Crime fiction has a long and illustrious history, encompassing some of our best loved and most celebrated authors. There has not been a genre adapted more frequently for both the large and small screen, take Arthur Conan Doyle’s work which currently has both a cinematic and tele-visual franchise ongoing. This is all due, I would suggest, to those great detectives, who we love to see, presented with an intriguing and intricate puzzle, battling against malevolent forces, and winning through in fine style. So who’s the greatest of them all?
C. Auguste Dupin
Appearances: Edgar Allan Poe wrote three books starring the eccentric amateur detective, The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841), widely considered the first detective fiction story, The Mystery of Marie Rogêt (1842) and The Purloined Letter (1844).
Characteristics: Much like his literary descendant, Holmes, Dupin is an amateur, investigating at his own whim. Again, as a forebear to many that followed, Dupin is portrayed as a logician, or, as Obi Wan Kenobi would put it, ‘More machine than man.’
Notable Adaptations: The Murder in the Rue Morgue and The mystery of Marie Rogêt were both adapted for the silver screen in 1932 and 42 respectively. However it is Dupin’s influence on other works, referenced by Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie and in Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen to name but a few, that is Dupin’s real mark of greatness.
Appearances: Arthur Conan Doyle completed four novels with Holmes as his hero, A Study in Scarlet (1887), The Sign of Four (1890), The Hound of the Baskervilles (serialised in The Strand 1901-02) and The Valley of Fear (Serialised in The Strand 1914-15) as well as whopping 56 short stories.
Characteristics: Holmes in pursuit of his prey is variously portrayed as, an actor given to disguise and deception, a fighter, trained as a boxer, and as an academic knowledgeable on all manor of subjects. However it is Holmes’ taking of abductive reasoning from a science to the level of art that is his most noted characteristic.
Notable Adaptations: Holmes is listed in the Guiness World Rocrds as the most portrayed movie figure, played by 75 actors over 211 films. Perhaps the most famous portrayal is that by Jeremy Brett who reprised the role for four series of Sherlock Holmes on British television. More recently both Robert Downey Junior’s depiction in the Guy Richie Films and Benedict Cumberbatch’s in Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat’s modern re-imagining have been widely celebrated.
Appearances: The hugely prolific Agatha Christie wrote a staggering 33 novels with Poirot as her lead, the most famous being Murder on the Orient Express (1934). As well as this Poirot starred in no fewer than 51 short stories.
Characteristics: Poirot differs somewhat in method from Holmes and Dupin. Like his two predecessors, he relies primarily on his ‘little grey cells’, however, Poirot enquires more closely into the nature of the victim or psyche of the murderer rather than a laborious analysis of the crime scene.
Notable Adaptations: Poirot has been played by numerous actors over the years from Albert Finney, who received an oscar nomination for his portrayal in Murder on the Orient Express (1974), to Peter Ustinov, who played the detective a total of 6 times. By far the most prolific and well known adaptation is the ITV series, which began in 1989 and will film the remaining stories this year, with David Suchet reprising the role throughout.
Part 2 coming soon where we will consider, Philip Marlowe, Inspector Endeavour Morse and my own wild card selection.
In the mean time you could take a glance at my own detective creation, DCI Amos, in the ongoing serial, Indiscretion.
1.2 Consequences is free till the end of the day.
1.3 The Dutch Master will be free for three days from tomorrow.