3: Queen

In April 1997, as told in previous post, I discovered the common points between The Perfume of the Lady in Black, by Leroux, and The Golden Triangle, by Leblanc (quite colored mysteries, as Leroux and Leblanc mean 'red' and 'white'). I spent several days deeply immerged in both books, studying each and every word, until I decided I had enough and chose to read a book just for the sake of it.
My choice was And on the Eighth Day..., by Ellery Queen (1964), that I recently bought as there was a French reedition of it in March 97. I read much Queen about fifteen years ago, including this one, and felt like reading some of it again, but my choice was first coming from its recent availability.
So I went into it, and soon came to wonder, though there was not in my French edition the table of chapters of the original one:
It was about a religious community in the desert, in 1944, led by an old man called the Teacher, helped by Twelve ministers. The Teacher is sentenced to death on Thursday, killed on Friday, and on next Sunday his double arrives strangely in the community.
It was just a formality to check that the week involved was the Holy Week of 1944, but I was quite puzzled to find in this novel some of the tricks I imagined in Leblanc's and Leroux's, as:
- anagram : one of the twelve is Storicai, anagram for Iscariot, and he betrays the Teacher for 30 coins of silver... In Leblanc's there was a character named Fakhi, whom I saw as Caiaphas (in French 'Caïphe', phonetic anagram of Fakhi).
- allusion to the moon, as the first full moon of Spring rules the Easter date : the detective coming in the community has his watch giving moon cycle, while Leroux gave several mentions of the brightness of the moon.

Anyhow it's quite certain this novel is a parody of the Passion, and it was seen before me, yet its exact purpoise stays unclear.
Ellery Queen was from 1929 to 1958 an alias for two cousins working together, Dannay creating plots, Lee completing them. Their disagreements led to a clash in 1958 and to decide not to write together anymore. Yet Lee thought it was stupid to leave the famous signature Queen, and many new novels were published under this name, ghostwritten by more or less minor writers.
This freed Dannay to publish mystical plots that Lee had been reluctant to complete, and in 1963 came The Player on the Other Side, in which a man born on April 20, 1924, Easter Sunday, takes himself for God. Then comes the Passion of And on the Eighth Day..., then comes a set of 4 novels with a common theme, crime of passion!
There is a quite unusual trick in this set, as the 3rd novel, The Last Woman in his Life (1970), begins on the day the 2nd one ended, Face to Face (1967), and most readers of Woman have probably missed the clue, only given in Face, that this day was Monday in the Holy Week, so next Sunday on which a murder is committed is Easter Sunday. The victim is John Benedict III, killed at 3:03 AM by 3 blows with a sculpture of the 3 monkeys.

So And on the Eighth Day... should be studied among all Dannay's plots, that's not my purpoise here. What is sure is that it was inspired by recent discoveries about the Dead Sea scrolls, and I found that all what Dannay needed was in famous The Dead Sea Scrolls by Millar Burrows (1955).
I found in this book that Qumran Essenians had a holy book which is now only known by an acronym, HGW or HGY (or hgu/hgy), as letters waw and yod are quite alike in Hebrew/Aramaic. In Queen's the community of Quenan (subtle mix between Qumran and Queen) keeps in its 'sanquetum' a holy book, book Mk'h, or Mk'n, which was thought to be lost, but the Teacher found it in 1939. When he's allowed in the sanquetum, the detective discovers the terrible mistake: the holy ark contains Mein Kampf by Hitler.

Hitler, born on April 20, 1889, which was the eve of Easter Sunday, might be involved in the story because his birthday is the opposite of Dannay's own, October 20. The expression And on the eighth day occurs in the Bible, about the holiday of Shemini Atzeret, which might have been Dannay's birthdate in 1905, if he was born after sunset. Maybe this could be checked, he was born in Brooklyn as Daniel Nathan on 10/20/1905.

There is a kind of mystery about the apostrophe in Mk'h. I found that's in Burrows' the transliteration of Hebrew alef, also transliterated 'a', so ' h might stand for AH, Adolf Hitler (Hebrew word AH means 'brother', which might have been for something in this George Steiner's novella).

Dale Andrews wrote in 2002 a short story, Yet another Day, on line here, in which he imagines his meeting with old Ellery Queen, and asks him about the Easter eggs concealed in the novel.
He made a clever hypothesis about Mk'n and its apostrophe, I find it better than mine, but maybe Dannay thought of them both...
Anyhow, I thought too of Bible about this holy book kept in an ark by this new Essenian community, but Dale saw that Mk'n is quite near the acrostics used in the Jewish world for the Bible, TN"K, read TaNaKh, in Hebrew letters ך"נת, or rather תנ"ך, following Hebrew writing from right to left.
- T stands for Tora, Pentateuch also called Moses' books,
- N stands for Neviim, Prophets,
- " shows the expression is an acronym,
- K stands for Ketuvim, Writings.
With M for Moses (Moshe) instead of T for Tora, we would have MN"K which is quite near Mk'n of Quenanites.

I would have much more to say about this novel, but the Table of Chapters might have been sufficient to show it was a 'Book of the Week', my first purpose.
When I first paid attention to the schematism of day 4/4/44 in Jung's life (on 4/4/4, Palm Sunday), I immediately thought of Queen's novel, and of the old Teacher's resurrection as a young (Jung) man.
Four years later, when I found the 4-1 pattern in Jung's life, I thought of it again, and looked again to what happened on 4/4/44.
Then the detective, named Ellery Queen as the author, is lost in the desert on 4/2/44, Palm Sunday. He meets the Teacher who brings him to Quenan. Next day he gets a bit acquainted with the place, and on 4/4/44 the Teacher calls him because during the previous night someone touched the one and only key of the sanquetum, in which only the Teacher can enter.

The one and only key might be a commonplace in crime fiction, yet it does not appear in each and every plot, and thinking of Jung one has to recall he had a retiring room in the second tower of Bollingen, in which no one else was allowed except with his permission. Like the Teacher he kept the key with him all the time...
It becomes amazing when observing this tower was square in his first state, in 1927, then Jung decided in 1931 to rebuild it, and to make it round.
In Leroux's castle of The Perfume of the Lady in Black, there is a Square Tower, the oldest part of the castle, in which the Lady and her husband have their room, and Rouletabille made sure there was a one and only key for it, and that it was always kept safe. Despite these precautions there is an assault there in the night of Good Friday 1895.

There is too a key story in Leblanc's The Golden Triangle, important enough to see this key on a frontcover (as on Queen's above).
The book begins in the evening of Saturday 3, 1915, i.e. in the Easter night. Later, on 4/4 as it's past midnight, Captain Patrice Belval, the hero, is led in the dark by a strange rain of sparks through Paris, up to a private hostel in which he cannot enter as the main entrance is guarded, and there's a high wall all around it.
Patrice finds a postern in the wall. It's closed, but incredibly he has got the key with him, the key for this place he didn't know about a while ago...

There is a Queen, Double double (1950), of which 20 sections or chapters are as And on the Eighth Day... titled with dates, beginning with April 4, Tuesday (which in 1950 belonged to the Holy Week).
I guess it's not casual, as there are many 4 and letters D in this novel, which is the 4th investigation in Wrightsville. Quaternity shows its nose with the murderer's plan, killing a richman, poor man, a beggarman, a thief, in order to frighten Dr Dodd, a very superstitious man, and to make him write his last wills.
Synchronicity might be there too, as this Dr Dodd has a private room in his attic, and he keeps its key with him all the time, like the Teacher 6 years ago (or rather 14 years later considering the writing of the books).

Talking of square towers reminds me of The Player on the Other Side, where 4 cousins live in 4 tower-like houses at the four angles of a square, symbolizing a chessboard and the 4 rooks.

I have previously given several links to my friend Kurt Sercu's marvelous site dedicated to Ellery Queen, here is another entry to the writers' lifes.

1 comment:

  1. An interesting column, Remi. Nice to finally have the luxury of reading it in English!

    -- Dale Andrews