NEW YORK -- Two men were dead; valuable manuscripts had changed hands; false names were involved.
The mystery was solved Tuesday as Columbia University announced that it had been given the papers of Ellery Queen, the dashing, upper-crust detective whose adventures helped elevate American detective fiction to an art form.
Ellery Queen was created by Brooklyn-born cousins Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee, who entered a 1928 mystery contest that required a pseudonym.
They invented Queen and made him both author and protagonist, thinking an author would be better remembered if his name appeared throughout the book.
More than 40 Ellery Queen novels were written before Lee died in 1971. His partner Dannay died in 1982, and Dannay's sons Richard and Douglas gave the Ellery Queen papers to Columbia.
The manuscripts show that Lee and Dannay often were at odds over their work, with intense disagreements and personality clashes. There are extensive revisions; in one case, 50 pages were deleted from a novel.
"We're not so much collaborators as competitors. It has produced a sharper edge," Dannay once said.
The 25,000-item collection includes the only surviving manuscript of the first Ellery Queen novel, "The Roman Hat Mystery," and the notes, outlines and corrected manuscripts of the last, "A Fine and Private Place."
Also included are letters and manuscripts of Dashiell Hammett, Cornell Woolrich, John Dickson Carr, Agatha Christie and others whose work already can be found in Columbia's archive of mystery and detective writing.
The Ellery Queen novels led to a series of movies, radio and television shows, and to Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, which first appeared in 1941 and is still published monthly.
The Ellery Queen archives include the first issue of the magazine, along with manuscripts from such contributors as William Faulkner.
Selections from the archives will be on exhibit at Columbia's Butler Library from March 3 to July 6.