From: Mbdlevin@aol.com
Date: 06 Apr 2002

Here's my list. It's based on a murky amalgamation of criteria. In most cases, the characters are great characters in great books. In other cases, I think the characters stand out more for the books that they inhabit than for their characterization (Gravedigger and Coffin Ed are actually sort of secondary figures in at least some of their outings, but it is always remarkable when they show).

Another thing someone else commented on: series characters vs one-offs. There were some characters who become a protuberant mass in your mind just by frequency. If I had read just one Matt Helm book, he probably wouldn't've made the cut. There are other characters (e.g., the protagonist of McGivern's The Big Heat) that I might have included if I had encountered them in additional books.

Finally: 20 actually seemed like a lot. There were plenty of characters that I have read and dismissed, but many more that would probably be on my list if I had only gotten to the books in which they appear.

If I were ranking, I'd put -- surprise, surprise -- Marlowe and Spade at the top. Here we go:

 20. Bill Crane (series, Jonothan Latimer)
 50. Coffin Ed Johnson & 104. Gravedigger Jones (series, Chester Himes)
 64. Detective Sergeant Department of Unexplained Deaths (Factory Series)
 106. Hanson (NIGHT DOGS, Kent Anderson) 113. Hoke Moseley (series, Charles Willeford)
 118. Jack Carter (series, Ted Lewis)
 153. Lew Griffin (series, James Sallis)
 157. Lou Ford (KILLER INSIDE ME and WILD TOWN, Jim Thompson)
 170. Matt Helm (series, Donald Hamilton)
 205. Parker (series, Richard Stark)
 208. Paul Pine (Halo series, Howard Browne)
 212. Philip Marlowe (series, Raymond Chandler)
 228. Richard Hudson (WOMAN CHASER, Charles Willeford)
 235. Sam Spade (THE MALTESE FALCON, Dashiell Hammett)
 253. The Continental Op (series, Dashiell Hammett)
 260. Tom Ripley (series, Patricia Highsmith)

write-ins (I guess I should've participated in the nominations):

James Figueras (Burnt Orange Heresy) -- why not. Ralph Cotter (the sociopath protagonist in Horace McCoy's Kiss Tommorow Goodbye) Calhoun (the feverish protagonist of Harrington's Dia de los Muertos) Desmond Iles (of Harpur & Iles series, Bill James; at first Iles is just a somewhat typical bureaucrat interested in his territory, etc.; later in the series, he is an outrageous and strange figure, the Richard III of police procedurals: Hey Jim Doherty, in the world of police procedurals, what do people think of Harpur & Iles? And while on the topic, what about Kramer and Zondi?) Doug

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