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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Adventure of the Logical Successor

I bought this paperback when it was new in 1966.
In glancing recently over the September 1982 edition of The Baker Street Journal, then edited by Peter Blau, I was struck by the title of the first article, J. Randolph Cox’s “The Adventure of the Logical Successor.” That could only be about Ellery Queen. 

Shortly after his first appearance in the 1929 novel The Roman Hat Mystery, the American amateur detective was dubbed by a reviewer as “the logical successor to Sherlock Holmes.” The quote appeared on paperback editions for years. I always thought it was a neat phrasing because it could be taken two ways: Ellery Queen was Holmes’s success in the use of logic and/or it was only logical that he would be Holmes’s successor. 

The connection between the two fictional sleuths remained strong over the decades, with Ellery often referring to his logical predecessor. In A Study in Terror, a 1966 movie tie-in book, Ellery becomes involved in Holmes’s solution of the Jack the Ripper murders. 

It’s no coincidence that Frederic Dannay – who with his cousin, Manfred B. Lee, wrote about Ellery Queen the detective under the Ellery Queen pseudonym – was a member of the Baker Street Irregulars. 

Cox’s piece in the BSJ is a charming five-page pastiche written from Dr. Watson’s viewpoint in which the young Ellery, still a Harvard student, visits Holmes on the Sussex Downs. Ellery comes for advice, not knowing that Holmes was an old friend of his father, Inspector Richard Queen. They had even met once, Holmes tells Watson. Ellery was just a child, “but even then somewhat precocious, with a decided bent for deductive reasoning.” 

Ellery, who is both a mystery writer and an amateur (and sometimes professional) detective in the Dannay-Lee stories, is torn between the two paths in Cox’s pastiche. This is Ellery Queen of the first period, a Philo Vance clone who wore pince-nez eyeglasses. 

“If he can overcome his affectations and his tendency to impress people with how correct he is in his deductions, he should succeed in both of his careers,” Holmes tells Watson. 

And indeed he did. 


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  2. EQ is excellent, and is in my top three, right after Holmes and Nero Wolfe. I've long been aware of "The Adventure of the Logical Successor", and I also think that Ellery overlapped some with Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. (See my essay "Re-reading the Corpus" in "The Gazette", the Journal of the Wolfe Pack, Spring 2013 [Vol. XX, No.2], particularly pp. 28-29). I'm certain that Archie and Ellery, both approximately the same age and working in New York, would have been aware of each other, and probably friends. Their literary agents, Rex Stout, Manfred Lee, and Frederic Dannay, were certainly friends, so why not?