50 Crime Writers To Read Before You Die by The Telegraph


"After a debate that left senior members of the Telegraph's literary staff with pulled hair, black eyes and, in one case, an infected bite, we this week present our list of the 50 great crime writers of all time.

We present them in no particular order, and make no apology for our omissions. But we would like to know what you think. Should Ellery Queen have been two of the names on the list? Hate Highsmith? Log on, or write in, and say so.

We wanted to compile a list of writers we had, jointly and severally, loved. We wanted to include writers like Dash Hammett, who brought something new and exciting to the genre; like Elmore Leonard, who turns an old trick in it with incomparable style; and like Poe, who invented it. We did not, except incidentally, take into account popularity.

Who, we asked ourselves finally, are the crime writers who can actually write? We believe any serious reader will profit from acquaintance with any of the writers on this list.

And, just because we love you, as a bonus 51st entry we interview Robert B Parker - an unrivalled pulp stylist who may be the best crime writer you've never read."

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Source: 50 Crime Writers To Read Before You Die by The Telegraph, Retrieved 12:01AM GMT 23 Feb 2008, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/3671363/50-crime-writers-to-read-before-you-die.html.

Gentleman Detectives From The Golden Age Of Detective Fiction

The ‘gentleman’ detective has long been a staple of crime fiction, detective novels and short stories, mainly set in Britain during the era of the Golden Age Of Detective Fiction. Predominantly in the 1920s and 1930s, it was an era of classic murder mystery novels of similar patterns and styles. The literary heroes of these stories are typically both ‘gentlemen by conduct’ and members of the British gentry, as opposed to the professional police force detectives who are usually from the working classes. There are however professional policemen who are ‘gentlemen’ detectives (as in the case of Ngaio Marsh’s Roderick Alleyn), but there also amateur sleuths and private detectives among these 'unique' gentlemen. They are always well educated, frequently have unusual or eccentric hobbies, and are commonly found in their natural environment - an English country house. This archetype of British detectives is a stark contrast to their more ‘hardboiled’ counterparts in American crime fiction across the Atlantic.

The renowned authors during the era of the Golden Age Of Detective Fiction were mostly British, and mostly women. In particular, there were the four ‘Queens Of Crime’; Margery Allingham, Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh and Dorothy L. Sayers. They all produced at least one famous ‘gentleman’ detective during their lifetimes, and their books featuring these characters are still generally in print.

Margery Allingham’s Amateur Sleuth, Albert Campion

Margery’s ‘gentleman’ sleuth first appeared as a supporting character in an adventure story involving a ring of criminals, The Crime At Black Dudley (1929), then went on to feature in a series of eighteen detective novels and over twenty short stories. Supposedly created as a parody of Dorothy L. Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey, Albert Campion quickly established his own identity, and matured and developed as the series progressed. After Margery Allingham's death, her husband, Philip Youngman Carter, completed her last Albert Campion book, Cargo of Eagles (1968), and wrote two more, Mr. Campion's Farthing (1969) and Mr. Campion's Falcon (1970) (U.S. title: Mr. Campion's Quarry), before his own death.
Amazon's Margery Allingham Page >

Agatha Christie’s Private Detective, Hercule Poirot

This Belgian private detective, a former Chief of Police of Brussels, is one of Agatha Christie's most famous and long-running characters, appearing in thirty three novels, one play (Black Coffee (1934)), and more than fifty short stories, published between 1920 and 1975. Hercule Poirot first appeared in The Mysterious Affair At Styles (1920), and exited in Curtain (1975), using “the little grey cells” throughout his private detection career to solve many cases across Europe, occasionally undertaking cases for the British government and Secret Service, including foiling the attempted abduction of the British Prime Minister. Following his ‘death’, Hercule Poirot was the only fictional character to receive an obituary on the front page of The New York Times.
Amazon's Agatha Christie Page >

Ngaio Marsh’s Professional Policemen, Roderick Alleyn

Ngaio Marsh’s ‘gentleman’ detective, Detective Chief Inspector Alleyn in the Criminal Investigation Department at Scotland Yard (headquarters of the Metropolitan Police Service (London)), first appeared in A Man Lay Dead (1934), and belongs firmly in the Golden Age Of Detective Fiction (although the last Roderick Alleyn novel, Light Thickens, was published in 1982). The policeman hero features in a chronological series of thirty two detective novels, and as the series progresses, he marries and has a son, eventually rising to the rank of Chief Superintendent.
Amazon's Ngaio Marsh Page >

Dorothy L. Sayers’ Amateur Detective, Lord Peter Wimsey

First appearing in Whose Body? (1923), Lord Peter Death Bredon Wimsey, DSO, is Dorothy L. Sayers’ protagonist in a series of eleven chronological detective novels and several collections of short stories. (The continuation of this series is undertaken by Jill Paton Walsh). A dilettante who, as a purely amateur sleuth, solves mysteries for his own amusement, Lord Peter is an archetype for the British ‘gentleman’ detective. He is often assisted by his valet and former batman, Mervyn Bunter, his good friend and later brother-in-law, Charles Parker (Detective Sergeant/Inspector/Chief Inspector Charles ‘Parker Bird’ Parker), and, in a few books, Harriet Vane, who becomes his wife.
Amazon's Dorothy L. Sayers Page >

Agatha Christie's Mary Westmacott

Under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott, Dame Agatha wrote six romance novels; crimes of the heart, six bittersweet and very personal novels, as compelling and memorable as the best of her work. However, there is no disputing that Dame Agatha's reputation still rests firmly on her ingenious detective novels and short-story collections that she wrote under her own name.

UK Title: Giant's Bread
Year Of UK Publication: 1930
UK Publisher (All London): William Collins & Sons
US Title: Giant's Bread
Year Of US Publication: 1930
US Publisher (All New York): Doubleday

"A spellbinding novel of romantic obsession ...

Vernon Deyre is a sensitive and brilliant musician, even a genius, but there is a high price to be paid for his talent, especially by his family, as well as the two women in his life. Vernon's sheltered childhood in the home he loves has not prepared him for the harsh reality of his adult years. In order to write the great masterpiece of his life, he has to make a crucial decision, with no time left to count the cost.

UK Title: Unfinished Portrait
Year Of UK Publication: 1934
UK Publisher (All London): William Collins & Sons
US Title: Unfinished Portrait
Year Of US Publication: 1934
US Publisher (All New York): Doubleday

"A stunning novel of death and destiny ...

Bereft of the three people she has held most dear - her mother, her husband and her daughter - Celia is on the verge of suicide. Then one night, on an exotic island, she meets Larraby, a successful portrait painter. Through a long night of talk, she reveals how she is afraid to commit herself to a second chance of happiness with another person, yet is not brave enough to face life alone. Can Larraby help Celia come to terms with the past, or will they part, her outcome still uncertain?

UK Title: Absent In The Spring
Year Of UK Publication: 1944
UK Publisher (All London): William Collins & Sons
US Title: Absent In The Spring
Year Of US Publication: 1944
US Publisher (All New York): Farrar & Rinehart

"A striking novel of truth and soul-searching ...

Returning from a visit to her daughter in Iraq, Joan Scudamore finds herself unexpectedly alone and stranded in an isolated rest house by flooding of the railway tracks. Looking back over the years, Joan painfully re-examines her attitudes, relationships and actions, and becomes increasingly uneasy about the person who is revealed to her.

UK Title: The Rose And The Yew Tree
Year Of UK Publication: 1948
UK Publisher (All London): Heinemann
US Title: The Rose And The Yew Tree
Year Of US Publication: 1948
US Publisher (All New York): Rinehart & Company

"A captivating novel of love and intrigue ...

Everyone expected Isabella Charteris, beautiful, sheltered and aristocratic, to marry her cousin Rupert, when he came back from the War. It would have been such a suitable marriage. How strange then that John Gabriel, an ambitious and ruthless war hero, should appear in her life. For Isabella, the price of love would mean abandoning her dreams of home and happiness forever. For Gabriel, it would destroy his chance of a career and all his ambitions.

UK Title: A Daughter's A Daughter
Year Of UK Publication: 1952
UK Publisher (All London): William Collins & Sons
US Title: A Daughter's A Daughter
Year Of US Publication: 1963
US Publisher (All New York): Dell Publishing

"A classic novel of desire and jealousy ...

Ann Prentice falls in love with Richard Cauldfield and hopes for new happiness. Her only child, Sarah, cannot contemplate the idea of her mother marrying again, and wrecks any chance of her re-marriage. Resentment and jealousy corrode their relationship, as each seeks relief in different directions. Are mother and daughter destined to be enemies for life, or will their underlying love for each other finally win through?

UK Title: The Burden
Year Of UK Publication: 1956
UK Publisher (All London): Heinemann
US Title: The Burden
Year Of US Publication: 1963
US Publisher (All New York): Dell Publishing

"A superb novel of possessive love ...

Laura Franklin bitterly resented the arrival of her younger sister Shirley, an enchanting baby loved by all the family, but Laura's emotions towards her sister changed dramatically one night, when she vowed to protect her with all her strength and love. While Shirley longs for freedom and romance, Laura has to learn that loving can never be a one-sided affair, and the burden of her love for her sister has a dramatic effect on both their lives. A story of consequences when love turns to obsession.