'Murder Will Out': The Detective in Fiction by T. J. Binyon (1989)
I'm a sucker for not only a good mystery novel but a good book about mystery novels, or, in this case about fictional detectives. English author and scholar T. J. Binyon (1936-2004), in this book, has attempted to write a history of the fictional detective, a daunting task that resulted in an entertaining, often idiosyncratic, work.
Binyon divides fictional detectives into four loose categories: the professional amateur, the amateur amateur, the police, and oddities (those who don't fit into the previous three categories). The professional amateur is, like Sherlock Holmes, is a professional of some sort who is not a policeman; he (or she) may be a doctor, lawyer, journalist, banker, insurance investigator, private detective or private eye (there is a difference), or any other profession that might bring the protagonist close to crime. Examples cited include C. August Dupin, Sherlock Holmes, Martin Hewitt, Max Carrados, Dr. Thorndyke, Craig Kennedy, Nurse Hilda Adams, Ephraim Tutt, Reggie Fortune, Perry Mason, Arthur Crook, Mrs. Lestrange Bradley, Basil Willing, Kent Murdock, Hercule Poirot, Maud Silver, J. G. Reeder, Nigel Strangeways, the Continental Op, Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe, Lew Archer, Mike Hammer, John Shaft, Kinsey Millhone, Travis McGee, Ed Noon, and so many others. Binyon also gives what he feels are a dozen differences between the private detective and the private eye.
The amateur amateur is a non-professional detective. Here, "credulity is strained beyond breaking point if he or she is constantly and conveniently found among those present when a murder has been committed. In other words, this type of detective story is the most artificial and contrived of all, and consequently its plots tend to be equally artificial and constructed." Prime examples given are Philo Vance, Ellery Queen, Gideon Fell, Sir Henry Merrivale, and Jane Marple. The amateur amateur often has a relation ship with a police official, which not only helps by having the police do all the scut work (forensics, autopsies, checking criminal records, etc,), but also by giving the amateur entry to the crime scene and the suspects. Others in that category include Lord Peter Wimsey, The Old Man in the Corner, The Thinking Machine, Dr. Priestley, Gervase Fen, Sergeant Beef, Kate Fansler, Philip Trent, Albert Campion, Father Brown, Rabbi David Small, Peter Duluth. Nick and Nora Charles, Pam and Jerry North, John Putnam Thatcher, Hildegarde Withers, Asey Mayo, Ed and Am Hunter, Henry Gamadge. and Pierre Chambrun. (Binyon also included Henry Tibbett in this group, despite his being a policeman, because his investigations are with his wife Emmy.)
The police detective has been with us all along, beginning with Vidocq, Lecoq, Inspector Bucket, and Sergeant Cuff. Poor Lestrade and other policemen who appear mainly as foils do not make the cut. Those who do make the cut are Ebenezer Gryce, Inspector Hanaud, Lady Molly of Scotland Yard, Superintendent Henry Wilson, Inspector French, Inspector Rason (later to be in The Department of Dean Ends), Bobby Owen, Roderick Alleyn, Inspector Cockrill, John Appleby, Roger West, Adam Dalgliesh, Thatcher Colt, Charlie Chan, Inspector Moto, Jules Maigret, Superintendent Charles Wycliffe, Inspector Van der Valk, Jose da Silva, Inspector Ganesh Ghote, November Joe, Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte ("Boney), Joe Leaphorn, Jim Chee, the men and women of the 87th Precinct, Luis Mendoza, Martin Beck, George Gideon, the cops of Yellowthread Street in Hong Kong, Christie Opara, Norah Mulcahaney, Lieutenant Valcour, Virgil Tibbs, Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones.Chief
Inspector Morse (he had no first name when this book was published), Dalziel and Pascal, and C. D. Sloan. Those are just the ones you may have heard of or read,
The catch up category, "A Few Oddities," Some of the more light-hearted detectives covered include, Inspector Schmidt, Chief Inspector Wilfred Dover, Homer Evans, the various investigtors of Flaxborough, and the obvious parodies of popular characters (Lord Simon Plimsoll, Monsieur Amer Picon, and Monsignor Smith; Trajan Bear, Spike Bludgeon, Mallory King, Sir Jon. Nappleby, Jerry Pason, Atlas Poireau, Lord Simin Quinsey, Miss Fan Silver, and Broderick Tourneur -- Schlock Homes and Dr. Watney had already been covered in Chapter One). Binyon then moves on to historical detectives: Uncle Abner, Dr Sam: Johnson, Judge Dee, Sergeant Cribb, and Cadfael, among others. As for crooks and villains -- some truly evil and some, perhaps, misunderstood -- Binyon includes them even though they don't meet his requirements as detectives: Dr, Nikola, Fu Manchu, Colonel Clay, Hamilton Cleek, Rodney Pringle, A. J. Raffles, Arsene Lupin, the Infallible Godahl, Jimmie Dale (The Grey \Seal), Blackshirt, Simon Templar, and Parker.
Each detective is given a brief overview within the context of Binyon's thesis. An awful lot is covered in just 134 pages. Because the author is British many of the authors and characters may be unfamiliar to American readers. There are some bone-headed mistakes but they are few. Binyon's opinions can be as divisive as those of Jacques Barzun and Wendell Hertig Taylor's A Catalog of Crime, but the benefits of both outweigh the drawbacks. An appendix lists over eighty recommended authors and their books that feature series detectives.
This is an entertaining and fascinating book, and, despite its age, is perfect for the dedicated mystery fan and for those who wish to find new authors to read.
And, if you're not too tired of the endless lists I included above, here are the authors whose works are discussed: Anthony Abbott, Caryl Brahms, Cleve f. Adams, Herbert Adams, Catherine Aird, Michael Allegretto, Grant Allen, Margery Allingham, Delano Ames, Frederick Anderson, Peter Antony, Charlotte Armstrong, Frank Arthur, Clifford Ashdown, Clemence Dane, Philip Atkey (Barry Perowne), Pierre Audemars, John Austwick, Michael Avallone, George Bagby, H. C. Bailey, John Ball, Willis Todhunter Ballard, Bill Ballinger, Edwin Balmer, Julian Barnes, James Barnett, Vicki Baum, George Baxt, Francis Beeding, Josephine Bell, George Bellairs, Arnold Bennett, Ben Benson, E. C. Bentley, Andrew Bergman, Anthony Berkeley, Isiah Berlin, Earl Derr Biggers, Anne Blaisdell, Nicholas Blake, William Blake, Suzanne Blanc, Oliver Bleeck, Lawrence G. Blochman, John and Emory Bonnett, Francis Bonnamy, Guy Boothby, Anthony Boucher, Dorothy Bowers, Edgar Box, Ernest Bramah, Christianna Brand, H. C. Branson, Lillian Jackson Braun, Herbert Brean, Simon Brett, Lynne Brock, Fredric Brown, Douglas Browne, Elizabeth Browning, Leo Bruce, Eric Bruton, Bruce Buckingham, John Bude, J. F. burke, W. J. Burley, Rex Burns, Miles Burton, Roger Busby, Christopher Bush, Gwendolyn Butler.
R. T. Cmpbell, Edward Candy, Joanna Cannan, Leslie Cargill, Harry Carmichael, Carol Carnac, Glyn Carr, John Dickson Carr, Sarah Caudwell, M. E. Chamber, Raymond Chandler, Leslie Charteris, G. K. Chesterton, Agatha Christie, Douglas Clark, Tod Claymore, V. C. Clinton-Baddeley, Belton Cobb, Liza Cody, Octavus Roy Cohen, G.D. H. and M. I. Cole, Michael Collins, Wilkie Collins, J. J. Connington, K. C. Constantine, Fenimore Cooper, Basil Copper, S. H. Courtier, George Harmon Coxe, Francis Crane, John Creasey, Edmund Crispin, Freeman Wills Crofts, Amanda Cross, Marten Cumberland, E. V. Cunningham, Carroll John Daly, Elizabeth Daly, Clemence Dane, Glyn Daniel, Jocelyn Davey, S. F. X. Dean, Daniel Defoe, Lillian de la Torre, Michael Delving, Richard Deming, Jane Dentinger, August Derleth, Thomas B. Dewey, Colin Dexter, Charles Dickens, Peter Dickinson. Doris Disney, David Dodge, Hildegarde Dolson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Alexandre Dumas, David Durham.
Umberto Eco, Lesley Egan, T, S. Eliot, James Ellroy, Howard Engle, Margaret Erskine, Loren Estleman, Katherine Farrar, Ruth Fenigson, A. Fielding, Robert Finnegan, Robert L. Fish, Mary Fitt, Nigel Fitzgerald, Joan Fleming, J. S. Fletcher, Pat Flower, E. M. Forster, Gilbert Frankau, Antonia Fraser. Nicholas Freeling, R. Austin Freeman, Timothy Fuller, Emile Gaboriau, G. V. Galway, Earle [sic] Stanley Gardner*, Jonathan Gash, William Campbell Gault, Anthony Gilbert, Michael Gilbert, James Gleason, William Godwin, George Goodchild, Joe Gores, Bruce Graeme, Roderic Graeme, Sue Grafton, Anna K. Green.
Brett Halliday, Michael Halliday, Dashiell Hammett, Joseph Hanson, Thomas W. Hanshew, Cyril Hare, Joseph Harrington, Ray Harrison, Macdonald Hastings, S. T. Haymon, Matthew Head, Tim Heald, Mark Hebden, M. V. Heberton, Georgette Heyer, Reginald Hill, Tony Hillerman, James Hilton, John Buxton Hilton, Chester Himes, Anne Hocking, William Hope Hodgson, Timothy Holme, Leonard Holton, Geoffrey Homes, E. W. Hornung, Dorothy Hughes, Fergus Hume, Alan Hunter, Elspeth Huxley, Peter Inchbald, Michael Innes, P. D. James, William James, F. Tennyson Jesse, Hamilton Jobson, Matti Joensun, Frank Kane, Henry Kane, McKinley Kantor, Dan Kavanagh, H. R. F. Keating, Jonathan Kellerman, Mary Kelly, Harry Kemelman, Baynard H. Kendrick, Milward Kennedy, Michael Kenyon William Kienzle, C. Daly King, Rufus King, C. H. B. Kitchin, Monsignor Ronald Knox.
Emma Lathan, Jonathan Latimer, Hilda Lawrence, Maurice Leblanc, Gypsy Rose Lee, Elizabeth Lemarchand, William Le Queux, Gaston Leroux, Michael Z. Lewin, Lange Lewis, Roy Lewis, Elizabeth Linington, Richard and Frances Lockridge, Norman Longmate, E. C. R. Lorac, Peter Lovesey, Francis Lynde, Helen McCloy, James McClure, Victor McClure, John D. MacDonald, Philip MacDonald, Ross Macdonald, Paul McGuire, William MacHarg, Marion Mainwaring, John Malcolm, Arthur Maling, Stephen Marlowe, John P. Marquand, Ngaio March, William Marshall, A. E. W. Mason, J. C. Masterman, Harold Q. Masur, James Melville , Margaret Millar, Wade Miller, Gladys Mitchell, Gwen Moffatt. William Mole, Manuel Vazquez Montalban, Will Moore, Anne Morice, Nigel Morland, Christopher Morley, Arthur Morrison, Patricia Moyes,Magdelen Nabb, Ogden Nash, Simon Nash, Beverley Nichols, Helen Nielsen, Torben Nielson, William F. Nolan, James Norman, Gil North.
Lillian O'Donnell, Baroness Orczy, Poul Orum, Frank L. Packard, Marco Page, Barry Pain, Stuart Palmer, Sara Paretsky, Robert B. Parker, Q. Patrick, Elliott Paul, Hugh Pentecost, Barry Perowne, Ellis Peters, Allan Pinkerton, Edgar Allan Poe, Joyce Porter. Melville Davisson Post, Richard S. Prather, H. Hesketh Prichard, Maurice Proctor, E. R. Punshon, Ellery Queen, E. and M. A. Radford, Sheila Radley, Edogawa Rampo, Julian Rathbone, Clayton Rawson, Winwood Reade, Ishmael Reed, Dilwyn Rees, Arthur B. Reeve, Helen Reilly, Ruth Rendell, John Rhode, Craig Rice, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Sax Rohmer, Jonathan Ross, Dorothy L. Sayers, Jack S. Scott, Francis Selwyn, David Serafin, Dell Shannon, John Shepherd, M. P. Shiel, Georges Simenon, Dorothy Simpson, George R. Sims, Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, Josef Skvorecky, Clark Smith, Nancy Spain, Bart Spicer, Mickey Spillane, Richard Stark, Rex Stout, T. S. Stribling, L. A. G, Strong, W. Stanley Sykes, Julian Symon.
Phoebe Atwood Taylor, Lee Thayer, Angela Thirkell, Ross Thomas, June Thomson, Sir Basil Thomson, Arthur Train, Lawrence Treat, John Trench, Lord Trenchard, Glen Trevor, Peter Turnbull, Mark Twain, Dorothy Uhnak, Michael Underwood, Arthur W, Upfield, Jonathan Valin, Janwillem van de Wetering, S. S. Van Dine, Robert H. van Gulik, Richard Verrell, Voltaire, Henry Wade, Edgar Wallace, A. J. Walling, Joseph Wambaugh, Colin Watson,, Hillary Waugh, Carolyn Wells, Patricia Wentworth, Victor L. Whitechurch, Collin Wilcox, David Williams, Pauline Glen Winslow, Clifford Witting, Sara Woods, Eric Wright, Anthony Wynne, Dornsford Yates, Andrew York, and Margaret York.
Who are your favorite authors listed here? Favorite characters? Are there any you might like to try?
* Not a typo, but a blunder repeated throughout the book