Re: RARA-AVIS: Survey

Date: 20 Jan 2002


Re your survey question below:

> Disregarding all other factors (plot, literary
> value, et cetera) which kind
> of crime novel do you prefer
> a) One protagonist and less than six or seven
> secondary characters
> b) Two main characters and between eight and fifteen
> secondary characters.
> c) Two or three main characters and more than
> sixteen secondary characters?

I honestly can't recall ever having counted the number of characters, so this is difficult to answer. When I choose a crime novel to read it's based on other factors, and I can't recall that the number of characters has ever really been a significant factor in my subsequent judgment. For example, I'm less than a thrid of the way through he book I'm reading now, KNOWN DEAD by Donald Harstad, and there're already more than sixteen secondary characters with the promise of more to come. Each one plays a part and I'd be reluctant to tell Harstad he should drop any of them. On the other hand THE MALTESE FALCON fits your description of a single lead and fewer than seven supporting characters (actually, now that I count them up, there are at least nine supporting characters, but many are on stage for less than a page), and I'd be just as reluctant to tell Hammett that he should have added a few more.

If it helps at all, I generally prefer mysteries where the antagonist is a major figure from the start to those in which the identity of the antagonist is kept concelaed until the end (i.e. whodunits). In the sense that an antagonist who is know from the start is thus a "main character," I guess I prefer books with two or more main characters to those in which a single protagonist is the sole lead. Hope this helps.


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