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The American Gun Mystery (1933)

In the arena of a vast New York sports palace, a man lay dead, murdered during the opening scene of a spectacular rodeo.
Can you, as Ellery Queen does, follow these clues to the murderer? - A dead man's belt. What was the meaning of the deep ridges in the leather?
An ivory handled revolver. - How could the "feel" of the gun-butt provide a clue? The broken locks on a green box.
Did the way the locks had been bent point the way to murder?  These are the big points in one of the toughest mysteries ever tackled by Ellery Queen. It was a murder witnessed by 20,000 people, but only Ellery solved it.
Do you think you can, too?
Backcover of the Dell pocket book,, Dell Books 4 Published 1943, 2nd edition 1946 with mapback

This mystery is about...

  • A $5000 horse
  • Glass balls shot in mid-air
  • A horrible scar
  • A thirsty horse that would not drink
  • A $3000 check
  • Ivory inlays on an old six-shooter
  • A search of 20,000 suspects
  • A small bank balance
  • A newsreel scoop of a murder
  • A $42,000 gambling debt
  • The 41st cowboy who wasn't a cowboy


Above right: Backcover of the Dell pocket book,, Dell Books 4 Published 1943, 2nd edition 1946 with mapback.
 

 
The Evening Star, Washington D.C., "New Books at Random" by Margaret Germond - Tuesday, June 13. 1933

Ellery Queen
again offers a problem in deduction which might, so far as its personnel and its action is concerned, have propounded itself for solution back in the pioneer days of Texas or Wyoming, but which actually projected itself into the present day in no less wild and woolly west a location than New York City.
Gathered in the great Colosseum of Tony Mars, promoter of various sorts of entertainment, twenty thousand people were yelling themselves hoarse in approval of the usual stunts which constitute a first-class rodeo performance. Included in that immense throng of humanity were Inspector Queen, his son Ellery and the faithful Djuna, to whose urgent pleas that they take him to see the rodeo they had succumbed.
Sitting in the box of the great Tony Mars were other guests besides the Queens and Djuna, among whom were Mara Gay, actress, of Hollywood, and Kit Home, adopted daughter of Buck Horne, one-time fancy rider and shooter, who was being given a chance at a comeback, supposedly by the farseeing and box-office knowing Tony.
The time arrives for Buck Horne's appearance in the arena and he is heralded by his old and tried friend, Wild Bill Grant, yelling to the multitudes that the great Buck Horne, followed by forty riders, will furnish the biggest stunt ot the rodeo. Buck rides in, with forty-one instead of forty horses and men beating the sawdust into a cloud behind them, shooting simultaneously at a signal from their leader. An instant after the shooting Buck falls from his horse, shot through the heart.
Forty-one riders and twenty thousand spectators, and every one of them a suspect! Not an easy task ahead of the Inspector and his inquisitive son, but they tackle it. A week or so later the rodeo resumes its performances, though the mystery of Buck's death is still un solved. On the opening night, with twenty thousand people again on hand and the same group of guests in the box of Tony Mars, in the identical performance in which Buck lost his life, and at the identical spot in the arena, another rider is shot through the heart with the same revolver which killed the first man.
The reader is given an opportunity to identify and to convict, the killer. It is a right big dare even for the most avid of mystery story fans.



The American Gun Mystery - Dell cover N°4 , Pocket Book, 1933Avon T-292The American Gun Mystery - cover AvonThe American Gun Mystery - cover Mercury Mysteries #164, 1933The American Gun Mystery - cover Mercury Mysteries #164 or #42
The American Gun Mystery - cover Penguin edition 1956The American Gun Mystery - coverThe American Gun Mystery - cover eBook edition MysteriousPress.com/Open Road, February 5, 2013The American Gun Mystery - cover audiobook Blackstone Audio, Inc., read by Dan Butler, October 1. 2013The American Gun Mystery - cover Large Print Library

The American Gun Mystery (1933) has a solution that is far fetched even by the standards of the Golden Age. The solution is a cheat, violating Golden Age standards of fair play. The solution is also unusual in that it involves a whole complex, public enterprise behind the crime, one involving both the rodeo and other aspects of show biz. So many Golden Age novels involve one solitary criminal dashing around the bushes of some country house, that it is interesting to see its exact opposite here.  The final chapters, however goofy, have a grandeur of conception. However "unfair", they show the wild imagination at work in the Golden Age detective novel. They also show the surrealism that EQ brought to his work. There is also a good deal of interesting logic and deduction in Queen's finale; the whole thing hangs together as a unified and internally logical plot, however implausible. The book also suffers from the fact that the storytelling leading up to the finale is stiff and uninspired. This is a common problem in EQ; many of the early novels have much better solutions than the narrative between the crime and its solution. The business of the disappearing gun is well done by any standards. (Michael E.Grost)

The American Gun Mystery (aka Death at the Rodeo) - Triangle dustcover January 1941The American Gun Mystery - Triangle hardcover January 1941The American Gun Mystery - coverThe American Gun Mystery - cover Triangle Books, 1933The American Gun Mystery - cover Ballantine Books, Oct 12. 1979The American Gun Mystery - cover
The American Gun Mystery - coverThe American Gun Mystery - cover Victor Gollancz, 1949The American Gun Mystery - dustcover World Publishing Company, Tower Books, 1946The American Gun Mystery - hardcover World Publishing Company, Tower Books, 1946The American Gun Mystery - cover Penzler Publishers 'American Mystery Classics', Oct 5. 2021


In 1933 Dorothy Sayers wrote a review on The American Gun Mystery with her subtitle of “An American Nut Worth Cracking.” She spends her first paragraph quoting seven excesses of Queen’s style. Her first sentence: “Mr. Ellery Queen is determined to be literary or die.” One of her examples: “he was in a chair, his incredible bulk quiescent as poured steel.” “Nevertheless,” she continues, the book has “a rattling good yarn with a well-constructed mystery. (Joe R. Christopher)

It could have been some sort of political commentary, that when it came time to add an "American" book to EQ's series of country titles, he choose The American Gun. Perhaps this reflects America's gun enthusiasm. One rodeos must have visited New York in that era and made a tremendous impression. A similar rodeo is featured in Stuart Palmer's Murder on Wheels (1932), and probably share a common real life ancestor. (Michael E.Grost)


Buck Horne is shot with a .25 automatic in N.Y's new Colosseum on Broadway. Dr. Prouty reappears and from the N.Y.P.D. we get assistance from Thomas Velie, Hesse (blond and stolid), Pigott (thin and shy), Ritter (burly member), Johnson, Inspector Knowles, Hagstrom and Flint. Ellery wearing his pince-nez receives a telegram from Hollywood and sends them a story. With plan and challenge to the reader.


De Dood schoot met Scherp - coverDe Dood schoot met Scherp - Dutch coverLa Mort a Cheval - Published in Canada in Montreal by Editions de Demain, this being volume 5, number 12, December 1945La Mort a Cheval - cover French edition, Éditions La Nouvelle Revue, Collection L'Empreinte, 1937 (5 Francs)La Mort a Cheval - French edition,  Éditions La Nouvelle Revue, Collection L'Empreinte, 1937 (7 Francs)La mort a cheval - cover French edition, Garnier/Les Classiques De L'enigme - 1980
La mort a cheval - cover French edition J'ai Lu, 1991Der verschwundene Revolver - cover German Edition Signum Taschenbücher Nr 136Cinquemila hanno visto - cover Italian edition, Mondadori, 1935Cinquemila hanno visto - cover Italian editionCinquemila hanno visto - cover Italian edition, N°256, 1964

The American Gun Mystery Translations:  
Brasilian: O Misterio da Arma Desaparecida  
AKA O Misterio do Revolver Americano
  
Chinese: 美國槍的秘密
  
Czech: Záhada americké pistole  
Danish: Rodeo-mysteriet  
Dutch/Flemish: De dood schoot met scherp  
Estonian: Ameerika püstoli mõistatus  
French: La mort à cheval  
German: Der verschwundene Revolver  
Greek: ΘANATOS ΣTO PONTEO  
Italian: Cinquemila hanno visto  
(aka Ventimila hanno visto)  
Japanese: アメリカ銃の謎 (amerikajyuunonazo)  
Korean: 미국 총 미스터리  
Russian: ТАЙНА АМЕРИКАНСКОГО ПИСТОЛЕТА  
Spanish: El misterio de la pistola americana  
(aka La Muerte va al Circo)  

Cinquemila hanno visto - cover Italian edition, series 'I classici del giallo' N°366Ventimila hanno visto - cover Italian edition, Sfida al lettore Nr.13 April 1985Ventimila hanno visto - cover Italian edition, series 'I Classici del Giallo', N° 993, june 2004Ventimila hanno visto - cover Italian edition, I Giallo Mondadori Classici, July 2019La Muerte va al Circo - cover Spanish edition, Libreria Hachette, Buenos Aires, Argentina 1945El misterio de la pistola americana - cover Spanish edition, Coleccion El Buho Grandes Novelas Policiacas, Cliper, 1958
El misterio de la pistola americana - cover Spanish edition, Editorial Picazo, Morgue 65 N°5, 1965.El misterio de la pistola americana - cover Spanish edition, Editorial Picazo, Barcelona, 1981
O Misterio do Revolver Americano - cover Portuguese edition, Colecção Xis 101, Editora Minerva Lisboa  Minerva, 1960O Misterio da Arma Desaparecida - cover Portuguese edition, Publicações Europa-América, April 1987ΘANATOS ΣTO PONTEO - cover Greek editionAmeerika püstoli mõistatus - cover Est edition, Eesti Raamat, 1986
ТАЙНА АМЕРИКАНСКОГО ПИСТОЛЕТА - Cover Russian edition, 2005 (also includes The Halfway House)The American Gun Mystery - cover Japanese edition, Tokyo Shogensha, April 14. 1961The American Gun Mystery (アメリカ銃の謎 - amerikajyuunonazo) - cover Japanese edition, Kadokawa Bunko, 1960The American Gun Mystery - cover Japanese edition, Tokyo Shogensha, April 14, 1961The American Gun Mystery - cover Japanese edition, Kadokawa Bunko, 1963The American Gun Mystery - cover Japanese edition
The American Gun Mystery (アメリカ銃の謎 - amerikajyuunonazo) - cover Japanese edition, 1992The American Gun Mystery - cover Japanese edition, Jun 25. 2014,  illustration by TakenakaThe American Gun Mystery - cover Japanese edition, Sogensha Tokyo, 2017The American Mystery/The Glass Village - cover Chinese edition, Masses Press, December 2000The American Mystery - cover Taiwanese edition, 1990sThe American Mystery - cover Taiwanese edition
The American Mystery - cover Chinese edition (?)The American Mystery - cover Taiwanese edition, November 20. 2004The American Gun Mystery - cover Chinese edition, New Star Press, August 2010The American Gun Mystery - cover Chinese edition, Chemical Industry Press, January 1. 2016The American Gun Mystery - cover Chinese edition, New Star Press, Shinsei Publishing Co., Ltd. , April 2019미국 총 미스터리(The American Gun Mystery) - cover South-Korean edition,  검은숲, Ellery Queen Collection, May 24. 2012
 


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Other articles on this book

(1)
Reading Ellery Queen Jon Mathewson (Nov 2013)
(2) The Poetry of Ellery Queen Pinakothek (Dec 2, 2008)
(3) Mysteries Ahoy! Aiden Brack (May 2019)
(4) The Heel of Achilles Ho-Ling (May 14. 2013)
 
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