And then there were 32 — the first round of this vote to find the most popular sleuth of detective fiction’s Golden Age having whittled the original 64 names down to half that number, and the votes available for one week from today due to halve it again. So, who survived and who is out of the running?
Two fairly clear walkovers in these first two votes — click on any of these images to see a bigger version, by the way — with top seed Dr. Gideon Fell rightly seeing off Supt. David Hadley (preferred by 26 people…) and the highfalutin’ Philo Vance knockin’ Anthony Gilbert’s Arthur Crook into a cocked hat or something equally witty and urbane. Leaving you with the following choice:
Nero Wolfe’s eyes and ears Archie Goodwin belied his low seeding to send Sergeant William Beef packing — much to the dismay of Lionel Townsend, who probably hoped to bask in some reflected prestige — and the Battle of Erle Stanley Garnder Characters was won, to the surprise of precisely no-one, by the belligerent lawyer Perry Mason. Counsel must, then, make the following decision:
Joining Archie in the second round is his boss Nero Wolfe — and you know full well that Archie would have made much of progressing on his own — who, after swatting aside Superintendent Battle, will face another Agatha Christie character in Tommy Beresford, (scandalously, to my mind) fairly routed Sir Clinton Driffield.
‘Handsome’ Roderick Alleyn was posed no threat by Patrick Quentin’s Iris Duluth, but might Lord Peter Wimsey, with an epic margin of victory over M. Hanaud in the most popular vote in the whole first round, prove a stiffer test?
Perhaps no great shocks in these two results, either, with Christianna Brand’s Inspector Cockrill making short work of Napoleon Bonaparte, and Michael Innes’ Sir John Appleby barely even noticing the challenge put up by Desmond Merrion. We expect the margins to get narrower as things progress, and I have a feeling this one is going to be neck and neck:
Fan I may well have become of Craig Rice’s John J. Malone novels, but I didn’t expect the lawyer to do brilliantly in this vote…and, sure enough, he was taught a lesson by Inspector Richard Queen..albeit with the fewest total votes of any of the top half run-offs. And John Rhode/Miles Burton’s Bright Young Men continue to fare poorly…but did anyone expect Jimmy Waghorn to triumph against M. Hercule Poirot? Well, 15 people did, but they’re perhaps the only ones.
Anthony Berkeley’s Ambrose Chitterwick is a meek and self-deprecating presence who would no doubt expect himself to lose out at this early stage, but I’d’ve liked to see him get at least a little further. And Josephine Tey’s Alan Grant did well to beat John Dickson Carr’s first sleuth, the abrasive Henri Bencolin, seeded some 20 places higher. This match-up will be a close one, I feel…
Carrying the rough and tumble P.I.’s fate on his cynical shoulders alone in the second round will be Philip Marlowe, despite a spirited resistance from Charlie Chan. And I’m very pleased to see Freeman Wills Crofts’ Joseph French pip Anthony Boucher’s Sister Ursula for the final berth in the top half. Game on!
So, with a total of 3,499 votes cast in the top half of the draw, how did the bottom half turn out?
Ellery Queen was thoroughly untroubled by Superintendent Wilson, and Reggie Fortune comfortably saw of Helene Brand — you’ll notice the number of votes cast in this lower half is much lower than the previous demi-round, but these are still pretty comfortable victories.
Yes, the Continental Op failed to prevent Nigel Strangeways making his way through, I’m afraid, leaving you hardboiled nuts with only Marlowe to root for. And am I the only one surprised at how close the match being Roger Sheringham and Thomas Littlejohn went? I suppose Littlejohn’s case is boosted by a lost of recent reprints, but I expected Roger to trounce him.
It feels only right to me that Gervase Fen — detective — should see off Arthur Hastings — sidekick — but, well, this is a vote about popularity and I do understand the wealth of feeling people have for our clueless Captain, securing this head-to-head the joint highest number of votes in this half of the draw. On the other side, it’s incredible to think that even a couple of years ago Anthony Bathurst wouldn’t have gotten a mention in this sort of undertaking, but Hildegard Withers’ presence in the popular mindset saw her squeak through.
Presence in the mind of the average reader no doubt goes a long way, with my mate Edward Beale failing to stir much resistance against the Dr. Lancelot Priestley — frankly, I was delighted that Beale got the three votes he did to even get him into the poll in the first place. And did we really think Bobby Owen stood any sort of chance against Aunt Jane?
I always found Rogan Kincaid a bit bland — a dull character in two good books — so can’t say I’m surprised at his being put in his place by Jules Maigret. And, in the least popular vote in the entire poll, Peter Duluth triumphs over his seeding, edging out Jake Justus, going one better than his wife, and meaning Craig Rice doesn’t make it past the first round.
Tuppence Beresford joins her husband Tommy in the second round with a surprisingly close result over Inspector Robert Macdonald — reprints not helping his cause — and the scientific rigour and care of Dr. John Thorndyke displaces the prestidigitation of the Great Merlini…as, frankly, it should…!
God and science to head-to-head, with the intuitionist leanings of Father Brown all but wiping D.A. Doug Selby off the ballot paper — and with the joint-most votes in this half of the poll, to boot — and Dr. Basil Willing sending Ludovic Travers packing. So now you must pick a side…
Another Erle Stanley Gardner character crashes out, with Donald Lam this time losing a fight to an old lady — hardly a surprise, that — and, on the other side, no-one is surprised that the Old Man, Sir Henry Merrivale, sends Superintendent Humphrey Masters back to Scotland Yard, Bradley vs. Merrivale is very much the crossover novel I didnt know I needed until this moment…
Despite being open for the same amount of time, the bottom half secured a mere 2,369 votes — a 32% decrease on the top half and hopefully not a sign of flagging interest as there are still more than a few rounds to come. Lawks, can you imagine if no-one’s interested come the final?
Hopefully you got your votes in while reading this, but — just in case — don’t forget to vote and spread the word. Polls remain open until 12:01 am UK time on Saturday 22nd October 2022, and the third round will be here for your contemplation and voting pleasure on 5th November…so expect fireworks!