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FINISHING STROKE

After only three months of courtship, Manny Lee married Kaye Brinker, an actress in radio (EQ radio plays!) in the 30s & 40s, on July 4,1942. They had eight children. Four boys; Anthony Joseph, the eldest son, died in 1987 of a heart attack; Manfred B. Lee Jr.;  Rand Lee,  has published several horticultural books en some sci-fi stories and Jeffrey Robert, the youngest son who died in 1990 of AIDS. Four girls: Jacquelin; Patricia; Anya and Christopher Rebecca ('Kit'), the youngest sister..
In 1943, reportedly, the cousins earned over $50,000 a piece per year, mostly from the radio adventures. Manny and Kaye moved to a charming old rented house at 5 Canon St.,Norwalk (Conn.)where they lived with his two daughters by his first wife, Kaye's daughter (Anya) by her first husband and their own newborn daughter Christopher Rebecca. Fred and Mary still lived in Great Neck but Mary had cancer and was bedridden at home. Fred is remembered as keeping to himself and collecting stamps (of animals and ships). During 1943 some reruns were broadcasted and the cousins used the time to write
The Murderer is a Fox (1945). In June of 1945 Mary Dannay was near death (she died that year) and Fred had to make arrangements for him and his two sons so he stuck to editing EQMM, some anthologies and the plotting of new Queen-novels. As they had previously done his work for radio was farmed out to Anthony Boucher. Boucher being a more religious man brought this aspect to the Queen persona...which was taken over by the cousins e.g. in Ten Day's Wonder (1948). After Mary's death Dannay sold his house and bought another on Carroll Street, Brooklyn,  Mary's sister and her husband moved in to take care of the boys. Fred dealt with his grieve as only a workaholic could. In 1947 he remarried Hilda Wiesenthal (related to Simon Wiesenthal!), widow of a doctor Isadore Silverman who died in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, and they bought a small home in the quiet Larchmont on 29 Byron Lane. In April of 1947 as the radio drama moved to Los Angeles, Manny and his family went along. During the 1947- 48 series Kaye Brinker stepped in to play Nikki Porter. But the series came to an end and the family returned to the East Coast making home in suburban Connecticut, first in Westport later in Roxbury.

On a 63 acre estate Manny raised his children, looked after his animals and collected stamps, medals and records. He worked in his study in a converted colonial schoolhouse on his grounds.  The cousins at their writing-peak then wrote Ten Day's Wonder (1948), Cat of Many Tails (1949) and Origin of Evil (1951) After Lee married the cousins rarely visited each other. As they frequently phoned each other their writing methods were unorthodox. Unlike many detective writers who habitually start with the solution of the crime and work backwards, Dannay and Lee begin most any place, developing their plots from such random starting points as an exceptionally unusual clue, a remarkable suspect or a strange background. The Queen collaboration evolved over time. "Clash of personalities is good for the ultimate product. And we fight like hell. We’re not so much collaborators as competitors. It’s produced a sharper edge."(Schenker) According to Dannay, "we tried every form of collaboration known to man" before they settled on a system that suited them. They refused to discuss their system, but in years since, their children have revealed that Fred plotted all the novels and short stories, creating the characters and providing Lee with detailed skeletons that Manfred fleshed out. Their talents determined this arrangement. 'I'm sure Dad could never have come up with the sort of plots Fred did'  son Rand Lee said in an interview. In any event, the collaboration, though loyal, was not always peaceful; the cousins frequently raged at each other, and that passion can be seen in some of the books. Rand Lee continued:
'... Dad and Fred's differences were not only professional. Often I would pick up the phone, hoping the line was free, and put down the receiver moments later with Dad and Fred's arguing voices in my ears. On one occasion, Dad threw down a plot outline and exclaimed, "He gives me the most ridiculous characters to work with and expects me to make them realistic!" Cousin Fred probably felt some frustration about Dad's treatment of his plots....'
The fact that they continued together may be as simple as 'they needed each other to create'. "The three biggest writing principles Dad taught me were (1) read omnivorously, (2) write every day, (3) and when you’ve finished your first draft, go back and cut out all the adjectives and adverbs, including adjectival and adverbial phrases and clauses. Then, on the second draft, put back in only those absolutely necessary to carry your meaning.

Manfred started to play a more and more active role in Roxbury's civic live and served a term as justice of the peace there. Tragedy kept haunting Fred as his wife gave birth to their only child in 1948, the child suffering brain damage at birth would not be able to walk or talk. Stephen Dannay died six years old. We now find the ground of some birth-themes in Queen -novels as Cat of Many Tails (1949)

The Golden Summer - coverAt least one book was published under his birth name, Daniel Nathan. As a sort of therapy for the impending dead of his son. It is the fictional memoir of his boyhood. The Golden Summer was published in 1953 and the publisher (Little, Brown) wanted to reveal the connection to Queen, recognizing that it would help sales. But 'Dannay' declined, preferring that the book stand on its own. Of course, Little, Brown was correct: the Ellery Queen association is as important for sales today as it was in 1953. 

In 1958 the wrote their 'Finishing Stroke' intended it to be their last and closing off a period. Fred sold his collection of short stories to the University of Texas and even for two semesters found himself on campus as a professor of creative writing.
The following period was one where mostly they made money from their creation, 'new' stories were often revamped old ones or ghostwritten by others. This fourth series of Ellery Queen stories indicates that the author is still willing to experiment with the strict deductive tradition. It tended to return to puzzle
 aspects, setting the mysteries in artificial, restricted environments, and explorations of new facets of themes Queen had dealt with in earlier books. Close reading of the Ellery Queen stories reveals a number of recurring themes, besides the obvious devices of fair play and the dying message. Nevins suggests at least 25, although the number may vary according to how you make distinctions between devices.

In the late 60s Manfred suffered a series of heart attacks which forced him to lose a great deal of weight. Furthermore among other psychological ailments he suffered writer's block. Science-fiction writers Theodore Sturgeon and Avram Davidson were brought in uncredited to turn the Dannay outlines into new Queen novels. The other non-Queen novels who were farmed out and revised by Lee only added to the confusion.

Part of the group who gathered at a reception in President's Cramer's home after the ceremony. Around Fred, seated, with his wife Rose at his left, are from left to right: Steve Stilwell, Al Hubin, Mike Nevins, Marilyn Hubin, Don and Marge Pendleton, Ned and Cathy Guymon, Randy Cox, Bob Fish and John Ball. Fred receiving the hood of his honorary doctorate at Caroll College in Waukesha, Wisconsin

On April 3, 1971 Lee died of another attack on the way to the hospital in New Milford. Fred wanted to continue writing Queen novels either alone of with someone else but faith hadn't forgotten him. In 1972 his second wife Hilda also died of cancer and now Fred, who had diabetes, also started to die. Still editing EQMM kept him going on. Fred began dating a woman he had known for a long time, and she too was diagnosed with cancer.

In came Rose Koppel who had been widowed for less than a year when she was invited to attend a New Year’s Eve party in Larchmont, New York and was introduced to the only unattached man at the gathering, Fred Dannay. They connected and began dating almost immediately. It was only somewhat later in their courtship that he told her that Picture from the cover of My Life with Ellery Queen, A Love Story by Rose Koppel Dannayhe was better known under the pen name of Ellery Queen. They were married in November 1975 at New York’s Plaza Hotel, although the marriage almost had to be postponed when the rabbi scheduled to perform the ceremony suddenly died of a heart attack.(Nevins) She saved him and for the last years he enjoyed the media-exposure to the fullest. In December 1978 Fred appeared as himself in two TV episodes of the 6 part BBC documentary 'Crime Writers' directed by Douglas Argent. The 25 minute episodes are called 'Murder for Pleasure' (with Stanley Ellin, Brian Garfield, Denis Healey) and 'Puzzles, Pure and Complex' (with Patricia Hodge, P.D. James, Julian Symons and Colin Watson). Although the series was published as book Crime Writers: Reflections on Crime Writing by H.R.F. Keating, Dannay however was not in it.
On April 17, 1979  Fred was given the honorary doctorate "Doctor of Humane Letters" at Carroll College in Waukesha, Wisconsin.
After his 75th birthday he began to deteriorate quickly and after his third hospitalization that 1982 he died on September 3.

Kaye Lee Brinker died in 1991 in a hospital in Cork City, Ireland.

In 2010 Rose Dannay self-published her autobiography, My Life With a Man of Mystery: The Love Story of Ellery Queen and Me.  (republished in 2015 as My Life with Ellery Queen, A Love Story
with an introduction by Mike Nevins.) An article by Tina Chandler had this to say: "Maybe it’s her life experience, but Dannay knows some of what scientists have been working hard to discover—the secrets to happiness.
A self-described naturally happy person, Rose Dannay loved going out with her famous, but rather private, husband. When he received invitations, “He kept saying ‘no,’ and I kept saying ‘yes.’...
"
Just as Rose provided Fred with a wonderful life, he, in turn, provided her with experiences she had never had before. After he died, she was still revered by the Japanese EQ Fans (who often referred to her as "Mrs. Queen") and she was the guest of honor at the wedding of the daughter of Fred's Japanese publisher. In 2014 Rose Dannay celebrated her Rose Dannay (around 1988)100th birthday throughout the month of September. At that time Fred's Japanese publicist paid her a visit, which reportedly pleased her greatly.
Rose lived in her NYC apartment for 61 years and above her favorite chair in the living room hung a beautiful portrait of Fred that she painted.
Mrs. Dannay passed away December 6. 2014. She was 100 years, 3 months, 2 days old.
 

 

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