Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ellery Queen: A Journey of Discovery

The first time I remember hearing (okay reading) about Ellery Queen was when I read a fine review of Cat of Many Tails at Yvette's blog, in so many words... Subsequently, I read my first Queen The Murderer is a Fox, and realised that there were not one but two Ellery Queen, the writer as well as the investigator and the writer himself was again two people: Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee. There was also another Queen, the character's father Inspector Queen but thank god his first name was not Ellery. A fortnight back, I borrowed two books by Queen from the library and discovered that these books were not written by the two cousins but by other authors who wrote under the (house) name of Ellery Queen. Phew!




Dead Man's Tale (1961) was (ghost) written by Stephen Marlowe . Barney Street, a fixer, was part of the Allied airforce  during world war II whose life was saved by a Czech double agent Milo Hacha. Now Barney has willed all his property to Hacha much to the consternation of his wife, Estelle Street. Estelle forces a former friend, Steve Longacre, to go to Europe and finish off Hacha if he is still alive. Much against his wishes, Steve proceeds to Europe along with his college-educated brother, Andy. They are shown official documents certifying Hacha's death but there are also certain clues which point to the fact that Hacha might very well be alive. The 'dead' man's trail takes them to Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, and finally behind the iron-curtain to Czechoslovakia. In the cold war scenario where does a man who helped the Allied forces, stand?

I liked this book because of the relationship between the two brothers as well as the depiction of people who have their lives irrevocably changed because of the war. On the flip side, too many convenient deaths take away the edge from the narrative.

Okay for a one-time read.



Wife or Death (1963) was actually written by Richard Deming. Jim Denton, the editor and proprietor of a newspaper, in a small town in the US knows that his wife Angel is being unfaithful to him. His love for her having died long time ago, he doesn't even feel like divorcing her and is actually shocked when she decides to walk out of the marriage. But what he hadn't realised was that she would end up dead and the DA of the town, who was one of her lovers, would take it upon himself to prove him the murderer. This turned out to be an okay mystery with more or less unpleasant characters.

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First Line: Steve Longacre wheeled his convertible out of Neck Road and into the long driveway delicately.

Title: Dead Man's Tale
Author: Ellery Queen
Publication Details: NY: Pocket Books, 1961
First Published: 1961
Pages: 150
Source: H.M. Library [F.Q. 18]

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First Line: At midnight, when the masks came off, Jim Denton had not been yet on the dance floor.

Title: Wife or Death
Author: Ellery Queen
Publication Details: NY: Pocket Books, 1963
First Published: 1963
Pages: 153
Source: H.M. Library [F.Q. 19]

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Other books read of the same author: Cat of Many Tails, The Murderer is a Fox.

Submitted for FFB @ Pattinase

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Hope you all had a Happy Diwali. Here's wishing you joy and prosperity in the new year.


12 comments:

  1. Neer, a very Happy Diwali to you and your family! How is Delhi celebrating the festival this year? Hopefully, this Diwali I'll be inspired to read Ellery Queen and Dickson Carr.

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    1. Thanks Prashant. Hope you and your family had a wonderful diwali too. This time we had lots of fun on Diwali as we were celebrating it after two years.

      Do read Dickson Carr. In fact, this is the ideal season - I always feel there is some sort of magic in the month of Kartik - to read THE BURNING COURT.

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  2. The paperback original version of 'Ellery Queen' from the 60s and early 70s is a very distant cousin (sic) to the original, though some are quite fun (Jack Vance wrote a couple, as did Gil Brewer) - the series with one's eyed detective Tim Corrigan is quite good as I recall.

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    1. Thanks for this information Sergio. I'll search for the Tim Corrigan ones.

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  3. I've never read any of the ghost written Queen books that do not feature Queen as detective. I thought they would be just as you found them to be -- merely Okay. In the 1970s the paperbacks of those Queen books had tacky photo covers with women models trying and failing to look seductive and dangerous. Not just tacky but often tasteless, a big turn off. I thought they were godawful then (I was a teenager) and I still think they are perfect examples of the worst in paperback cover design. But I'll accept the esteemed word of Sergio that some of these Queen books are worth reading.

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    1. Pocket books usually have attractive covers so wonder why the publishers went for tacky covers for the Queens that were ghost written. Were they meant for a different readership?

      Both the books have their moments but they are not the ones that you'll like to reread.

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  4. Neeru - Wishing you joy at Diwali and prosperity always. Thanks for your thoughts on this Queen. The earlier ones were written by the 'Queen cousins,' and to be honest, I like them better. I'd be interested in what you think of the contrast between their writing style and the style of some of the other authors who've taken up the 'Queen mantle.'

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    1. Thanks Margot for your good wishes. I am sorry but I haven't read much of the original Queen or ghost Queen to really comment on their similarities or differences. All I can say is that both the books lacked the kind of tension that CAT OF MANY TAILS had. Also among the two, I found DEAD MAN'S TALE to be better but that could be because of the relationship b/w the two brothers.

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  5. Sorry to be late to comment. It was interesting to read about two Ellery Queen books written by other authors. I had just been reading about Richard Deming writing some, but I did not know about Stephen Marlowe.

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    1. Please don't apologise, Tracy. Visit whenever you have the time. It's always a pleasure to have you read and comment on the posts. Before picking up the books, I had no idea about Ellery Queen turning into a 'house-name' and still have no idea about Richard Deming. Stephen Marlowe, the wiki-entry tells me is a sci-fi writer.

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    2. Stephen Marlowe also wrote some private investigator mystery novels. I haven't read any of them but I would like to try some.

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    3. Thanks for the info Tracy. I look forward to your reading and reviewing of Marlowe's books.

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