The World Cup Of Golden Age Mystery Writers – The Introduction

So the other day, I realised that I hadn’t done a poll for a while. In the past, I’ve helped you decide what is officially the best books by John Dickson Carr and Agatha Christie, but after that, you run out of authors that people have a) read enough of and b) that I care about enough to do a poll. Some recent posts on a Facebook group, however, reminded me just how much fun it is to do a World Cup-style competition, so, after a little discussion with Kate from Cross Examining Crime, I decided to do the big one – the Best Golden Age Mystery Writer Of ALL TIME!!!

But how to decide who to include – Kate and I managed to come up with 65 names without thinking too hard but I’ve trimmed those down to 28. I’ve included the big names and those who have had significant reprints, but I’m sure you’ve already realised that 28 is a rubbish number for such a competition. You need 32. That’s where you come in, dear reader.

Take a look at the names below and see who you think I’ve missed out. And then put their names in the comments. Feel free to repeat other peoples’ suggestions, as that’ll make those people more likely to be included.

I’ll give it until Monday 8pm local time before we kick off with the group stages. And yes, there will be seeding. And no, I’ve got no idea how to do the seeding yet…

Anyway, here are the names. Note that Conan Doyle is not Golden Age, and I’ve omitted Chesterton as most of the stuff he wrote also pre-dates the rough 1920-1945 window. Also, I’m not really counting hard-boiled writers. But anyone who published a mystery novel in that timeframe can count…

  • Margery Allingham
  • George Bellairs
  • Anthony Berkeley/Francis Iles
  • Nicholas Blake
  • Christianna Brand
  • John Bude
  • Christopher Bush
  • John Dickson Carr/Carter Dickson
  • Agatha Christie
  • Edmund Crispin
  • Freeman Wills Crofts
  • Brian Flynn
  • Erle Stanley Gardner
  • Cyril Hare
  • Richard Hull
  • Michael Innes
  • E C R Lorac/Carol Carnac
  • Helen McCloy
  • Ngaio Marsh
  • Gladys Mitchell
  • Josephine Tey
  • Ellery Queen
  • Patrick Quentin/Q Patrick/Jonathan Stagge
  • John Rhode/Miles Burton
  • Craig Rice
  • Dorothy L Sayers
  • Christopher St John Sprigg
  • S S Van Dine

So, who I have missed out?

103 comments

  1. May I nominate Ronald Knox? He’s unlikely to be anyone’s favourite GAD writer but The Three Taps is a classic and his short locked-room story “Solved by Inspection” has a properly dark solution. (Just don’t mention the Decalogue).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with Sergio. You need to include Rex Stout, even if Kate can’t say the name without breaking into a cold sweat. Stout was a giant in the classic mystery field. I would also add Dashiell Hammett, who wrote his five novels during the heart of the Golden Age and managed to stay famous, unlike a LOT of people on this list, including Byron Floyne.

    This is a very difficult project because, as you said, you “easily” came up with 65 names and then eliminated nearly two thirds of them. I can only think that you applied personal taste to that? How can you not? E.R. Punshon wrote dozens of books, but he’s not on the list. Same goes for Helen Reilly, Mary Roberts Rinehart, and Mignon G. Eberhart. And what about Earl Derr Biggers, who contributed one of the most famous detectives of all time?

    I’ll bet you could start your poll with forty names. Easily!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Stout, Hammett (ugh!) Reilly, Rinehart, Eberhart all noted.

      And yes, there had to be an element of what “I” consider GA when paring it down. Partly it was important works, partly quantity of output, partly UK-based writers for the most part. The number of names coming in – which, incidentally, don’t include many I omitted – might mean we start with a bigger pool…

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  3. Punshon, Rawson both are ones who could easily fit and help round it up to 32. What about Delano Ames or is all that too late? And I know most people think they’re too twee (and they are), I would add the Lockridge’s. The North books are fun and do include massive cocktail drinking.

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  4. Earl Derr Biggers, H. C. Bailey, Melville Davisson Post, E. C. Bentley, and Philip MacDonald all belong on the list. The creators of Charlie Chan, Reggie Fortune and Joshua Clunk, Uncle Abner and Randolph Mason, Trent, and Gethryn should not be eliminated before any voting.

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  5. G D H and M Coles, Dolores Hitchens, Glynn Carr, Vernon Loder, Francis Crane, Phoebe Atwood Taylor, Arthur W Upfield, Clyde B Clason

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  6. Belgian author Georges Simenon wrote his Inspector Maigret series in France during that time period and continued through the 1950s and beyond in America.

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  7. Is there no minimum number of books an author must have written to be considered? Both Clayton Rawson and Hake Talbot deserve to be included but they didn’t write many books.

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      • But if there is no minimum criteria, those who wrote only one or two books like Derek Smith, W Sheppard Pleasants, Hake Talbot, Theodore Roscoe etc. will also qualify?

        It seems unfair to compare these authors to someone like Erle Stanley Gardner. I think atleast 5 full length mysteries published during the golden age should be a qualification criteria.

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  8. Roy Vickers (most of his crime was written well before the inverted stories which made him famous, C P Snow, A A Milne, Horace McCoy, James Cain, E C Bentley would be my suggestions for additions.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Everyone knows which 2 authors will come in the top two. I am interested in knowing which authors get the positions 3 to 8.

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  10. Personally – while I know she’s not everyone’s cup of tea – I adore Patricia Wentworth and the fact is that her Miss Silver series has remained in print almost constantly so I can’t be entirely alone. I love the Silver books for the reasons others don’t: somehow they’re all the same and yet each has its own atmosphere. Often thought of as a Miss Marple copy but actually the first one was 1928. The best ones are immediately post-war. She won’t win, because she seems to be an acquired taste but should be included. Also another vote for Francis Vivian who, along with Brian Flynn, is my favourite DSP reissue.

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  11. Surely Freeman Wills Crofts andGerald Verner and maybe Clark Mason deserve a shot ? Arthur Upfield wrote some very good stories starting well within the period

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  12. Where is Rex Stout ?? and why leave out the Hard Boiled school ?!! huh?? Both Hammett and Chandler are considerably better writers than many on your list. And where oh where is Ronald Knox ? not a volume producer but a class act !

    Liked by 1 person

    • But they don’t write the same style of mysteries as the rest of the list. It would be like comparing apples with cricket balls. Roughly the same shape but after that…

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  13. I’m glad to see how many people are nominating H. C. Bailey. He may be somewhat out of vogue now, but he was hugely influential and is, to my mind, vastly underrated. I’ll also second Knox, Boucher, and Stout.

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  14. I’ll second the Bruce Graeme nomination. My current reading has brought another book of his to my attention, which sounds very interesting. i hope the Moonstone press reprint some of his non-series books.

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  15. A definite vote for Philip Macdonald from me. He was one of the most innovative writers of the Golden Age and can’t possibly be left out. I’d really like to see Chandler go head to head with Christie but, if you’re ruling out hard boiled, could I at least put in a word for another American: S S Van Dine?

    Like

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