The American Gun Mystery - Ellery Queen - ebook
Opis

When a Western star is gunned down at a rodeo, Ellery Queen saddles up Buck Horne has roped thousands of cattle, slugged his way out of dozens of saloons, and shot plenty of men dead in the street - but always on the backlot. He is a celluloid cowboy, and his career is nearly kaput. The real box office draw is his daughter, Kit, a brawling beauty who can outshoot any rascal the studio has to offer. Desperate for a comeback, Buck joins Wild Bill Grant's traveling rodeo for a show in New York, hoping to impress Hollywood and land one last movie contract. But he has scarcely mounted his horse when he falls to the dirt. It wasn't age that made him slip - it was the bullet in his heart. Watching from the stands are Ellery Queen, debonair sleuth, and his police detective father. They are New Yorkers through and through, but to solve the rodeo killing, the Queens must learn to talk cowboy. Review quote: "A new Ellery Queen book has always been something to look forward to for many years now." - Agatha Christie "Ellery Queen is the American detective story." - Anthony Boucher, author of Nine Times Nine "A great way to visit Moscow without having to live there." - San Jose Mercury News Biographical note: Ellery Queen was a pen name created and shared by two cousins, Frederic Dannay (1905-1982) and Manfred B. Lee (1905-1971), as well as the name of their most famous detective. Born in Brooklyn, they spent forty-two years writing, editing, and anthologizing under the name, gaining a reputation as the foremost American authors of the Golden Age "fair play" mystery. Although eventually famous on television and radio, Queen's first appearance came in 1928, when the cousins won a mystery-writing contest with the book that was later published as The Roman Hat Mystery. Their character was an amateur detective who uses his spare time to assist his police inspector uncle in solving baffling crimes. Besides writing the Queen novels, Dannay and Lee cofounded Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, one of the most influential crime publications of all time. Although Dannay outlived his cousin by nine years, he retired Queen upon Lee's death.

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Contents

Cover

About the Book

About the Author

Title Page

Copyright Page

Dedication

Foreword

Preparatory: Spectrum

1: Work in Progress

2: The Man on Horseback

3: Requiescat

4: The Threads

5: Gentleman of the Press

6: The Fact Remains

7: 45 Guns

8: A Matter of Ballistics

9: Nothing

10: The Second Gun

11: The Impossible

12: Private Screening

13: Some Visits of Importance

14: Agenda

15: Gladiator Rex

16: IOU

17: Celebration

18: Death Rides Again

19: Ibid

20: The Green Box

21: On the Screen

22: The Vanishing American

23: The Miracle

24: The Verdict

Interpolation: Challenge to the Reader

25: Before the Fact

26: The Fact

27: The Heel of Achilles

Postlude: Spectrum Analysis

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About the Book

When a Western star is gunned down at a rodeo, Ellery Queen saddles up

Buck Horne has roped thousands of cattle, slugged his way out of dozens of saloons, and shot plenty of men dead in the street - but always on the backlot. He is a celluloid cowboy, and his career is nearly kaput. The real box office draw is his daughter, Kit, a brawling beauty who can outshoot any rascal the studio has to offer. Desperate for a comeback, Buck joins Wild Bill Grant’s traveling rodeo for a show in New York, hoping to impress Hollywood and land one last movie contract. But he has scarcely mounted his horse when he falls to the dirt. It wasn’t age that made him slip - it was the bullet in his heart.

Watching from the stands are Ellery Queen, debonair sleuth, and his police detective father. They are New Yorkers through and through, but to solve the rodeo killing, the Queens must learn to talk cowboy.

Review quote:

“A new Ellery Queen book has always been something to look forward to for many years now.”  - Agatha Christie

“Ellery Queen is the American detective story.”  - Anthony Boucher, author of Nine Times Nine

“A great way to visit Moscow without having to live there.” - San Jose Mercury News

About the Author

Ellery Queen was a pen name created and shared by two cousins, Frederic Dannay (1905–1982) and Manfred B. Lee (1905–1971), as well as the name of their most famous detective. Born in Brooklyn, they spent forty-two years writing, editing, and anthologizing under the name, gaining a reputation as the foremost American authors of the Golden Age “fair play” mystery.

Although eventually famous on television and radio, Queen’s first appearance came in 1928, when the cousins won a mystery-writing contest with the book that would eventually be published as The Roman Hat Mystery. Their character was an amateur detective who uses his spare time to assist his police inspector uncle in solving baffling crimes. Besides writing the Queen novels, Dannay and Lee cofounded Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, one of the most influential crime publications of all time. Although Dannay outlived his cousin by nine years, he retired Queen upon Lee’s death.

The American Gun Mystery

Ellery Queen

 

BASTEI ENTERTAINMENT

 

Bastei Entertainment is an imprint of Bastei Lübbe AG

 

Copyright © 2014 by Bastei Lübbe AG, Schanzenstraße 6-20, 51063 Cologne, Germany

 

For the original edition:

Copyright © 2012 by The Mysterious Press, LLC, 58 Warren Street, New York, NY. U.S.A.

 

Copyright © 1933, 1934 by Ellery Queen

 

Project management: Lori Herber

Cover adaptation: Christin Wilhelm, www.grafic4u.de

Cover design by John Tierney

 

E-book production: Jouve Germany GmbH & Co. KG

 

ISBN 978-3-95859-402-9

 

www.luebbe.de

www.bastei-entertainment.com

 

All rights reserved, including without limitation the right to reproduce this e-book or any portion thereof in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of the publisher.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

To C. RAYMOND EVERITT for one reason

and

ALBERT FOSTER, Jr. for another

Foreword

FOR THE HALF-DOZENTH time in a quartet of years I find myself confronted with the formidable task of introducing a new work from the pen of my friend, Ellery Queen. It seems only yesterday that I sat down to write a preface to The Roman Hat Mystery, that historic case which I bullied Ellery into fictionizing—the first Queen adventure to be put between covers; and yet that was over four years ago!

Now, so contagious is recognition of authentic genius, whether it is in the creation of a new ocracy or a new crime-story metier, Ellery Queen has become, a symbol of the unusual in detective fiction in America. In England he had been hailed by no less distinguished a critic than the London Times as “the logical successor to Sherlock Holmes”; and on the Continent, where (as Vivoudiére says in his florid but earnest tribute) “M. Queen a pris d’assaut les remparts des cyniques de lettres,” he has been translated into a polyglot of tongues (yea, even unto the Scandinavian), so that his bookshelves bristle with unfamiliar-sounding titles and his correspondence alone provides his son and her with a steady supply of foreign stamps which would delight the soul of even a less enthusiastic minor philatelist. In the light of such recognition, therefore—I am tempted to say “fame,” but that would probably cost me my friend—there is little I can offer which would not be sheer repetition. On the other hand, it should prove of interest to Ellery Queen’s readers to get his personal view on the case which forms the basis of the present volume. I quote verbatim a letter dated some months ago:

My long-suffering J.J.:

Now that the pestiferous Egyptian is safely tucked into his sarcophagus and the lid clamped down, perhaps I shall have time to work on a problem whose actual inception and solution you no doubt recall from history and some conversations of importance between us. For some time I’ve been yearning to do the Horne case. What an affair it was that centered about that salty old character, Buck Horne, and that agitated these rapacious brains some years ago!

It isn’t so much because I am endeared to my own cleverness in that fantastic brush with criminality that I propose to write my next opus around it. Oh, yes, the reasoning was interesting enough, and the investigation was not without its moments, I grant all that. But it’s not these things. Rather it’s the odd nature of the background.

I am, as you know, essentially a creature of cities; even in matters of practicality I must have my feet on the asphalt rather than the turfy ground. Well, sir, the dramatic debacle at our w.k. bowl which precipitated me into that improbable adventure also succeeded in wrenching me from the familiar gasoline atmosphere of our fair city and thrusting me into a strongly scented atmosphere indeed!—of stables, horses, alkali, cattle, branding-irons, ranchos. …

In a word, J.J., your correspondent found himself conducting an inquiry into a murder which might have been committed a hundred years ago in—in, well, old Texas, suh, or Wyoming itself, from which so many of the principals came. At any moment I expected a yelling Piute—or is it Siwash?—to materialize out of the arena’s horsy air and come galloping at me with uplifted, thirsty tomahawk. …

At any rate, J.J., this florid explanation is to announce that my forthcoming chef-d’oeuvre will deal with cowpunchers, six-shooters, lariats, hosses, alfalfa, chaps—and, lest you think I have gone West of the Great Divide on you, let me hasten to add that this epic of the plains takes place—as it did—in the heart of New York City, with that fair metropolis’s not unpleasing ha-cha as a sort of Greek chorus to the rattle of musketry.

Faithfully, etc., etc.

I have myself read the manuscript of The American Gun Mystery with my unfailing avidity; and in my opinion the Ellery Queen ’scutcheon remains gloriously untarnished, if indeed a new gloss has not been imparted to that brave relique. This latest episode from the intellectual exploits of my friend is every bit as stimulating to the connoisseur as The Greek Coffin Mystery, The Dutch Shoe Mystery, or any of the others in the Queen cycle; and possesses besides a tangy flavor pleasantly and peculiarly its own.

J.J. McC

NEW YORK

February, 1933

“… now bend thy mind to feel

The first sharp motions of the forming wheel.”

Preparatory: Spectrum

“TO ME,” SAID ELLERY Queen, “a wheel is not a wheel unless it turns.”

“That sounds suspiciously like pragmatism,” I said.

“Call it what you like.” He took off his pince-nez and began to scrub its shining lenses vigorously, as he always does when he is thoughtful. “I don’t mean to say that I cannot recognize it as a material object per se; it’s simply that it has no meaning for me until it begins to function as a wheel. That’s why I always try to visualize a crime in motion. I’m not like Father Brown, who is intuitional; the good padre—bless his heart!—has only to squint dully at a single spoke. …You see what I’m driving at, J.J.?”

“No,” I said truthfully.

“Let me make it clearer by example. You take the case of this preposterous and charming creature, Buck Horne. Well, certain things happened before the crime itself. I found out about them later. But my point is that, even had I—by some miraculous chance—been an invisible spectator to those little preambulatory events, they should have had no significance for me. The driving force, the crime, was lacking. The wheel was at rest.”

“Still obscure,” I said, “although I begin to grasp your meaning dimly.”

He knit his straight brows, then relaxed with a chuckle, stretching his long lean limbs nearer the fire. He lighted a cigaret and puckered smoke at the ceiling. “Permit me to indulge that rotten vice of mine and play the metaphor out. …There was the case, the Horne case, our wheel. Imbedded in each spoke there was a cup; and in each cup there was a blob of color.

“Now here was the blob of black—Buck Horne himself. There the blob of gold—Kit Horne. Ah, Kit Horne.” He sighed. “The blob of flinty gray—old Wild Bill, Wild Bill Grant. The blob of healthy brown—his son Curly. The blob of poisonous lavender—Mara Gay, that … what did the tabs call her? The Orchid of Hollywood. My God! …And Julian Hunter, her husband, the dragon-green of our spectroscope. And Tony Mars—white? And the prizefighter Tommy Black—good strong red. And One-Arm Woody—snake-yellow for him. All those others.” He grinned at the ceiling. “What a galaxy of colors! Now observe those little blobs of color, each an element, each a quantity, each a miniscule to be weighed and measured; each distinct in itself. At rest, inanimate, each by itself—what did they mean to me? Precisely nothing.”

“And then, I suppose,” I suggested, “the wheel began to spin?”

“Something of the sort. A tiny explosion, a puff of the cosmic effluvium—something applied the motive-power, the primal urge of motion; and the wheel turned. Fast, very fast. But observe what happened.” He smoked lazily and, I thought, not without satisfaction. “A miracle! For where are those little blobs of color, each a quantity, an element, a miniscule to be weighed and measured—each distinct in itself, as distinct as the component suns of a fixed universe? They’ve merged; they’ve lost their prismatic quality and become a coruscating whole; no longer distinct, you will observe, but a flowing symmetrical pattern which tells the whole story of the Horne case.”

“How you go on,” I said, holding my aching head. “You mean that they all had something to do with the death of—”

“I mean,” he replied, and his fine features sharpened, “that the non-essential colors vanished. I often wonder,” he murmured, “what Father Brown or old Sherlock would have done with that case. Eh, J.J.?”

1: Work in Progress

A LARGE SUBTERRANEAN CHAMBER strongly acrid with the smell of horseflesh, loud and resonant with the snorting and stamping of horses. In one corner an alcove hewn out of solid concrete, and in the alcove a smithy. Its forge was violently red, and fireflies of sparks darted about. A half-naked pigmy with oily black skin and preposterous biceps hammered like Thor’s little brother on metal which curved sullenly under his rhythmic blows. The low flat ceiling, the naked walls, framed the chamber in stone. …This might be Pegasus, this arch-necked stallion champing in his stall, naked and sleek as the day he was foaled. His harem of mares whinnied and nickered about him; and occasionally his scarlet eyes flashed as he pawed the strawed floor with the dainty arrogance of his Arabian ancestors.

Horses, dozens of them, scores of them; tame horses, trick horses, wild horses; saddle horses, raw horses. The sharp effluvium of dung and sweat and breath hung, an opalescent mist, in the strong atmosphere. Gear gleamed before the stalls; brass glittering on oily leather; saddles like brown satin; stirrups like shining platinum; halters like ovals of ebony. And there were coiled lariats on the posts, and Indian blankets. …

For this was the stable of a king. His crown was a flaring Stetson, his sceptre a long-barreled Colt pistol, his domain the wide and dusty plains of the American West. His praetorian guard were bow-legged men who rode like centaurs, drawled in a quaint soft speech, rolled cigarets deftly, and whose brown wrinkled eyes held the calm immensities of those who scan the stars under an unadulterated vault of heaven. And his palace was a sprawling rancho—thousands of miles from this place.

For this stable of a king with his odd crown and his strange sceptre and his extraordinary guard was not set in its proper place on the plains of a rolling country. It was not in Texas, or in Arizona, or in New Mexico, or in any of the curious lands where such kings rule. It lay under the feet of a structure endemically American; but not the America of mountains and hills and valleys and trees and sage-brush and plains; rather the America of skyscrapers, subways, rouged chorines, hotels, theatres, breadlines, night-clubs, slums, speakeasies, radio towers, and tabloids. It was as remote from its native habitat as the cots of England or the rice-fields of Japan. A stone’s-throw away that equally curious domain, Broadway, speared through the humorless laughter of New York. Thirty feet above and fifty feet to the south and east roared the metropolis. Past the portals of the architectural Colossus in whose cellars it lay flew a thousand automobiles a minute.

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