Saturday, September 26, 2009

Character for A Day: Which sleuth would you be?

L.J. Sellers (Guest Blogger)


We’ve all had fantasies of living someone else’s life for a day or a week. And it’s safe to assume most of us would want to step into the shoes of someone rich, famous, talented, adventurous, and/or beautiful. But what if your dream day was limited to a character in a crime novel? Someone posted a similar question on the Dorothy L list recently, and it made me think about the various lifestyles of fictional investigators. There are many intriguing options: Jack Reacher with just his toothbrush and no responsibilities, Stephanie Plum with her choice of good-looking lovers, or Lucas Davenport with his pile of money and high-ranking detective job.

But after a little thought, I quickly chose Archy, the investigator (of sorts) in the McNally series (McNally’s Caper, McNally’s secret…), written by Lawrence Sanders—my all time favorite writer—then continued by Vincent Lardo. Why Archy McNally? No person, real or fictionalized, seems to enjoy himself as much. In fact, he’s totally spoiled, a condition I’ve never experienced, but would love to, if only for an imaginary day.

Archy lives with his parents on a five-acre estate in South Florida, quite near the ocean where he swims every day. They have a live in-cook who makes exquisite meals, often on demand. A typical breakfast is “duck pate on toasted bagel.” Archy drives a red Mazda Miata and works for his father’s law firm as an investigator. But his assignments are infrequent and he spends his days playing tennis, having lunch at the local Pelican Club (of which he’s part owner), drinking vodka tonics, and sleeping with beautiful members of the opposite sex, who often give him expensive gifts such as gold lighters and cashmere pullovers.
He worries about nothing (including calories or liver disease) and has almost no responsibilities. Here’s a typical Archy sentiment: “As I headed up the coast in my sparky chariot, I felt such a sense of joie de vivre that I broke into song.” Archy describes himself as “an amiable, sunnily tempered chap” who “sees no need to concern myself with disasters that may never happen.”

Archy occasionally takes on an inquiry, but it’s nothing like my poor homicide detective who, during a case, works round the clock and lives on coffee and pizza while he stares at phone records and digs through trashcans. In Archy’s world, an investigation involves a little snooping around (more fun), attending rich people’s parties, eating exquisite meals that end with “warm New Orleans pralines and chilled Krug,” and getting involved with suspects, i.e., “sexual romps where realization exceeds expectation.” Archibald McNally truly lives a life of carefree pleasure and self-indulgence, and I think I could handle that for a day.

What about you? If you could live the life of a character in a crime novel for just one day, who would it be and why? Everyone who comments will be entered into a random drawing to win a free copy of Secrets to Die For, the just-released second installment in the Detective Wade Jackson series. (My single-father, sober, worried character doesn’t know what he’s missing.)

L.J. Sellers is an award-winning journalist, editor, novelist, and occasional standup comic based in Eugene, Oregon. She is the author of the highly praised mystery/suspense novel, The Sex Club, and her second Detective Jackson story, Secrets to Die For, has just been released.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Oh, I'd be Miss Marple. I love the way she could be snoopy and get away with it because of her age. She was completely brilliant in a quiet way.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Sandra Parshall said...

Deborah Knott, because I admire her and enjoy her "company". She's smart and savvy about people.

CA Verstraete said...

I still lean towards Nancy Drew. Loved the new movie. Real fun. And driving that little blue car looked fun too!

Lourdes said...

Isabel Dalhousie from Alexander McCall Smith's series. I love her outlook on life, and the fact she gets to edit from home (my dream job!), giving her plenty of time to nose about in other people's business!

Dani said...

No, no, I get dibs on Jane Marple, Elizabeth! I'm older and knit all the time already. Plus Joan Hickson looks like my German Oma (in the BBC series). And that lovely home and village, the roses... sigh. Yes, definitely Miss Marple for me.


Susan D said...

Trixie Belden, forever my hero.

And she gets to hang around with a great bunch of friends and ride horses.

iasa said...

Elliot Freed from Jeffrey Cohen's Double Feature Mystery series. He owns a movie theatre so he gets to sleep late, watch some films, solve a few crimes. How much better could life be?

Lisa Mason said...

Lindsay Boxer of The Women's Murder Club series by James Patterson. Why? Well, for starters, she is well respected in her field by her coworkers. She also has an awesome group of supportive and loving friends. And of course, there's Joe :)
Can't wait to read the new book, LJ!

Helen Kiker said...

I would like to be Archie Goodwin - not only would I have the fun of being an investigator but I would also love to see Nero Wolfe in action (if you can call it action). Going up to the orchid room & having the delicious meals would be welcome bonuses.

Anonymous said...

I would be Roarke from J.D. Robb's "in Death" series.
Not only is he the richest man in the world with badass computer & criminal skills he is also woman-swooning-squeeingly handsome.
Thanks for the great post,
And thank you for the great question.
All the best,

Jeannie said...

Kinsey Millhone. I love her independence and her attitude. Although her life is ultimately a lonely one- she can always go for a run to clear her head. And who wouldn't enjoy having a neighbor like Henri, or Rosi the bar/restaurant owner - the only two people that can hear her without her having to say a word.

pennyt said...

It was harder than I thought to choose a favorite character. I was really torn between Sharon McCone and Jessica Fletcher. I ended up choosing Jessica since I now qualify as a senior citizen and I think she "set a role model" for active seniors who use their brains to solve mysteries while continuing to enjoy an active life.

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

I'd take Deborah Knott for her family. All that making music on the porch and having everybody share the cooking is my idea of heaven. And Dwight's a pretty good squeeze too.

Anonymous said...

I'd be Sarah Kellings, of the Charlotte MacLeod series. Spunky, with wacky family and a yummy husband. Yeah, I could handle that.

Carol M said...

I would love to be Mary Russell and get to solve cases with Sherlock Holmes!
Carol M
mittens0831 at aol dot com

Brenda said...

I would be a guest at Nero Wolfe's house so I could watch Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe banter (as well as Nero Wolfe and Fritz argue over what is for dinner) and enjoy Fritz's wonderful cooking.

L.J. Sellers said...

Thanks, everyone, for participating. I learned about few new sleuths and enjoyed reading about some familiar ones. I'll print and throw everyone's comments into a bowl and pick one. I plan to have more contests and giveaways, so check my blog and guest blogs in the next month or so.

kathy d. said...

This is intriguing. This blog reminded of some series and told me of new ones to read.
I wouldn't want to be Mary Russell although she's brilliant because she had no showers, indoor plumbing, electricity, movies, tv, radio and cd players and no antibiotics and other modern necessities.
I guess V.I. Warshawski or Sharon McCone because she has a beautiful ranch and Hy. But I agree about Deborah Knott's big family, brothers, sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews, the music, the big meals, always having people to visit and talk to, and the wonderful countryside, trees, flowers, all around her.