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Queen, Ellery

Entry updated 28 August 2023. Tagged: Author, House name.

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Pseudonym used by US cousins Frederick Dannay (1905-1982) and Manfred B Lee (1905-1971) for a lengthy sequence of crime-fiction novels and short stories featuring amateur detective Ellery Queen, beginning with The Roman Hat Mystery (1929). For many years these were characterized by rigorously logical deductions and a "Challenge to the Reader" to solve the puzzle before the final explanation. Media spinoffs included the syndicated radio show The Adventures of Ellery Queen (1939-1948), its television adaptation under the same title (1950-1952) and the considerably better NBC television series Ellery Queen (1975-1976). There is no overt fantastic content; the Ellery Queen novel which strays closest to Fantastika is The King Is Dead (1952), featuring a megalomaniac arms dealer who in the manner of a James Bond Villain is the autocrat of his own private Island; his seemingly impossible murder proves to have been carried out in, as it were, the public interest.

The Queen franchise has sf associations because – as with Leslie Charteris – "Queen" eventually became a House Name under which several sf authors ghosted novels based on detailed outlines by Dannay. (The Queens' normal procedure was for Dannay to devise the plot and Lee to draft the story, after which both made revisions; ghosted titles were similarly revised.) Theodore Sturgeon wrote The Player on the Other Side (1963), touching on the realm of Psychology with a split-personality murderer who as his own Secret Master issues deadly commands to his simple and hapless other self. Avram Davidson wrote And On the Eighth Day (1964) – set in an isolated community practising an offbeat ReligionThe Fourth Side of the Triangle (1965) and a version of The House of Brass (1968): the last was rejected by the Queens, and the synopsis was expanded by Manfred B Lee as usual. A Study in Terror (1965), a period film about Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper, was novelized by Paul W Fairman: the Queens inserted modern frame-story episodes and the result appeared as A Study in Terror (1966; vt Sherlock Homes Versus Jack the Ripper 1967) as by Queen. All these are "main sequence" Queen novels with Ellery Queen as sleuth. Additionally, Edward D Hoch, Milton Lesser, Charles W Runyon and Jack Vance contributed to a secondary run of less intellectual Queen thrillers, published as paperback originals, whose crimes are investigated by other detectives – see Checklist.

Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, a US monthly Digest, has been published since 1941 when it was launched by Mercury Publications (its characteristic appearance, shared with its younger sibling The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, was created by Mercury's head of design, George Salter); the journal naturally focuses on crime fiction but has occasionally published sf/fantasy, usually with Crime and Punishment themes. Examples include Jorge Luis Borges's "The Garden of Forking Paths" (August 1948; trans by Anthony Boucher of title story of El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan, coll 1942), Gerald Heard's "The President of the United States, Detective" (March 1947) as by H F Heard (see Climate Change), Poul Anderson's "The Martian Crown Jewels" (February 1958), Fredric Brown's "Crisis, 1999" (August 1949), Ray Bradbury's, "The Town Where No One Got Off" (October 1958), Avram Davidson's The Last Wizard (December 1972; 1999 chap), Harry Harrison's "I Always Do What Teddy Says" (June 1965) and John T Sladek's "Capital C on Planet Amp" (December 1966; vt "Is There Death on Other Planets?" in The Steam-Driven Boy, coll 1973). Dannay, as Queen, was editor-in-chief from the magazine's inception until his death in 1982. Managing editors included Robert P Mills 1948-1958 and Paul W Fairman 1958-1963. [DRL]

Frederick Dannay, born Daniel Nathan

born New York: 20 October 1905

died White Plains, New York: 3 September 1982

Manfred Bennington Lee, born Manford Lepofsky

born New York: 11 January 1905

died Waterbury, Connecticut: 3 April 1971

works (highly selected)


Ellery Queen

individual titles


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