two cousins now known as 'Ellery Queen' were born in
Lee grew up as the eldest of three children (sisters Helen
and Rena) in Brooklyn and attended Boys' High (now Boys' and Girls' High). As a child, Lee
had a difficult time with what he termed "the brutality of the streets," so he
turned "for refuge" to books. Dannay's family moved to then-rural Elmira, New
York, when he was a small boy. This hometown of Mark Twain gave him a real 'Tom
Sawyer-like' boyhood together with a best friend named... Ellery. During vacations Manny
went on holidays to his cousin en once in 1914 he even stayed the entire vacation. In 1917
the family decided to returned to Brooklyn to live in the Wallersteins house. During the
bed stricken by a abscess to the left ear and one of his aunts
handed him Conan Doyle's
Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. It changed his life...
from Boy's High and went on to the N.Y. University, whilst working as a
Western Union messenger.
In the 1920s, when Dad applied to New York University as Emanuel
Benjamin Lepofsky, he discovered that Jewish students were among the ethnic
groups barred from attending the main NYU campus. Later, when he was about
to graduate from the Greenwich Village campus of NYU with a summa cum laude
degree in English, Dad told a faculty friend of his dream of becoming a
college English professor at his alma mater. The “friend” replied, “Oh,
Manny, no Jew will ever get tenure in the NYU system—you are all so much
smarter than we Gentiles, it wouldn’t be fair to the rest of us.” This
prompted my father to abandon his professorship dreams, and change his name
(The Story is the Thing, Rand B. Lee)
Danny had his own ambitions wanting to be a poet. Even now faith dealt him a feebler hand... .Prohibition meant his father was out of business and he had to quit Boy's High before his graduation. In 1921 at sixteen and in his third year High School he went working to help out the family. His after- school job as a soda fountain clerk set aside his first full-time position was as a bookkeeper but not his last. For the next seven years he jumped from job to job and the family's financial position changed. Danny could even receive his high school diploma and even took some courses in the Arts Students' League (to paint). In 1926 he married Mary Beck, his first wife and by 1928 he worked as a copy writer, art director for a N.Y. advertising agency. He left the United Advertising agency for the copy department at the Caples Company, a national ad agency. There he was art director at least until 1932 and was art and typographic counsel to Superior Typography, Inc.
Their offices were at walking distance and since their interests were basically the same,"Manny" and "Danny" met on a regular basis and frequently went out for lunch together. They were fascinated by the crime and decided to write about it. One of those fascination led to Joseph Bowne Elwell, the greatest bridge player alive, the so-called "Wizard of Whist", a tutor of the game to the King of England and the millionaire Vanderbilts. Author of best-selling bridge textbooks, an unofficial "spycatcher" and intelligence agent, a heavy gambler on the stock exchange, the owner of a large stable of race horses, a developer of Florida real estate, a dealer of bootleg liquor, and an industrious philanderer, Joseph Elwell is believed to be the inspiration for F. Scott Fitzgerald's Jay Gatsby in his book, The Great Gatsby. But Joseph Elwell is today remembered for being murdered in June 1920 in a classic "locked room" mystery---to this day still unsolved. Someone managed to sneak into his art-filled house in Manhattan, shoot Elwell in the head, and vanish into thin air.....leaving Elwell in a room locked from the inside! The Slaying of Joseph Bowne Elwell is author Jonathan Goodman's fascinating account of the corrupt life and mysterious death of one bizarre man. The Elwell case has been used as the basis of many crime novels (including one of the most famous, S.S. Van Dine's The Benson Murder Case), films, and a play. Supposedly this case resulted in the formation of the writing partnership. They would set their teen-age fantasies aside and write a 'serious' book in the Van Dine-manner. They only needed the spark to set it off...