Whodunit ?

T he anniversaries seem to come more quickly. Each April 3rd, we remember the passing of Manfred B. Lee in 1971. Although he and his cousin worked for decades on "the project Ellery Queen" it was but late that the inquiring public tried to find out exactly who did what within this extraordinary partnership. The fierce discussions between the two cousins, a supposed writers' block on Lee's part, concerning the ghostwriting of some later Queen works,... all led to the belief by some that one or the cousins seemed to have had a lesser hand in the creation of the end result. To me this is actually unfair to both Lee and Dannay. It seems to me that more correctly we would judge this by the track record of the partnership itself: Lee and Dannay worked together as a team and produced a most remarkable output of books and radio scripts,.... all under the name of Ellery Queen, a feat this site will attest to! And we know that the final Queen novel, The Tragedy of Errors, never progressed beyond outline form because of Lee's death forty-seven years ago.

Reproduced here is a small article from the The Montreal Gazette, published on October 4. 1973, some two years after Lee's passing. It gives a view on the partnership by Christopher Rebecca Lee Tate, Manny's daughter.    


"Ellery Queen" was no smoothie

GAINESVILLE. Fla. - (AP) - Christopher Rebecca Lee, a 30-year-old university freshman, says her father, detective story writer Ellery Queen, was "not as urbane as his books would indicate."
"Here's Ellery - tall, dark"  Miss Lee said of her father's fictional sleuth. "Here's dad - short, fat."  It's hard to make the transition.
"My father was a fairly dominant personality in his own home .. A great premium was placed on intellectual competence in our house. Consequently I think that without meaning to, he scared the hell out of us."

Miss Lee said her father, Manfred Lee, who died in 1971 would have approved of her decision to resign from a New York public relations job to enroll at the University of Florida this fall as a zoology major.
"He went off a gamble to write," she said in an interview. "He felt that for his kids that wasn't the way to do it: that a good job and a decent income was still the most important thing."
Manfred Lee and his cousin, Frederic Dannay, teamed to write 33 mysteries under the pseudonym Ellery Queen. They rarely saw each other, but regularly produced one book a year. Lee did most of the writing while Dannay concocted plot, did research and edited.

Miss Lee one of eight Lee children, said that 'my fifth grade English teacher was such an Ellery Queen fan and had this image of my father as this gorgeous "WASP (white Anglo-Saxon Protestant)."
When he visited the school one day, she suddenly realized that Ellery Queen was a short, fat man in overalls and red socks. Miss Lee said. "She was really destroyed."

Miss Lee said, "Ellery Queen's appeal has basically been that most of his detective work was done through his brain. He wasn't a James Bond, a knock-'em-up, shoot-'em-down. He wasn't a Mickey Spillane. My father felt very strongly that there was something special about writing. He often said writing was a torture. He had this big thing for suffering, the Jewish disease."

Miss Lee said she did not enjoy reading her father's books because he drew too frequently on family friends. "My mother would use pet words and mannerisms that would frequently appear in his books." she said. "When I was a teen-ager it would wreck it for me. I'd be reading about this glamorous woman and then out would come one of my mother's phrases."

(From The Montreal Gazette Oct 4. 1973)

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