The Top Ten Police Detectives of All Time

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I’ve recently done the top ten best private detectives of all time, and as such I felt it was only right and proper to do the same for the other end of the spectrum; the police detective.

Police detectives abide by both the constructs of the law and their own personal beliefs. They often face many hurdles that private detective do not have to deal with, making them a great means of delivering both human drama and exceptional criminal investigations. They often work alongside private eyes, supporting them and giving them the stability, resources and legal standing that they need to get their result.

As such, they occupy a unique space within the Crime Fiction space, and therefore it is with great excitement that I showcase my top ten favourites. As with my piece on private detectives, I quickly realised that five would never be enough, so have a look and see what you think!

10. Frank Merlin: As a relatively new kid on the fictional police detective block, Mark Ellis’ tough yet charming London based detective might seem like an odd choice for this list, yet I was so enthralled by him in the latest novel, Merlin at War, that I felt compelled to go out and buy the previous two novels and read more about this rugged man and his dogged pursuit of right in a turbulent time.

9. Charles Parker: ‘Parker Bird’ as he is affectionately known by his colleague and later brother-in-law Lord Peter Wimsey, is a more interesting character than he lets on, and although he is less well-read and educated than his colleague, he makes up for it in dogged determination and sheer hard work, something which his noble friend cannot boast.

8. Inspector Bucket: Often noted as one of the first police detectives in fiction, the character appears in Charles Dickens’ novel Bleak House, assisting the wealthy protagonists in their investigations and acting as both a constabulary figure whose authority is seen as absolute, but also as a figure who highlighted the class issues abundant at the time. Believed to have been based on several real life Scotland Yard detectives, as it was commonly acknowledged that Dickens was intrigued by the newly formed division there and observed and interviewed many of its detectives, Inspector Bucket can be seen as an example of the very first police detective character, and therefore acts as a template for many later fictional incarnations of himself.

7. Jack Robinson: My love of Kerry Greenwood’s Miss Phyrne Fisher novels is by now well known and evidenced by my top five and interview with the author herself. However, whilst the protagonist represents everything that is great about female detectives, she is often ably assisted by the constabulary in the form of Inspector Jack Robinson, as well as Constable Hugh Collins and an assortment of other junior members of the Melbourne police. Jack and Hugh are the two reoccurring police characters in the series, and the inspector in particular offers a fascinating glimpse into Australian police characters. He is described as a man whose appearance is so boring and unremarkable that people have been known to forget what he looks like half way through conversing with him, making him ideal for sneaking up on suspects. He is also so unmemorable that he blends in anywhere, and this, combined with his dogged determination and vast experience in the force make him the ideal ally for the daring socialite turned private eye that is Miss Fisher.

6. James Japp: Agatha Christie’s reoccurring policeman, who regularly assists private detective Hercule Poirot, Japp is an incredibly underrated character. To my mind he is woefully undervalued, particularly in the TV and film adaptations of Christie’s brilliant Poirot novels. Although he is not perhaps as prolific as Superintendent Spence in the novels, he is certainly more inclined to use the private detective to his advantage, and Japp is often seen playing up to Poirot’s ego to gain the information or assistance he needs. His canny ability to elicit the support required is unique and shows the ingenuity and understanding of human nature which Poirot often lacks.

5. John Rebus: Ian Rankin’s indestructible detective, who gets booted off the force or almost killed more times than you can shake a stick at, is a great example of the blurred lines between private and police detectives. He often does not adhere to the law, making him a virtual outsider in the force, but his strong sense of loyalty and commitment to the force keep him coming back every time.

4. Logan McRae: Stuart MacBride’s atmospheric novels showcase the detective skills of the luckless McRae, who is a punching bag for every gangster in Aberdeen, but also an intelligent and sensitive explorer of human nature. He often uses a combination of street smarts and emotional understanding to get his man and stop some of the most vicious criminals north of the border.

3. Endeavour Morse: Colin Dexter’s cerebral, intelligent yet socially inept Inspector is a truly intriguing, heart warming character who often shows the very best of human nature whilst working to uncover those who show it at its worst. His vast education and brilliant mind combine to create a man who is able to decipher even the most vexing case, and alongside his kind and sweet Sergeant he is able to take on whatever Oxford has to throw at them. Both characters are very different in the books from those portrayed on TV, and in the books the older, kinder Sergeant Lewis is a great foil for the young, impetuous Inspector of whom he is so fond.

2. Jules Maigret: As you can see from my top five, Georges Simenon’s intrepid Parisian policeman is both fascinating and engaging, and his dogged approach to catching his criminals makes him a truly exceptional policeman and an inventive protagonist. You would think that reading about a man so ordinary he blended in almost anywhere as he went about the rigours of chasing criminals around Europe would be dull, but thanks to Simenon’s exceptional writing and brisk narrative the result is the opposite, which is probably why Maigret was written into more than 75 novels and remains a popular figure in the media today.

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1. Kurt Wallander: Henning Mankell’s detective is often dubbed ‘the Swedish Inspector Morse’, and with good reason; both men are intelligent yet grumpy and often bad with people, as well as sharing diabetes and a fondness for opera and classical music. Also, both series are strongly rooted in their settings, for Morse it is Oxford, whereas Wallander walks the streets of Ystad and the wider Skane region in search of his criminals. What separates them is the tone of the novels; whilst Dexter’s Morse often deals with class related crimes depicted in a gentle, benevolent manner, Mankell shows Wallander dealing with truly disgusting acts of violence and degradation, with the character often resorting to tough tactics to restore order and allow justice to prevail.

 

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Alex Macbeth Interview: “The first title I read was Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie”

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This week I caught up with The Red Die author Alex Macbeth to learn more about his writing, inspiration and the books that have influenced him.

Tell me about how the books you write. Why do you have such a passion for crime fiction in particular?

My debut novel The Red Die is a crime fiction title set in Mozambique. It has elements of espionage and is essentially a political-thriller-cum-detective-novel.

My main character Comandante Felisberto is a single father with two kids who has jurisdiction for a district of 130,000 people with nothing more than a handful of officers and one battered police car.

The body of a man with a red die in his pocket is washed ashore near a quiet village on the coast of the Indian Ocean in southern Africa. But what looked initially like a corpse that came in with the tide soon turns out to be a murder case that will lead Comandante Felisberto and his team to the edge of danger and despair as they uncover a trail leading up to the highest echelons of power in their country. Can Felisberto and his ‘motley crew of rural investigators’ solve the case – and survive?

What was the first crime fiction novel you read and how did it draw you into seeking out more books of this genre?

The first title I read was Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. But it was later when I discovered Henning Mankell and Nordic Noir that I really became passionate about the genre.

What is your career background and how did you get into writing professionally?

I’ve been a journalist for more than 10 years. I currently write a weekly newsletter for The Local Europe and before that I worked on media projects in Afghanistan, Pakistan, North and East Africa for five years at MiCT International, based in Berlin. I became interested in writing at a young age. My mum is a writer and so was my dad.

What books/ authors do you enjoy reading and how does this influence your writing?

I am always looking to discover new crime fiction and it’s hard to pick out a few titles because there are so many great ones. Camilleri’s Montalbano series resonates with me because I grew up in Italy, but I also really like Boris Akunin’s Fandorin novels.

I also enjoy reading contemporary African literature – although in the last five years I have mainly read crime fiction.

Nordic Noir has no doubt had a huge influence on my writing. I love all of the ten Sjowall and Wahloo novels – the Martin Beck series – but I am also a big fan of Henning Mankell. I also have to mention Alexander McCall Smith’s The Nr. 1 Ladies Detective Agency as an influence in terms of cozy detective writing in southern Africa. I’ve also been influenced by Moussa Konaté (Mali) and Deon Meyer (SA), two great African crime fiction writers.

Recently I’ve really enjoyed Parker Bilal’s novels, featuring private investigator Makana, which are set in Egypt.

Every time I read a crime fiction title I try and learn something new, whether it’s a tiny trait in how a detective is portrayed or a larger plot device. This is only the beginning of my journey as a crime fiction author and I’m always looking to learn from other writers.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

George Simenon reportedly wrote many of his masterpieces in a weekend so I’d love to watch how he did it that one Saturday night.

Have you got any exciting new plans or projects coming up that you’d like to share with me?

A sequel to The Red Die will be out in 2019.

Many thanks to Alex for answering my questions, it’s great to hear from a fellow Mankell fan! You can find out more about Alex and his work HERE.

 

Audiobooks: Revolutionary or Ruining Reading?

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Recently some friends and I started to wonder if audiobooks would spell the end of real reading. Much like the Kindle before it, the audiobook has become a symbol of a new age in the reading market. Although the Kindle and eBooks have so far failed to outstrip real books in terms of sales and popularity, audiobooks are constantly growing, but will this put an end to the traditional book?

Over the years, Audiobooks have been billed as the new eBooks; a cool new means of getting existing and previously hesitant readers into the latest books and classic tomes. The idea is far from revolutionary, yet recently many new firms and platforms have sprung out of the woodwork as the literature market continues to seek new and innovative ways to entice customers to buy their products.

With the constant rise of firm such as Audible, it is no wonder that audiobooks are becoming more popular as consumers enjoy easier access to them. However, I have always wondered if they are ruining the real reading experience by providing a sort of rubbish version of actually reading a book. Is it better to read the words than it is to hear them spoken aloud?

To be honest, it is my belief that audiobooks, as they are today, have been around for donkey’s years in the form of radio shows. When I was a kid I listened to BBC Radio 4 exclusively for the dramatic readings it did of books. In the days before everyone had a computer and could Google things on demand, they were a great gateway into finding new authors I liked and reading the books for myself. That’s how I started reading Sapper’s Bulldog Drummond novels, and, they introduced me to Dorothy L Sayers fantastic Lord Peter Wimsey. These books were already in my parent’s house, but I had never even thought of looking at them until I heard them spoken aloud on the radio. The voices bought the stories to life and I couldn’t wait to have a copy in my hand to read for myself.

That, in my opinion, is the role that audiobooks play today. They allow people to get a taste of books, and then explore them for themselves. Whilst I am sure there are many who will simply skip the reading stage, there will be many more who have never previously dreamt of reading who will pick up books in earnest once they have heard them spoken.

C.L. Williams Interview: “I read more non-fiction than anything”

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This week I speak to Luke, A.K.A C.L. Williams, a poet who is due to release his first novel shortly.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style.

As far as writing poetry goes, my writing tends to be one of two styles; lyrics or free verse. I started writing poems similar to song lyrics because of my love of music. I listen to almost every genre. Given how much poetry and song have in common it not only became easy to write a poem like a song, I can tell a story in a poem that feels like a song. I also write free verse because when I was writing my last poetry book META- (Complete) my only focus was delivering my feelings, not writing a good poem. As it turns out me writing my feelings was what made those who like my books take much enjoyment in reading META- (Complete) As far as writing fiction goes, I don’t think I’ve discovered a specific writing style for myself just yet. I’m still learning what I’m good at writing and what I need to work on, I’m also still discovering what genres I enjoy writing and which ones I need to improve upon.

What is your career background and how did you get into writing professionally?

I got into writing while I was in middle school. Not many like how I got into writing but as a kid, I did not enjoy reading. My lack of reading affected my grades in English class. However, when we had to do writing assignments in English class, my essays, short stories, and poems would get A’s and in many cases I was not trying. One poem I wrote in either seventh grade or eighth grade not only ended up in the school newsletter, it also ended up in my local newspaper. After that, I slowly started writing stuff on my own and would send it to various contests and websites. I only won one of the contests but if the option to be published on a website or in a book was there I ended up on those websites or in those books almost every time. As I got older, I was given the suggestion to try and publish my poems in a book. Here we are years later and I just released my eighth poetry book The Paradox Complex and I’m about to release my first novel The Escape of Ernest Frost.

Please tell me about the your books. What defines your writing style?

With my poetry books the biggest thing that defines what I write is about personal experiences or specific feelings and making sure that what I’m writing about can also connect with the reader. My earlier poetry books were focused on telling the reader “you’re not alone in what you go through”; more recently, it has been talking about struggles and coming to love and accept someone for who they are.

With fiction, I’ve noticed my love of comic books is seeping into my writing style because with a comic book, many tend to end with a cliff-hanger to get you to buy the issue coming out the following month. With my fiction work, I tend to make many of my chapters end with a cliff-hanger because I want my reader to continue reading the book.

Are there any particular mediums or narrative troupes you like to use in your writing and why?

I feel the biggest one that is present in both my poetry and my fiction work is the human condition. I’m always writing about how one feels, what their struggle is, and how they can overcome it. There are other ones that have been repeated but the human condition is easily the biggest one I’m always writing about.

What do you enjoy reading and how does this influence your writing?

As I mentioned earlier, being a reader of comic books has easily become part of my writing with cliff-hanger endings for chapters in my fiction work.

I also read a lot of non-fiction, I read more non-fiction than anything. Given how much more personal my poems have become over the years, I can easily credit my love of non-fiction to me wanting to be more personal with my own work.

My favourite author is Neil Gaiman, while I can’t say his work has been influential. I can say the fact he has so many different types of books out has been influential on me. In the past few years, he’s released novels, non-fiction, comic books, and a short story collection. I recently released a fantasy novella, I just released a poetry book, and I’m about to release my first novel.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

I’d have to pick William Shakespeare. I know I’m not the only one who would say he is the best writer ever. Not only would I be able to say I’ve worked with the best. I know I would learn a lot from him and it would make me a better writer in the process.

Have you got any exciting new plans or projects coming up that you’d like to share with me?

My newest book The Paradox Complex is actually the first of FIVE BOOKS I plan to release this year. My next book is my first novel, a suspense thriller, The Escape of Ernest Frost which I’m hoping to have out in late March or early April. It’s about a guy who gets kidnapped by a group of clowns and is forced into a cat and mouse game. He not only has to survive the night, he also has to find out why he was taken by this group of clowns.

I’m releasing a horror novella titled Dream Awake in the summer, it’s about a character who keeps having nightmares about being killed by someone, only for that person to show up in the real world and tell the main character they plan to kill the protagonist in the real world as well.

Late summer, I plan to re-release my book of love poems I did a few years ago titled Aspects of Love it’s being retitled Aspects of Love 1.5 and it’s the original book, a few poems that did not make the original cut, and a few brand new poems. My reason for doing this is because the first book was released under my real name, Luke Wood, and the eventual second volume is being released under my pen name, C.L. Williams. I thought both volumes needed to be released under the same name to avoid confusion.
By the end of the year, I plan to release my second novel, it currently does not have a title but it’s about a family overcoming the odds when struck with bad luck.

I also recently backed a Kickstarter for a comic book/tabletop game called The Empowered and I created a character for the comic book. The guys writing it mentioned summer being their goal on releasing the comic book.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to moving forward?

One of my friends, someone I actually knew before writing, is Criss Jami. He recently re-released his last few books. I’m waiting for my copies to come in the mail. I know he’s more than likely writing something, but he usually doesn’t reveal his plans on book releases until the book is released. As a fan of his work and as a friend I already know I’ll be buying whatever he does next.

When my books started gaining more readers one author that showed support and I have also given my support in return is K.N. Lee. I bought one of her most recent books, she releases more stuff than I do and sometimes it’s hard to keep up but when she mentions a new book, I buy it. Of her books, I’m currently reading Half-Blood Dragon.

Anything you’d like to add?

My newest poetry book The Paradox Complex is available in print and on digital on Amazon. And thank you Hannah for the opportunity to be on your website! It is greatly appreciated!

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, it has been a pleasure. You can find out more about his work HERE.

The Trouble Boys Review: A Gritty Historical Thriller That Packs A Punch

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Another foray into historical Crime Fiction for the Dorset Book Detective as I review The Trouble Boys, a novel which spans two decades and showcases the human side of organised crime.

The Trouble Boys centers around the Irish mob in New York City from the 1930s to the 1950s. The story opens in pre-WWII Europe when young Irish immigrant Colin O’Brien settles with his family in New York City.

Upon arrival Colin befriends a Cuban-American boy named Johnny Garcia. Life in America isn’t what Colin’s family expects and he experiences a shocking tragedy that alters his life. As Johnny and Colin grow into men, their friendship changes. They begin working for different crime syndicates, with Colin joining the ranks of charismatic Tom McPhalen’s Irish mob and Johnny becoming a member of debonair Tito Bernal’s Cuban gang.

As Colin’s rise in the ranks of organized crime becomes increasingly more brutal and demeaning and his friendship with Johnny deteriorates, he begins to question his place in the seductive yet violent world he’s found himself in.

At the end of the day, E. R. Fallon’s riveting thriller shows a familiar yet inventive version of a traditional tale; one of falling through the cracks of society into a mess of criminality that spirals to reveal the true grit of a character. Fallon’s characters hold up well under such close scrutiny, and the book as a whole is a great example of a nail-biting thriller with enough twists and human drama to sustain it through to the riveting conclusion.

Jeremiah Davis Interview: “I would love to collaborate with Martin Luther King”

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This week I caught up with Jeremiah Davis, a poet and writer who creates innovative pieces based on his own personal experience.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style.

I came to define my writing style during a time I was really fighting and battling with mental illness. I was very quiet about it; I wrote many dark things that I feel didn’t deserve the light. I later discovered I could channel the dark things into beautiful and brights sources of encouragement and inspiration.

What is your career background and how did you get into writing full time?

I knew at an early age when I had a problem with nerves and feeling ashamed. I knew then that writing poetry was the direct voice for me I speak very poetic and I know I want someone to be inspired the way I wish I were so that’s when I took on writing full time to see if it’s possible to inspire at least one person every day.

Please tell me about the your books. What defines your writing style?

I am not very proud of the style of my books but they speak about struggle and pain. The need to redeem, the desire to yearn for more, and an endless hunger to inspire. Writing about struggles defines my writing style.

Are there any particular mediums or narrative troupes you like to use in your writing and why?

I think about how I can turn the most negative experiences into positivity. I do this because as humans we easily dwell and harp, but when one shows resilience that’s what gets a nation inspired.

What do you enjoy reading and how does this influence your writing?

I enjoy reading personal, very personal stories. They help me dig deep into things I feel are useless, and rise to the occasion of overcoming.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

I would love to collaborate with Martin Luther King. I’m a huge believer in energy and I feel I could channel his stories and save our engulfed with raged world we live in. I feel he stood for more human equality rather than racial equality.

Have you got any exciting new plans or projects coming up that you’d like to share with me?

Yes I am working on my third collection of poetry.

Anything you’d like to add?

Thank you for this opportunity.

Many thanks for taking the time to answer, it has been great hearing your thoughts. You can find out more about Jeremiah and his work HERE.

The Top Ten Best Private Detectives of All Time

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I love a good private eye mystery, and although I have looked at individual books series and writers in my lists before, I realised recently that I have never looked at the genre as a whole, a misdemeanour that I fully intend to rectify.

Private eyes are really interesting characters; their distance from the law removes them its restrictions, whilst their moral code and friendship often offer them a different set of, slightly less regimented, rules to follow. Although traditionally private detectives in fiction were often former policemen who had left the force under a cloud or soldiers who were bored and seeking a return to a form of regimented lifestyle, today there are many different options to choose from when it comes to private investigators.

Originally envisaged as a top five, I quickly realised that I would need to double the number of detectives in order to showcase the ultimate list, so here are the ten best private investigators from around the world and across the Crime Fiction landscape.

10. Sam Spade: The inspiration behind many great American private detective characters, including Raymond Chandler’s exceptional Philip Marlowe, Dashiell Hammett’s mischievous and cheeky character makes The Maltese Falcon a true classic pulp fiction novel.

9. Bulldog Drummond: Sapper’s demobbed solider turned private eye is a gift to anyone seeking a thrilling and tantalising series unlike anything they’ve ever read before. The books aren’t widely enjoyed anymore, and they can seem a little dated to today’s audiences in terms of their treatment of women and people of other races, but despite this I feel that there is something to be said for this forerunner to James Bond, as I outlined in my previous post.

8. Precious Ramotswe: Alexander McCall Smith’s unique detective brings a no-nonsense approach to crime solving. Her cases are often intriguing and deeply rooted in the culture of Botswana, where her novels are set. She is a fiercely intelligent, independent woman with a passion for helping others, and that is something that everyone should look up to.

7. Mikael Blomkvist: An intrepid investigative journalist out on the hunt for the perpetrators of a truly deplorable deception, the protagonist of the unfortunate Stieg Larsson’s unforgettable Millennium Trilogy is a real all rounder. Although Larsson does his best to convey the man’s normality and seedy journalistic nature, there is something heroic about the way he interacts with Lisbeth Salander, and his devotion to her cause makes for a thrilling series.

6. C. Auguste Dupin: Edgar Allan Poe’s detective, often cited as the first of its kind and the inspiration behind such greats as Sherlock Holmes, is a really interesting man with a number of intriguing perks. The story are intelligently plotted and the characters themselves are all fascinating, including the protagonist, who is perceptive, quick thinking and diligent, making him the ideal template for a host of private investigators from across the genre.

5. Lord Peter Wimsey: Overall, I feel that this list can be split into the plain, staid stalwarts of their genre, and the bizarre characters that make reading private detective stories fun. Lord Peter most definitely falls into the latter category. This strange yet compelling member of the aristocracy, who uses his wit and charm to lull his suspects into a false sense of security whilst he uses his intellect and extensive education to deduce the who, why, what and where of the crime. Sayers compelling series is worth reading for its exceptional handling of the love between Lord Peter and the object of his affections, who later becomes his wife, writer Harriet Vane.

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4. Hercule Poirot: Agatha Christie’s famed Belgium detective and his ‘little grey cells’ remain incredibly popular to this day, as highlighted by Kenneth Branagh’s recent film adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express, which has reignited interest in the Queen of Crime’s eccentric sleuth. His strange mannerisms and knack for spotting clues everywhere he goes make this strange little man the perfect investigator, and his utter conspicuousness makes him a walking double bluff- nobody sees him watching them because they are too busy making fun of him and his fussy, slight compulsive behaviour. With a former solider, a grumpy policeman, a prim secretary and an overbearing novelist among his cohort of assistants fans can see the influences that Conon Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories had on Christie, and her characters, particularly her suspects, later became the template for the entire Golden Age of Crime Fiction.

3. Miss Phryne Fisher: You may have noticed, following on from all my previous mentions of her (including my top five post about the best novels to get you addicted on Kerry Greenwood’s fascinating 1920s sleuth), that I am something of a fan of this Australian flapper and her demur yet dastardly detecting ways. The character is a marvel, with her before its time feminist outlook, her compassion and her remarkable sense of style. Refined, intelligent and dignified, the Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher is a truly unique creation and one that everyone should check out.

2. Sherlock Holmes: Of course, the great man himself truly needs no introduction, and Conan Doyle’s eccentric investigator and his faithful companion Dr Watson have long since become a template for many detective duos since the characters were introduced in the 1887 novel A Study in Scarlet. Alongside a selection of novels, the characters also appeared in a range of short stories, which were incredibly popular. He remains to this day a remarkable and renowned detective who repeatedly appears in and influences popular media in a variety of forms.

1. Philip Marlowe: My top five for this American gumshoe remains the Dorset Book Detective’s most popular post, and it’s easy to see why. With his sharp wit and tough talk, this hardboiled detective paved the way for pretty much every American detective that came after him.