List of possible suspects

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Lane's "unpopularity" was apparently responsible for his demise after just four novels. Our writing couples' decision
was probably
induced by a hard fact: Ellery Queen sold more copies than Barnaby Ross. Still to this date the Drury Lane opus is underestimated. Some Queen fans even state they "never got around" to reading them. Only in Eastern countries the Drury Lane novels still make it in the top Drury Lane in "disguise", no way they could have known that he somewhat resembled themselves in a few years after publication... 10 lists of favorite detective novels... and rightly so. They created the greatest Shakespearean actor of his day, Drury Lane who had to retire, due to deafness, to his estate on the Hudson, known as "The Hamlet". This  enabled him to put his talent for amateur sleuthing to much greater use. Lane is restless in retirement and uses his keen mind, first to send a letter to New York District Attorney Bruno suggesting the solution to a baffling case and then to investigate on his own, at the behest of Bruno and Inspector Thumm of the N.Y.P.D., especially difficult cases. Some argue Drury Lane was based on William Gillette as Sherlock Holmes, Gillette introduced the curved or bent briar pipe instead of the straight pipe pictured by Strand Magazine's illustrator Sidney Paget.William (Hooker) Gillette (July 24, 1853 – April 29, 1937) an American actor-manager, playwright, and stage-manager in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Gillette's most significant contributions to the theater were in devising realistic stage settings and special sound and lighting effects, and as an actor in putting forth what he called the "Illusion of the First Time". His portrayal of Holmes helped create the modern image of the detective. Drury Lane's talent for disguise is clearly inherited from Maurice Leblanc's Arsène Lupin character.

Above left: William Gillette as Sherlock Holmes, Gillette introduced the curved or bent briar pipe instead of the straight pipe pictured by Strand Magazine's illustrator Sidney Paget.
Above right: Drury Lane in "disguise", no way they could have known that he somewhat resembled themselves in a few years after publication...

Drury Lane's first appearance managed to evade the pitfall
many introductory novels fall in. They all manage to point out the characters and surroundings of the stories that will follow, but in doing so somewhat neglect the storyline itself. It is here, as with the early Queen books, that their strong point surfaces... the plotline is always paramount. 

Drury Lane was born in New Orleans, La., Nov 3 1871 as son of Richard Lane, an American tragedian and Kitty Purchell an English music-hall comedienne. Born prematurely in the back of a second-rate stock theater "The Comus" when his father Richard was travelling the world and his mother Kitty forced to work to earn a living. She died while giving birth. Raised by his father he travelled from stage to stage it came as no surprise he performed on stage at the early age of seven and had his first role of importance at the age of 10 in Kiralfy's Enchantment (Boston Theatre). In 1887 his father died of pleuritis giving his sixteen year old son one last piece of advice: "Be an actor!"
At 23 he performed for the first time at Daly's Theatre, NY in Hamlet, a role he played many times over in 1909 in the Drury Lane Theatre in London. Playing 24 times more than the record held by Edwin Booth. Writer of Shakespeariana, The Philosophy of Hamlet, Curtain Calls, ... . Member of different Clubs: Players, Lambs, Century, Franklin Inn en Coffee House. Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Honorary member of the French Legion of Honour. Retired from acting in 1928 due to increasing deafness in both ears. Drury lives in "The Hamlet", overseeing the Hudson River, N.Y. (station Lanecliff, Westchester County).

"The Hamlet" is a castle, surrounded with a miniature village full of  people who wear Elizabethan dress and answer to Shakespearean names - and living on Lane's bounty. Every house a copy of an Elizabethan house with thatched roofs,... perfect gardens included. Everything was old and smelled of England, the England of Elisabeth. His residence is described as if it were the mansion in Citizen Kane. Somewhat smaller in size but certainly not less imposing. Still unsatisfied with having recreated Shakespeare's physical world and incapable of creating dramatic world like the master, Lane intervenes in the dramas real life offers and in a sense rewrites them. "From obeying the jerk of the master's strings, I now have the impulse to pull the strings myself, in a greater authorship than created drama". His "raison d'être" being power, to overwhelm audiences with his performances. The power to control, control the life of his servants down to their names and to change the outcome of his life-and-dead drama's by his presence. In short he wants to be more powerful than Shakespeare himself.

Drury Lane -  detail from the cover of "The Philadelphia Inquirer" Newspaper Novel 1941. Art by W. V. Chambers.
Long, slim and extremely vital and despite his 60 years looked more like 40 despite his thick white hair. His strong classical face was youthful and had no wrinkles. His sharp, deep-set grey green eyes didn't give away his age. 

Left: Drury Lane - detail from the cover of The Philadelphia Inquirer Newspaper Novel 1941. Art by W. V. Chambers.

His is being assisted by Falstaff the butler and the balding  "hunchback" Quacey, who  for 40 years served as his wigmaker and make-up artist. Depending on the situation was addressed as "Caliban" or "Quasimodo".

The first novels don't even mention the existence of Inspector Thumms' daughter but in the third novel this changes. Miss Patience Thumm, the Inspector's lovely and brainy daughter, who had spent her childhood and adolescence in Europe, returns to New York after ten years and joins her father's own detective agency. The ten years hiatus between Y and Z is not substantiated by the first two books who are clearly not set in the twenties. Barnaby Ross had a change of heart and introduced Patience to take over the sleuthing from Lane himself. The ideas for the two last books are fine only due to haste and lack of consideration they don't work as well as their predecessors.

The 1942 Grosset & Dunlap edition of The Tragedy of Z had an "Author's Note" by Ellery Queen explaining what Drury did in the hiatus: "... In the intervening period Drury Lane solved many strange and perplexing cases, the more interesting of which will be recorded at some future time."
Sadly, to our knowledge no such cases were published. The Drury Lane serial didn't stop at a trilogy as, in total, 4 novels were published.


      Drury Lane artwork by R. De Anda for "The Tragedy of X"
Above: Drury Lane artwork by R. De Anda for The Tragedy of X.

By the end of the series Drury Lane is dead, which would seem to indicate unequivocally that Dannay and Lee intended to end the series. In fact however, the cousins had planned to resurrect him for more cases, but they came embroiled in a dispute with Viking, the firm that was publishing the Mystery League - N°1 October 1933Lane series. By the time they had completed the fourth Drury Lane novel Dannay and Lee were about to launch their new ambitious new monthly magazine Mystery League. One of the stories they chose for their first issue (October 1933, right), without realizing the contractual consequences of their decision, was their own recently finished Drury Lane's Last Case, which thus became available, complete and unabridged to any reader with a quarter to plunk down on his favorite newsstand. The people at Viking grew understandably angry at this unauthorized but unintended competition with the $2.00 hardcover edition which they were about to publish. The cousins were forced to accept some extremely unfavorable revisions in the royalty clauses of their contract with Viking, and the acrimonious dispute convinced them that as long as Drury Lane was already dead he might just as well be kept in his grave. (Francis. M.Nevins
West 87th Irregular "Investigating Drury Lane" Old-Time Detection Issue 16, Autumn 2007)


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