Thursday, December 11, 2014

Book Notes – The 30 Best Selling Crime Writers Of All Time

Edgar Wallace
Gérard de Villiers

Judging by my headline, I must be auditioning for the job of headline writer for The Huffington Post.  Yes, such a list is a stretch and certainly the results are debatable for many reasons.   There are many influential crime writers missing from this list — Cain, Thompson, Hammett, Chandler and all the Mac and McDonalds, not to mention Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, himself. True, but this not a list of best, but a list of the bestsellers.  And how, in this case, is a crime writer defined?  I did my subjective best with a list of best selling authors of fiction on Wikipedia.  The link and some additional notes are below.

Frédéric Dard
There were many surprises here.  Apparently a little too Euro-centric, I wasn’t at all familiar with a few of the Japanese novelists on the list. There were some other surprises.  Who is Edgar Wallace? I Googled. He’s real. Some seemed too young to be in the running.  For a fellow not yet 60, John Grisham’s appearance is pretty impressive. One reason for his success, and others, I suspect, is translations.  Grisham’s books have been translated into 42 languages.  Young as Grisham is, compared to the old and the dead on this list, Patricia Cornwell is 58, even younger. David Baldacci is 54, and Dan Brown is only 50. 

The key to this list is the total number of books sold. Each of the writers listed below has sold at least 100 million books.  Dame Agatha Christie has sold 4 billion. Here’s the list:

1  Agatha Christie
2  Georges Simenon
3  Sidney Sheldon
4  Erle Stanley Gardner
5  Jirõ Akagawa
6  Edgar Wallace
7  Robert Ludlum
8  James Patterson
9  Frédéric Dard
10  Jeffrey Archer
11  John Grisham
12  Irving Wallace
13  Mickey Spillane
14  Kyotaro Nishimura
15  Dan Brown
16  Arthur Hailey
17  Gérard de Villiers
18  Michael Crichton
19  Ken Follett
20  David Baldacci
21  Evan Hunter
22  Robin Cook
23  Ian Fleming
24  Rex Stout
25  John Creasey
26  Yasuo Uchida
27  Seiichi Morimura
28  Mary Higgins Clark
29  Patricia Cornwell
30  Tom Clancy

There are writers who straddle genres and questions about how to define crime fiction.  I didn’t include “horror,” for example.  Certainly Stephen King would have been high on the list.  Do Alistair MacLean and Clive Cussler belong in this category? Perhaps. How about the James Patterson factory?  What about Vampire fiction? Wikipedia, which has listed them by number of books sold, also notes that Jack Higgins would have likely made the list but sales records are incomplete. To see the list from which this sublist was was culled, go here.

Because there is an obvious level of subjectivity in defining qualifications for this compilation, your comments are especially welcome.


Teri-on-the-sandbar said...

Fascinating list! Who knew the Japanese were so fond of the genre? Aooarently they are to see so many Japanese authors on the list. And so few have found their way into English. Wonder what we're missing?

Ronald Tierney said...

Thanks Teri. I agree. I'm on my second mysteryi/noir by Fuminori Nakamura. I'm impressed, especially by his first, The Thief.