The detective is a wonderful fictional character, yet surprisingly few books (well, I’m surprised by it, anyway) have been devoted to listing and describing the leading detectives of fiction. Russell James did an excellent job, though, with Great British Fictional Detectives, and a much earlier book, little known today, also deserves mention.
This is Detectionary, edited by Otto Penzler, Chris Steinbrunner and Marvin Lachman (a formidably well-informed trio), having been ‘conceived and produced’ by Mill Roseman. It is, quite simply, ‘a biographical dictionary of leading characters in mystery fiction’.
The text is split into four sections: detectives, criminals, celebrated cases and mystery movies. Inevitably, with a book of this kind, the entries are short and highly selective. But there is a great deal of fascinating information here.
I must also admit that there are numerous detectives – mostly Americans - mentioned of whom I hadn’t heard before I read Detectionary. These include (examples taken at random): Dr Mary Finney (creator: Matthew Head), Cliff Chandler (Baynard Kendrick), Inspector Christopher McKee (Helen Reilly) and Dr Colin Starr (Rufus King). All in all, this is a great book to dip into. Each time I do, I learn something fresh. And I do love the title.