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WHODUNIT ?

I still find it hard to imagine that it was as early as the late 20s when the two Queen cousins worked in N.Y. as advertising agents, became one person. Anthony Boucher placed his substantial historical and literary significance in a 1951 interview: 'The detective story itself was an American invention; and after a long period of British pre-eminence, Ellery Queen as writer and editor has done as much as anyone (and probably more) to make it once more an American possession. . . Ellery Queen is the American detective story'. It's one of the most famous quotes in the history of the genre, and one of the truest.


     


        
(video by
the Mysterious Press and Mysterious Bookshop)

Cousins Lee and Dannay were not only the creators of the character Ellery Queen, one of the most successful in history, they (especially Dannay) did more to support and nurture detective fiction in that country than anyone else. Dannay himself speculated about the possible future significance of the mysteries, "In 20 or 30 years, the literary historians will go back to the good mystery novel to find out what was really going on. Our books are as much a canvas of their time as the books by Proust were of his time" .

By the end of the century the writer's idea's and plots have been so many times copied and 'slightly' altered it is easy to forget the genius behind the masterfully plotted stories. Ellery Queen is the last of the great classical detectives were the plot of the mystery is always paramount, far more important than characterization , social relevance, great writing, or anything else. The classical detectives don't have personalities, they have mannerisms. Obviously, this focus on the puzzle aspect of the whodunit lends itself well to short-stories -- we shouldn't forget that the whole mystery genre was for decades primarily focused on stories rather than novels; nowadays, very few crime writers can do a good short whodunit, and even these accomplish the task largely by referring to the characterizations they have established in previous novels. However, here the puzzles are good, scrupulously observing the fair-play rules of the classic whodunit: in fact, there is usually a clear demarcation just before the solution to the puzzle, so that the reader will have a chance to take a stab at the case. The topics of the various stories run the familiar gamut of classical short story territory, including rare books, vanishing trains, poisonings over inheritances, and dying messages identifying the killer.As true representative of 'literature' Ellery Queen has found his equal but not so in de development of a detective-story with all the playful accessories he made his own. It is far more difficult to differentiate between the figure Ellery Queen who appears in the books and Ellery Queen, the 'real writer' and pseudonym for two cousins (or even the two cousins as separate persons) than at first one could expect. In true Ellery Queen style the dates on which the cousins were born and died were often interchanged (even by very renowned sources). Confusion all around as even the places are not exactly the same.

Daniel (David) Nathan alias
                                     Frederic Dannay

Oct. 20, 1905, Brooklyn, N.Y. City - Sept. 3, 1982, White Plains, N.Y

Manford (Emanuel) Lepofsky alias
                                               Manfred Bennington Lee

Jan. 11, 1905, Brooklyn, N.Y. - Apr. 3, 1971, (8 pm EST) Roxbury close to Waterbury

 

 

Extra - Extra

Reproduced Newspaper articles:

 

 

 

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Introduction | Floor Plan | Q.B.I. | List of Suspects | Whodunit?  | Q.E.D. | Kill as directed | New | Copyright 

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