All Things Mysterious Volume Eighty-Nine
As the 1941 holiday season approached, popular ‘stocking stuffers’ may have been the early issues of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, launched on September 25 of that year.
Since 1929, ‘Ellery Queen,’ the fictional detective and the alter ego of the authors Frederic Dannay and Manfred Lee (aka Daniel Nathan and Emanuel Benjamin Lepofsky), had been solving crimes in novels and short stories with his father the Inspector. By the late 1930s, the authors had become determined to create an additional market for short crime fiction. The pulps were on the way out via competition from radio and later television, as well as a certain elevation of reader’s tastes. To be sure there were other outlets for short stories of various types, but Messrs. Dannay and Lee were determined to hold to a high standard of quality. At the same time they often championed new and unknown writers and writers without agents, an unusual practice then and now. This led to a very eclectic magazine in that there might be a classic from a giant of the genre side-by-side with an infuriatingly non-classical mystery by a neophyte (but good) author. So every conceivable type of crime fiction story could be found in the magazine and it is still going strong today!
Each and every noteworthy mystery writer was represented in the magazine at some point; none more regularly than Edward D. Hoch, who had at least one story in every single issue from May 1973 to May 2007--think that run will ever be matched? Several authors, including Hoch, created original series characters for the magazine.
Let’s take a look at the roster of EQMM, as it’s known, from then and now:
A complete Erle Stanley Gardner novella, although not a Perry Mason, is batting cleanup here with a tale called ‘A Man Is Missing.’ And Gardner is not the only mystery heavyweight in this issue. There’s a story from Stanley Ellin called ‘The Great Persuader,’ and Julian Symons is represented with ‘The Humdrum Murder,’ which is anything but. How about Cornell Woolrich with ‘Working Is For Fools’? Anyone knows that!
Meanwhile Anthony Boucher has a column listing his favorites of 1963. He notes that it was the year of the spy novel, when Ian Fleming got his famous boost from JFK (Boucher: ‘with one of his weakest novels’) and the year when new novels were released by J.J. Marric (Gideon’s Ride), Charlotte Armstrong (A Little Less Than Kind), Eric Ambler (The Light Of Day), Nicholas Freeling (Lost In Amsterdam), Agatha Christie (The Mirror Crack’d), and Ellery Queen himself (The Player On the Other Side).
Speaking of Agatha, she’s in this issue too! Hercule Poirot is holidaying in the Mediterranean in ‘The Quickness of the Hand,’ and quite a treat it is. Although it isn’t a new story, it’s from 1936 and was originally titled ‘Problem At Sea.’ Quite a collection of heavyweights here, eh? Now let’s look at a more recent issue:
A Nero Wolfe novella from Rex Stout, ‘Invitation To Murder,’ from 1953 along with new stories from Edward D. Hoch, who maintained his long streak of representation in the magazine with ‘The Spy Who Was Alone,’ Hugh Pentecost, ‘The Man Who Stirred Champagne,’ Robert L. Fish, ‘The Adventure of the Common Code,’ and Bill Pronzini with ‘Black Wind.’ There’s even a column about that year’s Edgar Award nominees from our very own Otto Penzler!
So even after thirty-seven years of publication, the magazine was still featuring the cream of the crop, but what of today? The March-April 2017 entry features some familiar faces. For a start, Bill Pronzini is still with us with ‘The Stereotype,’ and Andrew Klavan is represented with ‘All Our Yesterdays.’ (Say, isn’t that a Star Trek episode? It is! Kirk and Spock and McCoy end up in the past of the planet Sarpeidon, the latter two in a frozen wasteland where they meet Mariette Hartley.)
There are also several up and coming mystery stars herein; PI Julius Katz returns in Dave Zeltserman’s ‘Cramer In Trouble,’ while Sister Fidelma takes us back to her school days in Peter Tremayne’s ‘The Copyist.’
The magazine's website:
The vintage issues mentioned above, among others, are available here at Mysterious. We also have several vintage EQ anthologies and novels, and may revisit the duo’s storied career in a future post.
Mysterious Press.com has reprinted a few of the early adventures: