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Ian Fleming leads list of most profitable UK crime-writers

11-Apr-2011 • Literary

Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, has beaten Agatha Christie to the title of most successful – and highest earning – British crime writer of all time - writes the Guardian.

The first crime writers rich list, prepared for the crime drama digital TV channel Alibi, is based on recorded sales, box office returns, licence fees and company accounts. It reveals that many dead writers, including Fleming and Christie, live on as flourishing brands.

It puts Fleming in first place at more than £100m, with more than 100m copies of the Bond books sold worldwide. Christie comes a close second at £100m exactly, including ticket sales from The Mousetrap, the longest running stage play in the world, a fixture in London's West End since 1952.

But both were beaten hands down by the American writers John Grisham, at $600m (£366m), and Dan Brown, at $400m.

The richest living British crime author, third behind Fleming and Christie, is Jeffrey Archer, who will launch a five-volume saga, The Clifton Chronicles, this year. He is valued at £70m, but the ranking takes into account his art collection and property, not just sales and royalties.

Jack Higgins, a Jersey resident since the success of The Eagle Has Landed in 1975, is in third place at £50m plus, followed by Ken Follett, who is married to the former Labour minister Barbara Follett.

Both just beat Dick Francis, the former jockey who was said to be the Queen Mother's favourite novelist. Francis died last year, but his son Felix promises further books will be published.

Labour peer Ruth Rendell, creator of Inspector Wexford, an unusually genial figure for a detective, is estimated at £30m plus and is ranked seventh, followed by Ian Rankin, creator of the more typically glum Rebus, at £25m. Colin Dexter, creator of Inspector Morse, just missed the top 10, with a fortune estimated at £20m.

The channel is launching a competition for aspiring new crimewriters, who can win a holiday in Sweden, home of the most miserable of all the gloomy detectives, Wallander.

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