14 Best Authors Like Erle Stanley Gardner: Exploring Detective Fiction and True Crime

Explore our compelling list of authors like Erle Stanley Gardner. Delve into thrilling narratives and detective mysteries that echo his signature storytelling.

Our list of authors like Erle Stanley Gardner will capture your imagination with their no-nonsense prose and riveting narratives. 

Erle Stanley Gardner, hailed by the New York Times as “the bestselling author of the [20th] century,” has written nearly 100 novels, each selling over a million copies globally. His best-known work, the Perry Mason series, has been adapted into film, radio, and TV. Its latest adaptation is the 2020 HBO Original, Perry Mason.

This former lawyer used his knowledge to create a unique writing style that combined detailed legal knowledge and complex plotlines. Gardner maintained a brisk momentum in his writing, and his readers love the puzzling but absorbing narration offered in all of his novels.

Gardner wrote under many pseudonyms, like Stephen Caldwell and Charles J. Kenny. Among his nom de plumes, “A.A. Fair” stood out. He has won numerous awards, including the Edgar and Grand Master awards.

Erle Stanley Gardner was a prolific writer, typing 66,000 words a week. Gardner once said, “If you started to write, you did it because you had an urge to express yourself. That urge is a part of you. It’s still there…” This insightful quote reflects his approach to writing. He was always eager to please his readers but never sacrificed his storytelling.

Check out our list of the best Erle Stanley Gardner books!

Authors Like Erle Stanley Gardner

1. Carter Brown, 1923 – 1985

Carter Brown
Carter Brown was British-born but moved to Australia

Carter Brown, a pseudonym for the author Alan Geoffrey Yates, made significant contributions to the pulp fiction genre. Pulp fiction refers to action-packed, quick-paced narration focused on plots rather than characters. 

Yates, like Erle Stanley Gardner, was impressively prolific, producing over 270 books and selling millions globally.

One of his most notable works is the 1955 novel The Wench is Wicked which skyrocketed him to fame. This first installment of the Al Wheeler series centers around the murder of a Hollywood writer.

Want to explore this author further? See our list of the best Carter Brown books you must read!

“ A few laughs are always good for a girl — it reassures them.”

Carter Brown, The Wench is Wicked
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02/18/2024 03:11 pm GMT

2. Arthur Conan Doyle, 1859 – 1930

Arthur Conan Doyle
Arthur Conan Doyle was knighted by King Edward VII in 1902

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is undisputedly one of the pillars of detective fiction. His most renowned creation, Sherlock Holmes, is famed for his deductive reasoning and aptitude for solving complex mysteries. Doyle based him on his mentor, Dr. Joseph Bell.

The first novel featuring the consulting detective was A Study in Scarlet, published in 1887. It marked a turning point in Doyle’s writing career and cemented his legacy. Through the past century, Sherlock Holmes has been on the silver screen over 200 times. 

In his lifetime, Doyle produced more than 250 works, including four novels and 56 short stories revolving around Sherlock Holmes. His writing style is often described as “flowery,” with descriptive language that’ll let you in on what the characters are thinking, seeing, and feeling. 

“There’s a light in a woman’s eyes that speaks louder than words.”

Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles
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02/18/2024 04:37 am GMT

3. Ellery Queen, 1929 – 1970

Ellery Queen
There is no real writer named Ellery Queen

A spontaneous decision to join a detective story contest marked the start of Frederic Danay and Manfred Bennington Lee’s partnership. The duo created the fictional character Ellery Queen and then chose that as the pseudonym for their books. 

The cousins’ first collaboration, The Roman Hat Mystery, introduces readers to the protagonist, Ellery Queen. 

Throughout their career, the pair took turns writing at least 35 more detective novels. Ellery Queen’s adventures grew in popularity, eventually having radio, movie, and TV adaptations.

Mystery writer John Dickson Carr said the series is “the grandest game in the world” as readers get excited to pick up clues and solve cases with Ellery Queen. Read Danay and Lee’s works if you’re itching to play detective and solve unique mysteries.

“There is pattern but no logic in criminality. It is your task to cohere confusion, to bring order out of chaos.”

Ellery Queen, The Greek Coffin Mystery
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02/18/2024 03:16 pm GMT

4. Raymond Chandler, 1888 – 1959

Raymond Chandler
Raymond Chandler’s last poem was donated to Oxford’s Bodleian Library in the 1980s

Raymond Chandler originally debuted with a short story in 1933 and went on to become a scriptwriter. But what pushed Chandler to the literary spotlight was his first-ever Philip Marlowe novel, The Big Sleep. Eight more books completed the Philip Marlowe series, with one book penned by Robert B. Parker after Chandler’s death.

Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe is a poor but honest private investigator working in brutal Los Angeles. As one of the founders of the hardboiled school of detective fiction, Chandler’s writing is natural and rich. His realistic mysteries left a stylistic influence on American literature that will be admired for generations. Over the years, there have been 10 Philip Marlowe films, receiving praise and bagging awards.

“I was as hollow and empty as the spaces between stars.”

Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye
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02/18/2024 03:36 pm GMT

5. Mickey Spillane, 1918 – 2006

Mickey Spillane
Mickey Spillane worked on popular comics, including Batman, Captain Marvel, and Captain America

If you’re looking for steamy hardcore detective fiction with solid characters, go for Mickey Spillane. He has over 50 standalone novels and three series. 

Start with his 1947 debut novel, I, the Jury, where he introduced his iconic private detective, Mike Hammer. Hammer is a hard-drinking, tough-talking protagonist whose masculinity fits the “postwar ‘male action’ market” that contributed to the series’ success. 

Spillane​​ has sold over 225 million copies of his books globally, with many of his works adapted into films. Some movies inspired by Spillane’s works are Kiss Me Deadly and The Girl Hunters

“He killed her and I made a mess of his head. Even the devil won’t recognize him now.”

Mickey Spillane, My Gun Is Quick
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02/18/2024 05:16 am GMT

6. Donald E. Westlake, 1933 – 2008

Donald E. Westlake
Donald E. Westlake wrote under various pen names, including Richard Stark, Tucker Roe, and Samuel Holt

Donald E. Westlake was a prolific mystery crime novelist with over 100 books and five screenplays to his credit. There’s more – he manually typed all of these on his typewriters! 

Westlake was a three-time Edgar Awards recipient and hailed as the 1993 Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America. Many love his cinematic storytelling, well-crafted plots, and crisp dialogues, so much so that 15 of his books have film adaptations.

Under his real name, Westlake introduced one of the smartest thieves in crime fiction — John Dortmunder. He first appeared in the 1970 book, The Hot Rock, and went on to be a part of 14 novels and 11 short stories. The series is an entertaining read filled with humor and great mysteries.

“Nobody gets everything in this life. You decide your priorities and you make your choices. I’d decided long ago that any cake I had would be eaten.”

Donald E. Westlake, Two Much
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02/18/2024 03:27 pm GMT

7. Samuel Dashiell Hammett, 1894 – 1961

Samuel Dashiell Hammett
Samuel Dashiell Hammett sold short stories to The Smart Set and The Black Mask as a freelance writer

Samuel Dashiell Hammett’s experience as a detective prepped him to be a notable hardboiled detective fiction writer. Hammett spent eight years with the Pinkerton agency, so it was no wonder his writing style was concise, making his tales gritty and realistic. 

Hammett has authored more than 80 books and short stories, creating unforgettable protagonists like Sam Spade, Nick and Nora Charles, and the Continental Op. One of his best books is The Maltese Falcon, published in 1930 and turned into a 1941 film. It follows the gray character Detective Sam Spade and his unexpected involvement with a Maltese Falcon statuette.

“I suppose there are times when you have to crack down on a man, but there are other times when the boot is on the other leg.”

Dashiell Hammett, Red Harvest
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8. Georges Simenon, 1903 – 1989

Georges Simenon
Georges Simenon could write 60 to 80 pages a day

Belgian author Georges Simenon was a literary genius, penning a staggering 200-plus novels, short stories, and memoirs. A notable highlight in his career was the iconic character Jules Maigret, introduced in Pietr the Latvian.

The Maigret series, comprising 75 novels and 28 short stories, follows the stoic French detective as he solves cases with unrivaled intuition and understanding of the human psyche. 

Simenon continued to write about Maigret from 1931 until his death. Maigret was also adapted into a 2016 TV series featuring the beloved actor Rowan Atkinson. Additionally, Simenon’s The Man Who Watched the Trains Go By was transformed into a 1952 movie titled The Paris Express

“I am at home everywhere, and nowhere. I am never a stranger and I never quite belong.”

Georges Simenon
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02/18/2024 03:21 pm GMT

9. Chester Himes, 1909 – 1984

Chester Himes
Most of Chester Himes’ novels are set in Harlem, New York

The African-American writer Chester Himes was known for detective fiction that reflected his experiences. Himes’ 1945 first novel, If He Hollers Let Him Go, was a hard-hitting exploration of racial tension that made waves upon its release. Over 20 books followed the success of his debut piece. He was also frequently featured in prestigious magazines and newspapers like Esquire and Pittsburgh Courier.

However, it was his Harlem Detective series that solidified Himes’ legacy. This series, featuring the unforgettable detective duo Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson, is renowned for its gritty, authentic portrayal of Harlem’s streets. The series’ sixth installment, Cotton Comes to Harlem, became a 1970 film.

“The poor are used to stifling any expression of their despair, because they must get on with life, with work, with the demands made of them day after day, hour after hour.”

Georges Simenon, The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien
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02/18/2024 03:41 pm GMT

10. Robert B. Parker, 1932 – 2010

Robert B. Parker
Robert B. Parker was considered “the dean of American crime fiction.”

Robert “Bob” Parker has always dreamed of being a writer. In 1973, he finally made his dream a reality, publishing the detective mystery thriller book, The Godwulf Manuscript. Here, readers meet the street-smart private investigator, Spenser. It was a cornerstone in establishing Parker’s reputation for sharp, engaging prose and gripping mystery narratives. Parker’s Spenser franchise was adapted into a 1985 TV series. 

Another series from Parker features the former homicide detective Jesse Stone. The 21-book franchise became a film series, starting with the 2005 thriller Stone Cold.

“Halfway through my steak, I caught sight of myself in the mirror behind the bar. I looked like someone who ought to eat alone. I didn’t look in the mirror again.”

Robert B. Parker, The Godwulf Manuscript
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02/18/2024 03:51 pm GMT

11. Frederick Forsyth, 1938 –

Frederick Forsyth
Frederick Forsyth was an agent for MI6, the UK’s foreign intelligence service

The English writer, Frederick Forsyth, is a popular writer bagging accolades such as the Crime Writers’ Association’s Cartier Diamond Dagger award. He debuted with the 1971 novel, The Day of the Jackal. Set in the 1960s, this classic thriller is about a professional assassin, Jackal, hired to kill French President Gaulle. Forsyth wrote it in 35 days, utilizing a reporting style that he developed when he worked for the news agency Reuters. In 1973, this realistic, research-intensive thriller was adapted into a successful film.

This novel is emblematic of Forsyth’s appeal. He has an uncanny ability to weave intricate plots with real-world events, making his works a must-read for any thriller enthusiast. His narratives are meticulously researched, polished, and imbued with such authenticity that they blur the line between fiction and reality.

“…there is no collective guilt,… guilt is individual, like salvation.”

Frederick Forsyth, The Odessa File
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02/18/2024 07:46 am GMT

12. Agatha Christie, 1890 – 1976

Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie is a bestselling fiction author based on sales, second only to William Shakespeare

Who wouldn’t know of Agatha Christie? The bestselling mystery fiction writer who disappeared and was found in a spa after 11 days? Aside from that famous incident, Christie is best remembered through her 66 detective novels and 14 short stories. 

Though she fascinated readers with her tales centering around Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, her bestselling crime novel of all time turned out to be And Then There Were None. It follows ten strangers who are invited to an island. While waiting for their hosts to show up, these guests mysteriously die one by one. 

Christie’s writing often involves various characters who are forced to be in close proximity. She scatters clues throughout her book chapters to help readers determine the killer. However, she also intentionally leaves misleading hints, making her novels all the more entertaining.

“I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow; but through it all, I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.”

Agathe Christie
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02/19/2024 04:12 am GMT

13. Carlos Ruiz Zafón, 1964 – 2020

Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Carlos Ruiz Zafón won the 1993 Edebe Literary Prize

Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s notable novel The Shadow of the Wind is one of the bestselling Spanish books of all time, second to Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote. This gothic mystery thriller was translated into many languages and has sold over 15 million copies globally. Even the award-winning novelist Stephen King noted that the novel is “an incredible read.” 

It’s about 11-year-old Daniel Sempere falling in love with a “forgotten” book. Many refer to the novel as a story within a story, as it contains many subplots that keep readers curious and engaged. The Shadow of the Wind is the first book of Zafón’s investigative mystery series, The Cemetery of Forgotten Books.

“Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you.”

Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Shadow of the Wind
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02/18/2024 07:45 am GMT

14. Charles Ardai, 1969 –

Charles Ardai, pronounced as “ar-dye,” is the founder and editor of Hard Case Crime, a publishing company focused on bringing back the hype for hardboiled crime fiction. 

He debuted with the 2004 novel Little Girl Lost, the tale of John Blake, a private detective on a mission to find the truth behind the tragic death of his ex-girlfriend, Miranda. His short story, The Home Front, won an Edgar Allan Poe Award.

Besides writing over 20 books, he also collaborates with other artists. Such is the case for his Gun Honey graphic novels, where he works with the visual artists Ang Hor Keng and Ace Continuado.

“And then there are the sad ones… and fights against it just because that’s what you have to do, that’s what it means to be human.”

Charles Ardai
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02/18/2024 04:06 pm GMT


  • Maria Caballero is a freelance writer who has been writing since high school. She believes that to be a writer doesn't only refer to excellent syntax and semantics but also knowing how to weave words together to communicate to any reader effectively.