The April 2011 P.I. Poll Results

To mark this site's thirteenth anniversary, we compiled a list of our thirteen favourite private eyes. It's been a few years since we did this, so it was interesting to see which new pups made the cut, which old faves lost their shine, and which eyes had staying power.

The criteria?

I wasn't fussy. I told people they could consider their importance, influence, historical significance, blah blah blah, but mostly, simply, I just wanna know: who are your thirteen favourite private eyes?

They could be in books or short stories or television or radio or comics or whatever. I did, however, weed out people trying to vote numerous times, or rig the results.

The results, as of April 1st, 2011, when we closed the poll, are here...


Philip Marlowe by Raymond Chandler

Sam Spade by Dashiell Hammett

Matt Scudder by Lawrence Block

Lew Archer by Ross Macdonald

The Continental Op by Dashiell Hammett

Spenser by Robert B. Parker

Jim Rockford ("The Rockford Files")

Nameless by Bill Pronzini

Travis McGee by John D. MacDonald

Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin by Rex Stout

Nick and Nora Charles by Dashiell Hammett

Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

And a Three-way Tie for The Last Spot:

V.I. Warshawski by Sara Paretsky

Kinsey Millhone by Sue Grafton

Amos Walker by Loren D. Estleman


I was. When we last did a poll like this, well...actually, we never actually did a poll quite like this. I guess it was about time.

Considering the poll only ran for five days, and was limited to a few discussion groups, this site and my Twitter followers, I think we did pretty well, garnering some very enthuiastic responses from some very enthusiastic fans of the genre. Some of their comments will definitely make it onto this site.

Of course, Marlowe and Spade nabbed the top two spots, by a wide margin, and the next five names easily outdistanced the rest of the pack. I was still surprised (and delighted) to see Lawrence Block's Scudder do so well. The remainder of the list was really close -- with often only a few votes making a difference, and the 13th spot honestly was too close to tell.

It was also good to see the grandaddy of all private eyes, Sherlock Holmes, pop up, perhaps in response to his recent increased presence in film and television, and of course it's always good to see Jim Rockford anywhere. Spenser and Nameless both made it, too, which seems about right, and it's nice to know Hammett's eternal Op hasn't been forgotten.

It was also gratifying to see some of the most critically acclaimed eyes of the genre are also some of the most popular, suggesting perhaps that Thrilling Detective Web Site readers are a discerning bunch, and take their private dicks very seriously.

It was a little sobering, though, to realize that even the newest of these eyes (hello, ladies!) are almost thirty years old, but I'm reassured that several of those eyes are still going strong, with most of them scheduled to appear in new books later this year (including Scudder, and a posthumous release featuring Spenser).

I was a little surpised though that, despite his loyal and often quite vocal followers, Mike Hammer didn't make the cut. Then again, Hammer was such a product of his times that perhaps it's not such a shock after all.

And some of the more popular current P.I.s. were much further down the list than I had expected. In fact, the runners-up list below may be even more of a surprise -- and offer a glimpse of things to come.

Thank you all for responding. This was fun.

The Runners-Up
(in order of popularity)

Mike Hammer by Mickey Spillane

Paul Pine by John Evans/Howard Browne

Elvis Cole by Robert Crais

Harry Bosch by Michael Connelly

Bertha Cool and Donald Lam by A.A.Fair

Nate Heller by Max Allan Collins

Ed and Am Hunter by Fredric Brown

Ms. Tree by Max Allan Collins & Terry Beatty

John Francis Cuddy by Jeremiah Healy

Dan Fortune by Michael Collins

Dan Kearney & Associates (DKA) by Joe Gores

J.J. "Jake" Gittes by Robert Towne

Veronica Mars by Robert Thomas

Perry Mason/Paul Drake by Erle Stanley Gardner

Harry O by Howard Rodman

Moe Prager by Reed Farrel Coleman

Easy Rawlins by Walter Mosley

Jack Reacher by Lee Child

Shell Scott by Richard S. Prather

This is where it starts to get interesting. These are the eyes that, for the most part, aren't quite as universally acclaimed as the top tier, but are all well respected. I've jiggled the results a little, counting separate votes for individual members of a detecting duo or team as one vote, and I've weeded out a few non-private eyes (Miss Marple, really?). Reacher squeaks in, but just, simply because he has accepted payment on occasion for his "adventures," and let's face it: it's hard to view someone with his skill set as an "amateur."

Other Write-Ins

Mikael Blomkvist & Lisbeth Salander by Steig Larsson

Fred Carver by John Lutz

Bill Crane by Jonathan Latimer

Doan and Carstairs by Norbert Davis

Johnny Dollar by Jack Johnstone

Jake & Malachy Doyle by Allan Hawco, Perry Chafe and Malcolm MacRury

Harry Dresden by Jim Butcher

Johnny Dynamite by Ken Fitch & Pete Morisi

Peter Gunn by Blake Edwards

Milan Jacovich by Les Robert

Thomas Magnum by Donald P. Bellisario

Ben Perkins by Rob Kantner

Jack Taylor by Ken Bruen

Harry Stoner by Jonathan Valin

David Addison & Maddie Hayes by Glenn Caron

Stuart Bailey & Jeff Spencer by Roy Huggins

Boston Blackie by Jack Boyle

John Blacksad by Juan Diaz Canales & Juanjo Guarnido

Myron Bolitar by Harlan Coben

Moz Brant by Jean Femling

Encyclopedia Brown by Donald J. Sobol

Burke by Andrew Vaachs

Nestor Burma by Léo Malet

Neal Carey by Don Winslow

Victor Carl by William Lashner

Charlie's Angel by Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts

Cody by James Reasoner

Dora Conti by Lawrence Sanders

Nick Danger by The Firesign Theatre

Al Delaney by Thomas B. Black

Dylan Dog by Tiziano Sclavi

Chester Drum by Stephen Marlowe

Lew Fonesca by Stuart Kaminsky

Tom Corbie by Phillip Jose Farme

Josephine Fuller by Lynne Murray

Pat Gallegher by Richard Helms

Dirk Gently by Douglas Adams

Eddie Gianelli by Robert J. Randisi

Gordianus the Finder by Steven Saylor

Lew Griffin by James Sallis

Bernie Gunther by Philip Kerr

Dashiell Hammett by various authors

Cliff Hardy by Peter Corris

Cal Innes by Ray Banks

Matt Jacob by Zachary Klein

Patrick Kenzie & Angela Gennaro by Dennis Lehane

Kinky Friedman by Kinky Friedman

Rip Kirby by Alex Raymond

Max Klein by Payl Benjamin

Aimée Leduc by Cara Black

Jack Liffey by John Shannon

Kip Morgan by Louis L'Amour'

John J. Malone by Craig Rice

Joe Mannix by William Link and Richard Levinson

Sharon McCone by Marcia Muller

Alex McKnight by Steve Hamilton

Archibald McNally by Lawrence Sanders

J. McNee by Russel D. McLean

Tess Monaghan by Laura Lippman

Adrian Monk by Andy Breckmann

Guy Noir by Garrison B. Keillor

Pat Novak

Toby Peters by Stuart Kaminsky

Stephanie Plum by Janet Evanovich

Hercule Poirot by Agatha Christie

Ralph Poteet by Loren D. Estleman

Daniel Quinn by Paul Auster

Martin Rasker by Lochte

Precious Ramotswe by Alexander McCall Smith

Dave Robicheaux by James Lee Burke

Horace Rumpole by John Mortimer

John Shaft by Ernest Tidyman

Desiree Shapiro by Selma Eichler

Kalinda Sharma by Michelle King and Richard King

Mike Shayne by Brett Halliday

Rick and A.J. Simon by Philip DeGuere

Jack Starr by Max Allan Collins

Tracey Steele & Tom Lopacka by Roy Huggins?

Remington Steele by Michael Gleason and Robert Butler

Alex Swan by James Robinson

Dan Tanna by Michael Mann

John Marshall Tanner by Stephen Greenleaf

Mitch Tobin by Tucker Coe

Dan Turner by Robert Leslie Bellem

Kristin van Dijk by Robert Fate

Ira Wells by Robert Benton

Now here it's really interesting. A lot of left-field choices that really show how diverse the genre has become, as well as how deep into our culture the private eye has seeped. Space eyes, superhero eyes, Nazi eyes, radio eyes and comic book eyes. There are even a few here not on this site (yet)..

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