It began, as so many things, with an argument. One of those tedious ones, you know how they go: who would win in a fight between this fictional character and that? We enjoy these half-drunken amicable disagreements, not least because they rely on obscure knowledge of the personality traits of figures who never existed.
Our conversation turned to literary detectives. What would happen, we mused, if there were some kind of futuristic deathmatch between them? Who would win?
There was only one thing for it. We wrote names, pulled them out of a bag, and sketched out the brackets. And then the battles commenced.
Here's how it played out on a friend's kitchen table, thanks to the able assistance of half a bottle of whisky. May the most ferocious literary detective win.
Sam Spade vs. Hercule Poirot
Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade enters the arena first. He stands there, hand in his overcoat pocket, facing the door on the opposite side of the small space. The audience settles down, and waits for the arrival of Agatha Christie's Belgian creation.
Poirot enters, acknowledging the polite applause. He turns to Spade, smiling, twirling the tips of his distinctive mustache. "Let us review the details of the matter," he begins.
In a cold fraction of a moment, Sam Spade has drawn his gun and shot Poirot dead. Spade feels nothing as he progresses, unsportingly, to the next round.
Travis McGee vs. Sherlock Holmes
McGee is the tall, tanned, honorable "salvage consultant" from John D. MacDonald's books. He seems pretty sanguine about facing Sherlock Holmes, the world's greatest detective. They enter the arena simultaneously, and within five seconds, the deerstalkered one has surmised that that his opponent is something of a gambler.
"Perhaps a game of cards?" ventures the great detective. McGee smiles.
They sit, a revolver placed between them. Holmes shuffles and then calmly deals McGee a busted flush. He quietly reveals his single pair of Queens before standing, nodding to McGee, and leaving the room.
Father Brown vs. Cadfael
It seemed cruel to pit two men of the cloth against each other, but there you have it. GK Chesterton's Father Brown sits, smiling, opposite Ellis Peters's medieval monk Cadfael.
"Perhaps some tea," offers the herbalist monk. Father Brown smiles quietly, and watches as Cadfael exits, then returns with a porcelain pot in one hand, and two cups balanced in the other.
The monk places the teacups carefully on a side table, and pours the warm liquid from the pot into a cup. Father Brown stands, watching. He removes his spectacles to clean them, then accidentally drops them to the floor. Cadfael bends briefly to aid his opponent, who meanwhile calmly exchanges the position of the teacups.
The tea is poured, they both smile, sip from their respective drinks, and the monk then falls to the floor, having imbibed the poison he had intended for Father Brown.
Easy Rawlins vs. C. Auguste Dupin
Walter Mosely's Rawlins touches the brim of his hat as Edgar Allen Poe's gentleman detective C. Auguste Dupin enters. Dupin, amused, bows low.
He is about to speak when Rawlin's vicious friend, Mouse, pokes his head through the doorway. "Hey, Easy, what you doin'?"
"It's a deathmatch, Mouse. I'm fighting this French guy."
"Oh." Mouse contemplates the scene for a moment, then fires a volley of bullets into Dupin's surprised body. "Let's go, Easy. We got things to do."
Umpire's ruling: Easy Rawlins is disqualified for the use of outside assistance.
Click "Next" to view the second bracket