I continue my exploitation of the proletariat with another guest post. A few days ago, Mike Monson charmed your pants off with Confessions of a Sexual Harasser. Today, author, ex-hockey player, and pug enthusiast Luke Murphy talks about creating an unlikeable protagonist. You can buy Luke’s novel Dead Man’s Hand here.
DEAD MAN’S HAND Protagonist…Good or Bad?
I can’t say that I’m a “fan” of the horror genre.
I enjoy reading and writing crime thrillers, but I’m not talking about the “cozy” mysteries. I’m talking about the hard-broiled, in your face, no holds barred kind of stories, with psychotic serial killers, the evil and the deeply disturbed. Some people say I have a “sick” mind, but this is what interests me. The scarier and more gruesome the better.
My very first adult novel was CUJO by Stephen King (what were my parents thinking? LOL). Like I said, I’ve never been a horror fan, but King is a genius. That book scared the bejesus out of me, but it was an exceptional read and it brought me in touch with a side that thrilled me. Being scared or frightened is an emotion that appealed to my inner being and I craved more.
They don’t make good horror movies like they used to, but every now and then I like to watch a horror movie to connect with my youth. I know, weird, eh?
So my real question is: Do all protagonists have to be GOOD guys? We’ve all read books about zombies, ghosts, ghouls and brutal serial killers as antagonists, but what about protagonists? Is the term “bad protagonist” an oxymoron?
One of my favorite shows on TV is Dexter. What would you call him? Is rooting for a serial killer such a bad thing?
That’s what I had in mind when I first sat down to write my debut novel, DEAD MAN’S HAND.
Dead Man’s Hands is a crime-thriller set in the seedy underbelly of Las Vegas. It takes readers inside the head of Calvin Watters, a sadistic African-American Las Vegas debt-collector framed by a murderer who, like the Vegas Police, finds him to be the perfect fall-guy.
A 6’5”, 220 pound African-American. Watters past as an athlete, and his emotional rollercoaster brought on by injuries have escalated his temper, growing hate and need for revenge/redemption. His mother died of cancer when he was young, which only added fuel to the fire. This is not a man to be taken lightly or a book for the faint of heart.
But, even with everything that has happened in his life and every reason to explode upon impact, Watters faces racial prejudice with calmness similar to that of Walter Mosley’s character Easy Rawlins. But Watters’ past as an athlete and enforcer will remind other readers of (Jack) Reacher of the Lee Childs series. The Stuart Woods novel Choke, about a tennis player who, like Watters, suffered greatly from a dramatic loss that was a failure of his psyche, is also an inspiration for Dead Man’s Hand.
When thinking about creating the main character for my story, I wanted someone “REAL”. Someone readers could relate to. Although it is a work of fiction, my goal was to create a character who readers could make a real connection with.
Physically, keeping in mind Watters’ past as an NCAA football standout and his current occupation as a Vegas leg-breaker, I thought “intimidating”, and put together a mix of characteristics that make Watters appear scary (dreadlocks, patchy facial hair, body covered in tattoos), but also able to blend in with those of the social elite. Although he is in astounding physical condition, handsome and well-toned, he does have a physical disability that limits his capabilities.
His every movement is done with precision and a slowness that dramatizes his actions. As he’s torturing his victims when collecting debts the atmosphere is built up by where the scene takes place. His “workshop” has been created to scare his prey. His methods are brutal, and he has a 100% rate of collection.
He’s proud, confident bordering on cocky, mean and tough, but I also gave him a softer side that readers, especially women, will be more comfortable rooting for. After his humiliating downfall he is stuck at the bottom for a while, but trying hard to work his way back up.
He has weaknesses and he has made poor choices. He has regrets, but Watters has the opportunity to redeem himself.
Do you think this is someone you could root for? You’ll have to read it to find out, but I would bet on it.
Luke Murphy lives in Shawville, Quebec with his wife, three daughters and pug.
He played six years of professional hockey before retiring in 2006. Since then, he’s held a number of jobs, from sports columnist to radio journalist, before earning his Bachelor of Education degree (Magna Cum Laude).
Murphy`s debut novel, Dead Man`s Hand, was released by Imajin Books on October 20, 2012.