Suppose it's a matter of personal taste and experience, but since I haven't read all crime writers/stories--who really has?--what might be the opinion here of the brains versus brawn crime novel genre, the violent, action protagonists and stories as opposed to the more cerebral?

Just wondering.

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If you have a mystery to solve, youn need someone with brains.  If you're fighting gangsters, you might manage with brawn. Different plots.


However, in real life, things aren't so clear-cut. Success may come to men who have brains and also physical courage. My protagonist is by definition an academic, but he also has military training. In his younger and middle years he is called on to fight. His sidekick is the real brawn, but he has aspirations to brain, often amusingly.


My own preference is for men with courage. I cannot abide Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes is the model for all detectives, and vastly preferable to oafs like Mike Hammer. You want to know how it's done? It all starts with Holmes. Including courage and action. That's one of the things Watson's there for. Anyway, Holmes is a skilled fencer, single-stick fighter, and boxer. 

Everything depends on the story you're writing. In fact, one approach which never fails is placing one of the more cerebral detectives in a situation where brains alone aren't enough: this would test the limits of what he can do, or, more importantly, what he is willing to do. 

For the best of both worlds, Hammett and Chandler.

Sorry, don't relate to them much either.  And Sherlock is a stuck-up prig.

It strikes me that courage is sometimes just persevering into the face of a miserable job and while the protagonist's family is bailing out.  I liked Inspector Frost.  Also Morse.

Since Sherlock is probably the single most liked detective (if not character) of all time, I think I.J.'s opinion is clearly her own. :) The lady is entitled, and a stuck-up prig is actually a very fair description. For lots of us, though, that's where his humor comes from, and we love to see him dismiss fools. I spent six months of high school reading "The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes," the giant tome. Earned me quite the rep as dork. :)

I like both brains and brawn, Elvis Cole being my current favorite private eye (although Dana has two cops I'm growing fond of fast). Elvis has his sidekick Joe Pike for the really heavy physical stuff, but Elvis can handle a weapon and a bad guy or two. Travis McGee is an old favorite. There again, he had the brains to figure out the mystery, the brawn to handle the bad guy at the climax. I guess it's a corny formula, but darn I really like to read them. 

Agreed on Hammett and Chandler but prior to Holmes there was Poe's Dupin, which Doyle acknowledged as an influence.

True, but Holmes set the entire genre on fire, spawned the serial character concept (on which all television relies), and he dominates fiction to this day. Besides, my first novel, "Sherlock Holmes and the Plague of Dracula" is still going strong after seven years. I heard from a reader in Norway last week, and an English student in Italy let me know she's analyzing it for a scholarly paper. 

Poe gets credit for creating the modern detective story, but Arthur Conan Doyle owns it.

Oh!  Apologies!  :)

Can anybody write a Sherlock Holmes story now? No permissions?

Under the old International Copyright Convention, which ended in the late '70s, protection was only for 17 years, with a renewable additional 17 years if done so within a specified but short period of time, for a total of 34.(I took maff), then the property became public domain, meaning anyone could use it anyway they wanted, without having to pay royalties or answer to anyone. It's one reason why the classics are always out there by numerous publishers; they don't have to pay the authors. Only new and newly-copyrighted properties, after the new laws of the '70s, have the life-plus-50-years rights for the creators and their estates. All else is fair game, as I remember it. The works copyrighted under the old system were not eligible for extended protection under the new laws.

Except for the damn Sonny Bono law, which extended individual copyright to life plus 75 years and corporate copyrights to 95 years, effectively eliminating the public domain in the United States. 

I was never a fan of his music, but this was going too far. Big Media has too much power as it is.

Actually, it's life plus 70 years.

I will confess to having read The Complete Sherlock Holmes on three occasions.  And in the mid 1980s, I was hooked on the Granada TV series, starring Jeremy Brett.  But now I am less than convinced.  How many modern writers could get away with using the reappearance of a wronged colonial from 20 (or so) years ago, who has not been introduced until the final chapter?  I do still like "The Mystery of the Six Napoleons".  Very clever and not a wronged colonial in sight!


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