10) Theo Kojak – Portrayed by Telly Savalas, Kojak was one of the coolest police detectives on this list. He was a Greek American who was not able to be compromised, but would be known to bend the rules if it meant getting his man.
09) Adrian Monk – Tony Shalhoub was excellent playing this brilliant former police detective. Monk was suspended from the police force after his wife’s murder caused his OCD and multiple irrational phobias to intensify. He consults with the police, however, and uses his disorders as tools to help him solve crimes. Several other actors, including Henry Winkler and Michael Richards were considered for the role which was supposed to be more of a clumsy, Inspector Clouseau kind of character. This would not have been as endearing or engaging as the portrayal that Shalhoub brought to Monk.
08) Travis McGee – This playboy and amateur detective the lives on a houseboat makes a habit of solving the problems of others for money. McGee is the main character in 21 novels by John D. MacDonald. He refers to himself as a ‘salvage consultant’ more than a detective as he helps people secure the return of their property for 50% of the value. McGee is located in Florida and the water and boating play a large part of the stories in which he appears.
07) Harry Bosch – Michael Connelly’s Heironymous “Harry” Bosch is an LAPD detective. Bosch’s prostitute mother died when he was young and he spent time in orphanages meeting his powerful attorney father later in life. Bosch is also a Viet Nam Veteran who has trouble with authority. Recently, Amazon released Bosch as a series. He is portrayed very well by Titus Willever (pictured above) of Lost and Sons of Anarchy fame.
06) Columbo – Peter Falk portrayed Lieutenant Columbo for 24 years. His rumpled raincoat, cigar and absent minded nature were signature traits that made those he was pursuing underestimate his abilities. One of the unusual patterns about the Columbo series is that the episode usually started with the crime and often showed who committed it. Columbo would then appear and the viewer would be privileged to watch his process as he zeroed in on the criminal.
05) Jim Rockford – This private investigator is the inspiration for my Frank Rozzani character in my detective novel series.Rockford always seemed to get beat up in every episode, but bounced back to save the pretty girl and get the bad guy. Rockford was a decorated Korean War veteran who was falsely imprisoned and barely gets by from case to case. He also has an admirable relationship with his father and a tenuous relationship with the LAPD and an ex-con named Angel that bring comic relief.
04) Bill Hodges – This is a relatively new character, but he is so well written by Stephen King in his Bill Hodges trilogy (Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers, and the upcoming End of Watch) that I had to include him. King, in Mr. Mercedes, guides us through Hodges’ transformation from a depressed retired cop to a keen-witted private detective that solves one of the most heinous crimes imaginable. In Finders Keepers, the transformation continues as Hodges is now a confident private eye that has learned from the painful experiences in his past. King also transforms the supporting cast along the way in a believable, endearing way.
03) Alex Delaware – I have been reading Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware novels for over 20 years. Delaware is a bit of hybrid in that he’s not really a detective, or an amateur sleuth. He, like the author, is a psychologist and musician. His friend, Lieutenant Milo Sturgis, is an openly gay member of the LAPD. Delaware uses his skills to profile criminals and assist with police investigations as a consultant. We also get a glimpse into his private practice and relationship with a beautiful guitar maker. Over the 20 years that Kellerman has been writing Delaware novels, the characters have grown and aged just like all of us. They handle situations differently in the later novels than they did in earlier ones just as humans who age and evolve might do.
02) Sherlock Holmes – What can I say? The brilliant Sherlock Holmes, created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is the standard for the brilliant private eye that uses deductive reasoning to help, and often embarrass, the police. His sidekick, Doctor Watson, is the narrator in most of the stories. Holmes has a way of playing things close to the vest and then slicing through the case coming to conclusions that seem obvious once he presents his observations and the evidence.
01) Frank Rozzani – Okay, this is the main character from my detective novels. You might think it’s self-serving to make him my favorite, but hear me out. When I get to spend time writing for this character and his supporting cast, it’s like a vacation for me. It’s like I’m visiting old friends. He is a composite of many of the characters on this list. I’m justifying him as my number one detective. Feel free to shatter my dreams.