View Full Version : Great gumshoes!
06-04-2000, 06:33 PM
I wanted to name this thread Great Dicks, but forebore. ;)
The fictional characters page made me think up this one....Who do you think are the five best fictional detectives, and why?
Nero Wolfe and Archie - Proof that whole can be greater than the parts, the two worked ever so well together.
Lord D'Arcy - When the world includes the laws of magic, the logic gets a few new twists. I just wish that R. Garrett were still alive to write more stories.
Sherlock Holmes - The great brain, had its faults but all to much in the detective psyche is derived from his lead.
Cadfael - The detective in the 12th century, and he's a monk to boot. Always great to watch and read.
Ellery Queen - Always sees through a very tight case.
My favorite fictional detective is Arkady Renko.
He is the main character in Gorky Park, Polar Star, and Red Square. All written by Martin Cruz-Smith.
06-04-2000, 06:43 PM
Rick Deckard from Bladerunner.
Lord Peter Death Bredon Wimsey-
He managed to be pedantic, amusing and brilliant all at the same time.
Eminently cool, scientifically detatched enigma.
Detective Inspector Roderick Alleyn, CID-
Cool, refined, yet very human. He made mistakes sometimes, but always came out right by the last few chapters.
A nice girl-next-door who just happened to break up crime rings and solve robberies in her spare time, in an era where most books for girls were teen romances.
I'll have to think about the fifth..
06-04-2000, 08:01 PM
My favorites, not necessarily in order:
Philip Marlowe -- "Down these mean streets a man must walk who is not himself mean."
Columbo -- "Sorry to bother you again, sir. But I was just going to my car when I remembered something the missus said about getting a quart of milk, and I then it occured to me to that you may be able to tell me exactly how you killed your wife." "I pushed her off the balcony. Oops."
Fletch -- The Gregory MacDonald stories are probably the best plotted mysteries I've ever read. As good with story as Earl Stanley Gardner, but much better line-by-line.
Donald Lamb -- He's really a nice guy, but an artful dodger and a sharpshooter. He takes a lot of risks, and puts himself at odds with the police in almost every case, but invariably solves the case, and comes out with a bag of money. If it wasn't for the fact that Gardner's writing is sometimes very bad, I'd say these were the best detective stories I've ever read.
The Continental Op -- These stories are among the best Mystery has to offer. His detective is an old, fat brute who describes himself as a hunter who cares about nothing but catching his prey.
06-04-2000, 08:07 PM
Wolf & Archie
Lord d' Arcy
Decius Caecilius Metellus the younger (john Maddox Robert's
06-04-2000, 08:10 PM
Gotta be the one with the single horse silhouet on all the covers.
Forget the name, but loved the series.
06-05-2000, 03:01 AM
I know it shows a complete lack of taste, but I like Robert B. Parker's 'Spencer' books, despite the fact that they spawned the god-awful 'Spencer for hire' TV series.
And of course, theres the 'Law and Order' cops.......
06-05-2000, 08:06 AM
06-05-2000, 09:43 AM
Narile: I'm assuming you mean the five fictional detectives we most like to READ ABOUT, rather than bring to life so we can sit down and have a beer with. Here's mine, in rough chronological order:
1) Professor Augustus S.F.X. Van Dusen, and no, I can't remember all his honorifics. AKA "The Thinking Machine." His short stories, by Jacques Futrelle, ran in the Boston newspapers between 1905 and 1912 (when Futrelle went down with the Titanic), and were collected into several volumes. Van Dusen was one of the best of the "eccentric genius" school of super-detectives, and is the protagonist of one the the best (and most anthologized) mystery stories of the century, "The Problem of Cell 13," in which he accepts a challenge by two scientific colleagues to "think" himself out of an escape proof-prison cell within a week.
2) Father Brown. The short stories by G.K. Chesterton are unique in their use of paradox and uniform good humor. And god, the imagination! A beheaded corpse is found in a garden...but one cannot assume that the head actually belongs to the body. The sound of footsteps in a corridor leads to the prevention of a sensational theft. During a Christmas pantomime the hilarious performance of the comic policeman, beaten and battered by the harlequin, is due to the fact that he is a REAL POLICEMAN.
3) Oliver Quade, the Human Encyclopedia. A great forgotten pulp magazine detective (creator: Frank Gruber), Quade made a meager living as a book pitchman, selling a self-published pocket encyclopedia from a standup suitcase on various urban streetcorners. Sticking his nose into cop business, he was a major pest, but lots of fun since he really DID know almost everything...the Cecil Adams of the 1930s.
4) Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. They really are the best, aren't they?
5) The men and women of the DKA. Joe Gores is a disciple of Hammett, a multiple Edgar Award winner, and deserves a larger audience than he has. He also pulls an Ed McBain in the private eye world with his books about Dan Kearny Associates, the San Francisco private investigation firm which can repossess anything on the west coast...his novels usually have a half-dozen plots going on at the same time, and watching the repo-men and repo-women pursuing their cons, scams, and grifts in the name of the California Citizens Bank provides lunatic fun as well as slack-jawed amazement at their deviousness. Gores was a Frisco repo-man and skip-tracer for over twelve years, and it shows. Best book: 32 Cadillacs.
06-06-2000, 02:42 AM
Uke, #5 on the list sounds interesting, I'll have to try looking some of those works up. Thanks.
06-06-2000, 02:59 AM
Marlowe. No-one else comes close.
How about George Smiley from Le Carre's spy books?
06-06-2000, 09:45 AM
For series detectives, I liked the Continental Op, Philip Marlowe, Ellery Queen, and Hercule Poirot.
For one-shots, the my favorite by far is Mr. Linley from "The Two Bottles of Relish" ("Solely," said Linley, "in order to get an appetite.").
06-06-2000, 12:02 PM
Hee hee hee...good call, RC. One of my personal favorite final lines, too.
Better mention that Lord Dunsany wrote "The Two Bottles of Relish." Doesn't pay to be TOO oblique around here.
06-06-2000, 01:49 PM
Lord Peter Wimsey - it's tragic that Dorothy Sayers' novels have fallen by the wayside, while that bastard Poirot is still overpraised (dammit, the way to write a mystery novel is NOT to reveal a half-dozen clues on the last page that the detective already knew, but we hadn't been told!!).
People, I can't believe that no one has mentioned Charlies' Angels yet.
On a serious note, one thing I did enjoy about most of the '70s era detective shows is that they didn't reveal the criminal till the end. Sure, you could usually figure it out within 2 minutes, but at least you figured it out.
06-06-2000, 04:35 PM
Two not mentioned so far are actually pretty much the same character with different names: Dr. Gideon Fell and Sir Henry Merrivale. Both these investigators are a lot of fun in the generally creepy surroundings of the stories.
John Dickson Carr/ Carter Dickson's locked room mysteries are some of the best and most often ignored of the English-style mysteries. I challenge anyone to tell who and how in "The Judas Window", "The Three Coffins", or "The Red Widow Murders" before reaching the final chapter.
06-06-2000, 05:31 PM
Brother William of Baskerville, Franciscan Monk...
Anyone know the book?
06-06-2000, 08:04 PM
Jupiter Jones -- A slightly overweight teen-genius who lived with his aunt and uncle. They owned a junkyard where the boys had an old RV done up as an office.
Pete Crenshaw -- The "sport" of the group.
And I can't remember the third.
It was a series of books not unlike the Hardy Boys.
Interesting quirk, Alfred Hitchcock appeared in most of the books.
06-06-2000, 10:09 PM
Enginerd, Brother William was the monastic Sherlock in "The Name of the Rose", one of my favorites.
Anybody know Gordianus, from the Roma sub rosa stories?
06-06-2000, 11:39 PM
Why, Danielinthe, you surprise me. You might have guessed I'm also a fan of the Hayseed Sherlock, as well as Phoebe Atwood Taylor's other detective, Leonidas Witherall. Witherall is supposed to be a dead ringer for Willie Shakespeare, but for some reason, I always picture him as Monty Woolley.
AG and NW are also high on my list, along with Poirot and Miss Marple, and I do so love thee, Dr. Fell. But some of my favorites are less well-known. I can read and reread Charlotte MacLeod's books, whether the detective is Prof. Peter Shandy, Sarah Kelling, or one of the Grub and Stakers. And I'm a sucker for any Joan Hess mystery - her gumshoes are Arly Hanks, female sheriff of the small town of Maggody, Arkansas, and Claire Malloy, owner of a bookstore in fictional Farberville.
06-07-2000, 12:50 AM
I remember the Three detectives rather well, read mst of them in gradeschool. I remember that towards the end of the series (As far as I know) someone else started to introduce the books after Hitchcock died.
06-10-2000, 09:30 PM
Geeeez...20 posts and nobody mentioned Sam Spade, the archetypal gumshoe. Or Nick Charles who not only got the bad guy but got to boff Myrna Loy.
There's only two kinda mystery writers....Hammett...and hacks. :)
The Stuff that dreams are made of.
06-11-2000, 11:07 PM
Spenser and Kinsey Millhone
They're my favorites, not necessarily the best. Best would probably Hercule Poirot.
06-12-2000, 12:47 AM
Interesting that no one has mentioned Auguste Dupin.
06-12-2000, 01:35 AM
You're all wrong. The greatest fictional investigator of all time is the one and only John Shaft.
06-12-2000, 09:22 AM
Shaft? Pah! A pale imitation (ouch) of Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones, the protagonists of Chester Himes's spirited novels. Cotton Comes to Harlem (1965), for example.
06-12-2000, 10:48 AM
I'd like to second a lot of the people who were mentioned. I would like to add a few more. Under the guilty pleasure category I would add Stephanie Plum from the Janet Evanovich . They are LMAO funny. Elvis Cole by Robert Crais and John Francis Cuddy By Jeremiah Healy. Both of these tend towards the hard boiled end of the detective spectrum. The Elvis Cole books have a good dose of smart aleck humour in them.
06-12-2000, 11:39 AM
You want contemporary hard-boiled? Loren D. Estleman's Amos Walker could kick Jeremiah Healy's John Francis Cuddy's ass.
Walker works Detroit, where they KNOW from hard-boiled. Cuddy's too busy going to listen to the Boston Symphony and lifing his pinky at High Tea up in the Back Bay.
06-12-2000, 12:49 PM
I can't believe it. No one's mentioned one of my favorites --
Judge Jen-Djieh Dee, from Robert van Gulik's series about the Tan dynasty judge/civil administrator/detective.
A couple of years ago someone wrote a new book about Dee. It was called "Dynasty", but I can't recall the author. His vision of Dee -- who really existed, by the way -- was not the same as van Gulik's, but he kept him a detective.
06-12-2000, 08:44 PM
Sorry -- messed that up. The new Dee novel is "Deception" by Eleanor Cooney and Daniel Altieri. Interesting, but not as good as the von Gulik books. For von Gulik fans I'd also recommend his non-Dee "The Given Day" and JanWillem van de Weterings "Robert van Gulik".
I also love the mysteries of Fredric Brown. His team was Ed and Am Hunter, first introduced in "The Fabulous Clipjoint", his Edgar-winning debut novel.
For my other choices Sherlock Holmes, of course. Nero Wolfe. Toni L.P. Kelner's Laura Fleming.
06-13-2000, 10:46 AM
Oh, Frederic Brown is great! Have you read The Night of the Jabberwock?
It's worth a search on http://www.Bookfinder.com to get the old Zomba omnibus edition from the early '80s...it's got Jabberwock, The Screaming Mimi, Knock Three-One-Two and The Fabulous Clipjoint in it...
06-13-2000, 11:37 AM
Wolfe & Archie, no contest. Maybe not the most complex cases, but the byplay between the two makes the rest trivial.
Name another detective who would burn a dictionary page by page because it offended him - and be justified in doing so.
06-13-2000, 01:14 PM
The Fredric Brown omnibus you mention was the first book of his mysteries I ever read, Ukulele Ike. Before I read about "Night of the Jabberwock" in Martion Gardner's Annotated Alice, I didn't even know that he wrote mysteries. (I knew of his sf and fantasy, though). Since then I've been hunting down his old mysteries. For a while they were reprinting one a year, but they stopped that about ten years ago. I've gotten quite a few through used bookshops, but I'm still missing a lot of them. A company in Florida republished a lot of his previously uncollected pulp stories in the latee eighties, but only about half of those were published in paperback. The rest were limited-edition hardcovers that are nigh-impossible to get.
Still, you can find a few old Fredric Browns, and they're worth it.
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