Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Yvette's Favorite Fictional Character --- Roderick Alleyn

It is now July and work is starting to get a little busier after our slowest month of the year, June.  Not sure why June is so slow, but it always is, though this year was busier than normal.  Because of work demands, I've asked 9 different bloggers to do posts over their Favorite Fictional Characters.  This will accomplish two things.  One, it will give me some breathing room during July and August.  Second, I think these bloggers are going to come up with characters that I'm not as familiar with, so I'm looking forward to finding some new characters that I can fall in love with myself.  Today's guest blogger is Yvette of  in so many words...  I don't remember who found who first, but I'm just happy the meeting happened.  Yvette's blog has quickly became one of my favorites to go to and I always look forward to her reviews.  She is a vintage mystery buff and it's because of her I've gone on my Mary Roberts Rinehart kick.  She also does reviews on older movies, which I love.  Her blog is beautiful to look at and art work abounds.  For those of you not familiar with her, please (please again) go on over and say hi.

When Ryan first asked me to do this guest post on his blog, I was flabbergasted AND flattered and instantly plagued with a bad case of nerves. Who would I write about? And would I be able to meet Ryan’s expectations? My mind was an instant jumble.

But then after much hand wringing, I calmed down and thought long and hard about all of my favorite fictional characters and finally narrowed it to down to about twenty or so and from those, I picked Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn of Scotland Yard.
I read New Zealander Ngaio Marsh’s (1895 – 1982) books in my teens and didn’t remember much about them, truth be told, except that I had vague and fond memories. So last year, in an excess of zeal, I decided to read all the books in one fell swoop and that’s when I re-discovered just how much I really liked Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn of Scotland Yard. He has since become one of my very favorite fictional characters.

Roderick Alleyn is unique in that he is not only a brilliant policeman; erudite, elegant, classically well-dressed, beautifully well-mannered and incredibly handsome, but also the younger brother of a Baronet.  I mean, really. What more can you ask for? Well, he is also intuitive, fair-minded and able to see the whole picture at the drop of a few obscure clues. The British policeman of our dreams.

In the books he is often referred to as ‘the handsome detective’ or words to that effect, even in the workplace. He has a rep. But he is not a true ladies man. Certainly he is a man who likes women, but he is also a careful man. Some might even call him fastidious.  
As created by Ngaio Marsh, Alleyn is one of the pillars, I think, on which the school of gentleman detectives is built. What I love most about Alleyn is that he is definitely gentry but doesn’t get carried away with it. He is totally self-aware and grounded – a very attractive thing in a man.

When we first meet Allen in A MAN LAY DEAD (1934), he is already a policeman. He has been a soldier in WWI, and afterward served a year in the Foreign Service. During WWII, he works undercover in New Zealand.  My favorite of the few New Zealand books is DIED IN THE WOOL(1944) in which Alleyn must deal with the murderous tactics of a Nazi spy in a case involving a truly bizarre murder. I must say though that author Ngaio Marsh is known for her bizarre taste in murders. Part of the ‘fun’ of the books and probably what keeps them from being true ‘cozies’.

Alleyn usually works alongside his devoted cohort and assistant, Sergeant Fox, for whom Alleyn has many nicknames, my favorite being B’rer Fox.  A bachelor for the first five or so books in the series, Alleyn then meets his downfall in ARTISTS IN CRIME (1938), within those pages he meets the famous artist, Agatha Troy. The problem is: she won’t have anything to do with him - while he is smitten almost from the get-go. But, not to worry, eventually she gives in and they are married.He refers to her always as, Troy . She will appear in some fashion or other in the rest of the books, as will their son Ricky later, in two of my favorite books: SPINSTERS IN JEOPARDY (1954) and LAST DITCH (1977).

The Roderick Alleyn books were turned into a Television Mini-Series, some currently available for instant view on Netflix. The series featuring actor Patrick Malahide as Alleyn are the ones I’ve seen. What I like about this particular bit of casting is that Malahide is not conventionally handsome but there’s an elegance about him that carries the day.

Given a choice between reading the books and/or viewing the TV series. I say, read the books. The TV series is fine, but it doesn’t have the subtlety and depth of the written word. The books are also available in audible versions which are quite fun to listen to – unabridged, of course.


Ryan said...

Thanks Yvette! You are awesome and once again you have convinced me that I've been missing out by not reading these books.

Anonymous said...

I've only read one of Marsh's books, but you've convinced me to read more, if only to get to know Roderick Alleyn better.

Anonymous said...

I’ve heard of this series but have never been introduced to this character before. He sounds intriguing and I definitely like the sound of “bizarre taste in murders”! Thank you, Yvette.

Blodeuedd said...

Never heard of him, such a shame :( That is if I have not come across the tvseries one way or another

Simcha said...

I haven't heard of this series but Roderick Alleyn definitely sounds like a man worth getting to know.

Ye Olde Cyber Shoppe said...

I've seen the whole television series and loved it. He is elegant and so watchable. I've only read one of the books so far, Death of a Fool. It was very good managing to both solidly creepy and amusing. I'll certainly look into getting more now.

Julie said...

Whoa! You re-read them all in one fell swoop? Cool .. now I'll have to go out and look for these books!

Melissa (My words and pages) said...

Hey Ryan, hope you don't work to hard. :)

This is a wonderful sounding character! Thank you soooo much for sharing him. New to me, but sounds wonderful. :)

Yvette said...

Ryan: I am so verklempt!! I got the days mixed up because of Monday being a holiday. FORGOT TO POST ANYTHING ABOUT THIS ON MY BLOG.

Yegads!!! I am so sorry. But I'm going to post something right now.

OLD LADY MEMORY, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

At any rate, you did a marvelous job posting my...uh, post. Well done.

I really am sorry my memory let us both down.

Great comments, by the way. :)
Belated thanks from me to everyone who dropped by to post. Roderick Alleyn really is an unforgettable character as are Ngaio Marsh's fabulous books.

Yvette said...

However we did initially meet, I am just so glad we did.

Ryan: You are one of the reasons why I love blogging so much. :)

neer said...

Hi Ryan and Yvette

Wonderful post. Roderick Alleyn is one of my favourite detectives whom I first met in Artists in Crime. Alas! While I swooned over him, he was smitten by Troy...

Michelle Stockard Miller said...

Nice to meet you, Yvette! I can tell you are very passionate about this character. I had never heard of these books until this post. See...these kinds of guest posts help us to find out about new books and characters. I love it! Thanks for sharing with us today and for taking some pressure off of my good friend Ryan!

Cecelia said...

Gentleman policeman, eh? I will probably never get around to reading these books, but I'm hoping that if I add them to my Netflix queue, I'll actually get a feeling for this favorite character. Thanks for sharing!