Re: RARA-AVIS: sidekicks

From: George Upper (
Date: 13 Nov 2001

--- JIM DOHERTY <> wrote:
> I think Parker's introduction of the "bad"
> (psycho/sociopathic/call it what you will) sidekick
> is
> the WORST thing he introduced into PI fiction.
> First of all, it makes the hero seem like a wimp,
> rather than a truly moral or ethical man. If he
> won't, for example, kill an unarmed man, but he
> stands
> by and lets his partner do it with only a token
> protest, then he's complicit in the murder, whether
> or
> not he was an active participant.
> Mike Hammer and the Op may have done things that
> can't
> be condoned morally or legally, but at least they
> did
> it themselves, and suffered whatever consequences,
> to
> their legal status or to their consciences, may have
> resulted. They held their own water, and whether
> you
> agree with their actions or not, they earn a measure
> of respect for this.
> If the plot is constructed in a way so that makes it
> absolutely necessary for those things to be done,
> then
> it should be the hero who does them. That's what
> courage is all about. Making difficult choices and
> weathering the consequences.
> The "bad-ass sidekick" is a deus ex mahina whose
> main
> function seems to be removing the necessity for
> making
> those hard decisions from the hero.

I disagree. One of the decisions Spenser makes is to allow others, including Hawk, to abide by their own codes without interference from him. I can't remember the novel--I think it's EARLY AUTUMN, but I could be wrong--Spenser makes a decision to allow a bad guy to live, and he accepts the consequences of that decision. Hawk, on the other hand, is unwilling to live with those consequences, and shoots the unarmed bad guy. This isn't Spenser avoiding a decision--he's made a decision. Hawk then makes another one.

You can't read MORTAL STAKES or CATSKILL EAGLE and come away thinking that Spenser hides behind Hawk for the sake of his moral code--he's killed in cold blood
(well, lukewarm blood, anyway) more than once when the situation seemed to call for it.


===== George C. Upper III, Editor The Lightning Bell Poetry Journal

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