started to play a more and more active role in
Tragedy kept haunting Fred as his wife
Hilda 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
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
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 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.
Above left: Lee and Dannay looking at photo negatives for Ellery Queen covers (Photo: Mark Kauffman, Jun 1. 1952).
Above right: "Ellery Queen" in a Ballantine' s add (1952)
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 they 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.
Above left: Fred plays chess with son Doug, 22 (now also trying his hand at writing) while wife Hilda ("Bill") kibitzes. Other son, Richard is, at 16, a talented magician. (Photo and original caption from Coronet magazine, 1956).
Above right: Opening of the Ellery Queen Collection in Austin, Texas. Fred Dannay and his wife "Bill" Hilda looking at a part of the more than 3,000 first editions and manuscripts of detective stories which he sold to the University of Texas (1958). (Picture courtesy of Richard Dannay)
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.
The importance of Fred's marriage to Hilda, "Bill" is somewhat underappreciated – from the day they married in 1947 to the day she died in 1972, 25 years later. That was the period in which so many of the most acclaimed Ellery Queen books were written (and the final one). Her love and companionship, more than anything else, helped make that possible, not to mention raising his two young sons (8 and 14) after Mary’s death. And of course that was the period in which he had to recover from the devastating loss of his first wife and then rebuild his life.
Above left: The Dannays and the Lees at an awards ceremony in 1968.
Above right: Fred and Hilda at their home in Larchmont
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 unaccredited 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. His wife Kaye Lee Brinker would pass away 20 years later in 1991 in a hospital in Cork City, Ireland.
wanted to continue writing Queen novels either alone or 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.
This marriage saved him and for the last years he enjoyed the media-exposure to the fullest. This included the first of two trips to Japan where they were invited as guest of Fred's Japanese publisher Kozo Igarashi. "The absolute unexpected adoration, adulation and hero worship that greeted him in Japan was entirely beyond what he imagined or expected. It was a fitting reward for him." (Rose Koppel, 2016)
After having appeared on The Dick Cavett Show, in May 1978, Fred made a trip to Israel in October. His interest sparked by And On the Eighth Day and Rose could tell he had emotional reactions to seeing the scrolls and documents of second-century findings at Masada and the Qumran cave because of their connections to his book.
Fred also appeared as himself, in December 1978 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.
That same year Fred and Rose were invited to attend the Tokyo premiere of the Japanese movie Calamity Town. To their surprise this second trip to Japan also included a visit to Bangkok. They returned via London where for the last leg of their return flight home they took Concorde.
On June 15. 1981 Fred and Rose attended the third Crime
Writers' International Congress which was held in Stockholm. The
international jury, with Fred in it, chose the unknown Frank Sisk, a
65 year old American journalist, as winner in the short-story competition
with "A visit with Montezuma". Which not only resulted in a
publication but also an automobile. Mr. Sisk drove through
the Connecticut Valley with his contest prize, an $18,000 Saab 900 Turbo.
Many other detective
writers attended. In the picture below of the attending writers they are
just visible in the back (click on the picture below for a bigger view).
Fred provided Rose 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 100th birthday
throughout the month of
September. At that time Fred's Japanese
publicist paid her a visit,
which reportedly pleased her
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.’..."
Picture from the cover of
My Life with Ellery Queen,
A Love Story by Rose Koppel Dannay.