I'm going with Derek Raymond's factory series. I only recently discovered these books, and they're simply amazing. Very grim stuff, kind of a meditation on death and dying, but the writing just sparkles, really remarkable. Robin Cook/Derek Raymond was clearly a fan of Raymond Chandler--you can tell from his dialogue, as well as his choice of pseudonym, but I agree with some of the blurbs that he surpasses Chandler with these books. The five books making up the factory series:

He Died with His Eyes Open (1976)
The Devil's Home on Leave (1985)
How the Dead Live (1986)
I Was Dora Suarez (1990)
Dead Man Upright (1993)

That's my choice, and am interested in other people's favorite series.

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Well, I'm hardpressed here, but I think it's still Wingfield's Inspector Frost. Just a tad above Colin Dexter's Morse series. Dexter's is more intellectual and experimental, but Wingfield's is filled with humor and great pathos. And then, after them, it's Van de Wetering.

Actually, there have been and still are some wonderful series.
Can't say I've done too much series reading, but my standouts are: Ken Bruen's Jack Taylor series, Richard Aleas's John Blake series (even though there's only two), Peter Temple's Jack Irish series, and Peter Corris' Cliff Hardy series (these last two are both Australian).
I'll second you on the Jack Irish / Cliff Hardy books and add the Henning Mankell Kurt Wallender series, as well as Mr Hill's Dalziel & Pascoe Books.

Locally you also can't go past Michael Robotham's books - which are a series with a "rotating" set of central characters... if you know what I mean. Garry Disher's Hal Challis series is well worth a look if you're into police procedurals. (And the Wyatt books if you prefer your crime a little more on the bank robber side of things.) Barry Maitland is another with a great police procedural series - written here - set in London.
My favorite is James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux series, but there are a lot of series I like: Elvis Cole, Charlie Parker, early and middle Spenser, 87th Precinct. Declan Hughes' three Ed Loy books are all excellent, and Timothy Hallionan's Poke Rafferty series shows a lot of potential.
What about Fletch, people!?
Travis Mcgee.
This series is one of my all time favorites. Loved how John D. always set readers up for a big action finish.
James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux series is my choice.
Eddie Muller's Billy Nichols series (sadly only 2 but I live in hope!)
Ken Bruen (either series)
Joe Lansdale's Hap and Leonard series
Charlie Williams' Mangel Trilogy
Ray Banks Cal Innes series
Charles Willeford's Hoke Moseley
Barbara Seranella's Munch Mancini
...for starters :o)
"Ray Banks Cal Innes series"

+1 on that bloke too.
a few more of my favorite series:

Continental Op (Hammett)
Bill Crane (Jonathan Latimer)
Nero Wolfe (Rex Stout)
Hoke Moseley (Charles Willeford)
Lew Archer (Ross Macdonald)
Easy Rawlins (Walter Mosley)
Peter Cutler Sargeant II (Edgar Box/Gore Vidal)
Lew Griffin (James Sallis)
Mike Hammer (Mickey Spillane)
Matthew Scudder (Lawrence Block)

And I guess if Daniel will add John Black/Charles Ardai series for two books, I'll add Lou Ford/Jim Thompson, where Ford appeared in 3 books (one with a slight name change)
No one's mentioned Robert B. Parker's Spenser. I admit I stopped reading them a while ago, but the first six or eight books are terrific.

Although not a standard series writer, Elmore Leonard has used the same characters in a few books, like members of the Webster family who show up in Cuba Libre, the novellas Comfort to the Enemy, and Tenkiller and Up in Honey's Room. Also characters like Earnest 'Stick' Stickly was in Swag and Stick. and lots of others, really, making the books a kind of loose series.

Also I really like James Ellroy's The Black Dhalia, The Big Nowhere, LA Confidential and White Jazz. You couldn't really call Dudley Smith the hero, but he's a fascinating character.

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