Monday, December 17, 2007

Necessity is the mother of this question to readers

I had intended to post about the remake of a movie I discussed here some time back, but that will have to wait, thanks to a defective DVD from the video store. This was just the second defective disc I'd rented, and I believe the first one was of the same movie. Oh, well. You remember what George Santayana said, don't you?

Instead, I'll share some observations about Kittyhawk Down by Garry Disher, whose books about the professional thief Wyatt I've discussed recently. Disher's approach in this novel, the first of his Hal Challis books that I've read, dovetails nicely with some readers' comments on my recent posting about crime series and freshness. The discussion turned to writers who change the central point-of-view character from book to book, and names including Michael Robotham, Karin Fossum, Olen Steinhauer and Ed McBain came up.

Disher does something vaguely McBainian in Kittyhawk Down's early chapters, opening each with a different point of view in a pattern that seems almost symphonic, if one diagrams it: Hal Challis gets the first chapter; followed by his sidekick, Ellen Destry; then Pam Murphy, another officer; then Challis again; Destry again; a local eccentric; and a return of Challis, a kind of ABCABDA structure.

Disher discusses his ensemble approach and other issues here and here on the State Library of Victoria's summer reading blog. In the latter piece, he writes that he became more interested in Destry as the series progressed. What began as the Challis series, and was billed as such, is now the Challis/Destry series.

Thus, today's question. The Challis series became the Challis/Destry series. Similarly, Bill James billed early books in his great series as Detective Chief Inspector Colin Harpur novels until the manic Desmond Iles came on the scene, and the books became the Harpur & Iles series. Who else has done this? Who has started writing a series with one protagonist, then brought in a co-star or changed protagonists as the series progressed?

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21 Comments:

Blogger Linkmeister said...

Reginald Hill's Dalziel and Pascoe come to mind, although they were co-equal in POV almost from the beginning (I say, having read about the first five; thirteen to go).

December 18, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Was Dalziel more prominent at the outset than Pascoe? You may recall that I recently read Hill's story of Dalziel and Pascoe's first case together, in which Pascoe is a raw recruit and a thorn in Daziel's side. Hill wrote this story after the series was well established, but I wonder if it reflected the situation in the books he'd written earliest. Was Dalziel the established officer in the early books, and Pascoe a foil who came to take on an equally important role?

December 18, 2007  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

I, um...well, I'd have to go back to the first book. After Christmas. When I've got more shopping done (a week left?!?). Sometime. ;)

Drat family members who don't read! The easiest fallback in the world is books, but my sister and her tribe aren't readers. Where did we go wrong?

December 18, 2007  
Blogger Maxine said...

This doesn't count as it is neither crime nor a book, but it is the most famous example I know: Star Wars -- Luke Skywalker the nominal hero being comprehensively overshadowed by Han Solo to the extent that the latter even has to get the girl in film 3 ;-).

December 18, 2007  
Blogger Maxine said...

PS I have read quite a few of the D and P books, but some years ago so memory is dim. I remember a couple of the early books were told from the point of view of P, or maybe his wife, but in any event, although D is by far the most charismatic of the two, I don't think P was ever a minor part of the partnership in anything other than rank.

December 18, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Maxine, I know Star Wars was full of mythical overtones and all, but maybe -- just maybe -- the change you mentioned was due less to narrative inspiration and more to some Greek or Nordic or Japanese god giving George Lucas the insight that Harrison Ford could act and Mark Hammill could not.

December 18, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

You could give them audio books for Christmas to listen to during long commutes and then, if they don't drive, give them cars.

December 18, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Maxine and Linkmeister: It would be interesting to read some of those earlier Dalziel and Pascoe books to get a feel for the changes Reginald Hill made early on. That would be a worthwhile project even without this question. I mentioned that I'd recently read some of Hill's D&P novellas. He's a superb writer to whom I ought to devote some attention.

December 18, 2007  
OpenID krimileser said...

Peter, I read "An Advancement of Learning", Hill's second book of the series some years ago.

As far as I recall, Dalziel and Pascoe played both an important part in the book. But the book and Pascoe were dominated by Dalziel. The story was situated in an small university, Pascoe was a young officer with an university background and Dalziel without university background (successfully) tried to prove his superiority.

I don't read too many Dalziel and Pascoe books but, as far as I see, in the later books there is a balanced situation between those two, which is absent in the earlier books, where Pascoe is more the classical assistant.

P.J. Parrish latest book, "A Thousand Bones" promoted a secondary figure onto pole position, as did Allan Guthrie's "Kiss her Goodbye" and Laura Lippman's "No Good Deeds" put a secondary figure (almost) into co-lead. [And I wouldn't wonder if William Kent Krueger would later on feature Dina Willner, now a secondary figure.]

December 19, 2007  
Blogger pamos1949 said...

Colin Dexter's Morse novels are a particularly interesting example of this sort of change. In the early books, Sergeant Lewis is a reliable assistant and foil, but decidedly middle-aged, a man who likes his home comforts, and plainly a bit of a plodder who is unlikely to get, and probably doesn't want, promotion. When the television dramatizations were in the planning stage, it was suggested to Dexter that, at least for the purposes of television, Lewis should be more of a contrast to Morse, and thus he came to be portrayed as younger, more dynamic, and with ambition. Dexter himself has said that he was quite happy with this, and so it came about that Lewis in the novels came increasingly to resemble Lewis on television, and played a much bigger role in the solving of the mystery, not to mention on occasion doing battle with his boss.

December 19, 2007  
Blogger Maxine said...

Peter, agreed. Harrison Ford had the charisma and so had to have his part boosted --- and he went on to prove it in spades.
Mark Hammill sadly did not and his career, too, declined.
Linkmeister: the early Dalziel and Pascoe were very good, I thought (though I read them out of order) but I went off the series later, I thought they got too bloated and slow -- I haven't bothered to read the most recent couple, in fact.

December 19, 2007  
Blogger Maxine said...

Just thought of another example while impatiently waiting for google to post my comment.
Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallender series. KW's daughter Linda does not feature in the early books, then features briefly, then a bit more, decides to become a policeman, and has now displaced her father as the main character.

December 19, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Pamos, am I imagining this, or didn't the Lewis character eventually get a television series of his own?

December 19, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Krimileser, I should look for interviews with Reginald Hill. I'm sure he's discussed the subject. I suspect he conceived the series with the thought that Pascoe would grow stronger as a character. After all, one can't rely forever on the college boy vs. rough veteran motif.

December 19, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Maxine: Here's a good trivia question: What was Mark Hammill's second-best-known role?

Have you read Asking for the Moon, the collection in which Reginald Hill went back and presented the stories of Dalziel and Pascoe's first and last cases together? I wonder if that might kick-start your old enthusiasm or at least spark some pleasant reflection on the earlier books.

I haven't read any of the Kurt Wallander books since Linda joined the police, but I was surprised when Mankell took that step. Nothing in Linda's character had led me to suspect she might be ripe for such an authorial decision.

December 19, 2007  
Blogger Maxine said...

Yes, there was a TV series starring Kevin Whatley and called Lewis, following the deaths of Morse himself and of John Thaw, the actor who played him. I haven't seen the series but I think it is quite popular in the UK.
Peter, I can't think of anything Mark Hammill has been in, but I do know he has done lots of voice overs for comic-book movies and TV series since Star Wars, eg Incredible Hulk and Spider Man.

There is an actor with a very similar name who was in St Elsewhere (which I watched back in the late 70s) and CSI, recommended to me by Crime Fic Reader but not yet watched by me. I suspect it is a different actor, though, whose name is escaping my notoriously flaky memory just now.

The Linda Wallender change of direction was strange, you are right. In previous books she was more on the "other side" of the dropouts. I think Mankell has been trying to convey increasing closeness, or at least, "trying to get to know you" dynamics between daughter and emotionally withdrawn father for some books. In early ones, KW was quite obsessed with his father, the artist, but having mined that theme quite a bit, the author has turned to the next generation. Interesting, I think.

December 19, 2007  
Blogger Maxine said...

I thought of it while google was faffing about with the commenting -- Mark Harmon!

December 19, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

How could you forget the great Corvette Summer?

I remember Kurt Wallander's father, the painter who didn't always keep himself or his house in A1 shape and who painted the same subject over and over. I had not made the connection with the father-daughter relationship. Maybe I should read some of the more recent books in the series. I, too, remember Linda as a troublesome, rebellious teenager. In one of the novels, she is kidnapped, which could mark the transition of her character.

December 19, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

That's a cool expression, faffing about. It's almost delectable enough to be Australian.

December 19, 2007  
Blogger pamos1949 said...

Yes, as Maxine has already said, Lewis did get his own television series. I've seen two of the programmes and thought them quite good, though they would be hard put to come up to the standard of the Morse series. On that point, it has occurred to me that it is odd that British television producers, who can work such wonders adapting the classics and literature in various genres, seem to come unstuck when it comes to adapting crime fiction. Jeremy Brett playing Holmes, Joan Hickson as Miss Marple, and the Morse and Lewis series were all very fine indeed. But the adaptations of Carolyn Graham's Barnaby novels, Ruth Rendell's Wexford,Jonathan Gash's Lovejoy, the Marple series with Geraldine McEwan, the first Dalziel and Pascoe adaptations... they all seemed to me pretty disastrous.

On the matter of Dalziel and Pascoe, I think Hill has developed his characters perfectly. The POV was always, I think, equal. With Krimileser, I would point to An Advancement of Learning in that regard: Pascoe is subordinate, but his POV is crucial -- the university is the stage upon which to show the clash between his outlook and that of Dalziel. As the series progresses, they both age, Pascoe is promoted, mutual respect and affection develop, and so does equality, or something close to it. And when we come to Asking for the Moon, Pascoe is a high-ranking figure in an international police force and Dalziel, coming out of retirement for the occasion, his subordinate. The novels themselves, while first-rate from the very start, have I think also developed to the point where I would call two of the most recent, Dialogues of the Dead and Death's Jest-Book, sheer tours de force in the writing of crime fiction.

December 19, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Perhaps the closer a book is to our own time, the firmer an image we have of the characters and the less willing we are to see them tampered with on television. Who knows what Sherlock Holmes "really" looked like?

I think I ought to read more Reginald Hill. There is some fine writing in "Asking for the Moon." I feel, as writing teachers everywhere will be pleased to hear, that I know the characters.

December 20, 2007  

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