Who is the Bestest Ever crime writer? And other questions…

The Crime Writers’ Association is about to celebrate its 60th birthday (it was founded by John Creasey on Bonfire Night 1953). To mark its anniversary, the CWA is going to ask its 600+ members three questions:

A) Who is the Best Ever crime writer?
B) Which is the Best Ever crime novel?
C) Which is the Best Ever crime series?

The CWA last polled its members 15 years ago, with the following fairly predictable results.

Best ever crime writer: Raymond Chandler, Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers

Best novel: Sayers’ The Nine Tailors (1934), Chandler’s The Big Sleep (1939) and Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone* (1868)

Best series: Chandler’s Philip Marlowe novels, followed by Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey and Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.

Obviously little had changed since the 1990 publication of Hatchard’s Crime Companion, which featured the top 100 books selected by the CWA – a list I should be halfway through reading this month.

The answers are unlikely to change this time around (and to be honest they’re fairly solid, although I could do without Dorothy L. Sayers).

However, I think a more interesting set of questions – What crime novel surprised you most? What crime novel have you most recommended to other readers? – might generate a little more interest.

What questions would you ask your favourite crime writer?


About pastoffences

Past Offences exists to review classic crime and mystery books, with ‘classic’ meaning books originally published before 1987.
This entry was posted in Agatha Christie, Classic mystery book review, Information Received and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Who is the Bestest Ever crime writer? And other questions…

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    Oh, so much to think about here, Rich. I know the questions are straightforward and simple but they really aren’t. Well at least not to me…Hmmm…


  2. FictionFan says:

    Reginald Hill, On Beulah Height, Dalziel and Pascoe. There, sorted! 😉


    • westwoodrich says:

      As a reader, that’s much more interesting and useful than a rehash of all the usual suspects – a book I haven’t read in a series I’ve only sampled a couple of times. Thanks FictionFan – I promise to read it this year.


  3. I thought about what had surprised me over the years, and out of my head (and to my surprise) popped Ira Levin’s A Kiss Before Dying. (Must re-read.) At the moment I’m reco’ing Elly Griffiths a lot. And here are some should-be-better-known names: Rupert Holmes, Barry Maitland, Catriona McPherson. When I’ve just finished a book I often want to ask some very specific questions, usually about loose ends (last week: ‘What DID happen to Simon?’) but don’t particularly need to question or meet my favourite crime authors. (non-crime writers, I would want to meet.)
    Good questions Rich!


  4. Nothing like an impossible task before breakfast – but THREE? That takes the biscuit Rich … Well, the best novel might well be THE WOMAN IN WHITE, the best author maybe Chandler or Hammett but best series? Nightmare to choose – Maigret or Martin Beck probably …


  5. PS To answer your question though: THE CHILL by Ross Macdonald might be the one I recommend the most often though when it comes to surprise I agree, Levin’s A KISS BEFORE DYING is hard to beat though Stanley Ellin’s MIRROR MIRROR comes very close


    • westwoodrich says:

      I should try to answer them myself, shouldn’t I?

      Most recommended is possibly AN INSTANCE OF THE FINGERPOST by Iain Pears. A 17th-century crime thriller with some very unreliable narrators.

      Gilbert Adair’s THE ACT OF ROGER MURGATROYD pulls off an excellent surprise, probably even cleverer than the Christie novel which inspired it.


  6. Pingback: My thoughts on the CWA’s best crime novel, author and series | Past Offences

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