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INFLUENCES



I
n the 1920s, three of the most popular fiction characters were Mr. Tutt, Charlie Chan, and Philo Vance. Mr. Tutt was a lawyer (creator: Arthur Train), not a detective, but stories about him often concerned crime and legal matters. Earl Derr Biggers' Charlie Chan is important because he was probably the first Chinese detective in fiction. S.S.Van Dine's Philo Vance was once very popular, but his significance for us lies partly in the fact that he drew attention to the American form. He also was a great influence on the early Ellery Queen. Dannay recalled, "...Van Dine influenced us because he made so much money; and then, the kind of thing he did appealed to us in those days. It was complex, logical, deductive, almost entirely intellectual..." (Nevins)
When the cousins entered the McClure contest Van Dine was at his peak of success. The influence their idol had is obvious. As JJMcC pointed out Ellery Queen retires to Italy: exactly where Van Dine had said Philo Vance had retired. Ellery Queen is a pseudonym to conceal the real identity of the sleuth as was Philo Vance. They both like to use pompous literary references. Vance got access to the crimes through his friend Markham while Ellery's connection to the investigation was given by his father. Sergeant Velie, Doc Prouty and even Djuna all had a counterpart in the Van Dine novels as respectively Sergeant Heath, Dr. Doremus and the butler Currie. Ellery Queen (detective and author) went through several distinct changes in his series. Gradually, he developed a more personal style, although he always was faithful to the puzzle plot, intuitionist tradition of the Van Dine school. Along with Agatha Christie and John Dickson Carr, he was one of the three major writers of the puzzle plot detective story. As Jon Tuska pointed out Ellery Queen carried the classical plot as pioneered by Van Dine forward for another generation and created a haven  for those readers who wanted to believe even for a moment or two, that the complexities of modern life could be reduced to a mere problem in deduction.


  


Saying that
Poe was one of EQ's favorite writers is a understatement. As if proof were needed we give you a quote by Ellery Queen published in Ellery Queen's 1960 Anthology:

And Poe said: Let there be a detective story.
And it was so. And when Poe created the de-
tective story in his own image, and saw every-
thing that he had made, behold, it was very
good. And he cast the detective story origin-
ally in the classic form. And that form, as
it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall
be, world without end, the true form. Amen.
 

Despite this adoration Queen's solution to the concealed object problem are slightly different from Poe's. In "The Purloined Letter", the missing letter is concealed in a conspicuous place, one that is so "obvious" that no one looks there. EQ's approach is related, but somewhat different. In EQ's tales, a public ritual of some sort is often taking place. There is a container at the center of this ritual, and the missing item is hidden inside the container. For example, in "The Trojan Horse", there is a football game about to begin, and the missing gems are hidden in the football itself. The containers can seem like womb or egg symbols. Often they will be propelled or ejected outside the perimeter of the main search area. The propulsive device is often another object, one with phallic or male symbolism. In "The Trojan Horse" these propulsive figures are the football players themselves.

Another strong influence on the early Ellery Queen was Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. As a sick 12 year-old Frederic Dannay was given a copy of the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and he fell for Holmes' intellect. As a detective-hero, Ellery Queen has been called "the logical successor to Sherlock Holmes." As a writer he spiritually followed Holmes, and there are echoes of Holmes in many early stories, particularly the short stories in
The Adventures of Ellery Queen.
As an editor, Queen compiled a collection of parodies and pastiches called The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes. After it's publication in 1945, despite Adrian Conan Doyle's strenuous but futile objections, Fred Dannay discovered that his agent had failed to obtain full permission to reprint the Sherlockian material that had been included in 1941 in 101 Years' Entertainment. When Dannay told Adrian about this unintentional infringement, Adrian threatened a lawsuit over 101 Years' Entertainment unless Dannay agreed to suppress The Misadventures, and Dannay was forced to agree. In the later editions of 101 Years' Entertainment (starting with the Garden City reprint in 1945), a Nick Carter story has been substituted for the Sherlockian material.

The next great impact proved to be an even more shattering experience: Maurice Leblanc's Arsène Lupin, that hero of extraordinaire verve, supreme cockiness, and flaming spirit. He was the "cool man", whereas Holmes was, by comparison the "cold" man, and Lupin's appeal to Fred's emotions was more compelling than Holmes' appeal to his intellect. In Fred Dannay own words: "Maurice Leblanc's plots, in books like 813 (his masterpiece), had an enormous influence, technical and creative on my own imaginativeness and I acknowledge this debt after all this years."
Drury Lane certainly inherited Lupin's abilities to disguise himself...

Novelist and poet Thomas Hardy  (2 June 1840 – 11 January 1928) is considered to be a determinist mostly because his protagonists are either controlled by the nature of things or by superior powers. In other words, independence of the Human Will in Hardy's fiction is hard to affirm because man's struggle against the "will" only leads to his future failures. (Fazel Asadi Amjad, Esmaeil Najar Daronkolae - Thomas Hardy and Urbanization: The Role of Determinism in Tess of the D’Urbervilles).
Focusing specifically on the Wrightsville novels Nick Fuller made a bold statement "Was Ellery Queen a Thomas Hardy fan?" He goes on to make some clear references in both Double, Double (one of the victims changes his name to Thomas Hardy) and Ten Day's Wonder where Diedrich Van Horn assuming the place of God as the controlling factor so typical of Hardy's determinism.

Nick goes on to say that in Calamity Town "Nora discovers the letters because of “coincidence, or fate, or just rotten luck”, and Ellery fails to solve the mystery until four months after the murder because of “Fate”

In
The Murderer is a Fox, of course, the ‘crime’ is an accident – Fate at work again. “In one sense, Bayard, pure chance murdered your wife.”
In
Ten Days’ Wonder, Ellery muses that if he were superstitious, he’d say his return to Wrightsville was Fate."
Dannay, who wrote poetry, must have been very familiar with Hardy's work.

 

As for Manny Lee he once (1967) stated that for "boys of the slums" he could only turn to Horatio Alger's heroes, who were the most insufferable prigs in American literature or if he wished to step out of his class, to the Merriwells, Frank and Dick, or Dink Stover in Yale. With some under-the-bedcovers illicit delights like the paperback Wild West Adventures.
He was fascinated with Abraham Lincoln, and read Winston Churchill's
The Crisis six times. A writer named Altshuler, whose field was occupied by the noble Redman, was one of his favorites. Cooper was another. Jules Verne was still another. And Poe of course. And Arthur Conan Doyle. And a detective story writer named Arthur B. Reeve. Jack London must be added to the list. And, a little later, Joseph Conrad. And finally before turning into his third decade, James Branch Cabell, whose Jurgen was in his day called the Bible of the college sophomores. In his twenties, of course, more "serious" writers came - F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Anatole France & co.


        Celebrated investigators of fiction on a set (700,000) issued on July 12, 1979. Multicolour offset combined with recess by the I.P.Z.S. in sheets of 40 on white unwatermarked paper perf. 13 x 14, with PVA gum, engraved by Giorgio Toffoletti. issued commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Interpol.
Above left: Celebrated investigators of fiction on a set (700,000) issued on July 12, 1979. Multicolour offset combined with recess by the I.P.Z.S. in sheets of 40 on white unwatermarked paper perf. 13 x 14, with PVA gum, engraved by Giorgio Toffoletti.
Above right: issued commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Interpol.




O
ne writer EQ influenced, although this is not much discussed in history books, is John Dickson Carr. Carr's impossible crime plots are modeled after G.K. Chesterton. But his logical, systematic crime investigations remind me of Ellery Queen's. Both authors explore every aspect of the crime in great depth, constantly looking for new insights into its underlying causes, new clues, new information. Both put great emphasis on the movements of people within a building at the time of the crime, and their interactions, which they build up into complex patterns. Both are interested in direct, in-depth investigation of the crime itself, whereas Agatha Christie's sleuthing often looks into the background of the characters, their hidden past, their relationships, and so on ... (Michael E.Grost)

The concept that the three great writers of the classical detective novel are Christie, Carr and Queen is not new. The linking of the three names  was seemingly first used by Anthony Boucher. He casually listed them once together in passing as the "greatest names" in detective fiction. More centrally and emphatically, Jon L. Breen described them as the big three of the classical novel. He also expressed his disappointment that there weren't more writers like these three lurking in detective tradition. Since Breen, this grouping, has been fairly casually referred to, in many other writers. It is beginning to take on the status of a cliché or a truism, as if it were a well recognized fact. People often cite the three merely to invoke a tradition, that of the well done puzzle plot novel, rather to launch a complex argument about detective history. For example, a reviewer might write (accurately) that Bill Pronzini's Case File excellent puzzle plot stories contains in the tradition of Christie, Carr and Queen.   A basic excellence seems to be recognized here. Ultimately, one might say reality is source of this idea. The Big Three are the only detective writers I yet know of, who wrote a large number of brilliantly puzzle plotted novels. Much of his technique that would later dominate Ngaio Marsh's novels. There is the floor plan, and the wanderings of the characters through it. They are well defined and varied types, each with its own active interest in the outcome. The chapter titles are all schematic. One may have wondered if Marsh is a Van Dinean; perhaps it would be more accurate to wonder if she were directly influenced by Ellery Queen. (Michael E.Grost)

In his article "Ellery Queen is alive and Well and Living in Japan" Ho-Ling Wong describes Ellery Queen's influence on Japanse writers.

In the 1980s, a new movement arose, a departure from the usual light hearted novels. Sōji Shimada’s The Tokyo Zodiac Murders can be considered it's first novel and Shimada’s maiden work was a tribute to the classics like Ellery Queen and John Dickson Carr. It had an intricate puzzle-plot with a locked room, a master detective, a Challenge to the Reader to solve the crime, even the classic, headless body. Or to be exact, bodies.

The term shinhonkaku-ha, the New Orthodox School, was first attributed by Shimada to the novels of Yukito Ayatsuji.
It became the name of the whole literary movement that took its cues from the Golden Age detective novels. Writers of this school would incorporate classic elements but most importantly, would set the stories primarily in contemporary times and contemporary settings. These writers proved that the puzzling mystery could also work, perfectly even, in modern times.

Other popular writers of the New Orthodox School are Rintarō Norizuki and Alice Arisugawa. Both writers are strongly influenced by Ellery Queen. Both of them have named their protagonists after themselves, like their great example. Both writers often insert a Challenge to the Reader in their stories. As one can derive from his first name, Arisugawa often delves into imagery of Alice in Wonderland, just like Ellery Queen, while Norizuki Rintarō’s characters mimic Ellery Queen almost exactly. His protagonist is a writer, also called Norizuki Rintarō, who helps his father, a police inspector, mirroring the Inspector Queen dynamic. Norizuki’s prize-winning short story “An Urban Legend Puzzle” is a great example of the New Orthodox School. While it features a classic puzzle plot, the incorporation of urban legends is distinctly modern. More recent writers of this type include names like Natsuhiko Kyōgoku and Mori Hiroshi.

Writer-artist Gōshō Aoyama provided ingenious plots and puzzles that would entertain any crime fan for his Detective Conan series, ... more on those you read here.

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