Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, April 22, 2011


The Golden Eagle Mystery by "Ellery Queen, Jr." (1942)
The Green Turtle Mystery by "Ellery Queen, Jr." (1944)
Portrait of Ambrose Bierce by Adolphe de Castro (1929)

Frank Belknap Long (1903-1994) is best known today as a friend (and fellow horror writer) of H. P. Lovecraft.  Long was the first writer to contribute to Lovecraft's Cthuhu Mythos with the mention of the Necronomicon in a 1925 story and in his 1928 story The Space Eaters; many of Long's Lovecraftian stories are included in the classic collection The Hounds of Tindalos.  Despite a loyal fan base, Long never found the commercial success that many of his contemporaries did.  He served as associate editor (sometimes uncredited) for at least five fiction magazines, including The Saint Mystery Magazine and Mike shayne Mystery Magazine.  He published a few small poetry books, a number of run-of-the-mill SF novels, a series of gothics written under his wife's name, comic books scripts, and at least one television play.  He also ghost-wrote several books, including two in the Ellery Queen, Jr. series.

     The Ellery Queen machine, at one time, seemed to be everywhere.  Novels, short-stories, radio, movies, television, comic books, criticism, non-fiction, anthologies, and Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.  Most of these endeavors were undertaken by the two men who were Queen, Manfred Lee and Fred Danney.  Some, like the Big Little Books, the various paperback originals, and some of the later novels, were ghost-written by others, usually following a detailed outline.  In 1942, the first juvenile appeared under the name "Ellery Queen, Jr."

     Between 1942 and 1966, there were eleven novels under the "Queen, Jr." by-line, nine of which featured young detective Djuna.  In the Queen canon, Djuna was a young Gypsy orphan who was taken in by a lonely Inspector Richard Queen while son Ellery was off to college.  Djuna's background and surname were never revealed.  Djuna served as cook, housekeeper, and valet.  His place in the series was always ambiguaous and he disappeared forever from the later books.  In the Queen, Jr. novels, Djuna is about eleven years old and is staying with a Miss Ellery in a small town.

     The Queen, Jr. books were contracted to writer James Holding.  Holding's contribution to the series is questionable.  He, without the knowledge of Lee and Dannay, sub-contracted the books to other writers.  Six of these were written by Samuel Duff McCoy and two by Long.  (Lee reported blew his stack when he found out some of the books we not written by "Queen-approved" writers.)  Long's contributions were the second and third books in the series.

     The Golden Eagle Mystery takes place in a fishing village.  Djuna has been sent by Miss Ellery to spend the summer with a friend of hers who seemed troubled.  Miss Ellery has asked Djuna to try to find out what the problem is.  The detail on a fishing community and on boating is pretty good, the mystery is fair, and the characters are well-drawn.  Djuna makes friends with a young boy who has trained his imaginary dog to do all sorts of tricks; Djuna's acceptance of this strained my credibility.

     The Green Turtle Mystery takes Djuna to the city, where he earns some extra money by shining shoes.  Djuna soon makes friends with a cocky newspaper reporter and with a copyboy his own age.  The mystery involves a haunted house, counterfeiting, and a confidence game.  Djuna does a credible job solving all this.

     Djuna is in the mold of many juvenile heroes of the time -- just too good to be true.  He just wouldn't make it in today's YA market.  I can't recommend these to young readers, but adult readers of a certain age, such as myself, may find them charming and nostalgic.

     The complete Djuna series is:
  • The Black Dog Mystery (1942) *
  • The Golden Eagle Mystery (1942)
  • The Green Turtle Mystery (1944)
  • The Red Chipmunk Mystery (1946) *
  • The Brown Fox Mystery (1948) *
  • The White Elephant Mystery (1950) *
  • The Yellow Cat Mystery (1952) *
  • The Blue Herring Mystery (1954) *
  • The Purple Bird Myustery (1966)
     * Ghost written by Samuel Duff McCoy; authorship of The Purple Bird Mystery is uncertain.

     Two additional books were published by "Ellery Queen, Jr."  Again, authorship is uncertain; both featured Gulliver Queen, who is supposedly Ellery Queen's nephew:
  • The Mystery of the Merry Magician (1961)
  • The Mystery of the Vanished Victim (1962)
     As with his friend and mentor Lovecraft, Long also offered himself out as a "revisionist", editing unpublishable works for publication.  This usually involved a complete rewrite asnd restructuring, or creating an entire work out of an idea suppliled by the client.  One client of both Lovecraft and Long was Gustaf Adolf [sometime spelled Adolphe] de Castro Danziger (1859-1959).

     From Donald Tuck's Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy:  "U.S. writer, poet and philosopher.  He mastered 14 languages, and was the U.S. Consul General to Madrid in the adminstration of Theodore Roosevelt.  He knew Mark Twain and H.P. Lovecraft"..."For 20 years he was a familiar figure in Los angeles fantasy circles, attending special meetings of the LASFS and the various conventions in the area.  He died peacefully just after his 100th birthday."

     Lovecraft "revised" several of his stories for Weird Tales and considered him an irritating humbug.  Danziger's major claim to fame had been The Monk and the Hangman's Daughter, a novella supposedly written with Ambrose Bierce and included in many collections of Bierce's works.  Actually, this turned out to be a poor translation by Danziger of a story by Richard Voss and which Danziger had convinced Bierce to rewrite.  (My understanding is that Bierce had thought this an original work, not a translation.)  In any event, when Danziger began to pester Lovecraft for another revision, HPL foisted him off on Long.

     Portrait of Ambrose Bierce is Long's revision and is most likely completely ghost-written.  The praise for Bierce is effusive and reminiscent of some of Lovecraft's praises of other writers.  The book provides an interesting and inflated view of Bierce.  Danziger is inserted in the book as an all-knowing, heroic figure.  The section where he goes to Mexico and faces down Pancho Villa about his role in Bierce's death is priceless.  (Bierce did vanish in Mexico and among the many theories of his death, being killed by [or, at least, on the orders of] Pancho Villa is the most likely.)  This is a fun book to read, on several levels.

     Long was a good writer who produced some remarkable readable stories.  A good subject for a future Forgotten Book is his John Carstairs:  Space Detective, a collection of stories featuring a future biologist.  Long never made the big time, or even the not-so big time.  He died in poverty, selling off pieces of his memorabilia to make ends meet.  He deserves rediscovery.


     The ever-delightful Patti Abbott has the round-up of this week's ever-delightful Forgotten Books at  Check it out.


  1. Wow, happy Blogspot is eating comments.

  2. Blogspot does have an insatiable, unfortunate appetite. Sorry.

  3. As I wrote before, Long wrote notable "weird-scientific" work, quite aside from HPL's frequent brushing up against sf, for WEIRD TALES, much in the way Edmond Hamilton would...and I was trying to remember which other magazines Long worked on, aside from FANTASTIC UNIVERSE (which dovetails nicely with THE SAINT) and comparing his duties to Jerome Bixby's at PLANET STORIES (and apparently PLANET COMICS) and later GALAXY, and wondering why Holding didn't wish to write the Queen, Jrs.

  4. Yeah, Blogger/Blogspot is a bundle of laffs at times.

  5. Yet another surreal coincidence - I found a 1970s paperback edition of THE HOUNDS OF TINDALOS last week and was toying with writing it up for FFB this week, but I went with Prather instead. Wild, eh? Maybe not. Some of the stories are imaginatively rendered. I've never read any even though I was a voracious Weird Tales collector ten years ago. Not one Long story in any of those I owned. And Long's intros to each tale in this PB are fascinating. Like mini memoirs of his pulp writing days. There's even a 35 page preface that reads more like an autobiography.

    Never knew Long wrote those Ellery Queen Jr books. I have five of those. I even had the "elusive" Purple Bird Mystery and idiotically sold it before I realized it was a true rarity. It had the DJ, too, but was an ex-lib copy. Still and all I kicked myself for a week for not being up on the collector status of Purple Bird. I let it go for a price far too low. No wonder it sold so fast.

  6. In case Todd checks back here:

    I went to my copy of HOUNDS OF TINDALOS to find out the original pulp magazine appearances for each story. And aside from WEIRD TALES there are only three other magazines that were sources:

    MARVEL TALES ("The Dark Beasts" in July /August 1934)

    ASTOUNDING STORIES ("The Flame Midget" in Dec 1936)

    UNKNOWN WORLDS (about half the book's stories ranging from 1939-1942)

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  8. Jerry, I'm curious what your source is for attributing those two EQ Jr. novels to Frank Belknap Long. I've been under the impression for the past 20 years that he wrote an EQ Jr. novel called The Golden Butterfly Mystery, which was never published. And, believe me, I searched high and low for it, through several sets of Long's letters to people like August Derleth, the Wandrei Brothers, etc. Please let us know. Thanks! -Perry Grayson, Publisher - Tsathoggua Press

    1. Perry, the basic information came from several websites dedicated to Ellery Queen's writing, the main one being In discussing the Queen, Jr. books, it mentions that Long had admitted to writing two unnamed books in the series. Samuel Duff McCoy (1882-1964) has been credited with books 1 and 4-8, published between 1942 and 1954.

      Since I wrote that post, I have looked a bit further into James Holding(1907-1997). His dates do not lend credence to his being the original person contracted to write the Queen, Jr. books; the information I originally posted was based on what I now realize was some garbled information I found somewhere on the web. Holding is credited with writing some (i.e., more than one) of the Queen, Jr. books, but Holding did not begin freelancing until 1959, and published the first book under his own name (THE LAZY LITTLE ZULU) in 1961. (He began his series of ten pastiches of Queen featuring mystery author "Leroy King" in the November 1960 EQMM.) The two "Gulliver Queen" books by Queen, Jr. (MERRY MAGICIAN and VANISHED VICTIM) came out in 1961 and 1962. If Holding wrote several books as reported, it is likely that those two belong to him. That leaves the ninth (and last) "Djuna" book (THE PURPLE BIRD MYSTERY) which came out in 1966, again most likely written by Holding. To my knowledge, there is no definite confirmation of which books Holding wrote, but the conclusion seems obvious.

      It's also well known that Lee was very upset to find that the ghost-writer (almost certainly McCoy) hired to write the Queen, Jr. books had subcontracted them to another writer without his knowledge or approval. The early two books that McCoy did not write were GOLDEN EAGLE and GREEN TURTLE, so it seems that they were the ones written by Long.

      Anyway, that's how I credited those two books to Long.

      Also, since I published this post, I discovered that Long's first revision of the Bierce biography was merely a cursory one, involving only a day or two's work. Danziger, however, could not get the book published and went back to Long for more revisions. How much work Long then did on the book is uncertain but it was enough to get the book published. I suspect the final work was more Long than Danziger, but this only a gut feeling based on knowing how poorly Danziger usually wrote. I'd be grateful to know any information you might have on this.

      On another subject, how is Tsathogga Press doing? I tried to order THE DARKLING TIDE a while back, but could not find an address.

      I hope I've been able to throw some light on the Queen, Jrs for you, rather than muddy the waters further.