April EQMM organized a special Symposium which, strangely enough, I only
heared about one week before hand. The symposium marked the 100th
anniversary of the birth of both EQ-writers and would be held in NY. Doug
(Crippen & Landru) gave a hint and after some correspondence I was made
aware of the event. In the end I made my first trip to the States. Thanks to
the hospitality of Dale Andrews and his family I not only attented the
symposium but also got to visit the Library of Congress in Washington DC,
which holds several audiotapes of EQ radioshows.
The Butler did it! Challenge to ...
This reminded me of another article by S.T. Karnick, "Mystery Men - authors behind pseudonym Ellery Queen have enduring influence" * (National Review, March 6, 2000). The article opened by noting that "[t]he fact that hardly anybody reads Ellery Queen today indicates the depths to which American mystery fiction-has fallen" The article -- prompted by the 70th anniversary of The Roman Hat Mystery - went on to observe that "the first Ellery Queen novel, The Roman Hat Mystery, appeared 70 years ago, and it's no exaggeration to say that Queen set the standard and form of the modern American crime story." Yet the anniversary otherwise passed with little fanfare. EQMM dedicated an issue to its founder and namesake, and a small publisher released the outline of a final, unpublished Queen novel together with essay recollections by family and friends, but that was about it. Almost none of Queen's books are now in print in the United States, and the few that are, are very hard to find. This is a shame. Ellery Queen was the single most important figure of the Golden Age of the American mystery, which ran from the 1930s through the '50s. Ellery Queen, as critic Anthony Boucher put it, "is the American detective story." Karnick's article concludes by saying "his writings merit a revival and serious reassessment. Such a revival might also be our best hope for a renewal of the genre that Frederic Dannay and Manfred Lee did so much to build and sustain."
It is hard to describe the
thrill I felt at the symposium when I met all of the Queen scholars and
family members in attendance. But standing in that room full of devotees I
also remembered an anecdote recounted by Professor Nevins in
Detection". In the 70s, Nevins wrote, a fan approached Manfred Lee and
told him that he believed Lee was one of the greatest writers who ever
lived. Lee replied that this didn't say much for his taste.
(L) Italian newspaper article announcing the 2004 play 'The Roman Hat Mystery'
(La Poltrona n°30 or Chair N°30) and (R) a picture of another
'Italian' EQ play 'The House of Brass' (La febbre dell'ottone).
No U.S. publisher seems to
have the foresight to do precisely what the two nephews would have done:
market the Queen works. If only one American publisher would have the
prescience to publish three to five works at the same time, with
engaging cover art, quality binding, enhanced with all the Queen
paraphernalia (Challenge to the Reader, Map, Introduction) and helped by
21st century printing techniques, the imaginary world could, again, be
real in the U.S. The genre is far from dead. Witness the success of Dan
Brown's Da Vinci
Code, a novel whose strained denouement cannot hold a candle to a classic
Queen story. We already have had isolated initiatives (such as Otto
Prenzler's edition of the Roman Hat Mystery) but no series. Once you get
readers hooked into a series they're sold, as was I, and as I and I'm
pretty sure you were (or you would not have read this far!)
Kurt Sercu/Dale C. Andrews
* Links to referred articles (free
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Update 2013 February
it seems Otto Penzler, critic, publisher, anthologist, editor, and owner of the Mysterious Press and Mysterious Bookshop stepped up to the plate and so we are thrilled to announce the release of twelve ebooks by the great Ellery Queen by MysteriousPress.com/Open Road.