Bad Boys Bad Boys, Watcha Gonna Do?

23 Aug

This is the first post of a rolling blog tour on the topic of Favorite Mystery Heroes.  To read previous blog tours, check out Janet Evanovich and a Few Sour Plums, Red Herrings, and Please Don’t Ask Me, among others.  At the bottom of this post you’ll find the remaining participants in today’s tour, and a link to the next article in the series.

No denying it, bad boys are attractive. They’re irresistible, wild and moody, leaders of the pack, following their own rules. Charismatic, street  smart and reckless, they fascinate and draw us in like moths to a flame.

Here are my two favourite mystery hero ‘bad boys’:

Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Conan Doyle) – Arguably one of the most famous of all fictional detectives and the very first pop icon, Holmes was renowned for his intellect, observational skills and deductive reasoning. His knowledge of forensics rivalled the local police, and they often turned to him to solve the most difficult cases. He frequently used disguises while investigating a case. Despite his many talents, Holmes possessed a few character traits that made him more human—he was an eccentric, had erratic eating habits, smoked a pipe, and occasionally indulged in cocaine use. He struggled with depression and obsession, and was prone to excessive outbursts of passionate energy, followed by periods of great lethargy.

The character of Sherlock Holmes has been portrayed by numerous actors, but the best portrayal in my opinion belonged to the darkly provocative Jeremy Brett, who apparently conducted extensive research on the character, wanting to be ‘the best Sherlock Holmes the world had ever seen.’ I think he achieved that.

Interesting tidbit:  The catchphrase, “Elementary, my dear Watson” was never actually uttered by Holmes in any of the sixty stories written by Conan Doyle. He does occasionally refer to his sidekick Watson as “my dear Watson” and he does remark that his logical conclusions are “elementary”, but the two fragments never appeared together.

Sam Spade (Dashiell Hammett) – described as ‘hard and shifty’, Sam Spade is the catalyst for the development of the ‘hard-boiled’ private detective genre. Noted for his cold detachment, keen eye for detail and quest for justice, Spade had his own code of ethics. He disliked his partner and wasn’t above sleeping with his partner’s wife.  Yet despite being witness to the corrupt, tawdry side of life, he somehow held on to a tarnished kind of idealism.

The novel The Maltese Falcon featuring Sam Spade was a bestseller when it first appeared (1929) and it remains one of the true classics of its genre. The Maltese Falcon left its stamp on literature, but its biggest impact was in another medium – movies. The definitive film version of The Maltese Falcon was released in 1941, featuring Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade. An unusual choice, since Bogart didn’t match Spade’s description in the book—‘the original blonde Satan’–and was smaller and darker than Spade. But I can’t picture anyone else playing him.

Excellent examples of mystery heroes, these two bad boys would be equally at home in a romance novel. A little bit dangerous and unpredictable: what kind of heroine could tame them?

Now that would make a great story.

To learn about  favorite mystery heroes for other mystery authors, check out the next stop on the blog tour:

Ryder Islington –

The Subject for the next tour is: What can writers do to support literacy?

8 Responses to “Bad Boys Bad Boys, Watcha Gonna Do?”

  1. Lindsay August 26, 2011 at 10:21 pm #

    I remember reading The Maltese Falcon in school (hm, can’t remember what class it was for) and not being particularly drawn to it since I didn’t identify with Sam Spade (hey, I’m a girl 😉 ). I tend to like my bad boys on the side with a female heroine for the POV character.

    • nancyelizabethlauzon August 26, 2011 at 11:14 pm #

      Yes, I have to say I do prefer female heroines in the lead, they’re easier to connect with. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Angela Scott August 27, 2011 at 12:36 am #

    Oh, I love me some bad boys. Very nice. You know, I don’t think I read any Sam Spade. Weird. I should totally check that out. And Sherlock Holmes, I only know what I’ve watched on TV and portrayed in movies. Crap. What kind of a writer/reader am I? Jeez.

    Bad boys are still awesome though. *shivers* hee,hee,hee

  3. Kathleen Kaska August 30, 2011 at 7:06 pm #

    My list is almost identical to yours, Nancy. How about Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe and Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe?

  4. dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 crack September 13, 2014 at 10:12 am #

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