Who do you think of when you think of a famous detective?
Chances are, you have thought of a fictional detective (like Sherlock Holmes).
There are two very good reasons for this.
One: most real detectives prefer to stay “under the radar” – indeed, that is the very nature of the work.
And, two: many memorable fictional detectives have provided us with entertainment and enlightenment for years, in novels, TV, film, and even comics.
The detective story provides an excellent platform on which creative authors can roll out drama, suspense, character development, humor, and romance. Another feature is the range of professions available. These vary from private investigators like Philip Marlowe, police detectives like Dick Tracy, church detectives like Father Brown, private citizens who solve crimes like Miss Marple, children detectives like Nancy Drew, and other more exotic specialists like Temperance Brennan (who is a forensic anthropologist).
Yet another interesting feature of this genre of fiction involves the portrayal of various regional settings and experiences. Here are some examples:
- Joe Leaphorn and his Navajo tribal police in the “Four Corners” area of New Mexico and Arizona by author Tony Hillerman,
- Temperance Brennan and her Laboratoire des Sciences Judiciaires et de Médecine Légale in Montreal, Quebec by author Kathy Reichs,
- Spenser and his city of Boston by author Robert B. Parker,
- Kinsey Millhone and her (fictional) city of Santa Teresa (based on Santa Barbara), California by author Sue Grafton, and
- Joanne Kilbourn and her role as university professor in Regina, Saskatchewan by author Gail Bowen.
Detectives will continue to bring wit, wisdom, and wonder to our lives: from the classic mysteries of Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Agatha Christie; to the latest “alphabet” mystery from author Sue Grafton; to fresh creations like author Jonathan Ames and his TV series Bored to Death.
Incidentally, Sue Grafton’s “alphabet” series (“A” is for Alibi . . .) was inspired by the Travis McGee novels by John D. MacDonald, which had a color theme (from The Deep Blue Good-by to The Lonely Silver Rain); as well as the Rabbi Small novels by Harry Kemelman, which had a day-of-the-week theme (from Friday the Rabbi Slept Late to That Day the Rabbi Left Town).
Here is a sampling of some famous detectives and their creators.
|Detective / Character||Creator|
|C. Auguste Dupin||Edgar Allan Poe|
|Dick Tracy||Chester Gould|
|Father Brown||G. K. Chesterton|
|Hercule Poirot||Agatha Christie|
|Joanne Kilbourn||Gail Bowen|
|Joe Leaphorn, Jim Chee||Tony Hillerman|
|Jonathan Ames||Jonathan Ames|
|Kinsey Millhone||Sue Grafton|
|Mike Hammer||Mickey Spillane|
|Miss Marple||Agatha Christie|
|Nancy Drew||Carolyn Keene|
|Nero Wolfe||Rex Stout|
|Philip Marlowe||Raymond Chandler|
|Sam Spade||Dashiell Hammett|
|Sherlock Homes||Sir Arthur Conan Doyle|
|Spenser||Robert B. Parker|
|Temperance Brennan||Kathy Reichs|
|Travis McGee||John D. MacDonald|