believe it or not - the short-short tales from the old syndicated radio series, Ellery Queen’s Minute Mysteries, of which I now have several hundred episodes, but not all of them. Some EQ scholars would probably choose to ignore these stories, classifying them as something not part of the actual EQ Canon. However, if one is going to be immersed in the world of Ellery and be willing to read a lot of the legitimate quick-puzzle tales, such as those included in Queen’s Experiments in Detection, or the later Puzzle Club stories, then these minute-long radio adventures cannot be considered any less legitimate or important. If the reader is thinking chronologically, the Minute Mysteries can be separated into when they occurred during different decades or periods of Ellery’s life, and dropped in accordingly between the more accepted adventures.

Of course, there are a number of newer Queen pastiches that must not be forgotten, including “Open Letter To Survivors” by Francis M. Nevins, “The Wrightsville Carnival” and “The Circle of Ink” by Ed Hoch, “The Gilbert and Sullivan Clue” by Jon L. Breen, “The Mad Hatter’s Riddle” by Dale C. Andrews, and “The Book Case” by Dale C. Andrews and Kurt Sercu. This last story is especially pleasing, since it confirms what I have long suspected, that Ellery and Nikki Porter at some point finally get married. I have even added a slight indirect pastiche to the mix as well. My own collection of Holmes pastiches, The Papers of Sherlock Holmes, Vol's I and II, was published in 2011 and again in 2013. The postscript of Volume II contains a letter written by Dr. Watson in 1929, refering to a past case in which Holmes and Watson, while traveling in New York in 1927, were assisted by several famous detectives, including “the unlikely team of one of the New York Police inspectors and his brilliant son, Ellery, who shows every sign of being Holmes’s deductive rival.” (When I finally got around to arranging some of Watson’s notes for publication in this book, I was thrilled to see that Holmes and Ellery had worked together. More about that in a moment . . . . )

One EQ pastiche that I initially ignored but later included after further reflection was “Dan and the Fair Sabrina”, included in Julian Symon’s book The Great Detectives. In this volume, Symons theorizes that the reason Ellery seems to change so much between his early incarnations and later appearances is that there were actually two sons of Richard Queen, Ellery and Dan, and that Dan was the protagonist in the early novels. I don’t exactly agree with Symons theory, although I do agree that Richard had two sons, and that Dan, the older son, was the protagonist of “Dan and the Fair Sabrina.” However, I believe that Dan Queen was the son who married and moved to Italy, as mentioned in the early books. When Ellery began writing, he initially used parts of Dan’s biography in his description of himself in order to obfuscate details about his life in New York. Clearly, Ellery did have a brother, because in the two juvenile EQ novels, The Merry Magician and The Vanished Victim, Ellery’s nephew Gulliver is staying in New York with the Queen’s while Ellery’s brother, an engineer, is out of the country for a year. Certainly Dannay and Lee knew about and approved these juvenile books, and if they signed off on the fact that Ellery had a brother and a nephew, then it must be gospel.

And there are still other EQ stories out there waiting to be read. The appearance of several new Queen collections in the last decade or so has definitely been a cause for celebration. A few years ago, I was corresponding back and forth with Doug Greene of Crippen & Landru Publishers, praising his efforts at getting both The Tragedy of Errors and The Murdered Moths published. I was also asking him when the next book of “lost” Queen scripts would be published. At that time, Doug offered to pass along a fan letter from me to Richard Dannay, the son of Frederic Dannay, in which I could ask the same question.

After agonizing for several days over what to write, I finally sent the letter. I let Mr. Dannay know what a fan I was of Ellery Queen, and how much I had enjoyed the stories over the years. I also told him that it was somewhat bittersweet when I read in the introduction to The Murdered Moths that there were hundreds of remaining EQ radio scripts that had been read and evaluated in order to pick the best for The Murdered Moths, and that these other EQ adventures were otherwise inaccessible and likely to stay that way. I asked him to imagine what it would be like if a Sherlock Holmes devotee were to learn that there were literally hundreds of other Holmes stories, written by Doyle, and stored away somewhere. It wouldn’t matter that some were alternate versions of later-published stories, or possibly of lesser quality. These would be raw materials that had not been seen or heard of since their original appearance. Holmes fans would clamor for every scrap to be released and studied and savored, and that I felt the same way about these unattainable EQ treasures. I also stated that I wished that I lived in the New York area, so that I could come and sit on Dannay’s floor and read the old scripts right out of the box, as if the ten-year-old inside me were finding Ellery again for the first time.

Mr. Dannay responded almost immediately, and very graciously. He didn’t take me up on my offer to come to New York and read scripts while sitting on his floor, but he did state that the Dannay and Lee families were as eager as I was to see some sort of revival of interest in EQ, and that he hoped that Doug Greene would consider another book of radio scripts. As do I . . . . I'm very happy that I've been able to stay in touch with Mr. Dannay since then, and he's always been as gracious as he was in that first reply.

Interaction with the Other Great Detectives

Several years ago, I came across an EQ pastiche of sorts in The Baker Street Journal (September 1982, Vol. 32, No.3), “The Adventure of the Logical Successor.” In the story, a young Ellery is visiting England during his college summer break in the mid-1920’s, and he seeks out Sherlock Holmes and Watson at Holmes’s retirement cottage in Sussex. Of course, Ellery had already encountered Holmes, although indirectly, in the novelization of A Study in Terror, but that doesn't take place chronologically until much later. However, “The Logical Successor” is an actual meeting between the two great detectives, and it first started me thinking that if one plays The Game – and I do – then Ellery and Holmes probably had other interactions as well.

In the story, Holmes tells Watson that he actually met Ellery years before, when Holmes was traveling in the United States. Holmes states that he met Richard Queen during that time, when Richard was a young policeman in New York. Holmes was there to look into a trifling matter involving a bowler hat, a hollow walking-stick, and a political scandal – I would love to read that story! Holmes states that “Richard Queen not only penetrated my disguise, but saved my life. On a later occasion, when I was traveling under the name of Altamont, I was able to render him some assistance. Young Ellery was but a child at the time, but even then somewhat precocious, with a decided bent for deductive reasoning. Someday I suppose I should tell him about the incident. He has not connected me with the bearded gentleman who visited their flat in Manhattan.”

Reading this story led me to ponder about where Ellery’s adventures might overlap with some of the other Great Detectives. One of the most likely places would be some sort of interaction with that other great American detective, Nero Wolfe, and his right-hand man Archie Goodwin. For those who haven’t read the Wolfe books, or are basing their understanding of Wolfe solely upon the poorly-made television show from 1981, Wolfe is a sedentary detective who lives in a Brownstone on W.35th Street in New York, and refuses to leave his house, solving all his mysteries from his armchair. The narrator of the stories, Archie Goodwin, goes out into the world and collects facts for Wolfe to evaluate, and people for Wolfe to question. Archie’s breezy narration is one of the greatest of mystery treats of all time. At the end of each investigation, Wolfe usually assembles all of the suspects and reveals the murderer.

In my chronology of Ellery Queen, which plays The Game with Ellery’s life, Ellery is friends with Frederic Dannay and Manfred Lee in the late 1920’s. They were all born in the same year of 1905, Dannay first met Ellery during some of the events later fictionalized in Dannay's book The Golden Summer, and Dannay and Lee were the ones who initially convinced Ellery to write up the events of The Roman Hat Mystery. Later, throughout the busy 1940’s and 1950’s, Dannay and Lee handled the day-to-day operations for Ellery, such as coordinating the scripting for the radio and television shows, as well as operation of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Throughout that time, they served as Ellery’s literary agents, much like Conan Doyle did for Dr. Watson. And in the early 1930’s, they, along with Ellery, were also instrumental in introducing Archie Goodwin to Rex Stout, a man in his late-forties who was interested in being a literary agent himself.

I believe that Ellery and Archie Goodwin, who was just a few years younger than Ellery, were good friends. Archie, a Manhattan licensed private detective with literary hobbies must certainly have known Ellery Queen, a Manhattan writer with detective hobbies. When Dannay and Lee heard about Stout’s desire to be a literary agent, they surely arranged for him to have an introduction to Archie. I can just imagine when the five of them, the cousins, Ellery, Archie, and Stout, sat down together for the first time.

I’ve read and reread the Wolfe books as often as I’ve read about Ellery, and the more I do, the more I see places where there could be interaction between the two series. Both Wolfe and the Queens live in west-side Brownstones, although they are fifty-two blocks apart. Inspector Queen certainly has interaction with Inspector Cramer, who is the policeman who usually has dealings with Wolfe. And in the Nero Wolfe books, there are a few places where Ellery’s presence was certainly felt, even if he didn’t actually appear.

For example, in the Nero Wolfe story "Disguise For Murder," set in March 1949, a woman in strangled in Wolfe’s office. It is learned that the deceased was friends with another woman, Doris Hatten, who had been strangled the previous fall. Inspector Cramer seems especially offensive and overwrought during the investigation, to the point that he seems to unnecessarily antagonize Wolfe by sealing the door to Wolfe’s office as a crime scene. Perhaps Cramer's over-reaction becomes understandable when one considers that The Cat Murders, a series of serial-killer strangulations, had just taken place during the previous summer and fall of 1948 (as recorded in Ellery Queen's Cat of Many Tails) and Doris Hatten's strangulation the previous October had occurred during some of the worst of New York's terror related to the Cat Murders. No wonder Cramer was sensitive, thinking that some part of the Cat Murders, as investigated by his old peer Inspector Queen, was beginning again.

An additional intersection between the Wolfe Corpus (as it is referred to by Wolfe fans) and the Queen Canon occurs in the summer of 1950. This is when the Wolfe novel, In the Best Families, takes place. In this book, Wolfe battles his own personal Professor Moriarty, Arnold Zeck, and is forced to leave his beloved Brownstone on W.35th Street and go into hiding under the name of Pete Roeder. Wolfe disappears without even telling Archie where he is going, much like when Sherlock Holmes disappeared for three years after the events at Reichenbach Falls, allowing Watson to believe that he had died. At the time Wolfe is in hiding, preparing for his battle with Zeck, Ellery is also in Los Angeles, for reasons never adequately or convincingly explained, during the events of his own adventure, The Origin of Evil. It is my belief that he is there at the personal request of Wolfe, who needed Ellery’s help while establishing his identity there as Roeder. I’m not certain what Ellery's role was in Wolfe's master plan, but I am sure that when Wolfe called, Ellery answered. Ellery's subsequent involvement in the events of The Origin of Evil was simply something else that happened to him while he was already in Los Angeles - as things like that always seem to happen in the lives of the Great Detectives.

I can also point to a couple of times during Ellery's L.A. visits when he likely encountered Perry Mason, but that's for another time . . . .

Playing the Game: Determining Mr. Queen’s Address

As a young man, I read the novelization of "The Last Man Club", taken from the Queen radio script that was first broadcast on February 18, 1940. The story states that Ellery's address, as given by The Great Man himself, is 212-A W.87th Street. It was only when I was older that I realized that this might be a wink and nod to Sherlock Holmes’s famous residence at 221B Baker Street. Later, when I read the actual script of "The Last Man Club", as published in The Murdered Moths, the address was again confirmed as 212-A. This seemed definitive, and I wondered why it hadn't really been noticed before.

I mentioned this in an email to Kurt Sercu, founder of the amazing Ellery Queen, A Website on Deduction, and he replied that his opinion was that this address is generally discounted, simply because of the Holmes reference. I replied to him that I had to believe that 212-A was in fact the correct address, for several reasons. First, the original script was certainly written by Frederic Dannay and Manfred Lee, and they specifically named that exact address. Even if the scripts were ghosted by someone else – which seems unlikely, way back in the nineteen-forties - Lee and Dannay still would have had editorial control over them, the same control that they would have later had over the novelization of "The Last Man Club". Therefore, they would have known of AND approved the idea that Ellery's address was 212-A W.87th Street. Even though “The Last Man Club,” which affirms the 212-A address, is considered by some to be lesser Queen because of its provenance, it is still something that was legitimately approved by Dannay and Lee. At other places in the Queen canon, it is stated that Ellery's brownstone is between Broadway and Amsterdam, so that part fits. In addition, just because Dannay and Lee might have been cleverly playing around with Ellery's address by using Sherlockian references in our world does not negate its legitimacy in Ellery's world. After all, there really wasn't a 221B Baker Street (even though I hate to admit it) but Holmes fanatics like myself don't question its legitimacy.

Other characters have also had addresses which contain references to the 221B Holmes address, and their addresses aren't discounted simply because they are similar to 221B. For example, one of Lord Peter Wimsey's addresses in London is 110A Piccadilly, clearly a play on 221B. Also, television character Dr. Gregory House, of the show House, M.D., has a street address of 221B. This character was specifically created with a nod to Sherlock Holmes, but his address isn't ignored within the context of the show simply because it is a reference to Holmes.

So in conclusion, I must argue that Ellery's definitive address is 212-A, even if it is with a wink and a nod toward Holmes. Having decided that the real address for Ellery’s brownstone had been determined, based on something specifically written by Dannay and Lee, I felt that the time had come to mount a plaque at the real 212-A W.87th Street. This wasn’t without precedent. The site of Sherlock Holmes’s residence at 221b Baker Street in London has been established for years, initially at the bank which occupied that address and received Holmes’s mail, and more recently at the Sherlock Holmes Museum. In the United States, the Wolfe Pack, a group of Nero Wolfe aficionados much like the Baker Street Irregulars, placed a plaque several years ago on W.35th Street, at the site roughly identified as the former home of Nero Wolfe. Since I don't live in New York, and only get there about once every decade or so, I've been unable spearhead the noble cause to commemorate Ellery’s brownstone on W.87th Street.. However, I did try to interest some New Yorkers there on the ground, hoping that something might be accomplished.

Over the last year or so I’ve communicated a few times with Richard Dannay, letting him know that I think it would be a good idea to place the plaque at 212-A W.87th Street. Of course, the last time I was able to visit there and actually walk that block of W.87th Street, now over ten years ago, it was fairly difficult to find where the brownstone might actually have stood. I asked Otto Penzler, owner of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York, if he could help, but very nicely let me know that he is far too busy. Finally, I tried to interest members of The Wolfe Pack in the project, since they had been successful in placing a plaque on W.35th Street for Nero Wolfe. Sadly, they informed me that they are unaware of any New York-based Ellery Queen fans within their ranks - unbelievable! - and in any case, they were only able to place their plaque on W.35th Street because one of their members happened to own a building at the approximately correct location.

So the quest continues. I invite anyone else who, like me, feels that Ellery Queen’s residence should be commemorated, preferably at the location named specifically by Dannay and Lee, to help take up the challenge.

And Now, I'm Re-reading . . . .

And so, as I revisit the Brownstone at W.87th Street once again, I didn't start with my favorite Queen book, and I didn’t immediately pull down The Roman Hat Mystery just because it was the first one published. Instead, I reread The Golden Summer, which – to me – tells about an amalgamation of memories of both Frederic Danny and Ellery Queen, and the summer that they met as children in 1915. Then I read the essay "Who Shall Ever Forget" telling about how Ellery (and not Frederic Dannay, I’m afraid) first discovered Sherlock Holmes when he was twelve. Then I proceeded to “The Logical Successor,” followed by “The Glass Domed Clock”, set in 1926, and clearly the earliest of the recorded EQ Canonical tales. Next I read “Dan and the Fair Sabrina”. After that, I started on the novels. Chronologically, I first read The Greek Coffin Mystery, The French Powder Mystery, and The Dutch Shoe Mystery, since they all occur earlier than some of the other books. Only then did I pull down my autographed and numbered copy of The Roman Hat Mystery, because it occurred after the previously mentioned narratives, even if it was the first published. From there, I'm working my way through Ellery’s life, fitting in all the other stories as they occur - novels, short stories, radio and television episodes, movies and scripts, and comics - while also bearing in mind interacting events from the lives of other Great Detectives, such as Sherlock Holmes, Nero Wolfe, and Solar Pons. And hopefully I’ll be around in a few years to read it all again, with even more newly-discovered material to include in the journey.

So in conclusion, I would recommend that anyone deciding to reread the Queen Canon, already encompassing numerous novels and short stories, be willing to add all the other appearances in order to see the complete picture. It is well worth it, I assure you!




1 comment:

  1. I am astonished and deeply gratified by your depth of enthusiasm for, and scholarship concerning, the works of my father, Manfred Lee, and my cousin, Frederic Dannay. My favorite Queen novels have always been "The Finishing Stroke," "Calamity Town," "Inspector Queen's Own Case" (originally titled "November Song"),and the ghostwritten novel, "And On the Eighth Day," which the wonderful Avram Davidson wrote. Thank you again for helping to keep the Queen name alive. - Rand B. Lee, youngest surviving son of Manfred B. Lee

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