#1001: The World’s Favourite Golden Age Sleuth – The Semi-Finals

It’s getting very exciting now.

We started with 64 of the most prestigious and admired detectives from detective fiction’s Golden Age (c. 1920-1945) and have, by a process of head-to-head voting, now boiled it down to the last four names. One more vote after this and it’s Christmas! I mean, er, and we’ve named the legally-binding World’s Favourite Golden Age Sleuth, who is definitely going to be referred to as that by everyone who matters. Just you wait and see.

But what of the quarter-finals? Who remains? Well…

Yes, that seismic juddering you feel is the resounding crash of the gargantuan number one seed Dr. Gideon Fell being knocked from his perch by the always-dangerous Lord Peter Wimsey. Personally, I’m devastated — I’ve never made a secret of Fell being my favourite GAD sleuth — but from a results perspective I can’t deny that I love an upset, and I consider this to (almost) be one. Wimsey’s been very popular round-by-round, frequently pulling in huge numbers compared to his competitors, so this was always on the cards, even if I think you’re mad for making it happen. And on the other side, did anyone really expect Albert Campion to beat Hercule Poirot? The little Belgian is popular for a reason, and I have a feeling this vote might go down to the wire…

I anticipated that crime-solving spinster Miss Jane Marple would probably see off Ellery Queen, but never in my wildest imaginings did I think that the margin of victory would be quite so wide. Equally, I thought Carter Dickson’s barrister-cum-impossible-crime-unpicker H.M. would trounce the realism-focussed Jules Maigret…and that actually ended up a pretty close-run thing. Nice to see H.M. polling more than his usual 128 votes, but this was still the least-contested of the four votes in the last round…so did people just not think it worth voting in? Overall the numbers are up, however, suggesting that some of you have waited until this late stage when the votes might be closer to pitch in for your favourite. Keep at it, I say! Nothing is certain any more!

~

These votes will remain open until 12:01 am UK time on Sunday 18th December 2022, with the final — the actual final, the one that really matters — then going live on 24th December. So it really is Christmas, eh?

17 thoughts on “#1001: The World’s Favourite Golden Age Sleuth – The Semi-Finals

  1. I think the only appropriate reaction here is “NOOOOOO!!!” I did not think Dr. Fell would fall. He’s also my favorite detective, and for him to not make it to the semi-finals is moderately tragic. I mean, I figured he’d be beat by Poirot here, but…

    My predictions last time were way off the mark, but when has that ever stopped anyone from sticking their oar in? I predict that we’ll see Poirot face off against H.M. in the finals. Who will win? Beats me. But if I’m right, I’ll be voting for The Old Man. (Though, given my track record, it’ll probably be Lord Peter vs. Miss Marple…)

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    • I can’t say I’m less invested in this now Fell’s out, because it’s a fascinating exercise in what the public at large — or the 300 of them voting on my polls, at least, the only people whose opinions really matter — thinks. But, yeah, I’m pretty bummed to see Fell fall.

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    • I won’t deny that I can see the appeal of Wimsey as a character — PTSD, guilt over sending men to their death, etc. — and I wonder if Carr’s relative obscurity over the last 30 years played a part in Fell’s loss. Either way, it’s certainly an outcome to pique the interest. I wonder what will go wrong next…

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  2. Well, all I can say is if I were unjustly accused of a crime I’d really want Fell on my side and not some monocled aristo! I really hope it’s not a Christie-only finale – that really would tend to confirm all the worse things people says about fans of the genre (and of course confirm the influence of film and TV).

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    • Oh, I’d definitely prefer Fell to solve the crime over Wimsey to fret about the consequences…but I can see why Wimsey retains his hold on popular imagination.

      And, yes, I expect the presence in public imagination aided by film and TV adaptations plays no small part in the appreciation of these sleuths. Hell, even I see David Suchet when I read about Poirot, and I don’t think I’ve ever even watched a whole episode of him at work.

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  3. While she might not be as successful as others in certain areas, I think that Christie was an absolute genius in creating her two main detectives—and that this has been a big part of her adaptation advantage. But, as you say, upsets are always fun!

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    • Marple and Poirot are so fabulously distinct in their approaches and utilisation, that’s what especially strikes me with Christie’s creations.

      I love Carr, buy H.M. and Fell could be easily interchanged without any real disruption, and anyone else who tried a second sleuth for more than one book — Miles Burton/John Rhode, J.J. Connington, countless others I cannot bring to mind at present — really could have continued with their main sleuth without it being too much of a wrench. Christie understood the appeal of approaching the crimes from a different perspective…plus, as I’ve said before, as she aged she began to sympathise with Marple more and write her in a more realistic milieu.

      So I can’t deny the insight of her creation, even as I wonder if they’re only popular because they’ve been on TV. I mean, Fell’s clearly superior to them both, right?! 🙂

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  4. For me, Fell’s always been like a sort of favorite relative others might find a little exasperating. I’m well aware that the same can be said of Poirot–and, to a lesser degree, Marple–but they have a specificity that I think both Fell and H.M., for all their larger-than-life good spirits, lack. But I certainly can’t say that having the right actors playing them–perhaps playing up the Chesterton and Churchill inspirations–wouldn’t go a long way in evening things up. To be honest, though, I think Carr is at his most commercial in the radio dramas, with their many Jeff Marles dashing through a confounding world with a minimum of their own personalities diluting our identification with their predicaments.

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    • And very good point about Christie’s increasing identification with Marple nudging things in a more realistic direction–Poirot’s being abandoned by Hastings seems to help humanize him as well.

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    • Yes, you’ve nailed the appeal of the various Jeff Marle stand-ins perfectly there — the situation is always more important than the character with Carr. And, to an extent, this extends to his detectives, too, with the likes of Fell and H.M. coming through brilliantly in flashes that nevertheless don’t cohere to give a simple, obvious picture of the detective like we have with Poirot, Marple, and others (Joseph French, Roderick Alleyn, etc).

      Either way works, of course — the best characters are the ones about who you can ask the question “Would they do X?” and know for certain in your own mind the answer. This is true for a lot of the well-known detectives in GAD, and only goes to show how lucky we are in this genre.

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      • Yes, Fell and H.M. do have their especially brilliant flashes–and your “Would they do X” question is spot on. We certainly are a lucky bunch!

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  5. This is the most exciting email I’ve gotten in quite a while! Thank you for doing this. It’s not only gotten me to think about my opinions of various detectives, but I’ve also learned about several I’ve not heard of.

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  6. Sad that Fell is knocked out. I won’t say the character writing is stunning or anything – it’s more like “archetype writing” – but over reading the earlier Fell books I felt like he definitely came across as more distinctive than I remembered from reading the later ones first. Even if sometimes that was me being furious at his decisions. I hope my surprise fave Arabian Nights Mystery comes back into print so everyone can get more Early Fell.

    Anyway all that said, I’m being as basic as possible and voting Miss Marple over H.M (and Poirot over Wimsey of course). The Joan Hickson series was my first exposure to anything GAD and I’m very fond of the character. And I do think she is more of an interesting character, too.

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