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George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

The Mystery of the Merry Magician

cover image By: Queen, Ellery (male)
Publisher: Golden Press
Place of Publication: New York, NY
Catalog #: Kelley Box 836: PS3533 .U4 M97 1969
Contributor: G. Yavicoli


Era: 1960s Author as on Cover: Ellery Queen Geographic Locale: New York City Date of Publication: 1969  |  Original Date: 1961 Setting: the primary setting is the waterfront area of New York City; individual characters cover a wide range of occupations including magicians, seamen, and importers and exporters. The main characters are adolescents, primarily from working class backgrounds. Motives: greed, smuggling. Magnus Merlin's smuggling ring provides weapons to gunrunners in return for smuggled diamonds.

Plot Summary

Ellery Queen, while preparing to go camping with his sixteen-year-old nephew Gulliver, is summoned by the United States government to investigate a smuggling operation on the New Orleans waterfront. Ellery instructs Gulliver to interview any potential clients during his absence and determine if the facts warrant his accepting the case. Fisty Jones, a high school student working in a produce market during summer vacation, visits the Queen's apartment and relays a fantastic story involving the potential sighting of a space monster to Gulliver. While on a visit to the waterfront, Fisty saw what appears to be a space monster through the window of Sandro's Company, an importing and exporting business. Gulliver decides to investigate, but finds the window to Sandro's Company has been recently painted over. Gulliver and Fisty try to enter the store, but are caught by Sandro, the ominous owner of the business and one of his employees, and warned to stay away from the waterfront. Refusing to be discouraged, the boys attempt to infiltrate Sandro's Company, and in the process they meet Magnus Merlin, a retired magician who operates a nearby magic shop. Gulliver's investigation leads him through a myriad of clues including hidden diamonds, and the adventure reaches its climax when Gulliver and Fisty are captured and held prisoner by two of the smugglers. Thanks to Gulliver's detective skills, the case is solved before Ellery Queen returns.

Major Characters

Ellery Queen "El," adult male, mystery writer and detective; has to go to New Orleans to assist the United States government with a smuggling case, finds the smugglers have abandoned their operation and moved to New York, arrives home after the case is solved

Gulliver Queen "Gully," adolescent male, tall, lanky, athletic appearance, with short, very light blonde hair, high school student, nephew of Ellery Queen and grandson of Inspector Queen, aspiring engineer and detective

Magnus Merlin adult male, short, fat, merry eyes, white hair, musty, old-fashioned look, retired magician, operates a magic shop, owns a small white dog named Banjo, masterminds a large gun smuggling operation

Mr. Ryan adult male, night watchman on Pier B, extremely honest, conscientious

Fisty Jones adolescent male, short, stocky build, curly brown hair, button nose, high school student, summer job working at a produce market, brings the case to Gulliver Queen and helps him solve it

Peggy Foster "Peg," adolescent female, slim, attractive, freckled face, flaming red hair, bright green eyes, high school student, plays guitar and sings, assists Gulliver and Fisty in solving the mystery

Captain Eban Foster "Skipper," adult male, large, genial, rough voice, drooping walrus moustache, red hair streaked with gray, smokes a pipe, retired seaman, operates a barge on the Hudson River

Sandro adult male, large, powerful build, importer and exporter, member of Merlin's smuggling ring

Muggie adult male, tall, burly, broad shoulders, large hands, bright red tattoos of a compass on the back of hands, member of Merlin's smuggling ring

Thundero "The man faster than lightning," middle-aged male, tall, gaunt, long bone-thin face, hollow and piercing black eyes, strange skull-like face, emaciated appearance, deep vibrant voice, magician

Inspector Richard Queen "Dick," adult male, middle-aged, short, police inspector, father of Ellery Queen


Merlin's gang smuggles munitions, firearms, explosives and ammunition. Inspector Queen is forced to use his gun during a raid, and Mr. Ryan is hit from behind with a club and thrown into the Hudson River

Level of Violence

Mr. Ryan is clubbed and thrown into the Hudson River, and Gulliver must rescue him before he drowns. In the altercation that ensues when Merlin's gang captures the two boys, Muggie knocks Fisty senseless. There are no descriptions of graphic violence and the violent incidents are kept rather tame, which is not surprising due to the fact that the main characters are adolescents.


no sexual situations; Peggy Foster is described as being attractive, but neither Gulliver nor Fisty pursues her romantically. The lack of sexual themes is not surprising because the primary characters are adolescents.

Gender Roles

the only women involved in the story are Mrs. Butterly and Peggy Foster. Mrs. Butterly is the Queen's housekeeper and performs duties such as cooking and cleaning that are stereotypically characterized as female work. Peggy Foster is described as being physically weaker than Gulliver and Fisty, and not able to endure the rigors associated with criminal investigation.


there are no racial or ethnic remarks included. All of the characters are presumably Caucasian.

Alcohol/Drug Abuse

there is no illicit drug or alcohol use. Captain Eban Foster smokes a pipe, but no other characters use tobacco products.

Law Enforcement

the police are highly proficient and there is not the slightest hint of corruption. Inspector Queen is an extremely capable and fearless officer, and Sergeant Veile displays similar bravery. There are, however, two incidents when the police are made to look incompetent. The first is when Magnus Merlin makes a fool out of Sergeant Veile by seizing his gun and placing handcuffs on him in a display of his prestidigitation skills. Then when Gulliver goes to the police station to turn over the diamonds he has recovered, the duty officer refuses to believe his story and throws him out of the station. Inspector Queen severely chastises Winkle for his actions.

Added Features

the New York City waterfront plays a large role in the story. Two magicians feature prominently in the story, along with menacing tattooed seamen and surly waterfront characters. There is also a pet dog that can perform tricks, providing an interesting aspect to the story.

Subject Headings

Smuggling/ New York (N.Y.)

Psychological Elements

members of the smuggling ring are motivated by greed. Merlin's actions are further motivated by his conscience, as he cannot permit any harm to befall the teen-age boys while they are held captive. Curiosity and a sense of righteousness motivate Gulliver and Fisty, while Inspector Queen's actions demonstrate a strong sense of duty and responsibility.