If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

September Interviews

9/2 Dianne Freeman, A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Murder

9/9 Ellen Byron, Murder in the Bayou Boneyard

9/16 Marilyn Levinson, writing as Allison Brook, Checked Out for Murder

9/23 Rhys Bowen, The Last Mrs. Summers

9/30 Sherry Harris, From Beer To Eternity

September Guest Bloggers

9/19 Judy Alter

WWK Weekend Bloggers

9/5 V. M. Burns

9/12 Jennifer J. Chow

9/26 Kait Carson


For The Love Of Lobster Tales by Shari Randall is now available to download free for a limited time. Go to Black Cat Mysteries at: https://bcmystery.com/ to get your free copy! Thanks for the freebie, Shari.

Keenan Powell recently signed with agent Amy Collins of Talcott Notch. Congratulations, Keenan!

KM Rockwood's "Secrets To The Grave" will appear in the new SinC Chesapeake Chapter's new anthology Invitation To Murder, which will be released by Wildside Press on 10/6.

Congratulations to our two Silver Falchion Finalists Connie Berry and Debra Goldstein!

Paula Gail Benson's "Cosway's Confidence" placed second and Debra Goldstein's "Wabbit's Carat" received Honorable Mention in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable 2020 short story contest. Congratulations, Paula and Debra!

Susan Van Kirk's Three May Keep A Secret has been republished by Harlequinn's Worldwide Mystery. The WWK interview about the book can be accessed here. We're so glad another publisher picked up this series.

KM Rockwood's "Burning Desire," and Paula Gail Benson's "Living One's Own Truth," have been published in the anthology Heartbreaks & Half-truths. Congratulations to all of the WWK writers.

Please join Margaret S. Hamilton's Kings River Life podcast of her short story "Busted at the Book Sale" here. Congratulations, Margaret!


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Who’s Your Ultimate Literary Underdog?

The literary canon is full of underdogs. We all love to root for them. Believe in them. Feel dejected when they’re cut down, vindicated when they win. AND THEY WILL WIN.

In mystery, many times our main character sleuths are the resident underdog. They’re flawed. They have tough home lives. They get in deep doo-doo with their bosses and are tossed from their cases.

And we love it.

I most definitely enjoy reading (and writing) about somebody who keeps taking hits and gets right back up, teeth gritted and ready for more. These are the people we hope to be when faced with our own personal struggles. And spending time in their worlds, watching them fight, learning from their mistakes and triumphs is the best sort of living vicariously. At least for me, anyway.

Thus, I wanted to share my favorite literary underdogs — the people whom I love to root for time and time again. That said, I don’t have these listed in any particular order, because I love them all, and I also don’t think it’s fair to compare them, given some are in series that have ended, while others are in stories that have yet to be finished.

1.     Jon Snow, A Game of Thrones and various other books by George R.R. Martin (above).

I know I’m not the only one who thinks Jon Snow is a fabulous underdog. Scores of people who watch the Game of Thrones TV show have flocked to rooting for him (I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that he’s MUCH prettier on the TV show than he’s described in the books.). Why is he so beloved? Jon’s a good-hearted character who is a stranger in his own home: He’s a high-born bastard, raised without rights in his noble father’s castle right alongside true-blooded brothers and sisters. His super-sized sense of honor and lack of actual nobility make him crave a place to belong and we want it for him, too, as he takes one hit after another, but keeps true to his honest nature and heart. Note: Game of Thrones is full of other fabulous underdogs, including (but not limited to): Tyrion, Brienne and Arya.

2.     Faith Mitchell, Fallen and various other books by Karin Slaughter

Speaking of several underdogs living in one series, Karin Slaughter really needs to write a how-to book on creating underdog characters because she does it so well, and her books, accordingly, are full of them. Besides Faith, there are two other main character underdogs Slaughter writes regularly about in the same series, Will Trent and Sara Linton. However, I’m singling out Faith here because she’s got a background you usually don’t see in fictional detectives. Pregnant at 14, she’s now a diabetic in her early 30s, working for the GBI while trying to wrangle a teenage son and newborn daughter as a single mother. Though she’s the child of a cop (her mother), she didn’t use nepotism to get ahead and, thus, she’s had to work extremely hard to be successful — and it’s totally endearing.

3.     Matthew Corbett, Speaks the Nightbird and various other books by Robert McCammon

I cannot tell you how much I love Matthew Corbett. Don’t know who he is? He is only the James Bond of the pre-Revolutionary British Colonies. I’m sure that doesn’t make him sound like much of an underdog, but believe me, he is. Orphaned and left in a home for boys, Corbett’s wimpy build and low social status give him a pretty horrible start in life. But his curiosity, smarts and knack for solving tricky puzzles win him employment and notice from New York City’s elite as a professional problem solver. He’s never the fastest or the strongest person in the room, but like Bond, I’d never bet against him.

4.     Lisbeth Salander, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and two other books by Stieg Larsson

I realize Ms. Salander is a tad bit polarizing. Most of the folks I know love her, others were so appalled by the rape scene that they couldn’t and wouldn’t read more (including her payback to her rapist). That said, I think Lisbeth is an important underdog in that she is an empowered underdog. One moment, she’s dealing with people who think she’s crazy, the next she’s kicking butt a la Jack Reacher (despite everyone constantly underestimating her). She’s got daddy issues, mommy issues, sister issues, sexual issues. But she certainly believes in and acts on her own type of justice. Even when she’s breaking the law, it’s impossible not to root for her.

5.     Harry Potter, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and various books by J.K. Rowling

Oh, Harry. I mentioned in my last post that Harry Potter was my first YA love. Rowling’s books are like chocolate cake for the soul, sweet and satisfying and warm. Harry, like Jon Snow, is an underdog with a very important family background, stuck in a life that pretty much sucks. When we first meet him, he’s living in a closet under the stairs, for Pete’s sake. It doesn’t get much better when he gets to Hogwarts because of jealousy surrounding his apparent fame as “The Boy Who Lived.” In fact, for most of the first few books, other kids are insanely mean to him, and his actions are constantly misunderstood, making things worse. But by the end of the seven books, he’s done exactly what we want every underdog to do: Save the day.

Note: It actually could be a much longer list, as the only true mystery/thriller anti-underdog I could think of was Jack Reacher. But even he looks like a loser to the outside world when he’s not kicking butt — a homeless, jobless drifter with only a toothbrush to his name — and he constantly has to deal with others’ preconceived perceptions because of it.

Who are your favorite literary underdogs and why?


Linda Rodriguez said...

In Game of Thrones, Sarah, I love to root for Tyrion Lannister and Arya Stark. And Dany was a great underdog at the beginning, though she could hardly be considered one now with dragons and legions of soldiers. :-)

Gloria Alden said...

Sarah, you have mentioned some books I'd like to try. Of course, I read a few of the Harry Potter books and always intended to finish the series, but haven't yet.

My favorite underdog is written by a relatively new writer, KM Rockwood and her series featuring a young man, Jesse Damon, who has recently been released on parole after 20 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit. He gets all sorts of grief from local detectives, the workers in the plant where he has a job and even his parole officer. But he doesn't give up.

Paula Gail Benson said...

Sarah, I love Harry Potter, too. But, I really like thinking about the question you pose. My ultimate literary underdog? Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. Even better that he's portrayed by Gregory Peck in the movie. Thanks for the thoughtful post.

Anonymous said...

I think everybody likes to see an underdog come out on top. I haven't seen Game of Thrones (how do people find time to watch TV?) but I know it's popular.

I think Dick Francis has perfected the underdog-hero in some of his works. Harry Potter is another great example.

Thanks, Gloria, for the mention of my crime series. The character is based on a few people I know who were locked up at an early age on serious charges, and find getting their lives going again after a lengthy incarceration very difficult.

Warren Bull said...

how about Easy Rawlins in the Walter Mosley books?

Linda Rodriguez said...

Game of Thrones is the first in a series of books, as well as a TV show, KM. I don't watch TV myself, but it's an excellent series of books.

Shari Randall said...

Lisbeth Salander is a great character. Boy does she have issues, and she is certainly a character who has the deck stacked against her, but she is so magnetic and powerful at the same time. I hadn't really thought about her as an underdog until I read your post.