Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Creating a PI Protagonist - Marlowe Black is my Outrage.

Marlowe Black is my outrage, my anguish, but wasn't meant to be.

I have read that a writer's protagonists and, too, his antagonists, are all facets of the writer's personality. While I willingly accept the former, I stand in clear denial of the latter.

The internet age had become a living entity, self-replicating and layered to a depth and height that no one person could experience. It bled time like a gunshot wound bled life. I wanted to experience something different. I needed to escape.

Because, despite the good the internet offered, all of the same trite garbage humanity slammed and adored, worshiped and abused, for centuries had not lessened, but exponentially expanded.

I suppose my expectations that human emotions might somehow evolve into civility while riding the crest of available and nearly unlimited knowledge was the shrill voice of the optimist baying at the full moon of wishful thinking.

Therefore, I selected a decade in American history that I often thought of as ideal.

Then, to take me there, I created Marlowe Black, as a way to lament those simpler times when solving crime standing on the edge of the law was easier than it is now when it's nearly impossible.

Yet Marlowe quickly became more. He became my outrage, my anguish. I created him at a time when life surrounded me with unforeseen, and too often painful, unfathomable events both personal and not.

Suddenly, Marlowe's character defined itself as he led me through his time in history, a time I know of through research and by conversing with people who lived it. Oddly, for me, it turned out that the 1950s were far from simple, far from ideal.

The only significant differences, excluding technology -- although much of what we have today sunk roots back then -- are medical advancements, and societal changes such as civil rights and more equal rights for women.

In the 1950s, women and minorities were poorly treated or worse. After exposure to this type conduct as a cop, Marlowe decided there was something seriously wrong with any such behavior even when the actions or words he came to deplore were on rare occasion his own.

He quit the police force and went private, causing him to become something of a societal outcast, yet he managed to earn respect and friendships.

Marlowe also learned that any woman he became involved with would be a target for the type of criminals he hunted. In his world, hunter and hunted could change places without warning. Victims too often were those caught in the middle. When that occurred, the result shredded slices off his humanity.

The one companion he knew shadowed his actions was death. It waited for him to make one grievous error, then closed in like a starving wolf.

When a killer murdered his fiancée, his emotional world collapsed. Death had hobnailed across his soul and he would never be the same man as before. He was a WWII veteran who witnessed battlefield deaths, but back home it was always different, and too often much too personal.

For Marlowe, some truths were self-evident, especially the ones that blew out of the hot barrel of his Colt .45.

Yet, the compassion that often surfaced laced with his sardonic self-deprecating sense of humor carried him through the type of crisis other men did not survive.

Marlowe walked with his head up, did not wallow in regret, and when time for vengeance arrived, always made certain that vengeance was his or the victim's he fought for.

Additionally, he sought justice for people others believed did not deserve such attention. However, he always questioned his own motives as he delved into the murky, often slime-layered depths of the criminal mind. He suspected he would often fail to understand, and then perhaps be too late, but he also knew justice hovered within the tendrils of smoke leaking from the barrel of a gun when all else failed.

There was tenderness in him that he denied,and when it revealed itself, he reacted, embarrassed by what he thought exposed only weakness. Perhaps that was the part of his character that attracted women; both the tenderness he displayed and his reaction to the emotion.

He was not the type of man who, if you met him on the street, would be either rude or unfriendly. He tipped his hat to women, took time to give directions to lost newlyweds, helped out the needy, the homeless, and then went about the business of serving justice on behalf of those who could not get impartiality any other way.

Marlowe Black was the answer to so many "What ifs." Now that I know him, I can only wonder where he will lead me next.

Copyright 2009 Larry Schliessmann. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the written consent of the author. Violators will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
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