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Frederic Dannay, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and the Art of the Detective Short Story

Laird R. Blackwell is a professor emeritus at Sierra Nevada College where he taught literature and psychology courses for 31 years. Currently he teaches at Tahoe Expedition Academy, a private K–12 school in the Lake Tahoe area. He lives in Washoe Valley, Nevada. ...

Last March saw the publication of Frederic Dannay, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and the Art of the Detective Short Story by Laird R. Blackwell.

Set forth below is a description of this work and Laird's motivation to get into this subject.
It's followed by an appetizer to the book.

Enjoy!


Laird in-between Richard and Phyllis Dannay (Photo courtesy Laird R. Blackwell)

Kurt Sercu



This critical study presents the first thorough examination of the role Queen played in the flourishing of the detective-crime short story with particular focus on the importance of Frederic Dannay as editor of EQMM and scores of short story anthologies.

In the 1940s when the popularity of the detective short story was waning and the major periodicals in England that featured it (e.g. The Strand, The Grand, Pearson’s, Windsor, Argosy) were closing up shop, “there was a gleam of light from across the Atlantic. The steady flame of Ellery Queen was alive” (Michael Gilbert, “EQMM” in The Tragedy of Errors, p. 181). And that gleam—EQMM, which is still thriving today, and the scores and scores of Queen short story anthologies—rescued the detective short story from oblivion, brought the old masters back to public attention, and encouraged potential new masters” to revitalize the genre.

Many of the authors ("Old Masters," "New Masters," and "tec tyros" alike), detectives, and stories that Queen promoted and championed are listed and described, including authors who won Edgars, EQMM Contests, Pulitzer and Nobel Prizes, famous authors from other genres such as Baum, Borges, Dreiser, Whitman, Wells, and even William Butler Yeats, "lost and forgotten" stories of classic authors, and auspicious debuts of authors and detectives who were to become famous. With over 50 years as author, historian, and editor, Queen was the detective-crime short story's "guardian angel, patron saint, and publisher." Without the influence of Queen, the detective-crime short story may not have survived, for Queen was "the last bastion of short mystery fiction"; he was "the detective-crime short story."

As author of the popular Ellery Queen novels and short stories, as literary historian and critic, and especially as editor of the renowned Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine-- Ellery Queen was the single greatest force in the mid-1900s for the survival and health of the detective-crime short story. Queen's indefatigable and enthusiastic promotion of his favorite form of fiction was vital to its continuing popularity after the passing of Doyle and Chesterton and Christie and Hammett and its other famous authors of the early- and mid-20th Century.  (Click on the cover to order!)

As a life-long fan of detective fiction, my first encounter with EQMM on the dusty shelves of a used bookstore in San Francisco was a momentous event which led me to years of enjoyable reading and, eventually, my accolade to Ellery QueenFrederic Dannay, EQMM, and the Art of the Detective Storywhich was my response to what I believed was insufficient recognition of Queen’s vital role in the renaissance and renewed popularity of the detective short story.

What a labor of love—to reread the hundreds of editions of EQMM and the scores of Queen anthologies in my personal collection. I knew Queen (mostly Dannay) had nurtured the detective short story and its authors, old and new, but before rereading the magazines and anthologies I didn’t fully appreciate the extent to which Queen saved, revitalized, and shaped the genre. From the first anthology in 1938 and the first edition of EQMM in 1941 through Dannay’s death in 1982, Queen published over 5000 detective short stories, almost 700 of which were reprints and new stories of “the masters” (established and popular detective fiction authors) and almost 600 were first stories of debut authors, some of whom were to become masters of the future. Among Queen’s great gifts to readers were the reprinting of many “lost and forgotten” tales of famous authors as well as little known tales of authors renowned for their work in other genres, including numerous recipients of Edgar Awards and Pulitzer Prizes.

And the published stories were only part of the Queen gifts—his commentary and critique, sometimes extensive, were themselves a bibliographic treasure. Reading his comments was a nostalgic, entertaining, thought-provoking, and informative journey through the public and the behind-the-scenes history of detective fiction and its creators. A collection of these Queen anecdotes, ponderings, and reflections would make fascinating reading for every detective fiction fan.

I hope readers of my study of Queen’s vast contribution to the detective short story will enjoy the journey as much as I did researching and writing it. May every detective short story you read—classic or new—bring to mind the legacy of Ellery Queen/Fred Dannay, for without Queen the genre may have withered on the vine a half century ago, and what a loss that would have been for all of us lovers of detective fiction.

Laird R. Blackwell

From Thinking Machine to Human Being - From Ellery I to Ellery II
(text below is freely available through Google books, if the links doesn't work any longer please inform me by clicking on Uncle Sam below...)



Interested? Frederic Dannay, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and the Art of the Detective Short Story by Laird R. Blackwell can be bought here

© Laird R. Blackwell 2019, All rights reserved

Laird R. Blackwell is a professor emeritus at Sierra Nevada College where he taught literature and psychology courses for 31 years. Currently he teaches at Tahoe Expedition Academy, a private K–12 school in the Lake Tahoe area. He lives in Washoe Valley, Nevada.         
Above: Laird R. Blackwell is a professor emeritus at Sierra Nevada College where he taught literature and psychology courses for 31 years. Currently he teaches at Tahoe Expedition Academy, a private K–12 school in the Lake Tahoe area. He lives in Washoe Valley, Nevada.


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Links to related articles
(1) Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine at this site
(2) The Legacy of Editor Queen - Laird Blackwell (April 19. 2019)

 

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