Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Christie Comes Out on Top

Agatha Christie may have been deceased for the last 37 years, but her work seems to have lost none of its appeal--at least among British crime and mystery novelists.

During a special event held earlier this evening at Foyles bookshop on Charing Cross Road in central London, the UK Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) announced the results of a poll that asked its members to pick the foremost author and books in the genre. Christie triumphed in two of the three categories. “With her elegant precision and her perfect sense of place, she is still our most popular crime author,” proclaimed CWA chair Alison Joseph.

This poll helps to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the CWA’s founding in 1953. Its full results are below.

CWA Best Ever Novel:
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926), by Agatha Christie

Also nominated: The Big Sleep (1939), by Raymond Chandler; Gorky Park (1981), by Martin Cruz Smith; The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902), by Arthur Conan Doyle; The Long Goodbye (1953), by Raymond Chandler; The Moonstone (1868), by Wilkie Collins; Murder on the Orient Express (1934), by Agatha Christie; The Nine Tailors (1934), by Dorothy L. Sayers; On Beulah Height (1998), by Reginald Hill; and The Silence of the Lambs (1988), by Thomas Harris

CWA Best Ever Crime Author: Agatha Christie

Also nominated: Raymond Chandler, Arthur Conan Doyle, Dashiell Hammett, Reginald Hill, P.D. James, Elmore Leonard, Ruth Rendell, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Georges Simenon

CWA Best Ever Crime Series:
Sherlock Holmes, from Arthur Conan Doyle

Also nominated: Albert Campion, from Margery Allingham; Adam Dalgliesh, from P.D. James; Dalziel and Pascoe, from Reginald Hill; Philip Marlowe, from Raymond Chandler; Inspector Morse, from Colin Dexter; Hercule Poirot, from Agatha Christie; John Rebus, from Ian Rankin; and Lord Peter Wimsey, from Dorothy L. Sayers

The blog Crime Fiction Lover notes that these results “are a turnaround on the last poll by the CWA 15 years ago, when Chandler won both the author and series category (for the Marlowe novels) and The Nine Tailors (1934), by Dorothy L. Sayers, was named best novel.” Findings from this new non-scientific survey differ as well from another previous assessment: the CWA’s 1990 selection of the Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time. In that list, Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time (1951) came out on top, followed by Chandler’s The Big Sleep, John le Carré’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963), and Sayers’ Gaudy Night (1935); Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd earned fifth place in that survey.

I can’t say I agree completely with the majority in this latest CWA poll. My vote for Best Ever Novel would’ve gone to The Hound of the Baskervilles, and my preference for Best Ever Crime Author would be Raymond Chandler. But readers don’t all hold the same opinions, which helps to keep things lively in the reviewing and book-buying games. Should the CWA conduct another such survey 15 years hence, we can probably expect the outcomes to change even further.

I hope I’ll still be around to find out.

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