Our Tuesday Night bloggers (explanation in this post) have moved on from Agatha Christie (an author I know inside outside and backwards) to Ellery Queen, someone I have much less knowledge of. Noah Stewart will be collating the contributions on his blog, Noah’s Archives, for this set of posts.
Thanks to Bev, one of our number, for the splendid logo, right:
I just checked back over my records, and find that I have read 10 Queen books, but also find that I ditched most of them a while back, when doing a general clearout, on the grounds that I probably wouldn’t be re-reading. Regretting that now …
There are two past entries on the blog:
A Fine and Private Place. I got rid of my copy the moment I’d read it, and don’t regret that at all, because I hated the cover so much: I found it repellent and creepy. As I say in the piece – take a look, if you dare.
The Finishing Stroke I read because I was looking for books about 12th Night for a Guardian piece at the beginning of the year, and the plot revolves round the 12 days of Xmas. It didn’t in the end make it into the piece, but gave me a nice entry for 6th January, and I was pleased with the fashion pics I found to illustrate it. This time I really liked the cover:
So since Ellery Queen came on the Tuesday night list I’ve read another 3 books by him:
Face to Face and The Last Woman in His Life, which both feature mysterious messages from a dying person – apparently a common Queen trope. They are both late examples of Queen books (and the second one starts at the exact moment that the first one ends).
And today’s book, Cop Out – well, where to begin? I’m sure someone in the Tuesday Night Club is going to explain fully the mysterious world of Ellery Queen. He was a writer (except he was two people collaborating) and he was the lead character in his books, and he was also the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. And also, he/they farmed the writer’s name out to other people. There are ghost-written books, and books that are not full collaborations (I think). And there is some doubt about Cop Out, apparently, no-one quite knows where it fits into the Queen canon.
|completely irrelevant movie poster, but I felt Jazzed Up Hoodlums was quite a good description of the villains in the book, and I really like this picture|
I’m not the person to judge, BUT even on my limited acquaintance with the author (if 10 books is limited) it doesn’t read like any other Queen book – I would never have identified it as such on a blind reading. It is a hard-boiled noirish thriller about some lowlifes who commit a payroll robbery, then kidnap a cop’s daughter in order to ensure his help in escaping. Ellery Queen, the character, does not appear in this book at all (someone more expert will be able to say of how many of the books this is true), and there is no mystery or puzzle – and certainly no gathering of the suspects in the library.
It was strange, and inventive, and competent as a thriller. It had the usual unreal women – a subject I may return to in a future blogpost. There’s a lot of violence and a bizarre stripsearch scene involving the female thief. Words fail me really. Janet Maslin in the New York Times said it was ‘disillusioning ….too coarse to sound like Dannay and Lee's [the original writers] work.’ But apparently one of the original Queen writers strongly affirmed that it was a proper book of their own.
So - upwards and onwards from here: next week I’ll look at a more typical example of his work. I would also ask the Queen aficionados round here – which one book of his would you recommend? I might not have time to get hold of a copy and read it in time for the Tuesday Night Club, but I would like to read any accepted masterworks…