by W.O.G. Lofts and Derek Adley


For a period in the 1970s I traveled internationally as part of my regular job. This was during my most avid book-collecting years, and also my bibliographic inquiries were underway in connection with my maiden effort in that area, which appeared serially as an appendix to The Armchair Detective, then being published out of my basement. The book collecting brought me into contact with Vernon Lay (mentioned in the Acknowledgments which follow), and I well remember visits to his well-stocked home and nearby storage area in the north of London (not to mention his sixth-carbon book lists which arrived about every five days at my home when I wasn't on the road).
I encountered Bill Lofts through The Armchair Detective and the bibliography. He proved to be a very pleasant fellow to know, a diligent and untiring researcher, and we had several opportunities to visit face to face in addition to exchanges of letters. On one occasion when we had a meal together in a pub he brought along Jim Swan (also mentioned in the Acknowledgments), an impressive font of knowledge, I'm sure, thought he was a toothless Cockney and I only understood a word here and there.
Bill Lofts with his co-author Derek Adley published several books (such as The Men Behind Boys' Fiction and The Saint and Leslie Charteris), but they had one long work that hadn't found its way into print, “The Crime Fighters”. Bill loaned me a copy of the manuscript in case I could help locate a willing publisher. That I was unable to do, but before returning the ms. to him I made a photocopy. Years passed, the manuscript continued to languish, and in due course, alas, first Derek Adley (1927-1991) and then Bill Lofts (1923-1997) died. At least most of their research documents were dispersed or destroyed, and it seems quite likely that my copy of “The Crime Fighters” is the only one still in existence.
The text appears to have been written mostly in the 1960s and so does not cover detectives introduced later. It could therefore be regarded as severely dated, but the Lofts/Adley work does contain much detail not compiled elsewhere. A little gentle editing and it would be worthy of exposure to the public, I thought. Still no print publisher with interest in view, but now we have the Internet and all its possibilities. So with the generous assistance of Steve Holland, we now bring you “The Crime Fighters”.
—Allen J. Hubin


The first acknowledgment we would like to make is to Frederic Dannay, half of the famous “Ellery Queen” collaboration. In correspondence with Mr. Dannay some time ago, I mentioned a series of old detective stories I had discovered in my research. These were titled “Sexton Hyde and His Four Girl Detectives”. Later, after perusing a photocopy of them, Mr. Dannay thought the theme and period were very interesting and part of our social history, even though the literary content and plotting were very poor—and we couldn't agree more. This observation, coming from such a world famous authority, helped to convince us that a study of not-so-well known detectives, as well as the famous ones, would make a very good reference work
Our second acknowledgment goes to Leslie Charteris of “The Saint” fame. He confirmed that an account of all types of detectives would be a rewarding subject. It should be mentioned that Mr. Charteris was at one time a great authority on Sherlock Holmes, as well be evident from our entry under this great detective's name.
The first acknowledgment of direct help on this work is to our friend Frank Vernon-Lay. Frank not only supplied us with information on many obscure detectives but in our opinion could have written this work as well as we, if only he had the time. In this respect, our thanks also go to J. Randolph Cox, Reference Librarian, St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota, whose tremendous interest, knowledge and lectures on detective fiction are to be marvelled at. Likewise in the U.S., thanks go to Al Hubin of The Armchair Detective.
To our many friends we also give grateful acknowledgment. In New South Wales, Australia, Syd Smyth, Ernie Carter and Stan Nicholls. Here in England, Chris Lowder, Jack Parkhouse, Laurence Elliott, Fred Westwood, Denis Rogers (for his Edward Ellis detectives), Brian Doyle (for his expertise on Sherlock Holmes), and last but certainly not least Jim Swan of Paddington, London. Jim pored through thousands of old periodicals in his large collection to give us details of detectives found there, saving us countless hours of research.
To all our friends mentioned here, we would also simply like to say that if it were not for your great cooperation and help, this work would not have been possible.


We should make it clear at the outset that this work does not claim to list every single detective that has appeared in the world of fiction. This would be an impossible task, for in our opinion the research would never be completed. Even if a team of expert compilers were employed, it would be a life's work. Even then, some detectives would certainly have been overlooked.
What we do claim, however, is that the number of detective types listed here is many times greater than in any previous work on this subject. In fact, we have had to limit the number of inclusions owing to space considerations. We already have a thousand or so sleuths in hand, so if this compilation proves to be a success adequate material for a second one is available, and omissions here could then be rectified.

This is essentially a bibliography of the following fictional characters:
  • the private detective
  • the private eye
  • the official police investigator
  • the amateur sleuth
  • the adventurer type of detective, such as Bulldog Drummond and Norman Conquest, who were always on the side of law and order, as well as Robin Hood types like the Saint who were active on both sides
  • the secret service agent of the Tiger Standish type, who nearly always worked with the Special Branch at Scotland Yard (but not those of the James Bond type, who were purely engaged in spying and espionage and rarely worked in collaboration with the police).

Thus, in general, we cover the fighters of evil-doers, but of course not including the American super-hero of the Superman type. The closest we come to this type is The Shadow and Doc Savage, who, while having certain mystic powers, are nonetheless ordinary men.
We have endeavoured in the main to include detectives and the like who have appeared in British publications, although we have found that most of those of any repute appearing in book form in this country have likewise appeared in the U.S., and of course the reverse is true. (Incidentally, our investigation of characters originating in the States made it difficult to avoid the conclusion that America in the 20s and 30s was populated almost entirely by detectives and gangsters.)
Detectives originating in other countries, such as Maigret from France, are also included, of course, when their adventures have been translated into English.
The detectives covered are basically from the printed word, though many were subsequently filmed for the cinema or television. But we have also endeavoured to include characters that were created in the first instance for film and thereafter set down in print. We refer to such well-known TV characters as Robert Ironsides, Adam Strange, and Sergeant Cork. Occasionally a character created for the small screen has seemed too important to leave out, even though we have no evidence of a print appearance.
As was to be expected, many difficulties were encountered in our research, for apart from the task of deciding in borderline cases whether or not a character was actually a detective, many others have been found strangely lacking in descriptive detail. In such instances we could do no better than to quote that great expert on the subject, Howard Haycraft, who in his excellent Murder for Pleasure said:
“The characterization of the sleuth is an item of the utmost importance... In this connection it is difficult to understand why so many contemporary authors neglect to give their sleuths full names and characters. We readers want to know our heroes' names, first, last and middle initial if any; we want to know where they live, what they wear and smoke, even what—though we mustn't be told too often—what they eat for breakfast. The indifference of some writers to such matters is particularly incomprehensible because the rewards of making a character the reader's familiar are obviously out of all proportion to the slight effort required. Moreover, the absence of such elementary details is a virtually confession of the author's lack of interest in his character. How then can he expect his audience to be interested?”
This lack of detail occurred in some cases in which the detective was narrating the story himself. And in many Victorian tales the sleuth was merely called “the detective”, and such instances are not included here.
Cases have actually been found in which the author, in error, has changed the detective's Christian name, and on one occasion even his surname was changed, astonishing as that may seem. Sometimes the error may occur when the character is almost always referred to as plain Inspector or Doctor or Mister Thus-and-So, with the Christian name given only on extremely rare occasions. Ernest Dudley of the Armchair Detective fame perhaps covered himself best in this respect in his Dr. Morelle stories by stating quite firmly “that his Christian name did not matter,” thereby establishing that he had no Christian name whatsoever.
Some detective stories we have simply been unable to peruse. The British Museum has been through two world wars, and unfortunately many gaps exist in their library files caused by enemy bombing, especially during the second war.
Another important point to be noted is that, if a character has appeared in many books, his status or rank may have changed from that given in this work. The rise from detective constable to chief superintendent, for example, is not uncommon. With such extensive research as this work required, keeping up-to-date with every character has not been possible. And since we could not peruse every book featuring a given character, valuable personal information may have eluded us, though we hope such instances are few in number.
We must stress that this is not a complete catalogue of books which featured a given detective—the reader will not find full lists of publications in which their favourite sleuth appeared, though at times we have identified individual novels or stories. However, armed with the details we provide, the reader should be able without great difficulty to track down additional novels.
This work is a bibliography and biography of well over a thousand detectives. May it bring back many nostalgic memories, and perhaps the desire to reacquaint oneself with long-forgotten characters.


I was ten years old and the year was 1933. I sat at my desk at the school in St. John's Wood, London. A small, slim boy with unruly brown hair, I was wearing a red jersey and listening to my teacher tell his usual Friday afternoon story. This particular week his tale was “The Blue Carbuncle,” written by Arthur Conan Doyle and featuring the immortal Sherlock Holmes. I sat with my head cupped in my hands, open-mouthed in wonder at the sheer genius of the great detective. I had heard of him before, and I knew he lived in Baker Street, only about ten minutes away.
Such was Holmes' brilliance that he could solve mysteries by means of the slenderest of clues. In the story in question, merely by looking at an old black battered hat he had deduced all there was to know about the owner—even the face that his wife had ceased to love him.
"Any questions?” asked my schoolmaster, at the end of the enthralling story.
"Please, sir,” I said in my then piping treble voice. “Could you tell me the number in Baker Street where Sherlock Holmes lives?”
"Number 221B,” he replied, with a look of amusement on his usually stern face. “Which is at the top of Baker Street, near Regents Park.”
In my childish innocence I believed that Sherlock Holmes was a real live detective, so that after school lessons had finished I could go to see his house on my way home. Who knows? I might even be able to catch a glimpse of the greatest detective that England ever had!
It was early November and already dusk when I went out of the school gates. In those days we always had the traditional London fogs. Fog was everywhere, dense, yellow and choking. It filled the cobbled streets, courts and alleys, and even found its way into houses. It seemed to cling with damp, cold embrace to object, animate and inanimate. Usually nothing was visible more than a few yards from an observer; beyond that the world was hidden in a murky pall.
Arriving at the top end of Baker Street, I groped along the side on which 221B was supposed to be, but instead of a house I found a huge grey stone structure belonging to the Abbey Building Society. Thinking I had made a mistake somewhere, I went further along to enquire at the familiar coffee stall which stood on the corner of Marylebone Circus. Despite the gloom, I could see the yellow oil lamp flickering on the side of the counter, and the usual crowd of down-and-outs and working-class labourers huddled in front to keep warm.
Approaching near enough to be heard by the proprietor, busily serving behind the high counter, I shouted out to him: “Can you tell me where the house is where Sherlock Holmes lives?”
"Get off with you!” he shouted, brandishing a large carving knife which he had just been using on the hot pies and sandwiches. He probably thought I was cheeking him, and so, feeling rather crestfallen and with the guffaws of several of his customers ringing in my ears, I made my way once more in the direction where I thought the celebrated detective lived.
The imposing figure of a policeman suddenly loomed out of a doorway and shined his bullseye lantern (which he wore attached to his belt) into my face.
"What are you looking for, sonny?” he asked, not unkindly.
"I'm trying to find the house of Sherlock Holmes,” I replied.
A twinkle came into his blue eyes. “Well, I'm afraid that Mr. Holmes is away on a case just now,” he said. “And anyway the house is very ordinary to look at from outside.” Then he added: “And as no doubt Mr. Holmes would also tell you, a night like this is no time for a young lad to be wandering the streets, and I should get off home straight away if I were you.”
So with these comforting words in my ears and, still with the hope that I might possibly catch a glimpse of the detective with Dr. Watson arriving back from a case, I made my way homeward. Every horse-drawn cab which clopped its way through the fog-laden streets in passing may have seen a small boy trying to peer into the interior, with the hope of seeing the greatest of all sleuths—the one and only Sherlock Holmes.
A few years later, when I was sufficiently mature in mind to accept that Holmes was but a mythical figure, I did my first detective work at my local library. I was able to establish that in 1887—the period when the stories began to appear—Baker Street was a short thoroughfare running from Portman Square to Paddington Street with only about 86 houses. By 1925 it had extended through York Place to the corner of Marylebone Road, the highest number then being 133. In 1930 it stretched even further, going across Marylebone Circus and replacing Upper Baker Street, and extending to the Volunteer Public House that was on the edge of Regents Park. There has never been an actual 221B, and anyone seeking that number must have concluded that the house existed on the site of the Abbey Building Society, which is No. 217-227. This fact only raised my estimation of A. Conan Doyle, since by giving a mythical number he ensured that there could be no callers (perhaps to the annoyance of the householder), as there might have been had he given an existing number.
Apart from the Sherlock Holmes stories and those of Leslie Charteris' delightful Saint tales (which were not strictly detection), I read very little detective fiction in my teens. My main pastime and my greatest joy was watching the numerous thriller and detective films that were shown prior to the Second World War. What better actors could there possibly have been than Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, who so aptly portrayed Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.
Another tremendously popular series featured Earl Derr Biggers' creation, Charlie Chan, with his “Number One” son. Warner Oland, Sydney Toler and J. Carrol Naish all played the leading role, though in my opinion Oland was the best. Oriental detectives then seemed the fashion—Boris Karloff, the King of Horror, played Mr. Wong in a long series, and the diminutive Peter Lorre, not to be outdone, played another well-remembered role, that of the Japanese Mr. Moto.
It was not until the middle of World War II, while engaged in jungle fighting in Burma, that I developed a real interest in detective fiction, and it was a curious beginning to say the least. In a disused Japanese bamboo hut I found a copy of the Sexton Blake Library, which I suspect had been left there by some unfortunate British prisoner rather than a member of the Japanese Imperial Army. The style of writing appealed to me, and the character of the detective seemed more attractive than the type of “private eye” which was the rage in that period.
On my return to England I probably spent more time than I should have researching this detective character, and in time I believe—with due modesty—that I became one of the world's greatest authorities on Sexton Blake. Not until about ten years ago did I start to take a great interest in detective fiction as a whole. In an anthology I had read of the creation of the detective story, which was born in the pages of the {Graham Magazine (A Philadelphia Journal)} in 1841 with a short story entitled “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” by Edgar Allan Poe. Poe's detective, the Chevalier C. Auguste Dupin, was eccentric, analytic, and contemptuous of the police. He was considered to be the precursor of the amateur detective of today. In addition, Poe's theme of the “unbreakable alibi” and his disclosure of the unlikely murderer are still, in modern times, standard ingredients of detective fiction.
My detective curiosity, like those of other researchers before me, was initially aroused in wondering why the first detective story should have originated in America, and not in England. After all, I reasoned, Sir Robert Peel had, in 1829, established the London Metropolitan Police Force, with a back door opening on a spot called Scotland Yard. By 1842 a detective branch had been added, with headquarters in the Yard itself, and it seems hard to believe that no English fiction writer had attempted to write, in some form or other, about this police force. But after an exhaustive search through thousands of pre-1840 magazines, I had to concede that Poe must be accepted as the Father of all detective writers, until proved otherwise. My research did unearth many obscure facts (one periodical called {The Thief}, 1831-2, looked promising), and I discovered what could be termed detective stories long before Poe (probably the most famous was {Caleb Williams} by William Godwin in 1794—a murder mystery with two detectives, one amateur and one professional), but Poe's position remained in place.
One must also accept that the profession of a detective had only just been invented at this time, and that until detectives existed no stories about them could have been possible.
As I read more and more about famous detectives in stories by such authors as Ellery Queen, Margery Allingham, S. S. Van Dine, Rex Stout and John Creasey—to name just a few, and as I considered the numerous anthologies that have appeared over the years, I was struck by the fact that, as far as I could discover, no writer had attempted to prepare a book which featured all the detectives that had appeared in popular fiction. To put this another way: no book had appeared, to my knowledge, which contained every type of detective, famous or otherwise, especially the many that were read (and still remembered) by millions in popular magazine form.
The literary content of many stories, viewed from an intellectual perspective, was admittedly not as high as it might have been. But those readers who might think that the majority of them were not of any great significance should remember what Dorothy L. Sayers wrote: "We must not forget the curious and interesting development of detective fiction, which has produced the adventures of Sexton Blake, and other allied agents. The really interesting point about them is that they present the nearest modern approach to a National Folk Lore, conceived as the centre for a cycle of loosely connected romances in the Arthurian manner. The significance in popular literature and education would richly repay scientific investigation...”
I have been tremendously interested to compile this account, with the collaboration of Derek Adley, and we both sincerely hope and trust that the reader will obtain the same interest and enjoyment from it.
W.O.G. Lofts
London, December, 1971