chapter  5
22 Pages

Preservation and Promotion

Ellery Queen, Magazine Publishing, and the Marketing of Detective Fiction
WithMatthew Levay

The new fiction contest proposal came from author Manfred B. Lee, who, along with his cousin Frederic Dannay, combined to form what was arguably the most commercially successful publishing phenomenon in mid-twentieth-century American detective fiction, responsible for a long list of novels, short stories, and radio scripts, in addition to editing anthologies, bibliographies, and a monthly magazine, under the pseudonym "Ellery Queen". According to Lee, the purpose of this contest would be "to encourage undergraduate students of Creative Writing to write for publication in our field, which is the field of the mystery and detective and crime short story". Lee and Dannay adopted a curious mantle at the height of their fame: the commercially successful publishing phenomenon whose mission shifted from profits to the historical preservation and critical promotion of popular entertainment, though the media labeled them as a veritable entertainment empire, "merchandis[ing] murder with the brisk efficiency of a commodity in a supermarket".