The Thrilling Detective Hall of Fame

The Private Eyes That Matter

I‘ve listed these eyes by the decade in which they first appeared, even though an eye’s career may span more than one decade, or even not make much of mark for several years after their first appearance.

They’re counted for what I consider their quality, entertainment value, reflection of their times, influence on the genre and… honestly? Whether I liked them or not. Yes, it’s all horribly subjective. 

By the way, this list is very much a work in progress. Feel free to contradict me, or suggest your own favourites. That’s what the comments section down there is for…

Let There Be Light: The Real Deal

Three Gun Terry by Carroll John Daly

Race Williams by Carroll John Daly

The Continental Op by Dashiell Hammett

Ben Jardinn by Raoul Whitfield

The Pulps and Beyond

Sam Spade by Dashiell Hammett

Nick and Nora Charles by Dashiell Hammett

Bill Crane by Jonathan Latimer

Cardigan by Frederick Nebel

“Tough Dick” Donohue by Frederick Nebel

Jo Gar by Ramon Delacorta

Max Latin by Norbert Davis

Philip Marlowe by Raymond Chandler

Steve Midnight by John K. Butler

Mike Shayne by Brett Halliday

Dan Turner by Robert Leslie Bellem

Bertha Cool & Donald Lam by A.A. Fair

Nero Wolfe & Archie Goodwin by Rex Stout

Aprés la guerre

Lew Archer by Ross Macdonald

Nestor Burma by Léo Malet

Ed Clive by Leigh Brackett

Karl Craven by Jonathan Latimer

Mike Hammer by Mickey Spillane

Ed and Am Hunter by Fredric Brown

“Mac” Robinson by Thomas B. Dewey

Paul Pine by Howard Browne

Max Thursday by Wade Miller

Carney Wilde by Bart Spicer

Under the Hammer

The introduction of Mike Hammer in the late forties, the rise of a zillion pulpy and mostly inferior imitators, and the paperback industry that fostered it all, may have seemed to have been all encompassing at the time, but in retrospect, some of the most interesting eyes of the era were moving the genre ahead, allowing for a little more social and cultural awareness.

Brock Callahan by William Campbell Gault

Timothy Dane by William Ard

Chet Drum by Stephen Marlowe

Peter Gunn by Blake Edwards

Grave Digger Jones & Coffin Ed Johnson by Chester Himes

Johnny Liddell by Frank Kane

Toussaint Moore by Ed Lacy

Jim Sader by Dolores Hitchens

Shell Scott by Richard S. Prather

‘Cos the Times, They Are A-Changin’

Dan Fortune by Michael Collins

Joe Mannix by Richard Levinson & William Link

Travis McGee by John D. MacDonald

Mitch Tobin by Tucker Coe (Donald Westlake)

Honey West by G.G. Fickling

The Pre-Renaissance: Everyone into the Pool

Jake Asch by Arthur Lyons

Pepe Carvalho by Manuel Vásquez Montalbán

Dan Kearney & Associates (DKA) by Joe Gores

Dave Brandstetter by Joseph Hansen

Jake Gittes by Robert Towne

Al Hickey & Frank Boggs by Walter Hill

Anna Lee by Liza Cody

Sharon McCone by Marcia Muller

Milo Milodragovitch by James Crumley

Harry Moseby by Alan Sharp (Night Moves)

Nameless by Bill Pronzini

Harry O by Howard Rodman

Toby Peters by Stuart Kaminsky

Jim Rockford by Stephen J. Cannell & Roy Huggins

Albert Samson by Michael Z. Lewin

Matt Scudder by Lawrence Block

John Shaft by Ernest Tidyman

Hector Belascoarán Shayne by Paco Ignacio Taibo II

Spenser by Robert B. Parker

C.W. Sughrue by James Crumley

Moses Wine by Roger Simon

The Renaissance: Come On In, The Water’s Fine

The eighties are when I really became interested in private eye fiction, and I’ll probably always have a weakness for that era. It was certainly an exciting time for the genre, particularly the series P.I. So many launched in the seventies were just hitting their stride, and in their wake  a whole bunch of diverse new voices (Grafton, Paretsky, Mosley, Burke, et al) entered the genre. In retrospect, you can see that the slew of non-pale males and other fresh voices beginning to pop up were not so much a shake-up as a logical progression, following what had been going on in the seventies (and arguably, the sixties as well).

Burke by Andrew Vachss

Fred Carver by John Lutz

Frank Clemons by Thomas H. Cook

Elvis Cole by Robert Crais

John Francis Cuddy by Jeremiah Healy

Dave Garrett by Neil Albert

Leo Haggerty by Benjamin M. Schutz

Cliff Hardy by Peter Corris

Nate Heller by Max Allan Collins

Kinsey Millhone by Sue Grafton

John Marshall Tanner by Stephen Greenleaf

Ms. Tree by Max Allan Collins and Terry Beatty

Ben Perkins by Rob Kantner

Mitch Roberts by Gaylord Dold

Dan Roman by Edward Mathis

Harry Stoner by Jonathan Valin

Thorn by James W. Hall

Amos Walker by Loren D. Estleman

V.I. Warshawski by Sara Paretsky

Sisters (and Everyone Else, It Seems) Are Doing It For Themselves

Vinnie Calvino by Christopher G. Moore

Lydia Chin and Bill Smith by S. J. Rozan

Lionel Essrog by Jonathan Lethem

Lew Griffin by James Sallis

Milan Jacovich by Les Roberts

Patrick Kenzie & Angela Gennaro by Dennis Lehane

Jack Liffey by John Shannon

Tess Monaghan by Laura Lippman

Ivan Monk by Gary Phillips

Charlie Parker by John Connolly

Stephanie Plum by Janet Evanovich

Precious Ramotswe by Alexander McCall Smith

Easy Rawlins by Walter Mosely

Jack Reacher by Lee Child

Nick Stefanos by George Pelecanos

Jane Whitefield by Thomas Perry

Or is it “The Oughties”?

Frank Behr by David Levien

Lisbeth Salander & Mikael Blomkvist by Stieg Larsson

Norm Carpenter & Al Hasp by Jon L. Breen

David DiAngelo by Tim Broderick

Ray Dudgeon by Sean Chercover

Josephine “Joe” Flannigan by Sara Gran

Cal Innes by Ray Banks

Joe Kurtz by Dan Simmons

Ed Loy by Declan Hughes

John March by Peter Spiegelman

J. McNee by Russel D. McLean

Dex Parios by Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth

Moe Prager by Reed Farrel Coleman

Derek Strange & Terry Quinn by George Pelecanos

Jack Taylor by Ken Bruen


As the decade came to a close, a whole new gaggle of writers and critics took turns patting each other on the back for their oh-so-woke diversity, apparently unaware that they were merely rolling down the highway other, often more daring, writers had paved decades earlier.

Tommy Akhtar by Patrick Neate

Rick Cahill by Matt Coyle

Juniper Song by Steph Cha

Spero Lucas by George P. Pelecanos

Gus Murphy by Reed Farrel Coleman

Veronica Mars by Rob Thomas

Cormoran Strike by Robert Galbraith (pseudonym of J.K. Rowling)

Roxane Weary by Kristen Lepionka



18 thoughts on “The Thrilling Detective Hall of Fame

  1. put joe gaylord on this list sir becoue just i like his name

    and also flemming johnny saxon jim steele

  2. and kevin just do it please and also tony hunter on the 30s list too and Anthony martin rush henry max hale John j shsnnon

    1. The Hall of Fame is a mixture of popular critical and and commercial acclaim, plus a dash of historical significance, and yes, a little subjective judgement on my part. I’m not sure just a catchy monicker is enough, Melvin. But if you can make a worthy case for inclusion of any of the detectives you’ve mentioned, based on those factors, I’ll certainly consider them.

      1. I just don.t care With the popular critical and commerical acclaim i just don.t fuck care

      2. Well, I do “fuck care”–it’s MY site. Some of your suggestions are worth considering, some of them just don’t do it for me, and a few you must be pulling my leg. You want them included, make a convincing case for them–email me. But try and stick to one pseudonym.

  3. look for the records i don,t carre with hall of famr mixture of popular critical and commerical Acclaim look i just want to found it easy that it

  4. Like one example is the 60s is so Little put more like Roy marshal Elvis Horn

    Is so Little just put them 2

  5. Hi can you put johnny liddell chester durm Lou largo mike garfin Timothy Dane Burns Bannion Ben Gates Peter Chambers Nathan Hawk Jake Barrow Danny Boyd

  6. Ok can you put johnny liddel On the list in the 40s and Lou largo too becouse becouse the 40s and 50s there too Little

  7. You’ve left off some great Jewish detective series. How about Faye Kellerman (Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus), Stuart Kaminsky (Abe Lieberman) and the best (although only a few titles) Robert Rosenberg (Avram Cohen). Oh, just thought of one more– the Arab series by Matt Beynon Rees (Omar Yussef). Oh, what about Donald Westlake’s hardboiled Parker series under the pseudonym Richard Stark? Oh and British writer Mark Timlin (Nick Sharman). There’s a bunch for you

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