three news items

1) If you haven't been there yet, please check out the new website for A Sane Woman:

2) I had procrastinated about taking down the earlier version of this blog, but I went there the other day and found out that somebody had hacked in and inserted a bunch of ads for fancy handbags. So, I finally took it down.

So, today's lesson is: if you have a website or a blog, take a look at it from time to time. You can't tell what kind of problems might have been developing in your absence.

3) As I mentioned here, I bought and read The Egyptian Cross Mystery by Ellery Queen, mostly because I unintentionally took an idea from it. I found that it was undoubtedly the inspiration for one aspect of "The Church Mystery," but it's not actually that good (meaning the book, not the idea). Clever, but not convincing. This is not surprising, since the really good EQ novels came later.

There was also a clue which was similar to the clue of the medicine cabinets in "The Hospital Mystery," but I don't think that was a direct inspiration. It's more that the hospital case was inspired by The Dutch Shoe Mystery, another early Ellery Queen book, and the solution is very typical of EQ, in that it's categorical rather than individual.

For example, it was typical of Agatha Christie to put a group of suspects together in a fairly restricted area, and then solve the mystery person-by-person, based on their individual attributes. Quite often, Queen would start with a much larger pool of suspects (a whole city, potentially), and then analyze the murderer's attributes in terms of categories (male or female, employee or guest, aware of a certain fact or not, etc.) until only one person was possible.

I have been wondering why Ellery Queen and Rex Stout (who wrote the Nero Wolfe mysteries) are such a particularly big influence on this project. I just figured out one reason this week, which is that their books are not particularly tied to their eras. Queen wrote from the 1930s through the 1960s, Stout from the 1940s (possibly the very late 1930s) through the 1970s, but you can read any of the books and forget whether it's early or late in the series. For example, The Egyptian Cross Mystery features a group of sun-worshiping cultists who follow a leader who thinks he's the emissary of Egyptian gods, and they all spend most of their time naked. I was surprised when one of the characters (not naked) traveled to a crime scene on the running board of a car, since it reminded me that this book was written in the 1930s, not the 1960s.

You can never read about Sherlock Holmes or Philo Vance and forget when the stories are set. Each series is rooted in a very particular time and place.

I should mention that Jan Sleet quotes Holmes from time to time ("Come, Marshall, the game's afoot!" "the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime," "a man like you, with your experience of women which extends over many nations and three separate continents"), but this is her doing the quoting, not me. She is, as she makes clear, very consciously inspired by Holmes.

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  1. Pingback: ellery queen part one » Anthony Lee Collins

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