Barry Fantoni’s Top 5 Detectives

This article is from 2012

Barry Fantoni’s Top 5 Detectives

The crime author lists his favourite fictional crime-solvers

Philip Marlowe

Marlowe is everything the genre demands.The Bay City PI is sardonic, laidback and self-deprecating. His creator, Raymond Chandler, is, in my book, not only the greatest crime writer of all, he is one of the greatest writers, period. A crime author who said he didn’t know what his plots were about gets my vote. He put the character first. He wrote stories, not crossword clues.

Inspector Maigret

The plots of Simenon’s inspector are thin and the narrative what you would expect for a story written in 11 days, the time he gave himself. But the heavy, pipe-puffing, often short-tempered Paris-based Maigret is a first-class invention who is in a class of his own.

Sherlock Holmes

With Dr Watson as the fall guy, he and Holmes are the blueprint for all double detective acts. The pipe, eccentric lifestyle and an eye for detail are legend and used by hundreds of disciples of the crime-solving club. But Doyle is the master.

Mike Hammer

Mickey Spillane’s over-the-top hard-nose style and obvious plots should put Mike Hammer in division four of detective fiction. But the sheer energy of the writing and the relentless toughness make up for all the weaknesses. His books have never been out of the top 50 of the USA best-selling list.

Joe Friday

A TV cop, Joe Friday and his partner (they changed throughout the long series) were the first and best of all TV cops.


was the name of the show and Jack Webb was its creator, director and just about everything else, including lead actor. The fact that the stories were all true adds to the interest. The research into police procedure is a joy in itself.

10-13 Aug (with Sara Sheridan), 2.30pm, £10 (£8).

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