Sunday, May 6, 2018

Ten notable fictional detectives marked by their addictions

Jeff Somers is the author of Lifers, the Avery Cates series from Orbit Books, Chum from Tyrus Books, and the Ustari Cycle from Pocket/Gallery, including We Are Not Good People. At the B&N Reads blog he tagged ten books that "feature detectives who are alternatively brilliant, messy, arrogant, and tough—but they’re linked by their addictions, and the way those vices inform, enhance, or blunt their powers." Two entries on the list:
Hayden Glass (Boulevard, by Stephen Jay Schwartz)

Hayden Glass is a great detective, and also a sex addict, demonstrating how the growing understanding of the psychology of addiction and the possible vectors it can follow is invading the formerly walled garden of detective fiction, populated for so long by boozy cops and smart-mouthed underworld figures. Glass is in a 12-step program as the first novel opens, aware of his problems and working through them, but his addiction is as much an asset, as detective fiction begins a slow full-circle move, now imagining that the fatal flaws of its detectives might give them insight into the criminals they hunt. Glass tackles a series of crimes that only a sex addict could understand, and his work getting control over his impulses is just as important as his problems.
The Page 69 Test: Boulevard.
Mark Mallen (Untold Damage, by Robert K. Lewis)

Another example of addiction not only being presented as a problem, but a common and unexceptional one at that, is Mark Mallen, a junkie cop falling apart fast. The first book opens with him waking up with his latest needle still in his arm—and about to get caught up in a case in a personal way. What’s remarkable about Mallen is that his progress towards the solution to the mystery is paralleled with his recovery; after a friendly superior offers to let him get off the junk “the jailhouse way,” Mallen takes his first steps on the road to getting clean and becomes a stronger, more effective detective with each step.
The Page 69 Test: Innocent Damage.

Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue