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Glossary and Character Taxonomy  Breakdown by Country of Origin   Bibliography   Table of Contents    The Best of the Encyclopedia

Vance, Philo. Philo Vance was created by “S.S. Van Dine,” the pseudonym of Willard Huntington Wright (Dr. Crabtree), and appeared in eleven novels from 1926 to 1939, beginning with The Benson Murder Case.

Philo Vance is a Fop arguably modeled on Reginald de Puyster. Vance is a tall, handsome man with gray eyes and an undeniable ability at solving mysteries. He is very well-educated, especially in art and psychology. He is also aristocratic, superior, insufferable, and has a manner inspiring murderous thoughts in the reader as well as in poor Sergeant Ernest Heath, who has to put up with Vance's interference in numerous cases. The final word on Vance belongs to Ogden Nash: "Philo Vance/Needs a kick in the pants."

* I'm including Philo Vance in the Best of the Encyclopedia list because of his archetypal status. Vance is inarguably the archetypal Fop, a character type whose heyday ran for approximately twenty years and whose appeal has aged very badly. Where once the Foppish pose was entertaining and even aspirational, now, in the 2020s, the Foppish pose is a loathsome affectation that inspires proletarian rage. S.S. Van Dine wasn't a bad writer, but his decision to go for the money by creating a Fop character, and one with so many unlikable qualities, was a baaaaaad mistake. It was profitable for Van Dine, but it ruined his legacy. 

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