|fter 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
Cat of Many Tails
and Origin of Evil
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. Were not so much collaborators as
competitors. Its produced a sharper edge."(Schenker) According
to Dannay, they 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
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
'... 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 three biggest writing principles Dad taught me were (1) read omnivorously, (2) write every day, (3) and when youve 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.
anfred 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)
At 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.
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
he 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
Kaye Lee Brinker
died in 1991 in a hospital in Cork City, Ireland.