Queen, Ellery [Joint Pseudonym of Frederic Dannay ( (Vol. 11)
Queen, Ellery [Joint Pseudonym of Frederic Dannay (1905–) and Manfred B(ennington) Lee (1905–1971)]
Americans Dannay and Lee created both novels and stories around their character Ellery Queen and contributed some of the finest mystery and detective fiction to the genre. They are five-time recipients of the Edgar Award and have compiled several anthologies of memorable pieces from Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. (See also CLC, Vol. 3, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 1-4, rev. ed.; obituary for Manfred B. Lee, Vols. 29-32, rev. ed.)
["A Fine and Private Place"] exhibits all of the virtues and defects of the Queen books. It is full of stale literary devices, such as a simply preposterous diary. The writing is arch and labored. ("I'd better totter off and tuck my lil ole self into beddy-snooky-bye.") Any character capable of delivering this sentiment deserves all that is coming to her … But if Ellery Queen doesn't write too well, he can plot. In this story—about the murder of a jinx-haunted super-tycoon and a wife who inherits under curious circumstances—there is the usual rash of well-planted clues, real or fake; and the outré paraphernalia of the murderer; and a couple of familiar characters, now growing older. There always will be a market for this kind of old-fashioned puzzle. (p. 38)
Newgate Callendar, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1971 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), June 20, 1971.
Only recently did I begin to like the Queen detective novels. I always admitted, of course, the extraordinary plotting ability of the authors, and the amazing capacity to plant a million clues while being perfectly fair with the reader. But, I confess it, Ellery himself put me off: there was always something of the Philo Vance about him which I didn't like….
[Both Calamity Town and The Dragon's Teeth] are excellent…. I found in them...
(The entire section is 320 words.)
Francis M. Nevins, Jr.
[Dannay's and Lee's early books], from Roman Hat through The Spanish Cape Mystery (1935), are generally bracketed together as Queen's First Period. The obvious hallmark of this period is the recurrence of adjectives of nationality in the titles. Another, more significant but less obvious, is the overpowering influence of [S. S. Van Dine], which began to melt away around 1932 and had almost totally vanished … by 1935. The Ellery of these first "Problems in Deduction" is a polysyllabic literatus wreathed in classical allusions and pince-nez—in short, a close imitation of Philo Vance or, as Manfred Lee in recent years called him, the biggest prig that ever came down the pike. For those who don't like First Period Queen—a group that apparently includes the authors themselves, to judge from interviews near the end of Lee's life—these novels are sterile, lifeless, relentlessly intellectual exercises, technically excellent but unwarmed by any trace of human character nor by any emotion other than the "passions of the mind." For those who love Period One, including myself and most Queenians, these books are splendid tours de force of the artificer's art and are nowhere near totally devoid of interest in human character or concern with fundamental issues. (pp. 6-7)
It's convenient to date the beginning of Queen's second period from Halfway House (1936) since this is the first of Ellery's cases not to contain...
(The entire section is 7871 words.)