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SL Read: The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841) Ed Mc Bain 1926-2005 As well as writing the script for Hitchcock's The Birds, Mc Bain (real name: Evan Hunter) more or less invented the police procedural.

Reprinted in 2004, his Continental Op stories proved so stunningly fresh that the 1920s hero could have carried a Blackberry without raising eyebrows unduly.

We believe any serious reader will profit from acquaintance with any of the writers on this list.

And, just because we love you, as a bonus 51st entry we interview Robert B Parker - an unrivalled pulp stylist who may be the best crime writer you've never read.

A whole school of modern detectives still walks in Maigret’s large footprints.

SL Read: The Yellow Dog (1931) Agatha Christie 1890-1976 Christie did not have the purest prose style and she played hard and fast with the genre's rules but in Marple and Poirot, she invented two of our most enduring literary characters.

He never said the catchphrase; the illustrator gave him the hat; continuity errors abound… SL Read: The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902) Edgar Allan Poe 1809-1849 Poe was a man of formidable talents - not least of which, sadly, was drinking himself to death.

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