The 36 Most Read Mysteries of 1936: The Results

A couple of weeks ago, in preparation for the 1936 Club, which is being hosted by Stuck in a Book and Kaggy’s Bookish Ramblings this week, I unleashed a 340-book long poll to find out the 36 most read mystery novels of 1936. The response to this poll was great, the most I have ever had, with 2134 votes being submitted, and only 33 of them were mine!

Given the obscurity of some of the titles on this list, I was not surprised to find books which received zero votes. If there are no copies available then reading them is going to be tricky, after all! In the end 167 titles found themselves in this position, which is around 56% of the total amount. A few readers were interested to know which books met this fate so I have listed them below, should anyone want to make it their mission to read them all…

  1. The Old Jew Mystery by Herbert Adams
  2. The Uncounted Hour by Warner Allen
  3. The Vanishing Yacht by Edgar Anstey
  4. Three Men Murdered by A. A. Archer
  5. Calamity Comes to Flenton by Charles Ashton
  6. Murder of a Matriarch by Hugh Austin
  7. Ring Around a Murder by George Bagby
  8. Round Robin by Graham Ward Bain
  9. Death Calls Three Times by Glyn Barnett
  10. Murder on Monday by Glyn Barnett
  11. Poison in Public by Charles Barry
  12. The Eight Crooked Tranches by Francis Beeding
  13. Prelude to a Murder by George Clinton Bestor
  14. Murder Goes Fishing by Timothy Brace
  15. Death Tolls the Gong by John G. Brandon
  16. The Case of the Withered Hand by John G. Brandon
  17. The Dragnet by John G. Brandon
  18. The Pawnshop Murder by John G. Brandon
  19. The Snatch Game by John G. Brandon
  20. Suspicion was Aroused by Alan Brock
  21. The Grouser Investigates by Edwy Searles Brooks
  22. Murder at Elstree by Thomas Burke
  23. Death Goes by Bus by Leslie Cargill
  24. The Devil Drives by John Newton Chance
  25. No End of a Rogue by Frank A. Clement
  26. Amateur Crook by Hugh Clevely
  27. The Death Pool by James Corbett
  28. No Other Killer by James Corbett
  29. Four Doors to Death by John Courage
  30. Framed Evidence by Joan A. Cowdroy
  31. Murder Unsuspected by Joan A. Cowdroy
  32. Murder in a Road Gang by Maurice Cresswell
  33. The Mark of the Four by Mark Cross
  34. Corpses Can’t Walk by Robert Curtis
  35. Invitation to Murder by Robert Curtis
  36. Red Murchison by Roland Daniel
  37. The Secret Hand by Roland Daniel
  38. The Slayer by Roland Daniel
  39. Slick-Fingered Kate by Roland Daniel
  40. Snake Face by Roland Daniel
  41. The Stedman Gang by Roland Daniel
  42. The Stool Pigeon by Roland Daniel
  43. The Ming Vase Mystery by Rex Dark
  44. The Wardour Street Mystery by Rex Dark
  45. Emily Coulton Dies by Maurice B. Dix
  46. The Fixer by Maurice B. Dix
  47. The Hand of Justice by Francis Duncan
  48. Detectives in Gum Boots by Roger East
  49. A. B. C.’s Test Case by Ephesian
  50. The Hanging Judge by Gwyn Evans
  51. Rogue Royal by Gwyn Evans
  52. The Sign of the Saracen by Gwyn Evans
  53. Dangerous Beauty by J. Jefferson Farjeon
  54. Murder Mars the Tour by Mary Fitt
  55. Death Took a Publisher by Norman Forrest
  56. Was Murder Done? by Sydney Fowler
  57. Post Mortem Evidence by Sydney Fowler
  58. Director’s Corridor by Caroline Francis
  59. It Couldn’t Be Suicide by Caroline Francis
  60. Number 1-2-3 by Francis Gerard
  61. Concrete Castle by Francis Gerard
  62. The Black Emperor by Francis Gerard
  63. The Dictatorship of the Dove by Francis Gerard
  64. Death Goes Ashore by Alec Glanville
  65. Tidings of Joy by George Goodchild and C. F. Bechhofer Roberts
  66. Death by Desire by Richard Goyne
  67. Hanged I’ll Be! by Richard Goyne
  68. Cardyce for the Defence by Bruce Graeme
  69. Blackshirt the Adventurer by Bruce Graeme
  70. It Walks the Wood by Alan Grant
  71. Henry Prince in Action by Cecil Freeman Gregg
  72. Stolen Death by Leo Grex
  73. Riley of the Special Branch by Leonard Gribble
  74. The Heart in the Box by Francis Grierson
  75. Commandments Six and Eight by Aceituna Griffin
  76. Death and the Golden Image by Whyte Hall
  77. Crime and a Clock by Whyte Hall
  78. Documentary Evidence by Robertson Halkett
  79. The Black Flame by John Halstead
  80. Middle Class Murder by Bruce Hamilton
  81. The House of En-Dor by Anne Hocking
  82. Stranglehold by Anne Hocking
  83. Murder Train by Gavin Holt
  84. Steel Shutters by Gavin Holt
  85. There Has Been a Murder by Henry Holt
  86. Arsenic on the Menu by B. H. Homersham
  87. The Doctor Died at Dusk by Geoffrey Homes
  88. The Grim Game by Sydney Horler
  89. The Traitor by Sydney Horler
  90. Bring ‘em Back Dead! by David Hume
  91. Meet the Dragon by David Hume
  92. The Diamonds of Death by Wallace Jackson
  93. Silent Terror by T. C. H. Jacobs
  94. Li Kwang’s Dagger by Frank Johnston
  95. A Weird Legacy by Frank Johnston
  96. Sic Transit Gloria by Milward Kennedy
  97. Murder in Rosemary Lane by Helen M. Keynes
  98. Enter the Dormouse by Frank King
  99. Goring’s First Case by Peter Kippax
  100. Death Stands Near by Leonard A. Knight
  101. Night Express Murder by Leonard A. Knight
  102. The Wheel That Turned by Kathleen Moore Knight
  103. His Lordship the Judge by D. H. Landels
  104. The Riddle of Wraye by John Laurence
  105. The Cloze Papers by Kenneth Livingston
  106. I Was Murdered by M. E. Longman
  107. Hi-Spy-Kick-the-Can by Victor MacClure
  108. Coulson Alone by Jack Mann
  109. Detective Coulson by Jack Mann
  110. Gee’s First Case by Jack Mann
  111. Snatch by Virgil Markham
  112. The Denmede Mystery by Wyndham Martyn
  113. The House of Secrets by Wyndham Martyn
  114. Prologue to the Gallows by Paul McGuire
  115. “On the Night of the 18th…” by Laurence Meynell
  116. Brighton Alibi by Arthur Mills
  117. The Clue of the Bricklayer’s Aunt by Nigel Morland
  118. The Street of the Leopard by Nigel Morland
  119. So I Killed Her by Leonard O. Mosley
  120. Satyr Mask by Augustus Muir
  121. The Bronze Door by Augustus Muir
  122. Hazardous Holiday by Elizabeth Nisot
  123. A Close Call by Eden Phillpotts
  124. The Good Books by R. Philmore
  125. The Dumb Witness by T. Arthur Plummer
  126. Was the Mayor Murdered? by T. Arthur Plummer
  127. The Death Game by Captain A. O. Pollard
  128. Unofficial Spy by Captain A. O. Pollard
  129. Red for Danger by Evadne Price
  130. One Murdered, Two Dead by Milton Propper
  131. Leatherface Lonergan Stakes a Claim by Peter Renwick
  132. Murder by Twenty-Five by Clifton Robbins
  133. Devil or Saint? by Colin Robertson
  134. The Marble Tomb Mystery by Colin Robertson
  135. The Black Spot by John Ross
  136. The Moccasin Man by John Ross
  137. The Professor Dies by John Rowland
  138. Death in the Wood by Charles Rushton
  139. Highly Unsafe by Max Saltmarsh
  140. Highly Inflammable by Max Saltmarsh
  141. Murder is Infectious by Sutherland Scott
  142. Murder Without Mourners by Sutherland Scott
  143. The Four Dead Men by Spencer Simpson
  144. Murder at the Miramar by Edmund Snell
  145. Yellow Jacket by Edmund Snell
  146. Or Give Me Death by Erle Spencer
  147. The Island Murder by Traill Stevenson
  148. Murder at the Bar by Traill Stevenson
  149. Death in Diamonds by H. R. Taunton
  150. The Crimson Hair Murders by Darwin Teilhet
  151. Dead End Street by Lee Thayer
  152. Dark of the Moon by Lee Thayer
  153. Murder Paves the Way by Seldon Truss
  154. Rooksmiths by Seldon Truss
  155. The River Men by Gerald Verner
  156. Death of a Jazz King by Charles M. Walker
  157. Death Flies High by Rowland Walker
  158. Death of a Libertine by Carlton Wallace
  159. Reduction of Staff by F. J. Whaley
  160. Death Calls the Jester by H. E. Wheeler
  161. The Spider’s Touch by Valentine Williams
  162. Fatal Accident by Cecil M. Wills
  163. Which Way Came Death? by Faith Wolseley
  164. Hangman’s Child by Andrew Wood
  165. King Vagabond by Andrew Wood
  166. Nor Proven Castle by Andrew Wood
  167. Murder in Thin Air by Anthony Wynne

Interestingly two of the most prolific mystery writers for 1936, Roland Daniel and John G. Brandon, who wrote 6 and 7 novels that year respectively, had very few votes. In fact only one of Brandon’s novels had been read out of the 13 titles. So quantity it seems is not a guarantee of longevity…

…Nor is having an online presence. Whilst I will be looking at the effect of reprints on the results later, I noticed one writer, Edwy Searles Brooks, who despite having a website dedicated to their work, received no votes for his 1936 mystery, The Grouser Investigates. Nevertheless, reprints have been important in getting many titles in my poll back into the spotlight and out of the three books J. Jefferson Farjeon wrote, the only one to not receive any votes, was also the only one of the three that has not been reprinted.

A small body of books, 37 in fact, only managed to avoid the dreaded zero list by one vote. One such mystery was Edwin Greenwood’s French Farce, whose single solitary vote came from me, although given how dreadful a book it is, it really ought to have received minus points! However, here are the remaining 36 stories who narrowly escaped the gallows so to speak:

  1. Dark Masquerade by Anthony Abbot
  2. Prelude to a Killing by Nicholas Ashe
  3. Murder at the ‘Yard’ by John G. Brandon
  4. No Alibi by Belton Cobb
  5. The Brothers Sackville by G. D. H. and Margaret Cole
  6. Thunder in Europe by John Creasey
  7. The Way of the Four by Mark Cross
  8. The Mark of the Four by Mark Cross
  9. The Mystery of the Kneeling Woman by Moray Dalton
  10. The Sutton Place Murders by Robert George Dean
  11. What Gentleman Strangles a Lady? by Robert George Dean
  12. The Treasure of Scarland by Maurice B. Dix
  13. Castle Sinister by Gwyn Evans
  14. Murder at 28.10 by Newton Gayle
  15. French Farce by Edwin Greenwood
  16. The Man Who Murdered Himself by Geoffrey Homes
  17. Death at Court Lady by Sydney Horler
  18. The Wonderful Scheme of Christopher Thorne by Harry Stephen Keeler
  19. A Pall for a Painter by E. C. R. Lorac
  20. Crime Counter Crime by E. C. R. Lorac
  21. The Bloodhounds Bay by Walter S. Masterman
  22. The Avenger Strikes by Walter S. Masterman
  23. Threepence to Marble Arch by Paul McGuire
  24. The Body Lies by Edward J. Milward
  25. Crime at the Villa Gloria by George Norsworthy
  26. Judy of Bunter’s Building by E. Phillips Oppenheim
  27. The Bird of Paradise a.k.a. Floating Peril by E. Phillips Oppenheim
  28. One Man’s Muddle by E. Baker Quinn
  29. The 13th Mummy by Garnett Radcliffe
  30. Ferryman, Take Him Across by Virginia Rath
  31. Death on Dartmoor by John Rowland
  32. Death Meets the Coroner by J. Knox Ryland
  33. Draw the Blinds by Seldon Truss
  1. The Ghost Man by Gerald Verner
  2. The Hand of Fear by Gerald Verner
  3. Belt of Suspicion by H. Russell Wakefield
  4. Come Away Death by A. G. Wilson

Which of these titles did you help save?

Returning to the theme of reprints, ignoring continually in print writers such as the Queens of Crime, I have noted that 24 different publishers have reprinted at least one of the books which made it into the poll. At a glance I found at least 66 of the 340 were titles which had been reprinted in the last 10-15 years, with the majority having been reprinted in the last 5. The most prolific publishers are:

1st Place – Dean Street Press (13 Reprints from 1936)

2nd Place – Ramble House (7 Reprints from 1936)

3rd Place – British Library Crime Classics and Harper Collins Crime Club (6 Reprints from 1936)

Interestingly, one reprint I noticed that had not done as well as many of the others was His Excellency, Governor Wallace by Alexander Wilson. This title was reprinted by Allison & Busby back in 2015, yet it only garnered a couple of votes. I thought this unusual on the one hand as the Wallace reprints were available in shops such as Waterstones, but then I wondered whether the fact these books are more in the thriller/espionage vein, made them less appealing. If anyone has any thoughts let me know.

So at last the results you have all been waiting for! In some cases titles shared the same number of votes, which means that with these titles jointly sharing places in the top 36, there are more than 36 titles in the final list.

In 36th Place is…

Its crowded in 35th Place with three titles claiming a stake…

Then in 34th Place is…

Going it alone in 33rd Place is…

Whilst 32nd Place is held jointly by…

Another twosome shares 31st place…

In 30th Place is…

In 29th Place is…

In 28th Place is…

Meanwhile in 27th Place is…

Sharing 26th Place are…

Whilst in 25th Place is…

24th Place is held by…

23rd Place goes to…

Another duo took 22nd Place…

Followed by another jointly held position with 21st Place going to…

At this stage the number of votes has reached 30+ votes per each title.

In 20th Place is…

Whilst in 19th Place is…

18th Place goes to…

17th Place is held by…

Followed by another story by Rex Stout in 16th Place…

This baffled me slightly as I anticipated the two Stout titles being closer together in the votes, since one of the most recent editions of this book, (pictured above), also included the other Stout title in the list The Rubber Band.

15th Place is shared by…

Both titles gained 40 votes each.

In 14th Place is…

In 13th Place is…

12th Place goes to…

Like the book claiming 12th place, this next title in 11th Place, also comes from the British Library Crime Classics series…

Now we have reached the Top 10

In 10th Place is…

Whilst 9th Place went to…

Breaking the chain of British Library Crime Classic reprints we have just seen, and with 52 votes, in 8th Place are…

In 7th Place is…

6th Place goes to…

5th Place is held by…

In 4th Place with 64 votes is…

Jumping up to votes in triple figures, it should come as no surprise which three titles hold the Top Three positions…

In 3rd Place is…

In 2nd Place is…

And last, but far from least, in 1st Place, with 123 votes is…

I am not overly surprised by the Top 10 winners, but then I did not expect to be. This must be one of the few occasions in which most people will be far more interested in which titles made the last third of the Top 36. The Queens of Crime have all done very well, all securing Top 10 positions, except Gladys Mitchell. Whilst there are copies of Dead Man’s Morris available, I don’t think they have been as cheaply accessible as the others. Perhaps the most surprising title in the Top 10 is Case for Three Detectives by Leo Bruce, which beat reprints from the British Library series, as well as Nicholas Blake’s Thou Shell of Death and John Dickson Carr’s two offerings. Both the British Library and the Dean Street Press did very well with lots of their titles making the Top 36 and it is a pleasure to find reprints of classic crime are being warmly received by a new audience today.

If you want to take a look at the full list of titles you can find a copy here.

I don’t know when or if I will do another poll like this one, but I hope you enjoyed it and that maybe it has suggested a few new titles for you to track down.

39 comments

  1. Ah, I’ve had Case for Three Detectives in my TBR forever. Perhaps time to move it up on the pile?

    And as an aside, the Delano Ames you sent in a Coffee/Crime box was a real delight!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I must track down at least one of those Geoffrey Homes titles.

    66 reprints is really a surprisingly high number. The vast majority of books just fade away; 1936 seems to have been a popular year.

    Vast amounts of work Kate. Now 1941 beckons … 😱

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I know I voted but I seem to have missed one title, MEET THE DRAGON by David Hume. I have in fact read it and actually own a copy. Not sure if you wish to accept a late correction.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am surprised that Death of Anton which is a British Library Crime Classic didn’t make it to the top 36. Also Erle Stanley Gardner should have got more votes. Don’t people read him any longer?

    Liked by 1 person

    • When I read your comment I was surprised too about Anton so I went to re-check my list of results (9 pages long) and I discovered that I had missed it off! Consequently, I have slotted that title into its rightful place at no. 14.
      ESG is popular but I am guessing those two titles are less easy to get a hold of, as I have read a few by him but not those two.

      Like

  5. I’ve not read it but I remembered that Dead Men’s Morris was recently reprinted as Death Comes at Christmas – so people may have read it and not realised. No surprise that The ABC Murders came top.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. From the zero-vote list, 2, 7, 55, 94, 101, 117, 150, 158 and 168 are on my wishlist for obvious reasons, but most of them will likely remain elusive until a kindly publisher decides to reprint them.

    Anyway, like I said in a previous comment, this is a great poll as it gives a glimpse of the massive scope of the genre. Just think back at all the obscure mysteries and forgotten writers discussed and resurrected on these blogs over the past ten years and still produced a lengthy list of titles with zero or one vote. And that’s just 1936. Imagine how the list would look like without all those reprints from the past twenty years. Only the top 3 would remain the same.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You make a good point, about what would happen if there were no reprints. I think the most well-known would still crowd the Top 10, but the likes of Case for Three Detectives would definitely lose its Top 10 billing.
      Who knows maybe you will get lucky this year and find some of the titles from the zero list that you’re interested in.

      Like

  7. Perhaps this is excessively pedantic, but I notice that John Rhode’s “In Face of the Verdict” seems to have gained an extra “the” in the edition shown above. Is that a common variation?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Looking on google images again it seems I have selected the only edition with the extra the. It wasn’t intentional. Just trying to find a cover which I could save as a Jpg and didn’t have excessive background borders etc.

      Like

  8. Recently discovered this delightful blog. What an admirable poll. The two by Sydney Horler to get zero votes are both firmly in the espionage/thriller category. However The Traitor was reprinted as recently as 2015 by the British Library, with an introduction by Martin Edwards, though it is not in the Crime Classics series. Along with The Grim Game it was actually re-issued by Graham Greene during his period at Eyre & Spottiswoode in 1948, the latter having a cover designed by graphic designer Dorothy Glover (Craigie) with whom Greene had a long-standing relationship.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you have been enjoying the blog. I did wonder whether many of the zero and low vote titles were thrillers, as they have possibly fared less well over time and are perhaps not seeing quite the same level of resurgence as classic detective novels are.

      Like

  9. Oh God! What on earth just happened?! Will you please delete that typo ridden comment above. (thanks in advance) Here’s what I intended to write and PROOFREAD prior to hitting the “Post Comment” button …which by the way I did not hit at all. The messy comment just suddenly appeared as published. Ugh!

    Of the books that received zero votes I note there is indeed a book I have read! It is Middle Class Murder by Bruce Hamilton. The problem with much of this list is that the alternate US titles were not listed. I read the book in a US edition re-titled Dead Reckoning and forgot it was the same book until I saw it here again.

    Fatal Accident is the only Cecil M Wills books available in an affordable reprint form Ramble House and I will be reading that soon. I bought a copy because Wills was mentioned in passing in Zoe Johnson’s excellent satirical murder mystery At the Sign of the Clove and Hoof. recently reviewed on my blog.

    Of the remaining 166 book that received zero votes I own 16 of them which ought to answer the question of whether or not some of the titles are easy to find and purchase. One of those books is Murder Goes Fishing by Timothy Brace which I started last year then set aside but forgot to go back and finish it. He was billed under his real name Theodore Pratt when he was published in England, BTW, which is another consequence with these books that were collected using only limited sources rather than a wide bibliographic source like Worldcat.org.

    I can claim four of the one vote books: The 13th Mummy, One Man’s Muddle, The Man Who Murdered Himself and The Sutton Place Murders (the last two both reviewed on my blog). I can tell you that many of the one votes are probably from Curt Evans. I know for a fact he has read The Brothers Sackville and I bought a copy of that mystery by the Coles because of his recommendations. But, alas …one of the hundreds of books still unread on my shelves.

    I’m sure that nearly all of the books I voted for are well below the top 36! In fact, I have not read a majority of the top 36 vote winners. Though …of course…I own almost all of them. (12 of them are books I don’t own, including all the Wentworths) Some authors just don’t appeal to me at all having read one or two and never returned for more — Patricia Wentworth, Georgette Heyer and Margery Allingham are three of them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Don’t worry, your gobbledygook message has been deleted.
      I am not surprised you have 16 of the zero vote titles to read on your TBR pile. Looks like you can make a great start in getting the whole list read! I know Bev has already read one or two titles from the list, so I may have to do a revised version of the zero list if enough of them are read.
      I’m not sure if Curtis has voted, but if he has then yes I can imagine he has read many of the obscure ones.
      I’ve not read 25 of the Top 36, but I have read all of the Top 14.
      My next read is going to be Norbert Davis’ The Mouse in the Mountain. Guessing this might be a book you have read? Not tried anything by them before, but given how much our reviews are coinciding at the moment, I thought I better let you know lol

      Like

  10. I didn’t participate in the survey, yet I’m very surprised at the choices. No Simenon, for example, when he’s clearly and absolutely far superior to eighty-percent of the authors listed, but maybe it’s restricted to English language authors I’ve always felt that the mystery genre should support works that are more than mere who-dunnits, which is why I favour Sayers, Tey, Gladys Mitchell and Arthur Upfield, who invest their works with much character development and physical descriptive passages. One of the very major sadnesses of my reading life in that respect is that the output of Josephine Tey was so little. But as they say, “A chaque son goute” which makes a survey like this one so informative. I always felt that Agatha Christie is as dull as dishwater compared to many on the list. Many of the films of her works were excellent, the books not so much. I will look again, your grace, and see if my eyes have become opened. But, all of the top three?

    Liked by 2 people

    • I confess I, too, was a bit surprised that Christie took top 3. But this was, after all, based on how many people had read each book, not about likes and dislikes. And don’t many get their introduction to classic mystery through Christie because she is both prolific and well-known? In terms of sheer numbers of books I’ve read by GAD authors, I’m sure I’ve read more Bush and Daly (and others) than Christie. But reading Christie when I was much younger guided me into the genre.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I did look into Simenon’s work, as I know how prolific he was, but from the limited info I had, it didn’t appear that any of the books he wrote that year fell into the category of mystery fiction, so I didn’t feel I had enough evidence to include them. As I say the info I had available was limited.
      I do have two novels by the Italian author Augusto De Angelis in the poll though.
      Christie’s books are by far the most widely available and well-known so I was not surprised they bagged the top 3 positions. After all the poll was not looking at the merit of each book just how often it has been read.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, even if you did a poll on “which books of 1936 you like the most”, I am hundred percent sure that The ABC Murders will be the winner and the other 2 Christie books will be in the top 10 !

        Like

    • The rankings are about being read by the most people, which is not the same as being the best. Hence, I do not understand why it would be surprising that Christie dominates the top ranks.

      Like

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