ellery queen part one

It’s a good time to be an Ellery Queen fan.

This is not always true, since EQ gets no big respect these days, or even much attention. As far as I know, television hasn’t adapted any Ellery Queen stories since the (excellent, but short-lived) series in the early 1970s. There has never been an EQ movie, and, until recently, most of the books were not available as e-books.

But now the ebooks are coming out, and it’s a pleasure to reread some of the novels and stories.

One thing that makes it difficult to be an EQ fan is that you can’t just pick up an book by “Ellery Queen” and have any idea what you’re getting. Some “Ellery Queen” books were actually written by Ellery Queen (who was really two men, cousins), some were ghostwritten (with plot and editorial work by the cousins), and in many cases “Ellery Queen” was used as a house name for other writers.

See, confusing.

In addition, the actual EQ books vary in style as well as quality. The early books (all of which have a country in the book title) are very complex and cerebral mysteries, similar to the Philo Vance books which were the cousins’ initial inspiration (and which were the biggest selling books into the U.S. during the 1920s).

But then, especially in the books and stories set it the small town of Wrightsville, the stories became much more human, and emotions and motivations came to the fore.

Ellery (the detective was named Ellery Queen, and he was obviously the writer of the books, but the books were not written in first person — see, confusing) was much more affected by the mysteries than he had been in the earlier books. He was also much more on his own (in New York, he lived with his police inspector father and had access to all sorts of official information and assistance — in Wrightsville, he was just a famous writer with no official standing at all).

And in the Wrightsville stories, he (EQ, the writer, the cousins) developed his great theme, which he applied in several different ways: that some mysteries are better not solved, or at least solved but the solution never revealed publicly.

Also, EQ did not create the idea of a serial killer who kills according to a pattern (the first of those was The Bishop Murder Case — which was one of the Philo Vance series), but he (EQ, they) used many variations on that theme over the years as well.

Anyway, thinking about Ellery Queen, and re-reading some of the books and stories in e-book form, led me to a couple of other things, which I’ll write about next time.

(I’ve written about EQ before, here and here.)

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