Saturday, 5 May 2012

"I'm Filing My Nails While They're Draging the Lake" - The Great Detectives

There are a number of submissions I could make to who were the three best fictional detectives. The candidates are many and varied as they range over a large period of time. Undoubtedly the first would be Edgar Allan Poe’s Dupin; the French diminutive of Rue Morgue fame; Miss Marple perhaps as the first female or Kat Scarpetta. I would rather not focus on contemporary heroes or heroines but stick faithfully to the trailblazers who originally set the trend. I have mentioned Dupin but neglected possibly the greatest of them all – Sherlock Holmes. Poe got there first but I find the Frenchman lame and flaccid – a pale whisper of what was to follow. Arthur Conan Doyle’s Baker Street sleuth was everything you could desire in a crime consultant. He seemed to occupy another reality that was entirely different to any other living soul. He was indifferent to the female of the species; unaware of others emotions; uneducated in all but his own specialities; out of touch with current affairs. His cold, calculating mind focused only on the case at hand and when that exhilarant was removed he sought salvation in a hypodermic syringe. Holmes set the pace for the others to pursue.

The aforementioned Miss Marple is good if a little lacking in energy for my tastes but Agatha Christie’s male counterpart, Poirot, notwithstanding the obvious plagiarism of Watson into Hastings’s, Mrs. Hudson into Miss Lemon, stands deerstalker to homburg with Holmes. The Belgian detective is eccentric charm personified. Unlike Holmes he likes female company believing that they find him as attractive as he finds them. He is vain, narcissistic, a walking, waddling clothes horse but with an uncanny eye for detail. Nearly all the stories feature set pieces; they are formulaic with the suspects invariably summoned to hear Poirot as he reveals who did what and to whom. Of course, Agatha Christie was jolly good friends with P.G.Wodehouse whose formulaic funnies remain the ultimate in literary humour.

So then, no Alex Cross, no Jane Tennyson, no Scarpetta and sadly no Inspector Morse all of whom come too late in the plot to be among the three trailblazers I seek. My final choice may come as something of a shock even he, yes another male detective, falls into the category perfectly. I should explain that to set the agenda for a trailblazing detective, one also has to run a set of parameters in which to contain them; rules by which my personal judgement can be made. They are these: all must have been created between the mid to late eighteen hundreds and the mid nineteen forties. Philip Marlowe, hmmmm, close but no not even when Robert Mitchum portrayed him. For me it has to be a wonderful invention of the prince of paradox G.K. Chesterton’s, that gentle, mild-mannered, polite papist, that perfectly sweet, most devout of Catholic priests, forever happy to occupy the back of the stage until all the featured players have run out of lines: Father Brown.

Below are the actors who best fitted the fictional characters...

Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

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