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ELLERY QUEEN

Frederic Dannay (Daniel Nathan, 1905-1982) and Manfred Bennington Lee (Manfred Lepofsky, 1905-1971) were cousins who together created the highly popular detective Ellery Queen. Both were born in Brooklyn, New York; attended Boys' High School in the borough; and began their careers in Manhattan. Dannay worked as a writer and an art director for an advertising agency, while Lee wrote publicity for film studios.

When they were twenty-three, the two decided to enter a detective-fiction contest. They collaborated on what came to be «The Roman Hat Mystery,» using a very sophisticated young man named Ellery Queen as a mystery writer and amateur sleuth. Inspector Richard Queen of the New York Police Department is also introduced as Ellery's doting father. Dannay and Lee used the Ellery Queen name for themselves as well, so that it is memorable for referring to both character and co-authors. The story originally won the contest, but the prize went to another author when the magazine that held the contest changed hands. Even so, «The Roman Hat Mystery» was published the following year-and the rest is history.

The two also produced a four-book series in the early 1930's under the pen name Barnaby Ross, but Ellery Queen was quickly and hugely popular and occupied most of their time. Queen promptly reappeared in «The French Powder Mystery» and «The Dutch Shoe Mystery,» and in 1931 the two young men quit their jobs to write full time.

By the early 1980's, other writers-including Avram Davidson, Richard Deming, Paul W. Fairman, Edward D. Hoch, Stephen Marlowe, Talmadge Powell, Theodore Sturgeon, and John Holbrook Vance-using plots created by Dannay, had been pulled into the Ellery Queen persona, turning out books under the supervision of the cousins. By the time of Dannay's death, at least 150 million Ellery Queen books had been sold worldwide, and the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine was maintaining some semblance of a market for short fiction. The two helped found the Mystery Writers of America, and their peers gave them four Edgar awards and the Grand Master award.

«The Adventure of Abraham Lincoln's Clue» illustrates the typical Queen technique. It is solidly in the classical tradition, with the plot revolving around a clever puzzle whose solution requires the sleuth to make brilliant deductions from clues that are displayed to the reader, who is challenged to outwit the detective. The mere hint of romantic interest is also typical of both the form and the times.


A Matter of Public Notice | The Oxford Book of American Detective Stories | The Adventure of Abraham Lincolns Clue







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