In the mid twentieth century, critic and writer Anthony Boucher said (in the New York Times): “Ellery Queen is the American detective story.” But despite the enormous popularity of the Ellery Queen novels, stories, radio plays, TV shows, and movies during the lifetime of the two authors who collaborated under the Ellery Queen byline—and despite the enormous influence they had on subsequent writers—most of the Queen novels went out of print by the last decade of the twentieth century, with the result that many younger readers no longer know who Ellery Queen was. Almost all of the Queen novels have now been reissued in e-format from Mysterious Press/Open Road. And last week, a much-awaited anthology of Ellery Queen pastiches was released. Entitled The Misadventures of Ellery Queen, and edited by Josh Pachter and Dale C. Andrews, it will, we hope, inspire a new generation to read the original Ellery Queen novels and stories.
Josh Pachter’s fiction debut was nearly fifty years ago, in EQMM’s Department of First Stories. As he explains in this post, the story was an Ellery Queen pastiche. Since then, more than fifty of his stories have seen print. Like the pseudonymous author Ellery Queen, Josh has proved to be a successful collaborator, jointly producing tales with some of the top writers in our field. He is also one of the genre’s leading translators, with work frequently featured in EQMM’s Passport to Crime department. Dale Andrews, a former lawyer for the U.S. Department of Transportation, also got his start as a fiction writer in EQMM’s Department of First Stories, also in the form of an Ellery Queen pastiche, which he coauthored with Belgian writer Kurt Sercu. Pastiches are produced in loving homage to the work of the authors whose books inspire them, so it goes without saying that Josh and Dale are among the most ardent of Ellery Queen fans. In this post they give readers a look at what went into producing their delightful anthology of Ellery Queen pastiches and parodies.—Janet Hutchings
On Thursday, March 8, Wildside Press published The Misadventures of Ellery Queen (hardcover, paperback, and electronic editions), edited by the two of us—Josh Pachter and Dale Andrews. The book is an anthology collecting sixteen pastiches, parodies, and homages inspired by the legendary Ellery Queen.
Collections of “misadventures”—by which we mean stories carrying forward an established character and either written in or spoofing the manner of the original author—are nothing new. But a collection of the misadventures of Ellery Queen has been a long time coming.
Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee, the two authors who collectively were Ellery Queen, were great fans of pastiche and parody. In fact, it was Dannay and Lee who collected and edited the seminal anthology of Sherlock Holmes pastiches, The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes, which appeared in 1944 (and was quickly withdrawn from circulation due to a legal objection from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s literary estate).
Just as Sherlock Holmes has inspired countless authors other than Conan Doyle to take up the misadventurous pen, further adventures of Ellery Queen—written by authors other than Dannay and Lee—have also been plentiful, beginning in 1947, when Thomas Narcejac’s “Le mystère de ballons rouge,” a straightforward EQ pastiche, was published in France. It was many years before an attempt was made to collect these stories in one volume. But the idea of such a volume was contemplated much sooner. And that is where the story of The Misadventures of Ellery Queen begins.
Of the two of us, only one was fortunate enough to have known Fred Dannay personally. Josh Pachter’s first published story, “E.Q. Griffen Earns his Name,” was written when Josh was sixteen years old and appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine in 1968. This first story led over the following half century to many others, and it also led to a friendship between Josh and Dannay. In the early 70s, Josh suggested that The Misadventures of Ellery Queen would be a worthy undertaking. Dannay agreed, but didn’t want to edit such a volume himself. He suggested that Josh should helm the project, but Josh, still in his early twenties, felt unqualified to tackle such an important task. Decades passed, the idea lingered, but the Misadventures collection remained unrealized.
Until 2012, that is, when Japanese publisher Ronso Kaigai released an anthology edited by Yusan Iiki, titled (in English!) The Misadventures of Ellery Queen and including both Josh’s “E.Q. Griffen’s Second Case” (from 1970) and Dale’s “The Book Case,” a 2007 pastiche written in collaboration with Belgian EQ scholar Kurt Sercu. Despite the English title, all of the stories were either translated into Japanese or originally written in Japanese. So Japan, where the love of Golden Age detective yarns remains strong, had a misadventures anthology. The English-speaking world, however, continued to wait.
“The Book Case,” by the way, was inspired by Dale’s attendance at the Ellery Queen Centenary Symposium hosted by EQMM in 2005. Dale went on to write two more EQ pastiches, both of which (like “The Book Case”) appeared in EQMM, and he, too, began thinking about an English-language Misadventures. He discussed the idea with fellow EQ pastichers Francis (Mike) Nevins and Jon Breen, as well as with EQMM editor Janet Hutchings, all of whom were encouraging. But Dale—like Josh, decades earlier—was reluctant to attempt the project on his own.
Though Josh and Dale were familiar with each others’ work and lived only twenty miles apart, we had never met—until 2015, when Mike Nevins stopped off in Washington, D.C., on his way to participate in a memorial service for Fred Dannay’s widow Rose. Josh had known Mike for decades, and Dale had known him for years. At Mike’s suggestion, the three authors got together in Dale’s backyard for drinks, dinner, and Queenian discourse. Unsurprisingly, the subject of the Japanese Misadventures came up—and something clicked in both Josh’s and Dale’s minds. You know, each of us thought, eyebrows raised, perhaps the time has come. . . .
And so, after all these years, here we are!
Our aim in collecting and editing the sixteen stories that comprise The Misadventures of Ellery Queen was not simply to mimic the Japanese anthology. Instead, we started from scratch, sifting through the many pastiches, parodies and other works inspired by Ellery Queen that have been published over the years in order to identify the best and most representative stories we could assemble.
As one might expect, some of the tales that made our final list were also included in the Japanese collection; stories like Dale’s “The Book Case,” Mike Nevins’ classic “Open Letter to Survivors,” Jerry Williamson’s “Ten Months’ Blunder,” and Arthur Porges’ “The English Village Mystery” certainly needed, we felt, to be included.
Some authors, though, we decided would be better represented by stories other than those selected by Yusan Iiki; Josh, for example, believed that it made sense to include his first Griffen story, “E.Q. Griffen Earns His Name,” rather than its sequel, and Jon Breen preferred to be represented by his one and only EQ pastiche, “The Gilbert and Sullivan Clue,” rather than by one of his broad “E. Larry Cune” parodies. Similarly, we preferred James Holding’s “The Norwegian Apple Mystery” to the Danforth and Leroy story chosen for the Japanese collection, and we concluded that readers would be interested in seeing Ed Hoch’s “The Reindeer Clue,” together with some introductory remarks explaining that story’s strange lineage, in lieu of the two Hoch stories translated into Japanese.
We also chose stories by authors not included in the Iiki collection, such as Dennis Dubin’s devious “Elroy Quinn’s Last Case,” Bill Brittain’s delightful “The Man Who Read Ellery Queen,” Joe Goodrich’s marvelous “The Ten-Cent Murder” (in which Fred Dannay himself solves a crime in the manner of Ellery, with Dashiell Hammett as his sidekick!), and Thomas Narcejac’s “Le mystère des ballons rouges,” that grandfather of all EQ pastiches, which we had translated from the original French so that it could be published in our collection for the first time in English.
In mapping out the contents of our Misadventures, we found there were more worthy candidates than we had space for in the approximately seventy thousand words our publisher suggested should be our aim. Predictably, assembling a final list of sixteen stories from a much longer list of deserving candidates proved daunting. Those familiar with Joseph Goodrich’s fascinating Blood Relations: The Selected Letters of Ellery Queen, 1947-1950 (Perfect Crime Books, 2012) know that Fred Dannay and Manny Lee often argued passionately about the plotting and writing of the original EQ novels and stories. Our discussions never quite rose to that level, but we did find ourselves at times passionately debating which stories to include as well as the order in which to present the stories finally selected.
We ultimately agreed on a table of contents, subdivided into three sections: Pastiches (containing stories that remain true to the Ellery Queen characters and style), Parodies (stories that make fun—be it gentle or outrageous—of EQ), and Potpourri (containing homages and stories inspired by Ellery and his creators that don’t otherwise fit cleanly into either of the first two sections). Even then we had some fairly passionate debates concerning the placement of individual stories. Is Norma Schier’s “Dying Message,” for example, a pastiche or a parody? We went back and forth on that one for days—finally deciding that, for our purposes, it’s a pastiche. (When you read the explanatory afterword by Fred Dannay, you’ll see why.)
We were fortunate that each of the living authors represented in the anthology was enthusiastic about the project and eagerly agreed to write a new introduction especially for our collection. The two of us provided a general introduction to the book and story-specific intros to some of the tales whose authors are no longer with us. Richard Dannay and Rand Lee, who are respectively Fred Dannay’s and Manny Lee’s sons, graciously contributed special introductions of their own. (In Richard’s, you will learn what exactly happened to that collection of Sherlock Holmes misadventures Ellery edited back in 1944.)
We also received invaluable assistance from Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, which originally published all but two of the stories in the book. Editor Janet Hutchings, Associate Editor Jackie Sherbow, and the rest of the EQMM staff embraced our project fully, providing copies of little-known or largely forgotten manuscripts and assisting us in securing reprint rights to several stories. Finally, Wildside Press publisher John Betancourt eagerly agreed to publish the anthology, and he and his team turned our manuscript into a book we think readers in general—and Ellery Queen fans in particular—will be proud to display on their bookcases.
As we’ve mentioned—and as is commonly known—the works of Ellery Queen were collaborative; Fred Dannay’s forte was plotting, while Manny Lee’s was writing. It is fitting, we think, that this collection of stories inspired by Ellery Queen should finally come to fruition through the efforts of yet another collaboration.
What more can we say? Perhaps only that we hope you have as much fun reading The Misadventures of Ellery Queen as we had assembling it.