Wildside Press published a long overdue anthology, The
Misadventures of Ellery Queen (2018), edited by Josh Pachter and
Dale C. Andrews, who collected sixteen pastiches, parodies and short
stories inspired by the Dean of the American Detective Story, Ellery
Queen – written by such short story luminaries as William
D. Hoch and Arthur
Porges. The anthology has three (short) introductions by the
editors, Richard Dannay and Rand Lee.
their introduction, Pachter and Andrews touched upon the ill-fated
publication of The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes (1944),
edited by Queen, which was withdrawn when Conan Doyle's estate used "a minor permission snafu" for Sherlock Holmes material
used in 101 Years' Entertainment: The Great Detective Stories,
1841-1941 (1943) as leverage "to halt all further
distribution." They also reveal that the idea for this
anthology dates as far back as the early 1970s. Fredric Dannay
apparently liked the idea, but it would take four decades before the
first version of this anthology appeared in print.
years ago, the chairman of the Japanese EQ fanclub, Iiki
Yusan, edited and published a 400-page, Japanese-language
anthology consisting of parodies, pastiches and homes to Queen –
appropriately titled The
Misadventures of Ellery Queen (2012). So the idea for an
English edition was pulled out of cold storage in 2015 and was
finally published in early March of this year.
and Andrews note that the publication of this anthology was their
attempt "to close a circle that opened almost 130 years ago"
with the publications of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
(1892), The Adventures of Ellery Queen (1934) and The
Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes. I believe they succeeded.
Dannay is the son of Fredric Dannay and a copyright lawyer, who
briefly points out the legal perils that lay between parodies and
pastiches, but ends his introduction with the remark that he welcomes
both parodies and pastiches of Ellery Queen as long as they "represent affection and respect." Something I
wholeheartedly agree with, because the way in which some alleged
writers handles the literary legacy of actual writers borders on the
Lee is the son of the other half of the EQ partnership, Manfred B.
Lee, who very briefly wrote that his father liked pastiches and would
have been greatly amused by this anthology.
now we got the background and introduction to this anthology out of
the way, let's take a closer look at the stories.
Narcejac's "Le mystère des ballons rouge" ("The Mystery of the
Red Balloons") was first published in Usurpation d'indentité in
1947 and has the honor of being the first Ellery Queen pastiche ever
written and this is its first-ever publication in English – as well
as being the only representative in this anthology of the genre's
Golden Age. So we have an actual débutante opening this
collection, but one with a hardboiled edge to it. The police of New
York City are confronted with a series of murders, which appear to be
unrelated on the surface, but a red balloon is found at each scene.
One day, a policeman on the grounds of Jonathan Mallory's estate and
this time they get to the victim before he can be murdered and they
station themselves inside the house. Something that displeases the
crusty Mallory immensely. The subsequent events nearly costs Sgt.
Velie his life, who's critically wounded, before Ellery uncovers the
murderer is rather obvious, but, as stated by the "Challenge of the
Reader," detection is not "a matter of guessing" or
"stumbling upon the answer by chance." You have to analyze
all of the data and clarify issues that seemed unimportant. You might
have spotted the murderer, but the next question is how and why these
murders were committed. So this story is more of a why than a
who-dun-it. Not an out-and-out classic, but I liked it. Solid,
old-fashioned Ellery Queen.
previously reviewed "Dying Message" by Leyne Requel in my 2011
review of Norma Schier's The
Anagram Detective (1979).
L. Breen's "The Gilbert and Sullivan Clue" was originally
published in the double anniversary issue of Ellery Queen's
Mystery Magazine in 1999 and Breen tells in his introduction that
Dannay and Lee always set their stories in the present-day. Ellery
stayed "more or less the same age from decade to decade."
So we get EQ in the nineties with references to Star Wars, Y2K
and rap music. One of the suspects is even a rapper (Daddy Trash).
is invited by Gil Castberg to take a trip aboard the luxurious Sea
Twin and cruise the Californian coastline. The headline
entertainer is a former client of Castberg, Ozzie Foyle, who used be
part of a comedy duo, but the partnership imploded and Foyle fully
dedicates himself to the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan – while
his former partner, Jim Dugan, faded into obscurity. All of their
grudges come bubbling back to the surface when they're reunited
aboard the cruise ship and the result is murder.
Breen had fun writing new lyrics for "I've Got a Little List"
from The Mikado ("that superior freeloading detective
novelist: I don't think he'd be missed, I'm sure he'd not be
missed."), but this is not merely a comedic detective story.
There's a clever, humorous dying message and an interesting
alibi-trick, but I feel the short story format constrained the plot.
The story ended rather abruptly and perhaps needed an extra clue or
two, because the central clue (dying message) requires a more than
passing familiarity with the work of Gilbert and Sullivan.
this was a fun little story and only wished the editors had also
included Breen's “The Lithuanian Eraser Mystery,” which I have
wanted to read for ages.
M. Nevins' "Open Letter to Survivors" was first published in
the May, 1972 issue of EQMM and was written under the tutelage
of Dannay, who ripped the original version of the story apart with "a
surgical precision" that "was more than justified,"
and then they "began to build the story up again." Dannay
always struck me as pillar of support to everyone who dared to pick
up a pen, no matter who they were, and even published stories from
teenagers in EQMM. And we'll get to two of those later on in
|Contain "Open Letter to Survivors" |
Letter to Survivors" is written around a line from Ten
Days' Wonder (1942), "there was the case of Adelina
Monquieux" and "the remarkable solution" that "cannot be revealed until before 1972," which is studded
with Queenian motifs, but the detective in this story remains
nameless – even though its obviously him. Ellery is in the middle
of writing a book, but concludes that his plot is some vital element
and decides to consult "the foremost political analyst of the
generation," Adelina Monquieux (pronounced Mon-Q). Monquieux is
the mother of three adopted sons, Xavier, Yves and Zachery, who are
monozygotic triplets and completely identical right down to their
fingerprints. A problem when their mother is murdered during Ellery's
visit to their home. So who of the identical triplets committed the
murder and what prevented the truth from coming out until 1972?
is interesting story for sure and how the triplets are used is kind
of brilliant, as are Ellery's deductions, but I think the ending
makes this somewhat of an anti-detective story. However, Nevins did a
good job making hay out of a throw-away reference.
previously reviewed "The Reindeer Clue" by Edward D. Hoch in my
2011 review of Ellery Queen's The
Tragedy of Errors (1999).
C. Andrews and Kurt
Sercu's "The Book Case" was originally published in the May,
2007 issue of EQMM, which I have read before, but my opinion
of it remains unaltered. Generally, I'm not too big a fan of
pastiches, however, "The Book Case" would make my best-of list of
detective pastiches, because it feels like it could be part of the
actual canon. This betrays that the story was written by two of the
biggest EQ fanboys in the United States and Europe.
story has a contemporary setting and the series-characters have aged
or passed away. Ellery Queen is now a venerable, 100-year-old man,
who seemed "to move only through the sheerest will power,"
but not old or helpless enough to look into the murder of Dr. Jason
Tenumbra – an oncologist and an avid collector of mystery novels.
Tenumbra appears to have left a dying message by throwing all of his
Ellery Queen novels on the floor, but the case becomes a personal one
when it becomes clear that the children of Djuna are involved. And
one of them dies!
and Sercu not only succeeded admirably in placing their story snugly
within the confines of the original series, but also has a very
clever and tricky plot demonstrating (once again) that the wonders of
modern forensic science has not made ingenious plots in detective
fiction obsolete – which made this the standout story of this
anthology. Loved it!
the way, one of the detectives in "The Book Case" is the elderly
Harry Burke, who's closing in on his retirement, and he had appeared
previously in Face
to Face (1967). And the ending tells us what became of Nikki
Porter. Just a couple of the nods to the original series.
Williamson's "Ten Month's Blunder" is a silly, good-natured
parody about a character named Celery Keen, who helps his father
solve the murder of a pawnshop owner, which cements his reputation as
an amateur sleuth across the world. However, when Keen returns from a
world-tour of snooping, his father has some unpleasant news for him.
Porges' "The English Village Mystery" was originally printed
in the December, 1964 issue of EQMM and is the first of only
two parodies he wrote about a character named Celery Green.
story takes place in the tiny village of Tottering-on-the-Brink,
which only has fourteen inhabitants, but twelve of those have been
shot, stabbed, strangled and blown to pieces. Inspector Dew East has
been given 48 hours to close the case and, out of desperation, turns
to a gifted and well-known amateur detective, Celery Green – who
happened to be visiting England at the time. You would expect the
solution to be as ridiculous and silly as its premise, but there's a
trace of reason to all of this madness. I think this shows, even with
his tongue firmly planted in his cheek, Porges was one of the masters
of the short detective story. Only overshadowed by the King of the
Short Story, Edward Hoch.
M. Dubin was a high-school senior when his short story, "Elroy
Quinn's Last Case," appeared in the July, 1967 issue of EQMM
and took a similar route as Andrews and Sercu by casting the
title-character as an old man. And his last case is precariously
balanced on international politics that could set the world ablaze.
king of Ubinorabia has arrived in the United States "to begin
talks about on the huge oil deposits recently discovered in his
country," but one of his royal bodyguards has been shot and
later an attempt is made on the king himself – who's critically
wounded. A bizarre array of clues consist of a Roman helmet, a
statuette of two seemingly identical Thai cats, a wooden shoe and a
small replica of a mummy case. So Inspector Thomas Valie, Jr. turns
to the old maestro for help and the solution takes its cue from a
famous EQ short story and one of their lesser-known mystery novels. A
story that will delight every reader who loves EQ.
Holding's "The Norwegian Apple Mystery" is the first of ten
stories about King Danforth and Martin Leroy, originally published in
the January, 1961 issue of EQMM, who are mystery writers and
the creators of the Leroy King series. Apparently, the stories take
place during a round-the-world cruise, but they encounter more
murderous plots on their extended holiday than when they were writing
detective novels back home. I think this first story has a really
novel way of telling a detective story.
and Leroy become intrigued by the "perfectly natural accidental
death" of one of their fellow passengers, Angela Cameron, who
had choked to death on a piece of apple while reading in bed. They
find it an intriguing premise for a detective story and, together
with their wives, speculate how this accidental death could have been
a cleverly disguised murder. Only to discover in the final sentence
that their ideas were spot on. A good and original variation on the
Brittain's "The Man Who Read Ellery Queen" appeared together with "The Man Who Read John Dickson Carr" in the December, 1965 issue
of EQMM and is a detective with a warm, beating heart.
Mindy is an old man living at the Goodwell Home and took a complete
collection of Ellery Queen novels with him. Mindy has always dreamed
of solving a mystery "just the way Ellery does" and
finally gets an opportunity when another resident, Gregory Wyczech,
had his precious 1907 ten dollar gold piece stolen, but he caught the
thief, Eugene Dennison, in act – only problem is that the coin is
not found on him. Even after Dennison stripped naked. Mindy deduces
where the gold piece is hidden based on a shaving cut and why
Dennison preferred to take the stairs instead of the elevator. The
way this theft is resolved gives the story a warm, sweet and sugary
ending. And to top it all off, the solution showed this was also a
(borderline) impossible crime! What more do you want?
Pachter was sixteen when he wrote "E.Q. Griffin Earns His Name"
and seventeen when it was published in the December, 1968 issue of
Queen Griffin is the 16-year-old son of Inspector Ross Griffin, of
the Tyson County Police Force, who had grown up on "a rich diet
of detective fiction" and had named all of his eleven children
after a famous detective character. A Griffen child earned his name
by solving "a criminal problem in the manner of his namesake,"
but Ellery had yet to earn his name. There are two problems in this
story that could provide that opportunity: who stole the apple pies
from Leora Field's windowsill and how was a precious necklace stolen
from a locked jewelry shop. This is only nominally a locked room
mystery and the solution to the locked shop problem is a bit of a
cheat, but the real point is that Ellery (logically) deduces the
identity of the thief. And thereby earning his name.
really liked this story and it should have been the start of a
mystery series with each story concentrating on one of the
Griffin children. A missed opportunity, because eleven of those
stories would have made for a wonderful collection. If you're reading
this, Pachter, I want a Gideon Fell Griffin story. I want it, I want
it, I want it!!!
McGerr was no stranger to turning the conventions of the
detective story upside down (e.g. Pick
Your Victim, 1946) and "The Last Check," a short story
first published in the March, 1972 issue of EQMM, can only be
described as a parody-pastiche – as it lands somewhere between the
two. A gray area not often frequented by mystery writers. The story
is about the murder of Stephen Coleman, a collector of Ellery Queen,
who was shot to death in his study, but left a dying message by
scribbling his name on a blank check. A clue that appeared either
meaningless or implicate every single suspect. Luckily, the policeman
on the case, Captain Rogan, is also an avid reader of Ellery Queen.
who's better fitted for the job of deciphering a dying message, left
by a dying EQ reader, than a policeman who also reads EQ? Once again,
I liked this story, but the murderer was a little too obvious.
Block's "The Death of the Mallory Queen," originally published in
Like a Lamb to the Slaughter (1984), is actually more of a
Nero Wolfe pastiche than a take on Ellery Queen. Block wrote two
novels about a Nero Wolfe wannabe named Leo Haig, Make Out With
Murder (1974) and The Topless Tulip Caper (1975), who's
assisted by Chip Harrison – a young lad was reinvented as a private
detective after appearing in two coming-of-age novels, No Score
(1970) and Chip Harrison Scores Again (1971). Reportedly, Rex
Stout was not amused with the result.
short story has Mavis Mallory of Mavis Publications consulting Haig,
because she fears being murdered, which happens in the most
extraordinary circumstances imaginable. During a panel discussion at
Town Hall, held in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of Mallory's
Mystery Magazine, the lights go out. And when they turn back on,
Mallory has been stabbed, shot, bludgeoned and poisoned. The
explanation is about as credible as anything you'll see on Monty
Python, but that didn't made the story any less fun to read.
I really have to look further into this series.
Vidro's "The Ransom of EQMM #1" was first published online on the
Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine website and is a story that'll
be especially appreciated by collectors of (pulp) magazines.
Slocum is an avid collector of EQMM from Shinn Corners (The
Glass Village, 1954) and owns a complete run of the magazine,
up to the latest issue, which attracts the attention of the Shinn
Corners Courier, but their article attracted locals to his house
– who all wanted to see The Collection. But when he finally got
around to putting his collection back in order, Slocum noticed that
the Fall 1941 issue of EQMM was missing! The first of more
than 800 issues. A $500 dollar ransom note soon follows, but Slocum
notices something slightly off about the photograph that accompanied
the note. A short, simple, but fun, story.
Joseph Goodrich's "The Ten-Cent Murder," published in the August,
2016 issue of EQMM and follows the tradition of the modern
historical detective story by casting two real-life persons in the
role of detectives – namely Fredric Dannay and Dashiell Hammett.
According to the introduction, everything in this story is true with
the exception of "a slight case of murder." Hammett taught
a class of mystery writing at the Jefferson Institute in Manhattan
and Dannay used to be an occasional guest lecturer. So why not take
this situation and throw in a good murder? It makes sense.
school registrar, Morris Rabinowitz, was stabbed to death and a
closely guarded list of students was missing. The political climate
of days plays a role in this story, but, in order to solve this case,
Dannay has to figure out why the victim was clutching a dime. And all
of the suspects have names that can refer or sound like coins. The
explanation to the dying clue a bit of a pun, but acceptable and
believable enough in the circumstances of the story.
a whole, The Misadventures of Ellery Queen is an excellent
anthology without any duds. Practically every short story collection
or anthology has one, two or three duds, but this anthology has a
well-balanced selection of stories and this becomes a real
accomplishment on the part of the editors when you realize all of the
entries are parodies or pastiches – which are not always known for
their high-standard or quality. There were some stories I liked more
than others, but not a single one I really disliked. So, if you like
Ellery Queen, The Misadventures of Ellery Queen comes highly
a last note, I want to direct your attention to a story that was
omitted from this anthology, but would have snugly fit in the
potpourri section: Donald A. Yates' "The
Wounded Tyrolean" (c. 1955), which was based on a Watsonian
reference from The
Spanish Cape Mystery (1935).