Wednesday, July 08, 2015

What Series Character Has Held Up Best Over Time?

I never grew tired of Morse, for instance. Dexter seemed able to give him interesting cases and forged a character that had dimension to him. But other series characters have grown tired for me. Not to mention names here but 26 books about the same sleuth may be too many. I think the important thing is to have a character change over time, to have the world change with them. Also to give them enough traits to make them human. Too many books rely on having them drink too much, be divorced, be grumpy, like jazz. Oops, I have described Morse, haven't it. But he liked opera. Whew!

What series character holds up best for you?


Deb said...

I really enjoy Cynthia Harrod-Eagles's Inspector Bill Slider mysteries, in part because the characters really do grow, change, experience joys and tragedies, and have "real" relationships (romantic, friendly, or work-related) with each other. I'm not sure how many books there have been thus far, at least ten I think, but this is a series you need to read in order because of how much the characters do develop over time.

I also enjoy Peter Lovesey's Peter Diamond series--for some of the same reasons.

Loyd Jenkins said...

The one that first comes to mind is Matt Helm in the book series by Donald Hamilton. Spread over at least three decades, it has the character adapt to different attitudes without changing the core of the character.
From the comic book world -- Batman. It seems every decade had a different version of the character. Especially if you throw in movies and tv.
From movies -- James Bond. Enough said.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

I assume we're talking book series rather than television here.

I have a list of those who haven't held up for me - those are the ones I've stopped reading.

Those I still enjoy include Walt Longmire (Craig Johnson), Joe Gunther (Archer Mayor), Dan Rhodes (Bill Crider), Deborah Knott (Margaret Maron), Sharon McCone (Marcia Muller), Alan Banks (Peter Robinson), Harry Bosch (Michael Connelly), Salvo Montalbano (Andrea Camilleri), and Jack Taylor (Ken Bruen), among the ones who come to mind.

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Oh, yes Alan Banks is a great example. I have never read the Matt Helm or the series Deb mentions.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

I forgot the Slider series. Thanks, Deb.

Some of the series do have the characters change. The Gunther series has done a good job of having each book set in a different part of Vermont. Deborah Knott occasionally takes her judicial job on the road, though I prefer the ones closer to home.

Jeff M.

George Kelley said...

James Garner in THE ROCKFORD FILES. In comedy, I'd go with SEINFELD.

Al Tucher said...

I think C.J. Box has done well with Joe Pickett, the Wyoming game warden.

Todd Mason said...

Fritz Leiber's character Fafhrd (and his lifelong friend, the Mouser) is an interesting case, because he was originally devised to be an analog of Leiber (and the friend an analog of Harry Fischer, a corresponding friend who didn't publish much writing aside from some collaborations with Leiber on early stories). Leiber eventually began to use the characters to help him through crises and writer's blocks, and the circumstances of the characters' lives often reflected those of Leiber's own life, often heavily metaphorically. One of the most impressive of the stories in the series is that which was part of Leiiber's attempts to come to grips with the death of his wife, Jonquil, and the alcoholic tailspin it pit him into, "Ill Met in Lankhmar"(a number of other impressive stories, not of the series, were the result of Lriber pulling himself back together at that point..."Ship of Shadows" was another award-winner from that period).Not all the F&GM stores are as good as other ones, but there are brilliant ones from throughout Leiber's life and career.

Hap and Leonard (Joe Lansdale), the Nameless (Bill Pronzini), and, so far, Warshawski (Sara Paretsky) don't seem worn out, in those I've read that haven't been mentioned...and I'm one of those who wasn't disappointed by THE BLUE HAMMER by Macdonald, albeit it was my first Lew Archer.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...


I mean to include Nameless on my list too. I don't care for Warshawski.

Jeff M.

Jerry House said...

I agree with Jeff and Todd on all counts, but I am surprised no one has mentioned P. G. Wodehouse's many great characters: Jeeves and Bertie, the Oldest Member, the worthies of Drones Club, or the denizens of Blandings Castle.

In movies, Chaplin's Tramp and Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau. In television, I'm going with Big Bird.

Dana King said...

Of series that have gone on for more than a handful of books, I never grow tired of Steve Carella and the cast of Ed McBain's 87th Precinct novels. That said, McBain did have an ensemble, so no one character had to carry too much of the burden.

Dave Robicheaux also comes to mind, but I have to admit he's been a disappointment in the most recent couple of books.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

I tried to only list writers who are still active. Otherwise, McBain and Westlake/Stark would be up near the top of my list.

Jeff M.

R.K. Robinson said...

Now, hours after the others, coffee in hand, comes my comment. I'm assuming this question refers to books, not TV or movies.

Though there are many characters I like and have held up for me, if I'm very far behind in the series I don't think I can say they have held up all the way through. Those would be Slider, Nameless, McCone. Like Jeff, I don't care for Warshawski, but have only read two before giving them up.

I still like Lew Archer and Sam Spade, though they didn't grow, nor did Nero Wolfe, but I haven't tired of him and Archie. Not mentioned so far that I like and haven't gotten tired of, Cork O'Connor (William Kent Krueger), Gamache (Louise Penny). I also have never gotten tired of Sherlock Holmes, though he didn't grow or change a bit.

Gerard said...

Hap and Leonard (though not that long lasting compared to other series).
Sheriff Rhodes.
The Slocum westerns just keep chugging along.
Joe Pike (more than Elvis Cole).
Mike Hammer has changed very little and it's reflected in his reactions to changing society.
Jack Reacher stays interesting, even if the books sometimes fall short.
The Baudelaire children.

Cap'n Bob said...

Mine have been mentioned, like Nameless, Wolfe and Archie, Dan Rhodes, and the 87th Precinct gang. Matt Scudder has certainly been through some changes, so add him to the mix.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Am always astounded by how many series I have missed. What the heck am I reading?

Bernadette said...

I'm also astounded at all the series I haven't even heard of let alone read

I'm also worried that I am just plain fickle. There are many, many series I have given up on. I can only think of one that I have continued with for more than 10 books - Sue Grafton's Kinsey Milhone novels - and if I am honest now it is more a matter of finishing than it is of being terribly invested in Kinsey and her elderly neighbour. If Sue finishes, so will I but I've gone from eagerly buying each new book on the day of its release to waiting until my library has a copy they're willing to lend me

Todd Mason said...

Oh, Jeff, I've read nearly all the Archer fictions at this point...I just started with THE BLUE HAMMER among the novels, though I think I'd read at least a short story or two in anthologies over the decade and a half before that late '80s encounter...I read a big chunk of it while I was waiting outside the 9:30 Club in DC, too tired to join Donna at that night's concert but awake enough to read by streetlight in my car.

It strikes me how many of the sustained series characters Are analogs of their authors...Nameless, McCone, possibly Warshawski (what puts so many off?), Hap of Hap & Leonard, Hammer and Burke as the nastier and more berserk versions of their creators, as well as Fafhrd.

Jerry, I certainly should've thought of Wooster and Jeeves...and I've yet to read a bad Nero Wolfe story by "Stout". And Westlake's Dortmunders I've read are all solid, and so are all (three) of the WEEKLY GALAXY staff stories (two novels).

There is always more to read that we have time to read, Patti (and Bernadette). And even the series which trail off or run hot and cold, such Fletch and McGee, have their charm.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I used to be pretty obsessive about reading every book in a series. But that was early on when I read three books a week and was most backreading the series. Now I tend to forget about them or just find something new. I am sticking with Tana French's Irish Squad and Tess Monaghan though. I feel an affinity with them.

John said...

The Baudelaire children! Hysterically funny series. I can't imagine kids get three quarters of the jokes in those books.

I usually lose interest in series books. There are very few that I've stuck with all the way to the end. But I'll add one more not mentioned in the above comments. Arthur Bryant and John May in the Peculiar Crimes Unit books by Christopher Fowler. They're my favorites of the contemporary books. Haven't missed one since he started. I even read RUNE which most people don't include as part of the series, but the two of them are there. The whole crew at the PCU is worth spending time with.