Re: Are there any characters who don't have ridiculously dangerous friends/partners/sidekicks?
- From: Crowfoot <pagemail@xxxxxxxx>
- Date: Sat, 19 May 2007 23:14:06 -0600
In article <1179119528.188318.149160@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>,
Peter Meilinger <p_meilinger@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
What is it with the idea of a competent protagonist who can
handle himself but who has someone even more badass,
usually of questionable or non-existent morals, that they
can call in when the shit really hits the fan?
Spenser has Hawk, and that's an interesting case because
they're really about equal as far as general competence goes,
but Hawk is just so much cooler that he seems to be more
Parker's female Spenser has a big, dangerous friend, if I'm
remembering correctly, though he seemed nice enough.
And the guy in Wilderness had a more dangerous friend,
too, who definitely fits under the "questionable morals"
And it's not just Parker. Vachss' Burke has Max the
Silent, who for a change of pace is probably more
moral than Burke is. But Burke's also got Wesley,
and he makes up for it. In spades.
Harlen Coben's Myron Bolitar has Win, the charming,
aristocratic sociopath. I'm just starting those books
now, and that's what got me thinking about it.
I know there are other examples that I can't remember
at the moment. And I'm sure there are plenty that
I'm just not familiar with. For all I know, Miss Marple
had a streetwise old lady she'd call in when things
got especially tough. I can see the appeal of the
idea, but when did it get started? The earliest I
can think of is Spenser and Hawk, but there might
well be earlier duos I don't know about.
It kind of reminds me of Doc Savage or the
Shadow with their sidekicks, but in their cases
they were by far the more competent/dangerous,
and also the protagonists. When did that change?
P.S. Oh, there's another example. Andy Barker, P.I.
had the old, actual private eye backing him up. Definitely
not someone I'd want to cross.
Maybe the idea goes back to the tradition of the gentleman
sleuth solving country-house murders and catching "gangs"
of criminals headed by masterminds; the sleuth, to stay a
gent, can't screw up his code of honor, but to stay alive in a
rougher millieu he needs a rougher, er, neck to back him
up and do the dirtiest dirty work when needs be? The
iron fist character seemed to represent the principles of
vigilante justice that the sleuth generally held himself above,
thus demonstrating his superior quality.
As a reader, I have to say that I'm always interested in these
more primitive characters and the ways that they're used in
such stories. Anybody remember an old fantasy novel by
the great, lurid A. Merritt, called "Burn, Witch, Burn!"? It's
a supernatural thriller rather than a mystery or crime novel,
but one major character is an elegant mobster with a personal
code of honor who saves the honest and upright protagonist's
bacon more than once. In some ways the guy who does the
good guy's dirty work is obviously an alter ego who operates
free of the normal social constraints that limit the hero if
he or she is to remain heroic.
A secret sharer . . . with a big stick. And don't we all
sometimes wish we had one of our own . . . well, in fiction,
we can! Very gratifying it is, too, sometimes.
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