RARA-AVIS: RE: Sidekicks

From: Dick Lochte ( dlochte@home.com)
Date: 14 Nov 2001

Does anybody think it's possible that we may be reading too much into the significance of homicidal sidekicks? The sidekick --benign or malignant -- has always been an author's gimmick -- a tool to make the hero look smarter or to get the hero into or out of trouble or just to give him somebody to talk to. Maybe Parker created Hawk with the intention of his representing Spencer's darker side. More likely, the character, initially introduced as a challenge to the detective, simply took over. That is, Parker liked him and thought it would be fun to keep him around and see what would develop. What did develop is, of course, dependent to a large degree on the author's psychological bent. But he will probably tell you it depends even more on serving the demands of each particular novel. For example, I once asked him why he made Spencer a foodie and his reply was that it gave the detective something to do -- preparing food and eating -- during the expository scenes. Is it possible that, in the grand tradition of sidekicks, Susan Silverman is there to assist Spencer with the exposition and Hawk (or any of the lesser badboy sidekicks) is there to help him with the action? And everything else is incidental? Did Doyle create Watson to show us Sherlock's dumber side? Did Spillane create Velda to represent Mike Hammer's more feminine side? Sometimes that cigar is just a plot device.

Dick Lochte

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