When I started this feature back in 2009. it was born out of a need to express why I get so engrossed in a good book, movie, or TV show. It's the characters that matter almost more than anything else, because if they don't get me to feel something, the story really doesn't matter anymore. I don't need to like them, but I need to feel something for them. I need to have a connection with them in some way, otherwise I lose focus, and I end up not giving a damn about any of it.
I will be the first to admit that when I first started this feature, it was to showcase my all time favorites; the one that made me fall in love with them, or even the ones that scared the hell out of me. No matter what emotion they made me feel, they were the best of the best. Over the years, I started to lose focus on that, and some of my character choices were less than inspired. They were still characters I liked, and connected with, but they weren't the ones I loved, the ones I needed to spend as much time with as I could. My resolution this year is to make sure that all my choices really do matter. They will be the characters that I do love, the ones I seem to go back to year after year. I've already shared with you a lot of them, especially those first 20 or so; Vanyel Ashkevron, Auntie Mame, Eeyore, Buffy Summers, Brainy Smurf, and Nick and Nora Charles.
Because of this, I'm not going to stick with any sort of monthly theme, or try to plan this too far out in advance. Instead I'm going to wing it, go with my gut, and hope you guys fall in love with these characters enough, that you will be willing to discover them for yourselves.
To start this off, I'm going to go with one of my most recent literary crushes, Det. Hank Palace. For those of you who aren't familiar with Hank Palace, he is the star of the Last Policeman trilogy by Ben H. Winters. In that series, he is a detective with the Concord, NH police department, and his is a world on the brink of extinction. He is living in a reality that has a meteor set on a collision course with Earth, and there is not a damn thing anyone can do it. The entire world knows they only have a few months left, and most people have walked off their jobs and away from responsibility. They are living out their last wishes, or simply ending it now, before it's ended for them. Almost from the beginning, I know that Hank is different, that he isn't one to shirk away from his duties, that in fact he is one that takes it upon himself to make sure the job gets done, that society is protected, even if it means he hurts himself in the process.
I'm going to be honest, I fell in love with Hank in The Last Policeman, admired him in Countdown City, and fell even more in love with him in World of Trouble. He is the type of man I wish I could be, if I found myself in those same circumstance. I'm almost positive I wouldn't be, but I would like to think I would at least try. Regardless of whether or not I could live up to that ideal, he is the kind of man I would want by my side, in any sort of capacity, if I was living in a world about to end. I would know, no matter what else happened, that he would have my back, and be there for me.
He rises to any problem that occurs, he doesn't lose sight of the suffering of others, and he is always trying to do what is right. Not just right for him, but what is right for a society that is quickly crumbling into chaos. He is courageous, loyal, and has a strong sense of duty. With all those traits going for him, he still isn't a god sent from above to save the world. He is just a everyday man who had the character to rise to the challenge, when so many others failed. He isn't the most intelligent guy, but he is methodical and knows how to get the answers he needs. He isn't a muscle bound gym bunny, or a tough ass street fighter, who has the skills to take on a countless stream of enemies, but he can hold his own in a fair fight. Nor is he a movie idol stepped off the silver screen, able to charm the pants of everyone around him just by smiling and showing a dimple or two, even if he managed to charm me. In other words, he is not the archetypal Hero. He is simply a man. A man who had that core strength to seem him through what was needed to be done.
To be quite honest with you, when I finished reading the last page of World of Trouble, my heart broke a tiny bit. Over the course of three books, Hank stole a piece of my heart, and since I can pretty much guess how his story ends, though the author never gets that far, I'm saddened that I will never know for sure how it happens. I'm not sure if I even want to know how he leaves the world, the pain he is still going to face before the end comes. But I know if Hank were a real person, and not a fictional character, I would do everything in my power to make sure I was there for him when the time did come. There aren't a lot of truly Noble characters being written anymore, but I can promise you that Hank Palace is right up there with the best of them.