|TNB "covers" designed by Bev|
Ellery Queen is both the named author of the series of mysteries which began with The Roman Hat Mystery in 1929 as well as the name of the primary detective in the series. The author is actually a writing team--Frederic Dannay and Manfred Lee, two cousins who launched the Queen career with a writing contest for McClure Magazine. Ellery Queen, the amateur detective, is also a mystery writer who gets most of his writing ideas from helping his father Inspector Richard Queen solve crimes.
I am not as widely read in Queen as I am in Christie. So I thought I would begin my set of posts with a look at my two-fold introduction to Ellery Queen. I first met Ellery Queen in the 1970s through the television show starring Jim Hutton as Ellery. It seems quite astounding to me now to realize that the show lasted only one season--running from September 1975 through April 1976. I have such fond memories of Ellery turning to the camera right before the last commercial break to ask us: "Okay, you've got all the clues. Do you know who did it? I think I do. Can you guess?" My dad and I would always try to outdo each other in the amateur detective department. We're competitive that way.
Hutton's performance as the absent-minded, but incredibly perceptive Ellery was absolutely central to my enjoyment of the show. And his relationship with his father, played by David Wayne, made the character perfect for the series as it was written for television. It's a shame that it didn't quite make the cut for a longer run. I also enjoyed the feeling that I was right there solving the case alongside Ellery--made all the more real by him breaking the fourth wall and addressing the audience.
When I met her in junior high school, I was delighted to discover that a friend of mine loved that show as well and before it became available on DVD we would lament the fact that we might never see it again. [Fun fact: my husband--before I met him--had a Beta VCR and had recorded exactly ONE episode, from TV-land or some such thing. It was "The Adventure of the Mad Tea Party" and I watched it periodically until the Beta machine died.] My husband has since seen to it that I own the complete series and I, in turn, have gifted a set to that friend.
The second part of my introduction to the Ellery Queen name was through a juvenile mystery written by "Ellery Queen, Jr." I'm quite sure that I was attracted to the book sitting on the shelf at the local used book store because I had watched the Ellery Queen mysteries on television. I don't actually remember a great deal about the book which Goodreads tells me is an "eerie mystery thriller [which] features a vanishing girl, a Spanish speaking parrot, and a time-telling turtle- in a case that baffles even the Secret Service." I do know that the combination of the TV series and this book made me eager to try out the Ellery Queen series once I returned to more serious mystery reading in the early 1990s.