Magazine Review: Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine July 2016 edited by Janet Hutchings
Frederick Dannay, who along with Manfred B. Lee wrote the Ellery Queen mystery stories, was asked by Mercury Press to be the editor of a new magazine that would print a higher class of detective stories than the general run of pulps, with the first issue of EQMM coming out in 1941. At first it was a reprint magazine, featuring classic tales by writers like Agatha Christie and Cornell Woolrich. But by the seventh issue, new stories began to appear, and one, “The Bow Street Runner” by Samuel Duff, was that author’s first professional sale.
Over the years, Mr. Dannay sought out new writers to appear in “The Department of First Stories”, many of whom went on to great success. His successors have carried on that tradition, and as part of the magazine’s 75th Anniversary celebration, the July issue #898 features new stories by authors who got their start in EQMM.
“The Staff of Asclepius” by Stephen Saylor features his Roman sleuth Gordianus the Finder. This one is set in his youth, when Gordianus and a friend were on a trip to see the Seven Wonders of the World. They winter in Rhodes, home of the fabled Colossus. During their enforced idleness, Gordianus learns of a shipping magnate named Rhosander who has suffered several bouts of illness, then miraculously recovered due to wacky cures he dreamed of in the temple of the healing god. Perhaps these episodes are the symptoms of some underlying illness…but they could also be slow poison. The illustration has male rear nudity, which is germane to the story.
“Department of First Stories: A History” by Marvin Lachman reveals the material I cited at the beginning of this review, but in much, much more detail, including a list of some of the most famous writers to debut in the magazine and their accomplishments.
“The Granite Kitchen” by David Morrell is a monologue to a real estate agent by a woman selling her home. She’s obsessed with making her homes just so, always moving on to a bigger project once she has it right. And either she has the unluckiest bunch of family and friends I have ever seen, or…. Chilling.
“Blog Bytes” by Bill Crider is a regular column of mystery-related internet sites; this time focusing on fans of the Ellery Queen stories.
“The Jury Box” by Steve Steinbock is a more traditional book review column. Among other works, this month it mentions several novels starring famous writers as the detectives, including A Riot Most Uncouth by Daniel Friedman, which I reviewed a while back.
“Get Them Out” by Nancy Pickard has a homeless man kicked out of a shelter for making a disturbance. The new janitor at an apartment building offers him a place to sleep in the basement, but his motives may not be altruistic. Ends on an ambiguous note.
“Black Monday” by John H. Sherman is a first story. Howard, a lab technician at a hospital, has been having problems with alcohol and painkiller addiction, and has missing time. His dreams of swimming have gone dark, and he can’t remember what he did last night.
“The Red Tattoo” by Percy Spurlark Parker is a noirish tale featuring Las Vegas private eye Trevor Oaks. He’s hired to find a man’s missing identical twin; the only clue is that the twin was seen in LV with a woman who had a red tattoo.
“The Hangman” by David Dean is the story of a cops-and-robbers game gone south, and the years later sequel. Depressing.
“Flight” by Trina Corey is set in a nursing home during the Vietnam War era (I suspect to avoid easy fixes by technology.) Rachel is crippled by multiple sclerosis, unable to speak or write. Perhaps that’s why a murderer has taken to coming into her room at night to gloat, knowing that she can’t tell anyone. But Rachel still has her mind, and there’s a young nurse that hasn’t lost her ability to care yet, and maybe there’s a way to stop the killer.
“The Man from Away” by Brendan DuBois takes place in New Hampshire and Boston. People tell Amos Wilson he’s too gullible, that his estranged wife is a gold digger he’s better off without. But when she is accidentally killed by tourists who then vanish, Amos feels obligated to do something about it. He may be long-suffering, but he’s not stupid. Satisfying.
“Consuming Passion” by Martin Edwards is about two old friends, one a master chef, the other a restaurant critic, having dinner together. It does not end well.
“The Peter Rabbit Killers” by Laura Benedict closes out the issue with a little girl whose mother has an obsession with cleanliness, and a neighbor girl who is bullying and not at all clean. Another creepy tale.
Overall, a strong issue with many fine stories. I liked “Flight” the best, while “Black Monday” and “The Hangman” were less well done. This issue is certainly worth picking up while the anniversary celebration is still on.