Friday, May 17, 2013

A degenerate American in Paris

I don't know what Scott Phillips got up to when he lived in Paris, but the protagonist of his new novel, Rake, set in that city, kidnaps an arms merchant, tries to swing a movie deal, and carries on simultaneous affairs with four women (so far), each more attractive, sexually imaginative, or both, than the last.

The protagonist, as cheerfully amoral and self-involved as he is, is a new kind of American outsider: an ex-Green Beret skilled in the killing arts and unable to restrain himself from using them, but also the star of an old American soap opera that has made him a star in France.

Sure, he's am immature, self-involved jerk, but he happily admits craving the attention he gets from ordinary Frenchmen and women who confuse him with his soap-opera character, so it's hard to dislike the guy.

And now, while I finish reading this latest book by the author of The Adjustment, The Ice Harvest, The Walkaway, and more, tell me 1) Who is your favorite likable bad guy in a non-cozy crime novel?, and 2) Who is your favorite ex-pat American character, in Paris or elsewhere, in crime fiction?
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Scott Phillips was one of my "Eight crime writers worth tracking down," as seen in the Philadelphia Inquirer in December.

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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17 Comments:

Blogger Dana King said...

Now that you got me thinking about it, I'd put Charlie Arglist (The Ice Harvest) at the top of my list.

I think a lof of what Scott writes is autobiographical, but his lawyers don't want him to make too much of it.

May 17, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I figured some of "Crandall"'s reminiscing about his student days in Rake might be autobiographical. As to the rest of is, I'll ask Scott for phone numbers, directions, and the name of a good lawyer before the next time I visit Paris.

Yeah, Charlie Arglist is not exactly a bad guy with a heart of gold, is he? He's just a regular working guy who earns his living in a not quite ordinary manner.

May 17, 2013  
Blogger R.T. said...

Perhaps this violates your non-cozy limitation, but I rather like Doctor Sheppard in Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. I suppose that says a lot about my state of mind.

May 17, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

As it happens, I may have to rethink this whole cozy thing. I've just reviewed a book by an author who likes both Agatha Christie and Ed McBain. Maybe I'll call such stories traditional mysteries instead—unless they include cats.

May 17, 2013  
Blogger R.T. said...

And Daughter of Time (Tey) features--in a round about way--Richard III. It is tough to get anyone more unpleasant in a crime/detective novel--someone who becomes something of a vindicated hero instead by the end. As for R3's reputation, blame Thomas More and Shakespeare, two of the early and notable revisionist historians. Tey corrects their errors.

May 17, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Richard III is riding high these days; Josephine Tey ahead of her time. I have to cheer because that known descendant of his turned out to be Canadian.

May 17, 2013  
Blogger Cary Watson said...

How about Alan Grofield in the Parker novels? I'd say Parker himself, but there's nothing really likable about him, unless you see ruthless professionalism as a positive quality. By the way, I started a second book by Joseph Hone (The Oxford Gambit); this guy is crazy good.

May 17, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Oh, my gosh, yes. I laugh my ass off every time Parker says, "Shut up, Grofield."

There is a good secondhand crime-fiction store here in Philadelphia. I shall look for Hone and maybe at least get into a conversation about him.

May 17, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Grofield is better as a sidekick to Parker than he is in Stark/Westlake's four standalone Grofield novels. That's probably because those books lack the tension and contrest between the ultraserious Parker and the generally less-so Grofield.

May 17, 2013  
Blogger Cary Watson said...

Yes, Westlake should have come up with a new pen name for the Grofield books, because the Stark brand name should only be identified with Parker.

May 17, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Or maybe come up with a different name for the character in the Grofield books. I think Grofield as a delightful counterpoint to Parker goes fine with the Stark name.

May 17, 2013  
Blogger seana graham said...

Michael Forsythe of Adrian McKinty's Dead trilogy has got to be near the top of anyone's list of likeable bad guys. But you knew I was going to say that.

Uh, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid?

Generally, I'm not that into bad guys, although I don't mind books where they are the protagonists. I don't really need my protagonists to be likeable. I liked Perfume by Patrick Susskind when I read it some years ago, but that doesn't mean I liked the central character, who was, well, a serial killer.

May 18, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I think of Michael Forsythe as the hero of the Dead books,a bad good guy rather than a good bad guy--at least until Falling Glass.

You mi9ght like Rake. The character who sparked this post is not a villain, but rather a protagonist who is likale despite being a bad guy.

I don't remember of you're read Scott Phillips, but I recommend him highly. I numbered him with McKinty among my eight others people ought to be reading instead of whatever they're reading now.

May 18, 2013  
Blogger seana graham said...

I'm not sure I really get the distinction between bad good guy and good bad guy, but in any case, I think I may have at least one Scott Phillips on an ereader. I'll have to check him out.

May 19, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, in this case, "protagonist" and "antagonist" is probably the more useful distinction to draw. And, in crime fiction, we are accustomed to the former being a detective, police officer, or other force of good, and latter being a criminal.

May 19, 2013  
Anonymous Ellicia said...

I am rather fond of the talented Mr. Ripley. I also like Hawk in the Parker books; however, I find myself wondering if I will now envision him as he was portrayed by Avery Brooks on the Spenser TV series. Just as I will now link the image of Jesse Stone to Tom Selleck.

May 19, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Tom Ripley is an excellent choice. He's a proptagonist, a forger, a killer, and a deceiver, and Highsmith manages to make the reader sympathize with his predicament as a lonely soul.

May 19, 2013  

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