The Golden Age of Detective Fiction

From posh British detectives to hard-boiled American private eyes, crime fiction from World War I through the 1950s is full of larger-than-life characters—and writers. Their names are as varied as their methods of cracking the case: a mix of aristocratic, romantic, classic, and cool. - Created by ceryle

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  • Agatha

    One of the Queens of Crime, Agatha Christie and her novels have yet to go out of style, but her name is just now climbing back to the fringes of vintage-cool.

  • Alan

    Josephine Tey's detective Alan Grant shares his name with a 'Jurassic Park' character. No surprise—Alan has been in the U.S. top 200 since 1925.

  • Albert

    The strong and noble Albert, a la Margery Allingham's famous detective Albert Campion, may be too fuddy-duddy for some, but nicknames like Albie and Bertie make the timeless name more accessible.

  • Anthony

    Locked-room mystery solver Anthony Gethryn was an amateur detective created by Philip MacDonald. His name is a versatile classic that's still high on the popularity charts.

  • Archie

    Archie Goodwin narrates the Nero Wolfe novels by Rex Stout. Though the character was born in Ohio, his name is now near the top of the popularity chart in the U.K.

  • Brigid

    For this tailored classic, St. Brigid of Kildare is probably a better namesake than Brigid O'Shaughnessy, the manipulative antagonist in 'The Maltese Falcon.'

  • Cyril

    Alfred Gordon Clark, (pen name Cyril Hare) relied on his career as a judge to write crime stories. Despite Cyril's stateliness and long history, the name hasn't been popular since mid-century.

  • Dashiell

    Though Dashiell is quite debonair, fashionable nickname Dash is more reminiscent of writer Dashiell Hammett's crisp, snappy prose.

  • Della

    An uncommon way to get the on-trend -ella sound, Della is bright, strong and polished, much like Perry Mason's invaluable assistant Della Street.

  • Dorothy

    Dorothy Sayers was one of the four Queens of Crime, and her name has been steadily rising in popularity in the last decade.

  • Effie

    Sam Spade's assistant Effie Perine is the only person the detective trusts. Effie makes a cute nickname for Stephanie or Josephine, but hasn't rejoined the ranks of standalone diminutives like Millie and Hattie.

  • Ellery

    Mystery writer-slash-detective Ellery Queen stars in a swath of novels by . . . Ellery Queen, also the pseudonym of the series' two-man writing team. The name is now acceptable for girls, too, as an offbeat alternative to Ella, Ellie, Eleanor, et al.

  • Fenton

    Crack private eye and father to Frank and Joe, Fenton Hardy has a name that's right at home among other surname-names today, even if it hasn't cracked the U.S. top 1,000.

  • Gervase

    Oxford professor Gervase Fen, an amateur detective created by Edmund Crispin, has a French name that's as charming and cheerful as the character, though rarely heard today.

  • Gideon

    Gideon was far from popular when John Dickson Carr introduced amateur sleuth Dr. Gideon Fell in 1933. Now it's on the rise as a fresh biblical option.

  • Harriet

    First a murder suspect then the wife of detective Lord Peter Wimsey, Harriet Vane was modeled after her creator, Dorothy Sayers. Harriet's still posh in the U.K., but nickname Hattie is now more popular in the U.S.

  • Jane

    Professional busybody and amateur detective Miss Jane Marple may be a grandmother, but her name feels sweet and smart for a modern girl.

  • Jules

    George Simenon's detective Jules Maigret is usually called only by his surname, but his romantic Latin first name is all the rage right now in France.

  • Lew

    Ross Macdonald chose the first name of his detective Lew Archer to honor 'Ben-Hur' author Lew Wallace. The short form for Lewis is breezy and approachable, but rare as a given name.

  • Margery

    Queen of Crime Margery Allingham created aristocratic detective Albert Campion. Her name, a dated variation of Margaret, is more commonly spelled Marjorie—perhaps to avoid the margarine association.

  • Maud

    Like Agatha Christie's Miss Marple, Patricia Wentworth's spinsterly Miss Silver is an unlikely detective. Her first name is unlikely today, but its spunk and royal cred make it appealing to some modern parents.

  • Mickey

    Writer Mickey Spillane (given name Frank) sports a less common but more colorful diminutive of Michael than his chief detective, Mike Hammer.

  • Mona

    Mona is a loyal lover in 'The Big Sleep,' and the nickname of mystery writer Anne Hocking. Though it's a sophisticated (if bold) full name in its own right, Mona could be a nickname for Ramona, Simone or Naomi, Hocking's given name.

  • Nancy

    Girls (and boys) still look to Nancy Drew as an icon of smarts and style. Her graceful name is not so stylish anymore, having fallen far since peak popularity in the '50s.

  • Perry

    The Erle Stanley Gardner novels (and TV show) starring lawyer Perry Mason spanned decades, but cool, casual Perry began falling out of favor in the 1960s.

  • Peter

    Friendly, solid Peter was chosen by Dorothy Sayers for her gentleman detective, Lord Peter Wimsey. Today it's chosen by parents looking for a less common classic.

  • Philip

    Raymond Chandler's signature sleuth Philip Marlowe and thriller writer Philip MacDonald share the slightly more popular spelling of this classic name that's biblical but not bland.

  • Philo

    Philo has the uber-cool -o ending of Milo and Theo, and S.S. Van Dine's dandy detective Philo Vance thought himself quite the cool cat too.

  • Rex

    Rex Stout and his sedentary detective Nero Wolfe both have memorable monikers. Rex is finding newfound favor in the wake of other X names like Max, Dax and Axel.

  • Roderick

    The fourth Queen of Crime, New Zealand writer Ngaio Marsh, gave her aristocratic detective Roderick Alleyn a confident, aristocratic name that's now far less common than its Spanish variation, Rodrigo.

  • Roger

    Anthony Berkeley Cox's amateur detective Roger Sheringham may be obnoxious, but his name is an appealing mix of affability and roguishness, fitting for a Bond actor.

  • Sam

    Just plain Sam is free of frills, like Sam Spade, but the name comes across much friendlier than Dashiell Hammett's hard-boiled detective.