Tired Of Flawed Protagonists

Randy Rawls is a retired US Army officer.  After spending twenty years in uniform, he became a civilian employee of the Department of Defense.  During those years, he honed his craft as a writer in various leadership and administrative positions.  After retiring, he turned his hand to writing fiction.

Randy has seven published novels including the latest, Thorns on Roses, and short stories in several anthologies. A native of North Carolina, he now calls South Florida home.

Randy says, “I’m a simple guy who enjoys writing and hopes that others will find pleasure in my words”.

It seems that every mystery I pick up these days has a protagonist I wouldn’t allow to babysit my kids—if I had kids.  Three recent reads come to mind.

The one I just finished is a “police procedural”.  I use the quotes to show my skepticism that he’d be a policeman very long.  The hero cop can’t seem to pass a bar without stopping for a shot and a beer—over and over again, bar after bar after bar after . . .  And of course, he never starts the car without taking a drink—straight-from the bottle of bourbon, scotch, whatever he keeps in the glove box.  Yet his drinking never gets in the way of his “only-person-who-can-figure-it-out investigation”.  Of course, to add to his drinking, he ignores his superiors who all but fire him for his off-the-books activities.  But, all’s well that ends well and he becomes the hero who solves the case.  Yeah, right.

Another recent read has a TV lady who races around like crazy while her bosses back at the station bug her about the footage she’s supposed to be sending in of the major catastrophe she was sent to cover.  She doesn’t have time for her job, though, because she’s too busy getting in everybody’s way “investigating” the death of a body found near the catastrophic area—a body the police believe was not a murder.  And yes, she not only proves it was murder, but discovers who did it.  All the while, her superiors at the station are threatening to suspend her, fire her, tie her to a stake if she doesn’t deliver the footage.  Another heroic, but flawed, protagonist who ignores the “rules” and does it her way.

Number three was a newspaper reporter.  He gets assignments from his editor and thinks, Nah, I don’t want to.  Instead, he’s onto all the crimes being committed in the city.  Oh, by the way, he’s not the crime reporter, but just wants to be.  Of course, he’s also an alcoholic and hates the police.

Why, I wonder, do we invest in such flawed characters?  In my latest, Thorns on Roses, Tom Jeffries has good reason not to trust the justice system—reasons he tells in the story.  He is not an alcoholic.  He is not a druggie.  He’s a straight guy who sets out to avenge the death of the stepdaughter of his best friend.  Along the way, he does not make a deal with the local drug lord or visit the hot prostitute.  He eats his meals without loading up on martinis first.  He drinks a beer without a shot of booze beforehand.  I didn’t ask, but I doubt he’s ever had a boilermaker.  He doesn’t even tell his boss a fat lie.  Boring?  I think not.  He’s a tough guy who gets the job done while living a life any of us can identify with.  I’d let Tom babysit my kids—if I had kids.

I sure hope this phase the industry is going through ends soon.  I’m tired of the good guys being only less miserable than the bad guys.  Give me the good old American hero or heroine who toes the line and solves the crime.