19 January 2016

Our literary agents’ favourite fictional detectives

by Ellis Keene Author Interviews, Opinion

Students on our creative writing courses get to explore all aspects of novel-writing during their time with us, and we think one of the most important components of planning a novel is creating vivid characters. Among the most fascinating characters from Curtis Brown Creative’s published almuni are Nella in The Miniaturist, David in The Art of Being Normal and Carmel in The Girl in the Red Coat. For writers working on crime novels, and hoping to develop a successful series, it’s particularly crucial to develop vivid, memorable detective characters. The best detectives in novels travel with the reader through life like old friends – the kind you want to visit over and over again. We’ve asked the Curtis Brown and Conville & Walsh literary agents to pick their all-time favourite characters before. Now we’ve asked them to choose their favourite detectives in fiction. Here’s what they said…

On the detective front, I’ll have to be a horrible cliché and say Sir Arthur Conan Doyle‘s Sherlock Holmes is my all-time favourite. I grew up on some of those stories and absolutely adored the sense of adventure and intrigue he inspired. More recently, though, I did love Robert Galbraith’s curmudgeonly Cormoran Strike for being such a wonderfully human mess of a detective.
Emma Finn, Conville & Walsh

It probably has to be Hercule Poirot. A man, an era and a plot device all in one handy package. On one level, he’s a bit of a caricature; but as he himself would say, he is deadly serious. And also compassionate – he is constantly attracted to death (or vice versa) and revels in the challenge of the resolution, but views the crime itself as a tragedy, and with great distaste. As with the best returning characters, you always know what you will get in terms of the kind of journey you’ll go on, and his companionship with the reader. But as with the best plotted books, you never know quite what twists and turns the journey will take, and what route to resolution his creator is seeking to deploy this time around. He’s of his time: to create him now would be too camp, too arch. But in Agatha Christie’s books, he does go on to solve crimes until the 1970s without losing relevance, keeping alive – for better or worse – the values of a silvery, gilded drinks-trolley age, where there’s always a bit of poison in the shaker.
Gordon Wise, Curtis Brown

Sherlock Holmes. Not the first, but, to my mind, the best.
Richard Pike, Curtis Brown

I love Henning Mankell’s inevitably flawed Inspector Wallander. The stark and often alien Swedish setting marked Mankell out at the beginning of the Scandi Noir scene, but I think loveable, complicated and vulnerable Wallander is the best.
Sophie Lambert, Conville & Walsh

Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple. Who doesn’t love a detective who can solve a crime while knitting a jumper?!
Rebecca Ritchie, Curtis Brown

Lord Peter Death Bredon Wimsey and Harriet Vane. Clever, wry, inventive and with a surprising streak of humanity that belies their often sardonic tone. Dorothy L Sayers is a brilliant writer – it feels as though her other work as a translator, a poet, a feminist and an essayist seeps into the detective novels, and the result is that these books are rich, humane and endlessly re-readable.
Norah Perkins, Curtis Brown

Lincoln Rhyme (Jeffery Deaver) – he’s an incredible character – unusual, brilliant and yet so human.
Stephanie Thwaites, Curtis Brown

I’m not a big reader of detective novels, but I’ve always loved Carolyn Keene’s Nancy Drew. I gobbled up the series when I was younger, and this tough, intelligent teenager has been an inspiration for me.
Carrie Plitt, Conville & Walsh

For an in-depth course as part of a group of 15 (in which students are selected on the basis of their submission) with a great tutor and participation from our literary agents, apply for:

Six-Month Novel-Writing Course in London with Christopher Wakling (deadline for applications is Wed 17 January).

Six-Month Online Novel-Writing Course with Lisa O’Donnell (deadline for applications is Wed 24 January).

For a dedicated online course for those writing for young adults or children as part of a group of 15 (in which students are selected on the basis of their submission), with a top children’s author, apply for: 

Writing YA and Children’s Fiction with Catherine Johnson (deadline for applications is Sun 28 Jan).

We are offering three low-cost ‘foundation’ courses, featuring tuition from CBC director Anna Davis:

Starting to Write Your Novel (deadline for enrolment is midnight on Mon 15 January).

Write to the End of Your Novel (deadline for enrolment is midnight on Mon 22 January).

Edit & Pitch Your Novel (deadline for enrolment is midnight on Mon 29 January).

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