Authors: Ellery Queen
The Roman Hat Mystery
Grateful acknowledgment is made to
PROFESSOR ALEXANDER GOETTLER
Chief Toxicologist of the City of New York
for his friendly offices in the preparation of this tale
Lexicon of Persons Connected with the Investigation
The complete list of individuals, male and female, brought into the story of Monte Field
s murder and appended below is given solely for the convenience of the reader. It is intended to simplify rather than mystify. In the course of perusing mysterio-detective literature the reader is, like as not, apt to lose sight of a number of seemingly unimportant characters who eventually prove of primary significance in the solution of the crime. The writer therefore urges a frequent study of this chart during the reader
s pilgrimage through the tale, if toward no other end than to ward off the inevitable cry of
the consolation of those who read and do not reason.
an important personage indeed
clerk. Cranially a brachycephalic.
a Broadway theatre manager.
the Don Juan of
The quality of friendship is not strained.
One can understand the perturbation of the juvenile lead.
lady of the streets
in the play.
a celebrated English character actress.
Detective-Sergeant who knows a thing or two about crime.
Hesse, Piggott, Flint, Johnson, Hagstrom, Ritter,
gentlemen of the
Dr. Samuel Prouty,
Assistant to the Chief Medical Examiner.
usherette on the fatal aisle.
There is always a doctor in the audience.
the obliging orangeade boy.
naturally takes a professional interest in
What do you make of him?
Enter the society interest.
He revels in the sweet uses of publicity.
for once an intelligent District Attorney.
or the spider?
Mrs. Angela Russo,
a lady of reputation.
a legal ferret.
the Charon of the dead man
If wealth meant happiness.
Mrs. Franklin Ives-Pope,
a maternal hypochondriac.
Middle-aged angels have their uses.
Dr. Thaddeus Jones,
toxicologist of the City of New York.
architectural expert attached to the Detective Bureau.
an Admirable Crichton of a new species.
The Problem Is
Who Killed Monte Field?
Meet the astute gentlemen whose business it is to discover such things
Mr. Richard Queen
Mr. Ellery Queen
Explanation for the Map of the Roman Theatre
D:Aisle seats occupied by
Cazzanelli and Madge O
F, F:Orangeade boys
stands (only during intermissions).
G:Area in vicinity of crime. Black square represents seat occupied by Monte Field. Three white squares to the right and four white squares directly in front represent vacant seats.
H:Publicity office, occupied by Harry Neilson.
I:Manager Louis Panzer
s private office.
J:Anteroom to manager
L:Only stairway leading to the balcony.
M:Stairway leading downstairs to General Lounge.
Q, Q:Orchestra boxes.
I have been asked by both publisher and author to write a cursory preface to the story of Monte Field
s murder. Let me say at once that I am neither a writer nor a criminologist. To make authoritative remarks, therefore, anent the techniques of crime and crime fiction is obviously beyond my capacity. Nevertheless, I have one legitimate claim to the privilege of introducing this remarkable story, based as it is upon perhaps the most mystifying crime of the past decade . . . . If it were not for me,
The Roman Hat Mystery
would never have reached the fiction-reading public. I am responsible for its having been brought to light; and there my pallid connection with it ends.
During the past winter I shook off the dust of New York and went a-traveling in Europe. In the course of a capricious roving about the corners of the Continent (a roving induced by that boredom which comes to every Conrad in quest of his youth)
I found myself one August day in a tiny Italian mountain village. How I got there, its location and its name do not matter; a promise is a promise, even when it is made by a stockbroker. Dimly I remembered that this toy hamlet perched on the lip of a sierra harbored two old friends whom I had not seen for two years. They had come from the seething sidewalks of New York to bask in the brilliant peace of an Italian countryside
well, perhaps it was as much curiosity about their regrets as anything else, that prompted me to intrude upon their solitude.
My reception at the hands of old Richard Queen, keener and grayer than ever, and of his son Ellery was cordial enough. We had been more than friends in the old days; perhaps, too, the vinous air of Italy was too heady a cure for their dust-choked Manhattan memories. In any case, they seemed profoundly glad to see me. Mrs. Ellery Queen
Ellery was now the husband of a glorious creature and the startled father of an infant who resembled his grandfather to an extraordinary degree
was as gracious as the name she bore. Even Djuna, no longer the scapegrace I had known, greeted me with every sign of nostalgia.
s desperate efforts to make me forget New York and appreciate the lofty beauties of his local scenery, I had not been in their tiny villa for many days before a devilish notion took possession of me and I began to pester poor Ellery to death. I have something of a reputation for persistence, if no other virtue; so that before I left, Ellery in despair agreed to compromise. He took me into his library, locked the door and attacked an old steel filing cabinet. After a slow search he managed to bring out what I suspect was under his fingers all the time. It was a faded manuscript bound Ellery-like in blue legal paper.
The argument raged. I wished to leave his beloved Italian shores with the manuscript in my trunk, whereas he insisted that the sheaf of contention remain hidden in the cabinet. Old Richard was wrenched away from his desk, where he was writing a treatise for a German magazine on
American Crime and Methods of Detection,
to settle the affair. Mrs. Queen held her husband
s arm as he was about to close the incident with a workmanlike fist; Djuna clucked gravely; and even Ellery, Jr., extracted his pudgy hand from his mouth long enough to make a comment in his gurgle-language.
The upshot of it all was that
The Roman Hat Mystery
went back to the States in my luggage. Not unconditionally, however
Ellery is a peculiar man. I was forced solemnly and by all I held dear to swear the identities of my friends and of the important characters concerned in the story be veiled by pseudonyms; and that, on pain of instant annihilation, their names be permanently withheld from the reading public.
are not the true names of those gentlemen. Ellery himself made the selections; and I might add at once that his choices were contrived to baffle the reader who might endeavor to ferret the truth from some apparent clue of anagram.
The Roman Hat Mystery
is based on actual records in the police archives of New York City. Ellery and his father, as usual, worked hand-in-hand on the case. During this period in his career Ellery was a detective-story writer of no mean reputation. Adhering to the aphorism that truth is often stranger than fiction, it was his custom to make notes of interesting investigations for possible use in his murder tales. The affair of the Hat so fascinated him that he kept unusually exhaustive notes, intending to publish it. Immediately after, however, he was plunged into another investigation which left him scant opportunity for business; and when this last case was successfully closed, Ellery
s father, the Inspector, consummated a lifelong ambition by retiring and moving to Italy, bag and baggage. Ellery, who had in this affair found the lady of his heart, was animated by a painful desire to do something
in letters, Italy sounded idyllic to him; he married with his father
s blessing and the three of them, accompanied by Djuna, went off to their new European home. The manuscript was utterly forgotten until I rescued it.
On one point, before I close this painfully unhandsome preface, I should like to make myself clear.
I have always found it extremely difficult to explain to strangers the peculiar affinity which bound Richard to Ellery Queen, as I must call them. For one thing, they are persons of by no means uncomplicated natures. Richard Queen, sprucely middle-aged after thirty-two years
service in the city police, earned his Inspector
s chevrons not so much through diligence as by an extraordinary grasp of the technique of criminal investigation. It was said, for example, at the time of his brilliant detectival efforts during the now-ancient Barnaby Ross murder case, that
Richard Queen by this feat firmly establishes his fame beside such masters of crime detection as Tamaka Hiero, Brillon the Frenchman, Kris Oliver, Renaud, and James Redix the Younger.
Queen, with his habitual shyness toward newspaper eulogy, was the first to scoff at this extravagant statement; although Ellery maintains that for many years the old man secretly preserved a clipping of the story. However that may be
and I like to think of Richard Queen in terms of human personality, despite the efforts of imaginative journalists to make a legend of him
I cannot emphasize too strongly the fact that he was heavily dependent upon his son
s wit for success in many of his professional achievements.
This is not a matter of public knowledge. Some mementoes of their careers are still reverently preserved by friends: the small bachelor establishment maintained during their American residence on West 87th Street, and now a semiprivate museum of curios collected during their productive years; the really excellent portrait of father and son, done by Thiraud and hanging in the art gallery of an anonymous millionaire; Richard
s precious snuffbox, the Florentine antique which he had picked up at an auction and which he therefore held dearer than rubies, only to succumb to the blandishments of a charming old lady whose name he cleared of slander; Ellery
s enormous collection of books on violence, perhaps as complete as any in the world, which he regretfully discarded when the Queens left for Italy; and, of course, the many as yet unpublished documents containing records of cases solved by the Queens and now stored away from prying eyes in the City
s police archives.
But the things of the heart
the spiritual bonds between father and son
have until this time remained secret from all except a few favored intimates, among whom I was fortunate enough to be numbered. The old man, perhaps the most famous executive of the Detective Division in the last half-century, overshadowing in public renown, it is to be feared, even those gentlemen who sat briefly in the Police Commissioner
the old man, let me repeat, owed a respectable portion of his reputation to his son
In matters of pure tenacity, when possibilities lay frankly open on every hand, Richard Queen was a peerless investigator. He had a crystal-clear mind for detail; a retentive memory for complexities of motive and plot; a cool viewpoint when the obstacle seemed insuperable. Give him a hundred facts, bungled and torn, out of proportion and sequence, and he had them assembled in short order. He was like a bloodhound who follows the true scent in the clutter of a hopelessly tangled trail.
But the intuitive sense, the gift of imagination, belonged to Ellery Queen, the fiction writer. The two might have been twins possessing abnormally developed faculties of mind, impotent by themselves but vigorous when applied one to the other. Richard Queen, far from resenting the bond which made his success so spectacularly possible
as a less generous nature might have done
took pains to make it plain to his friends. The slender, gray old man whose name was anathema to contemporary lawbreakers, used to utter his
as he called it, with a naivete explicable only on the score of his proud fatherhood.
One word more. Of all the affairs pursued by the two Queens this, which Ellery has titled
The Roman Hat Mystery
for reasons shortly to be made clear, was surely the crowning case of them all. The dilettante of criminology, the thoughtful reader of detective literature, will understand as the tale unfolds why Ellery considers the murder of Monte Field worthy of study. The average murderer
s motives and habits are fairly accessible to the criminal specialist. Not so, however, in the case of the Field killer. Here the Queens dealt with a person of delicate perception and extraordinary finesse. In fact, as Richard pointed out shortly after the denouement, the crime planned was as nearly perfect as human ingenuity could make it. As in so many
however, a small mischance of fate coupled with Ellery
s acute deductive analyses gave the hunting Queens the single clue which led ultimately to the destruction of the plotter.
J. J. McC.
New York March 1, 1929
The policeman must oft follow the precept of the
those fool-birds who, though they know disaster awaits them at the hands and clubs of the beachcombers, brave ignominious death to bury their eggs in the sandy shore . . . . So the policeman. All Nippon should not deter him from hatching the egg of thoroughness.
From A Thousand Leaves by Tamaka Hiero