Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Tuesday Night Bloggers: Ellery Queen 1



EQ drawingEQ writers


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:

FinishingStroke


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.

 
Ellery Queen cop Out
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…














16 comments:

  1. Well you've read 10 more than me. Checked the logged tubs and nothing by him though I do have one of his mystery mags - which doesn't really count. That is a freaky cover, I'm kind of liking it!

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    1. Yes I should've known! I'm surprised you haven't got anything by him in the boxes... perhaps the set of Tuesday Night blogposts will convince you to try him.

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  2. Ah, Ellery Queen!! No, in my opinion, this one isn't really like the other Queens, Moira. Many of them are more cerebral in nature, and feature really interesting intellectual puzzles. The Chinese Orange is a good example, as is the novella The Lamp of God.

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    1. Thanks for the suggestions Margot! I'm looking forward to getting to know Ellery Queen better.

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  3. I quite honestly detested Cop-Out. I much prefer the earlier novels with a nice, clever puzzle to work out.

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    1. That's what I like too! I'm going to check out some of the recommendations, I can see for myself that this one is not typical.

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  4. I have only read 5 Queen novels so you're doing better than me! Queen is a writer I have been aware of, dabbled in, but never really looked out for their books specifically. Out of my five, I would recommend The Chinese Orange Mystery as the best.

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    1. Thanks, I will try to get that one. One of the things I think I'll enjoy about the Tuesday Night Bloggers is that some of the authors I know very well, but will really be on a learning curve for the others....

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  5. Moira, I fear that your blog is the closest I will ever get to Cop-Out! But I HAVE read all the others! I will recommend four, two from the early years and two from the later: of the international mysteries, my favorites are The Greek Coffin Mystery and The Siamese Twin Mystery. The first has a stunning ending, and the second is sort of different from all the other early ones in that it's more human: there's as much suspense from an approaching forest fire as there is in the mystery. From the later novels, I would pick Calamity Town, the first Wrightsville mystery (although others might say Ten Days Wonder is more unique), and Cat of Many Tails, a great serial killer in the big city tale. Hope that whetted your whistle!

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    1. Thanks Brad, onto the list they go! Cop Out I really only read because it was a double book with another one that I did want to read. I like the sound of Calamity Town. I can see I'm going to end up reading dozens!

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  6. I have the same copy of FINE AND PRIVATE PLACE! You do seem to have picked a lot of late Queen books and COP OUT is the most peculiar of all the collaborations I think. I really like FACE TO FACE and love the basic unrepeatable trick of FINE AND PRIVATE PLACE but much prefer their work from the 30s and 40s.

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    1. Yes, I can see that I have unwittingly collected books from one era - perhaps as if I had just read some of the later Christies but didn't go near the classics! But I am getting some good recommendations so will keep going.

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  7. Moira, I have never read Ellery Queen and I'd start somewhere soon. Hopefully, next year.

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    1. With all this encouragement you are going to have to start, Prashant!

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  8. I read a lot of Ellery Queen books when I was young, and some I like a lot and others did not seem to be by the same author (and maybe they were not). At the time I did not know about the different periods of "his" writing. I want to read more by Queen now, but I haven't run into many of his books at sales.

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    1. Oh that's surprising, you'd think there'd be a lot about wouldn't you? I just picked up some random ones, but they all seem to be from a late period, and everyone says they're not as good. Looking out some others now.

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