Sunday, February 27, 2011

Best Protagonists--Are they all in the past?

by Jamie Freveletti



I'm participating in a "Best Protagonists" debate over at the International Thriller Writer's blog, "The Big Thrill" and started wondering about past versus present protagonists. So far we've been fairly consistent in picking the obvious classic and unbeatable characters: Sherlock Holmes, Adam Daglieish, and Elizabeth Bennett. But note, these are all classic characters. In reading the responses I thought, what about the classics made them that way? Characterization? Voice? Or is it just that familiarity and retelling over the decades have made them become like friends to us?


But familiarity is not always the ticket. A teen in my household that I'll call the "resident guitar player" so as to preserve some of his anonymity said to me: "How come when Dad was fifteen he got the Rolling Stones and Cream, and I got the pop drivel I hear now?"


I countered with some of the bands from my formative dance years: New Order, The Cure, Talking Heads and REM. He thought about that a moment and said, "But I'm talking about rock classics. Bryne became a composer and the other guys weren't hard rock. Stones and Zeppelin are still discussed more on the radio."

And funny thing is, I agree to some extent (and I'll bet David Bryne, formerly of the Talking Heads would agree as well) that the bands that he's mentioning managed to stay together long enough to create a huge body of work that keep hitting the airwaves year after year. The other bands broke up, and their musicians went their own ways. But, like a great protagonist, a great band must have not only longevity but something so unique, so unusual, that it catches the imagination of generation after generation. I think the Rolling Stones's music will definitely bridge the years, and Sherlock Holmes already has.


But will the current batch- and by this I think I'll limit the thought to those writers that have ten or more books under their belts so that we can see a pattern, do as well?


Or in music terms, the bands that stayed together to create music year after year: the Pearl Jams, Madonnas and Red Hot Chili Peppers of the music scene post 1980?


It's exciting to think that the literature and music of this very moment could become a "classic" in the eyes of generations to come.


I certainly hope so. There is some great stuff out there. And on that note, I'm turning on my ipod to play "Burning Down the House" and "In Between Days."

22 comments:

Jill said...

I love your analogy of classic rock ad protagonists. I'd liketo think that Elvis Cole (by Robert Crais) will become a classic rock protagonist. Maybe also Giles Blunt and Cardinal.

Dana King said...

I'm with Jill on Elvis Cole. (I'm not familiar enough with the others to say.) Declan Hughes's Ed Loy and Sean Chercover's Ray Dudgeon have all the elements necessary to rival the classic protagonists of the past. John Connolly's Charlie parker is already there.

It's easy to forget that classics evolve over time. Sherlock Holmes, the Continental Op, Philip Marlowe, and Lew Archer were excellent and popular characters in their prime. They aged into becoming classics.

Lori said...

It's interesting that Elizabeth Bennett comes to mind. All the other characters mentioned are series characters. Elizabeth is actually, to use the analogy, a one-hit wonder.

Jamie Freveletti said...

I agree with Jill and Dana that Elvis Cole may just pull it out. I also think Reacher (Child) may survive.

Lori's point is well taken. I think Elizabeth Bennett is a classic-and the fact that she did it in one shot is interesting. Perhaps Austen managed it in all her novels--the females she wrote about (I'm thinking of Emma here) are all vibrant characters in an era when you thought women were in the background?
Sean's PI is a cut above--and I'm not just saying that because he's a friend and fellow blogger!

JJ said...

Definitely Elvis Cole. And Reacher. And Harry Bosch.

Jamie Freveletti said...

Ahh, Harry Bosch. Definite possiblity.

Karen Burgess said...

I agree 100% with Jack Reacher. He's an archetype - the singular character upon whom others are modeled. I also agree with Philip Marlowe, although Sam Spade's up there as well. But where are the female protagonists? Miss Marple, perhaps? Laurie King's Mary Russell?

Jamie Freveletti said...

Karen: LOVE Mary Russell! I agree, Elizabeth Bennet isn't the only great female protagonist out there.

nike free run cheap said...

They aged into becoming classics.

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