Best-Selling Eyes
P.I. Novels Among U.S. Bestsellers 1895-1975

This list, taken from combines hardback and paperback sales, signifies sales of at least 2 million copies. Although it must surely be out of date, it's hard to imagine any more recent P.I. novel outselling the whopping 6,096,700 (in 1975!) copies sold of Mickey Spillane's I, The Jury. (But to put it in perspective, Dr. Benjamin Spock's Pocket Book of Baby and Child Care sold over 23,000,000 copies, and the best selling novel, The Godfather, by Mario Puzo, sold over 12,000,000!). Still, it is illuminating. I had no idea Perry Mason moved so many units!
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The above stats were taken from The Book of Literary Lists, compiled and edited by Nicholas Parsons (London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1985). However, it should be noted that in a Publishers Weekly book called 70 Years of Best-Sellers, there was a chapter on best-selling mysteries (i.e. mysteries that had sold a million or more copies). 150 books were listed, and 16 of them, more than 10% of the list, were by Prather, making him probably the most successful PI writer of the 50s with the obvious exception of Spillane.

Publishers Weekly info supplied by Jim Doherty.


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