The Rise of the Sidekicks

Lauren Carr 2Lauren Carr fell in love with mysteries when her mother read Perry Mason to her at bedtime. The first installment in the Joshua Thornton mysteries, A Small Case of Murder, was a finalist for the Independent Publisher Book Award.

Lauren is also the author of the Mac Faraday Mysteries, which takes place in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. It’s Murder, My Son, Old Loves Die Hard, and Shades of Murder have all been getting rave reviews from readers and reviewers. Blast from the Past is the fourth installment in the Mac Faraday Mystery series.

Released September 1012, Dead on Ice introduces a new series entitled Lovers in Crime, which features prosecutor Joshua Thornton with homicide detective Cameron Gates. The second book in this series, Real Murder, will be released Spring 2013.

The owner of Acorn Book Services, Lauren is also a publishing manager, consultant, editor, cover and layout designer, and marketing agent for independent authors. This spring, two books written by independent authors will be released through the management of Acorn Book Services.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She also passes on what she has learned in her years of writing and publishing by conducting workshops and teaching in community education classes.

She lives with her husband, son, and two dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Visit Lauren’s websites and blog at:
E-Mail: writerlaurencarr@comcast.net
Websites: http://acornbookservices.com/   and  http://mysterylady.net/
Blog: Literary Wealth: http://literarywealth.wordpress.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/lauren.carr.984991
Gnarly’s Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/GnarlyofMacFaradayMysteries
Lovers in Crime Facebook Page:  http://www.facebook.com/LoversInCrimeMysteries?ref=ts&fref=ts
Twitter: @TheMysteryLadie

Lauren’s latest book is Authors in Bathrobes, available in ebook format from Amazon.

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Sherlock Holmes had Dr. Watson. Hercule Poirot had Arthur Hastings. MacMillan had his wife. Batman had Robin, until the Joker killed him. Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto.

Despite the brilliance of any great detective, there is something that each one needs to have—a sidekick—sometimes multiple sidekicks.

In murder mysteries, sidekicks started out playing the role of the reader. The detective would tell the sidekick (actually the reader) everything he has observed. As the case progresses, the detective will bounce his ideas and theories off the sidekick. This way, the reader would know what was going on inside the detective’s head while he’s working the case.

If it wasn’t for the sidekick, the scenes would consist of a bunch of narrative with the detective seeing this, thinking this. It is much more entertaining to have a verbal exchange. For excitement, the author could even juice it up with the sidekick arguing a different viewpoint, which the reader himself may be thinking and the detective will set him (the reader) straight.

In Agatha Christie’s first book, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, the reader learns very little about the personal life of Hastings, or Hercule Poirot for that matter. The detectives and their cardboard sidekicks in the early mysteries were almost like the way children viewed their school teachers who only existed in the school building when the children were there. Teachers didn’t exist outside of school—at least, I didn’t think so. I remember in the third grade I was floored when I saw my teacher in the grocery store. (That’s another post.)

SONY DSCSidekicks, and readers, have come a long way, baby.

Characters categorized as sidekicks designated to small roles have grown to take on personalities of their own. Are writers bringing what is supposed to be minor characters to life to give them more of a role in their books, or are readers thirsting for more in their mysteries than a solitary brilliant detective solving the crime?

As a reader, I have grown to want more out of my characters. People are more than sounding boards for which protagonists can bounce off ideas. Really, who in your life is nothing more than a piece of cardboard on which to pin a case theory?

Retired homicide detective, multi-millionaire, Mac Faraday is my first-born character in It’s Murder, My Son.

As I envisioned Archie Monday, his late mother’s lovely assistant who lives in the guest cottage was basically only that. While offering a hint of romance, her role was that of the techno wizard who could assist Mac on his cases when it came to background searches. With her in such close proximity, the sexual tension would be thrilling.

As her character came to life, Archie, in her tenacious way, had other things in mind. So did readers who claimed the relationship was going too slow. By Blast from the Past, she’s moving her belongings into the main house and taking over half of Mac’s closet.

Chief of Police David O’Callaghan, Mac’s half-brother, was only supposed to serve as his connection to the police department and cases to solve. Without that official connection, I would have been forced to kill off every friend, relative, and acquaintance in Mac’s life in order to come up with storylines to write. Let’s face it. Eventually the FBI would be knocking on Mac’s door and accuse him of being a serial killer. (I think I just got an idea for another book.)

Like Archie, David O’Callaghan took on a life of his own. As with many people, his history has a direct connection with his character. He’s been in Special Forces and is an officer in the Marine Reserves. With such a backstory, David O’Callaghan couldn’t be a bumbling police officer who Mac always has to set straight. He wouldn’t have it, neither would readers. In many ways, David is Mac’s investigative equal.

We learn in Shades of Murder that David had a thing for Archie Monday when they’d first met; however, all that got sidelined when his father (and Mac’s birth father) became ill with terminal cancer. By the time things settled down, it was too late. David and Archie had become close friends who banter like brother and sister.

While Mac is settled and comfortable in his love life with Archie, David is searching—like many. In Blast from the Past, he enjoys a sparring match with Randi Finnegan, a U.S. Marshal. It is a relationship fraught with sexual tension as they play should we or shouldn’t we.

Stay Tuned:  In the next Mac Faraday Mystery, The Murders at Astaire Castle, David O’Callaghan’s love life will take a very interesting turn.

Lauren's own Gnarly at almost 5 months

Lauren’s own Gnarly at almost 5 months

Then, we have Gnarly: Mac Faraday’s rambunctious German shepherd that he inherits from his late mother, Robin Spencer. Anyone who has ever owned a pet knows that they have a much larger role in our lives than that of sidekick.
Due to Gnarly’s tendency to get into trouble when bored, Mac is often stuck having to take him along on cases. He also spends a lot of time chasing the canine when he takes off after suspects.

Gnarly has added a special dynamic to the lives of everyone he touches. In Old Loves Die Hard, Police Chief David O’Callaghan embarks on a cover up after Gnarly steals a bone from a grocery store. In Shades of Murder, Gnarly blows up Mac’s new yacht.

Gnarly’s role is to bring Mac Faraday back down to earth. Pets definitely have a way of doing that. As rich and handsome and intelligent as Mac Faraday is, Gnarly has the power to put him in his place. In one scene in Blast from the Past, while they are sitting in David’s police cruiser, David takes note of Mac being rich and successful. To this, Mac points out that he is sitting in the back seat because Gnarly, his dog, refuses to get out of the front seat to let him sit there.

Somehow, I can’t see Dr. Watson refusing to give up the front seat to Sherlock Holmes.

Yes, sir, sidekicks have come a long way, baby.

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