The Telegraph's top-fifty crime-author list: Who belongs? Who doesn't?
Well, two complaints: Like James Fallows on the Atlantic's Web site late last year, the Telegraph misspells Janwillem van de Wetering's name, though the Telegraph misspells it differently. It's van de Wetering, not der.
Here are some excerpts from the list, with an occasional comment from me:
Janwillem van de(!!) Wetering (1931- ): "The capers of Grijpstra and de Gier, aka The Amsterdam Cops, are oddly appealing. One plays the drums; the other the flute. They frequent canals. There's a cat. Unique and very Dutch. Read: Outsider in Amsterdam (1975)" (Detectives Beyond Borders says: Outsider in Amsterdam may exemplify the "very Dutch" side of van de Wetering. Hard Rain highlights the "unique" side, delightfully reflecting the author's experience with Zen Buddhism and my favorite in the series.)
Georges Simenon (1903-1989): "His greatest creation was Maigret, an unassuming detective with a brain like a sponge and the quiet moral determination of a true hero. Other detectives deduce; Maigret absorbs. The best of the novels drop Simenon’s detective into a social environment in which, by doing very little, he unravels a whole world of secrets and interconnections. So it is in The Yellow Dog, in which a small town in the gloomy off-season gives up its private passions one by one to the detective’s patient observation. A whole school of modern detectives still walks in Maigret’s large footprints."
Jonathan Latimer (1906-1983): "Admired for his William Crane novels of the 1930s, which parodied hard-boiled crime fiction. Where most private eyes drink like fish with little effect, boozy Crane is more often found sleeping it off than detecting. JK Read: The Fifth Grave (1941)" (DBB says: The Fifth Grave is known in the U.S. as Solomon's Vineyard and was for years available only in a bowdlerized edition. It still hits hard almost seventy years after its publication. Among the lighter-hearted but still occasionally very hard-boiled William Crane books, try The Lady in the Morgue, The Dead Don't Care or Headed for a Hearse.)
Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1921-1990): "The most famous of this Swiss author's chilling novellas is The Pledge, in which a policeman finds his Holmes-like powers are useless for dealing with the real world's random brutality." (DBB says: I suspect this writer earns respect among those who would not normally read crime fiction because he showed no sense of humor. Try his older compatriot Friedrich Glauser. Glauser, said to have influenced Dürrenmatt, could be just as chilling but also mordantly and sometimes puckishly funny.)
Andrea Camilleri (1925- ): "Camilleri's writing suits his hero Inspector Montalbano, a Sicilian with a broad sense of humour. Camilleri's real subject is the state of Sicily, but his characters are vivid and their dilemmas eternal."
Henning Mankell (1948- ): "Each book finishes with fatty Wallander crashing about the bushes in a tracksuit, but the Swede's existential misery is delightful and every novel is absorbing and satisfying."
Now I'll ask you the same question the Telegraph asked its readers: Who should have been on the list? Who should have been omitted?
© Peter Rozovsky 2008