Jim Phelps, Bill Cosby, and Atticus Finch
I’ve been thinking a lot about heroes lately, both real and fictional. I need heroes. The world needs heroes. Heroes help us make sense of the senseless and give us hope because they’re willing to take a stand to do what’s right in order to make the world a better place for all of us.
However, lately some of my heroes have been letting me down. It started with the reboot of Mission Impossible back in 1996. Anyone who remembers the television show from 1966-1973 knows that Jim Phelps was one of the good guys, a man who risked his life for the greater good of mankind. Then the first movie comes along and turns Jim into a bad guy. After that I never watched another movie in the franchise. No way could I accept Jim Phelps as a villain.
In 1984 The Cosby Show debuted, and Bill Cosby became America’s dad. My kids grew up watching that show. Bill Cosby lived part-time a few blocks from us. We admired the man not only for the character he portrayed on TV but for the real person and the good he did. I want to believe he’s innocent of the charges made against him, but the overwhelming evidence and his own words given in a deposition seem to prove otherwise. America’s dad has been shown to have a dark side. To say I’m disappointed is an understatement; I’m outraged.
And now it turns out that Atticus Finch is a racist. I won’t be reading Go Set a Watchman because I don’t want my image of that just and honorable man from To Kill a Mockingbird tainted by this older, hateful version of the character. I’m not the only one. Social media is aghast and atwitter over this unexpected and unwelcome reinvention of one of America’s fictional heroes.
So I began to wonder, do authors make a solemn pact with their readers, and what happens when they break that agreement? In many instances, they disappoint their fans. Readers expect a certain experience when they pick up a book from an author they’ve come to enjoy, especially when the book is part of a series. Authors who have killed off beloved characters or in some other way disappointed their readership have experienced unwelcome vocal backlash.
The fifth novel in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series is now available. I haven’t turned Anastasia into a villain, nor have I bumped off any beloved characters in the book. However, I have introduced a plot twist that I hope readers will enjoy. I want to live up to my readers’ expectations. I never want to disappoint them, and I hope I haven’t with this new installment.
A Stitch to Die For
An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 5
The adventures of reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack continue in A Stitch to Die For, the 5th book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series by USA Today bestselling author Lois Winston.
Ever since her husband died and left her in debt equal to the gross national product of Uzbekistan, magazine crafts editor and reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack has stumbled across one dead body after another—but always in work-related settings. When a killer targets the elderly nasty neighbor who lives across the street from her, murder strikes too close to home. Couple that with a series of unsettling events days before Halloween, and Anastasia begins to wonder if someone is sending her a deadly message.
(Other books in the series include Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, Death by Killer Mop Doll, Revenge of the Crafty Corpse, and three mini-mysteries: Crewel Intentions, Mosaic Mayhem, and Patchwork Peril.)
Bio: USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and non-fiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry. Visit Lois/Emma at www.loiswinston.com and Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog, www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com. Follow everyone on Tsu at www.tsu.co/loiswinston, on Pinterest at www.pinterest.com/anasleuth, and onTwitter @anasleuth. Sign up for her newsletter at https://www.MyAuthorBiz.com/ENewsletter.php?acct=LW2467152513
10 thoughts on “Guest Blogger – Lois Winston”
Good — and timely — post!
I would forgive an author for killing off a beloved character, if another that I cared about had to cope with the loss. I’d be deeply involved in it with them. I think of how beautifully Tony Hillerman wrote about the death of Joe Leaphorn’s wife partway through the series, and the way this grief forms Leaphorn’s motivation in a Thief of Time. It can be done well.
However, I wouldn’t like to see an admired character revealed to be a racist, as in the Atticus Finch example. I don’t need perfect heroes and heroines–I’m more likely to find them believable if they’re flawed. But that kind of turnaround doesn’t sound believable or engaging. I’ll be skipping that book, for sure.
I agree, ambfoxx. The best heroes are the ones who rise above their flaws and mistakes and show us that even though no one is perfect, you can always strive for perfection. Most of us will fall short, but it’s the journey in a positive direction that counts.
Maybe we need to realize that heroes are just people and people make mistakes. But then where do we draw the lines? The USA has a presidential election coming soon and neither side has produced a true hero/heroine who is wonderful with a lily white background. And what about the NBA and the NFL? Millions of kids look up to those guys yet they get away with horrible crimes and are not convicted because the judges don’t want to interfere with the careers of those athletes. Real life is stranger than fiction!
But when it comes to fiction, I think we all like the lines drawn. We want to the good guy to be the good guy and to see that good person triumph in the in the end. We don’t want that good guy to turn into a bad guy or to wind up in a pool of blood. We want our heroes in books to be larger than life and be everything that they probably can’t be in real life.
Life isn’t easy and we like to escape into fiction. We don’t want our fiction as screwed up as our real life. We want our heroes/heroines to rise above the daily problems, to be real champions. They might stumble and fall but they get back up. Even their mistakes can be repaired with a simple I’m-sorry or I-still-love-you. As readers, we want that! As authors, we should give our readers those larger than life heroes and heroines.
Well said, E! Thanks for stopping by.
I believe in letting the hero/heroine grow and achieve new heights to have the reader appreciate and admire. And I’m a newbie, kind of. Thanks for another lesson, Lois.
I couldn’t agree with you and your statements about needing a hero more. At a time when racism is at the forefront, to release this book for the almighty dollar, is a travesty. If I learn that Atticus redeems himself in the end, I might consider reading it. But otherwise, no. I’m not too alarmed at Jim Phelps–he’s still a hero to me — no matter what Hollywood did to him. Pffft. But Bill Cosby, I’m not only disappointed in him, but in the managers, agents, friends and the WOMEN who took hush money to stay quiet. They let him go on doing that to other women, and becoming the idol he was. My disappointment meter is at an all time low.
About authors making a pact with readers… yes, I believe there are unspoken pacts. William G. Tapply (The Elements of Mystery Fiction: Writing the Modern Whodunit) talks about the mystery author’s pact/responsibilities to readers. I know I’ve stopped reading some authors when they’ve killed off the good guy romantic interest (e.g., Dana Stabenow, Patricia Cornwall). Jim Phelps was my hero, too! 🙂
Thanks for stopping by, drkatecollier!
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