Thursday, November 22, 2007

When Dalziel met Pascoe and other origins

Events have turned my mind to origins, not of species, but of crime-fiction characters and teams. First, as part of my cautious embrace of historical crime fiction, I borrowed a book of Ellis Peters stories that illuminate the origin of Brother Cadfael. Then a reader’s comment spurred me to recall “The Last National Service Man,” Reginald Hill's 1994 story of Peter Pascoe and “Fat Andy” Dalziel’s first meeting. The stories share at least one feature: Each was published when its series was well established, twenty-four years after the first book in Hill’s case.

And now, readers, what are your favorite crime-fiction origin stories? Why did you like them and, more generally, what are the attractions of such stories? Were your favorites the first in a series, or did the author go back years later to explore the origins of established characters, as Hill and Peters did?

© Peter Rozovsky 2007

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Blogger Linkmeister said...

Holmes met Watson in "A Study in Scarlet." I did enjoy the list Watson compiled of Holmes's strengths and weaknesses.

I've grumbled before that I'd like to have known how Wolfe and Archie met.

Dell Shannon (Elizabeth Linington) did a pretty good job introducing characters to Luis Mendoza's LAPD, including his future wife Alison.

I think the first Sid Halley book ("Odds Against") that Dick Francis wrote was the best of the four.

The origin stories appeal or don't depending on whether I find the characters and the circumstances believable, which is pretty much a cop-out.

November 23, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

It's not necessarily a cop-out. It just means that you judge them the same way you'd judge any other story.

But, yes, there's something about origin stories. The proof is your desire to know how Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin met. (Did Rex Stout never write such a story or even hint at the first meeting of his two characters? I seem to recall reading recently about a story in which Nero Wolfe fights in Montenegro, his country of origin. Such a story, if it exists, would be a kind of origin tale for at least one of the characters.)

November 23, 2007  

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