From time to time someone comes up with a list of crime fiction writers. The
purpose is to compose a Who’s Who of the crime fiction world. Such lists are
inevitably controversial and, indeed, it might be said that the very idea is not
a bad way to pump up circulation. The most recent example of crime fiction list
making is the Telegraph which on 23rd February published their list under the
title: 50 Crime Writers to read before you die.
Such a list
is bound to uncork the opinion bottle in the vast crime fiction universe. Why
choose 50 writers as opposed to a 100? There is no real answer to that. There is
always a cut off. Given reader attention and space in the paper, 50 writers
apparently fit the bill.
What criteria was used by the Telegraph?
Apparently it was based on “love.”
“We wanted to compile a list of
writers we had, jointly and severally, loved. We wanted to include writers like
Dash Hammett, who brought something new and exciting to the genre; like Elmore
Leonard, who turns an old trick in it with incomparable style; and like Poe, who
invented it. We did not, except incidentally, take into account popularity.”
Only religion and politics is able to duplicate the emotional responses
that an all time greats list can fire up. The readers of the Telegraph have left
hundreds of irate comments, asking where is Donna Leon, Rex Stout, Ellis
Peters, John D. MacDonald, P.D. James, John Harvey, Peter Robinson, Navada Barr,
Tony Hillerman, J.A. Jance, Thomas Harris, Michael Connolly, Harlen Coben, John
Sandford, Lee Child, Jeffrey Deaver, Nelson De Mille, Tess Gerritsen and David
Baldacci and on and on.
So who is the best crime writer of all time?
Mirror on the wall who is the fairest of them all? Obviously beauty is in the
eye of the beholder, and in terms of crime fiction writers, the Telegraph proves
a deep reserve of loyalty amongst various readers.