The World Cup Of Golden Age Mystery Writers – The Quarter-Finals

Round Three is over, so now it’s Quarter-Final time! So what were the shock knock-outs this time?

Um… well, none really. But some of the rounds were pretty close. As you might expect, Agatha Christie trounced Margery Allingham and John Dickson Carr wasn’t troubled too much by Ngaio Marsh. Dorothy L Sayers, slightly surprisingly to me, saw off Christianna Brand without too much difficulty and Ellery Queen wasn’t particularly bothered by Freeman Wills Crofts. So far, the people agreed with me twice and disagreed with me twice. It’s disappointing that so many of you are wrong about these things… 😊

Anyway, the other four ties were a lot closer, with none of the winners getting more that 55% of the vote. Edmund Crispin saw off G K Chesterton – Crispin only just squeaks into the Golden Age, but he does qualify. Rex Stout beat E C R Lorac by an even smaller margin, with Josephine Tey beating Georgette Heyer by a similar margin. The narrowest margin came in the battle between Cyril Hare and Anthony Berkeley – 30 minutes before the poll closed, and they were tied on 109 votes each. Luckily – well, unluckily as I prefer, marginally, Hare – a twitter plea for last minute votes resulted in Berkeley getting an extra three votes, so he makes it through to the quarter-finals.

So, following the seeding based on the original groups, the quarter-finals are as follows. You have until midday Saturday (GMT) to vote for these. I think these are going to get a little bit harder now…

28 comments

  1. Hmmm, not sure about this final eight, but then only half the results agreed with me last round. Honestly, now it’s voting against who annoys me the most in a couple of these contests

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      • Let me see. I voted Christie, Marsh, Sayers, Wills Croft, Crispin, Stout, Heyer, Hare last round. Though I only feel strongly about Ngaio Marsh losing out.

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    • Sayers has been read by a lot more people than Brand, so in a popularity contest the result is inevitable. Same is going to happen with Queen, which is saddening but in this context quite reasonable really.

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    • Travesty? Sayers’s contribution to the genre was much greater than Brand’s, both as writer and as critic, and her books have a depth and richness Brand’s clever puzzles lack.

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      • I wouldn’t go as far as travesty, but I’ve enjoyed every one of Brand’s books, and while I’m less well read in Sayers (two, I think), I’m in no rush to go back, whereas my unread Brands are being rationed. Contribution to the genre, perhaps Sayers is more important, but in terms of enjoyability, Brand wins hands-down for me.

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      • I think four of Brand’s are excellent detective stories: Green for Danger, Death of Jezebel, London Particular, Tour de Force, and show a talent for clueing and plotting that ranks with Carr or Christie. Considering how few novels she wrote, that’s something!

        But Sayers is in a different class; she was a novelist as well as a detective writer.

        You’ve read – what? Whose Body? (her first) and …?

        Unnatural Death is an excellent early “How” (with a clever “Who” gambit)

        The Documents in the Case, her only novel without Lord Peter, combines a superbly characterised epistolary novel in the line of Wilkie Collins with an ingenious scientific murder and musings on science and religion

        Strong Poison has a great “How” (you know “Who” reasonably early).

        From here, Sayers becomes more serious, and they’re nearly all first-rate; but you do need to read Strong Poison, Have His Carcase, Gaudy Night, and Busman’s Honeymoon in order.

        The Five Red Herrings is her Crofts / Connington timetable book, livelier and funnier (!) than Crofts. Some people regard it as a step back from Strong Poison, but it’s an excellent example of its subgenre.

        Have His Carcase is her best alibi problem, with another great “How” and an elaborate scheme that’s great fun to watch taken apart (as a mathematician, you’d probably
        appreciate the cipher).

        Murder Must Advertise puts Lord Peter in an advertising agency and among Bright Young Things to bring down a drug cartel; it’s colourful and witty, and draws a parallel between advertising and drugs as exploitation

        The Nine Tailors is generally regarded as Sayers’s best book. It probably is, although it’s a deeply rural book, whereas the earlier Wimseys were urban and urbane, and it’s not quite a puzzle plot. The “How” is wonderful (both method and symbol of divine retribution), and has a grand flood scene. Big influence on Gladys Mitchell, H.C. Bailey, and P.D. James, among others, and praised by JDC.

        Gaudy Night is her Oxford novel, and one of her very best. It’s Sayers’s statement on women and the role of education. JDC praised its plot and menace; the “Who” and “Why” are cleverly hidden.

        Busman’s Honeymoon is weaker and more self-indulgent – too much love-making and quoting Donne – but has a fine locked room / “How”

        The short stories, too, are generally brilliant, particularly “The Man with Copper Fingers”, “The Footsteps that Ran”, “The Man with No Face” (all in Lord Peter Views the Body); “The Image in the Mirror”, “The Incredible Elopement of Lord Peter Wimsey” (Hangman’s Holiday)

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      • My other Sayers was a looong time ago (pre-blog) and I think it was Gaudy Night. Pretty sure I didn’t get that far with it, found it pretty boring iirc. As I said, that was a long time ago. One day, I’ll give her a go again. Thanks for the roadmap.

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      • It’s not you, it’s her 😁 GAUDY NIGHT is a real chore and full of the snobbery and elitism that mark a lot of her work (and let’s not even engage with her antisemitism for the umpteenth time). Much as I enjoy Sayers’ work (she probably had the most lucid prose in the GAD), I have never understood the fanaticism she still engenders in some of her readers. But she remains a huge figure of the era and was undeniably more influential than Brand (who wrote plenty, just not always in the mystery genre).

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      • I am afraid Nine Tailors was, as Edmund Wilson called it, very dull. I thought the solution instantly obvious and hence the rest of the book padding. Murder Must Advertise was better, but The Five Red Herrings almost did me in. I gave up on Gaudy Night and one other.

        Her Dante isn’t bad though 😉

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  2. All easy except Carr vs Queen. Finally went Carr, because rereading both recently Carr has held up much better. Others: Iles, Stout,Christie. I expect Stout to lose,this blog having a British slant.

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  3. I have written a letter to my senator regarding Sayers beating Brand. Like you, Ken, my hardest was Carr vs. Queen, and I went in the same direction for the exact same reason – the “holding up” value. I really like Crispin, but Stout deserves to get to the semis far more than EC does.

    I have heard a rumor on the Dark Blogosphere that in the next round, Brian Flynn is being slipped in opposite Christie. We must all be prepared . . .

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    • As for “deserves”, personally I think Crispin deserves it. I’ve read a couple of Stout books and they left me pretty cold, whereas I’ve enjoyed all the Crispin books I’ve read. I really want people to vote for who they enjoy reading more. Ditto Carr, sometimes while I can admire the structure and plotting, some Queen books are hard work…

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      • Let me be clear: I didn’t vote for Stout simply because he wrote more books; I think Archie Goodwin might be the greatest “Watson” ever created. The repartee in those books is hilarious. One of these days, I need to dive back into Stout.

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      • I find them very variable. I enjoy the early pure puzzle books a lot more than the later ones, but in part that because of what isn’t there that I’d been expecting – ie a puzzle.

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  4. A few of my choices in this round were, indeed, of the “who annoys me more” ilk. But I voted for Crispin wholeheartedly, especially after just rereading Swan Song. Stout is okay but I don’t go out of my way for him. Sorry to see Lorac go as she is one who I always seem to devour when a reprint comes out. I would, of course, have wanted to Innes here and Flynn, two who, despite all your work for Flynn, still seem under appreciated.

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    • I found, Brad, that early Stout holds up to rereading better than any of the others here. The virtues are, as you say, in the character interplay and the fictional world created rather than the mysteries or puzzles.

      Less enamoured of later Stout in general.

      There is an Italian TV series. I enjoyed the pilot. The Timothy Hutton series is WILDLY uneven, but some are excellent.

      Gonna be hard to choose Stout vs Carr if PD does that next round.

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  5. I love Stout and in the end felt I had to vote for him as I have gone back read him more often than Crispin, but a close thing. However, number 4 was really not fair though Steve – literally the two GAD authors that turned me on to the whole genre and who gave me the most enjoyment of all. That really hurt having to choose between Carr and Queen.

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