“William Hope Hodgson and the Detective Story” by Ellery Queen


This is the sixth item to appear in the June, 1944, issue of THE READER AND COLLECTOR, published by H.C. Koenig.  This is an interesting article by the celebrated Ellery Queen about Hodgson’s detective stories, primarily the Carnacki tales.  HCK’s son-in-law, Gene Biancheri, contributed this information about Queen:

H.C. Koenig had extensive correspondence with Frederic Dannay [1905-1982], who, with his cousin Manfred Lee, wrote under the pen name “Ellery Queen.”  Dannay wrote that he was going to publish Hodgson’s Carnacki story, “The House Among the Laurels” in ELLERY QUEEN’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE, but it never happened.  However, a Captain Gault story by WHH, “The Red Herring,” was included in an Ellery Queen hardcover, ROGUE’S GALLERY: THE GREAT CRIMINALS OF MODERN FICTION (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1945).

Ellery Queen, as Gene notes, was really two people.  Dannay and Lee wrote an astounding number of detective novels starting with THE ROMAN HAT MYSTERY (1929) which had the unique quality of being a mystery written by one of the main characters.  What followed would be a series of many novels starring the character Ellery Queen and even more novels ‘written’ by Ellery Queen.

In 1941, the ELLERY QUEEN MYSTERY MAGAZINE was founded and it continues to this day.  I confess that I am something of an ‘Ellery Queen Fan’ so finding this article was a particular thrill to me.  For those of you who might be unfamiliar with Ellery Queen, check out these sites:

Ellery Queen (Wikipedia article)

Ellery Queen Website (A website devoted to Ellery Queen and includes info on the radio shows and movies)

This essay was, as noted in the footnote which was also included in the original publication, was apparently meant to accompany the reprinting of a Carnacki story in ELLERY QUEEN’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE.  I wonder if this essay was ever printed anywhere else considering the Carnacki story was never used in EQMM?

As always, spelling and formatting are reproduced as originally printed and the intro paragraph was written by HCK.–Sam Gafford

William Hope Hodgson and the Detective Story

By Ellery Queen

Dannay & Lee–“Ellery Queen”

Creator of one of the best known detectives in the history of fiction.  Writer of a couple of dozen detective novels, editor of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and compiler of four fine detective anthologies, the latest of which is “The Misadventure of Sherlock Holmes.”

Too few people in America are familiar with the work of William Hope Hodgson; and even this fortunate minority, who know Mr. Hodgson as a writer of weird and supernatural stories, have to be reminded that he also wrote two books in the detective-crime field.

One is “Captain Gault”—ten short stories about a modern smuggler.  The other is “Carnacki the Ghost Finder”—six short stories about a ghost-breaker; a unique detective who investigates haunted houses and similar phenomena.

Readers, writers, and students of supernatural fiction deplore the fact that at the end of five of the Carnacki stories, Carnacki produces a tangible, real-life explanation for the ghostly manifestations.  For example, H. P. Lovecraft, one of the great modern masters of weird fiction, once expressed the opinion that the Carnacki stories were “weakened” by the realistic solutions.  Well, one man’s meat is truly another man’s poison.  To your Editor the sane, of-this-world explanations strengthen rather than weaken the stories.  These natural elucidations, frowned on by devotees of the weird, must be applauded by devotees of the detective story; they transform Carnacki from a mere dabbler into the unknown to a legitimate and authentic detective.

But let’s not quarrel over Carnacki.  He’s a 24-carat “find” both for lovers of the “invisible” and addicts of the “visible”.  Let’s rejoice that EQMM can bring you one of Carnacki’s strange and fascinating adventures which, to the best of your Editor’s knowledge, is here printed for the first time in the United States.

*In the near future, “The House Among the Laurels”, a short story taken from “Carnacki, The Ghost-Finder” will be published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.  The above article will appear as a preface to this story.

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