Friday, January 11, 2013

Whodunit??



For the past five, maybe six, months I've been on a 'murder/mystery' kick of sorts. No, I don't mean I've been wanting to murder someone....I'm talking about the writing genre. I've always been a fan of riddles, "whodunits", and locked room mysteries. To that end, I get my "fix" in quite a few ways.

Whether it be by listening to old time radio programs like Nero Wolfe or reading Sherlock Holmes novels or, and more recently, by watching the old Ellery Queen Mysteries.

It's been the character of Ellery Queen that has captured my imagination, of late.

Ellery Queen is, actually, a gestalt character (and pseudonym) created by two New York cousins, Daniel Nathan (aka Frederic Dannay) and Manford Lepofsky (aka Manfred Bennington Lee) who began writing the tandem mystery novels back in the 1930s. Known as "fair play" mysteries, the author(s) leave all the clues out there so that the reader has just as much chance of solving the crime as Ellery Queen does. Though, it does take quite a bit of thought.

Created in 1928, the fictional Queen is a mystery writer who always seems to get involved in helping his father, Inspector Richard Queen, solve all manner of baffling mysteries. The character has been seen in many forms, from books, to radio, to television, to movies.

I think I was first introduced to the character of Ellery Queen via the t.v. version. Back during the NBC show's run in the 1970s, when I was just a wee lad. Played by Jim Hutton (father of Timothy), Queen was a bit of an absent minded professor type, but a brilliant writer and criminologist. His father, Richard Queen, was played brilliantly by David Wayne. Another character of note, at least for me, was Simon Brimmer. An Orson Wells type radio actor and, sort of rival, for Queen in the sleuthing department He was played by John Hillerman. (Higgins of Magnum P.I. fame!)

Ellery is in the blue suit...not the scared looking guy in glasses.


A bit more recently, I remember Ellery Queen being a supporting character in the Innovation comic series, The M.A.Z.E. Agency. A great book (early in it's run) that was written, true to form, in the "fair play" style. Here, Queen was a suave, smooth, almost Sherlock Holmesian, detective and not a "fictional character". A total 180 degrees from Hutton's portrayal as an absent minded bumbler (of sorts). A very neat contrast that worked well within the dynamic of the comic.

I also had a couple of Ellery Queen novels...actual paper and ink, by gum!....lying around, at one point. Or, at least, I thought I did. I do know, though, that I started reading one and found it quite enjoyable so, I might have to use that $25.00 Kindle gift card my mom got me, for my birthday, to check out a few more EQ books.

For me, it's always been fun to try to "match wits" with Ellery Queen...as the old television show used to say, and it didn't matter in which form that exercise took. One day, maybe I'll even figure out "whodunit" before The Maestro (as Sgt. Velie used to call Queen) does....

Yeah, I doubt it, too. :P



In my writing, I've always gone the "safe route"....safe, at least, for me...in writing fiction/science fiction. There, the ideas come easy. As you can probably guess, especially if you read my previous entry, I'm trying my hand at some mystery writing. In doing that, I'm finding it much more challenging....but, in a good way.

I'm hoping that I can be the perpetrator in the 'whodunit' mystery titled "The Case of the Finished Novel" :)

6 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I've not watched that show. I guess as far as mystery shows, the closest I come is watching The Mentalist and Castle.

Mark Means said...

Those are great one, as well, Alex. If you have Hulu Plus you can catch EQ on there as well as few free episodes on YouTube :)

Misha Gericke said...

Mmmm... I also have periods of time where I only read/watch certain types of story.

Never heard of Ellery Queen before, but it sounds like a character I'd look into. :-)

Mark Means said...

I grew up thinking Ellery Queen was as well known as Sherlock Holmes but, that could have been due to watching the t.v. show I mentioned above.

Regardless, though, if you decide to check out some EQ stuff, I hope you enjoy :)

Lexa Cain said...

I used to love to watch "Ellery Queen", too! And do you remember others from that time period? "MacMillan & Wife," "Columbo," "McCloud," and "Quincy." I really enjoyed all of them. Thanks for bringing back good memories. :-)

Mark Means said...

Oh yeah, I loved all those shows back then....still do, actually. I remember, though, when I was young and wondering how in the world Columbo could be such a good cop because (I thought) he was sooo dumb! It wasn't until later when I realized what he was really up to :)

I love looking back on old t.v. shows and reminiscing.

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