As a participant in this event, you might guess I've chosen a long-time favorite as my hero: Lucas Davenport. Lucas is the protagonist in 21 novels (with at least one, possibly two more to come) and two made-for-television films. He makes brief appearances in author John Sandford's Virgil Flowers series as well.
It's difficult to know what to say about a character about whom much has already been written, and so authoritatively. Tall, lean, dark hair, a scar slashing through one eyebrow and down to the cheekbone. A guy not afraid of the physical but whose outside-the-box thinking is his greatest job asset. A guy who loves a joke but occasionally suffers from clinical depression. Something of a philanderer in the early books of the series, Lucas develops a happy family life in the later books, including a baby son and an adopted teen daughter. He drives a Porsche throughout the series, making him the envy of almost everyone he knows. The money for the car came from his early involvement in computer games and simulations, something he gave up early in the books also. In later books Lucas also drives a more family-oriented vehicle, some sort of SUV that I don't pay attention to. Hm, he's mean and tough and, oddly enough, a GQ devotee. I mean the man is a serious clotheshorse, with the funds to indulge his fancy.
But none of that really jumps out at you and yells, hey, you gotta read about this guy, does it? What makes Lucas Davenport a hero? Why do I nearly break into a run from the parking lot to the bookstore on those days when a Davenport book is released?
Funny, but I don't think of Lucas (Never Luke. Never.) as a hero. He's a little bit of an anti-hero early on, a bit Dirty Harry-ish. More than willing to take rough vengeance on a pimp who used a church key on a prostitute's face, said prostitute having been one of Lucas's informers. But Lucas has too much money, and plays politics too well to ever be just a clone of Harry Calahan. Lucas is more of an action-oriented problem solver. With, natch, some hellacious problems to solve. And as the series progresses, Lucas becomes less of a lone, street detective, and more of a team leader, driving force, idea man, and media manipulator. But always with street instincts. Watching the puzzle pieces all come together, laughing over the jokes and some of the situations the characters face, delighting in the hunt as much as Lucas does -- these are just some of the reasons Davenport is among my favorite heroes. If, indeed, he is a hero and not just a guy who really enjoys his job. And it's not just Davenport. His entire supporting cast of recurring characters, from vice cop Del Capslock (do you love that name, or what?) to adopted daughter Letty, become welcome friends who are missed when absent.
But a hero is only ever as good as his villain, and John Sandford writes some of the best, baddest villains in crime fiction. The series kicks off with RULES OF PREY, and one of the smartest, coldest villains Lucas will ever face: maddog. The hook to the story is that the killer leaves notes at the crime scene for the police, notes that list his rules for committing murder and eluding detection: 'Never kill anyone you know.' 'Never have a motive.' And so on. Further on in the series, Lucas tries to bring down the 'Doctor Death,' Dr. Michael Bekker, a brilliant mad man. And no one who has read hit-woman Clara Rinker's story will ever forget her; she's the one criminal who is perhaps the flip side of the coin that is Lucas Davenport. I'll give Clara and the not-so-good doctor their moments in the limelight later this week.
The body count is high in these books, and there are a few readers who might find the language offensive as well as the violence. I'm afraid you can't count me among them. Author John Sandford does a superlative job of drawing the reader into Lucas's world, to the point that in BROKEN PREY, one of the standout novels in an outstanding series, Sandford got a ton of fan feedback on a list of songs Lucas was putting together for his new iPod: Best Songs of the Rock Era (suitable for a road trip). Taste in music is so subjective that not even Lucas was immune from criticism when it came to the songs he finally chose for his top 100. His final list is below. Look it over and tell me which song you think shouldn't be there? And which song isn't there, but should be? All comments on this week's posts will earn you a chance to win a copy (hardback or ebook) of the new Lucas Davenport book, STOLEN PREY, when it is released on May 15.
1. Sharp-Dressed Man · ZZ Top 2. Legs · ZZ Top 3. Mustang Sally · Wilson Pickett 4. Superman's Song · Crash Test Dummies 5. Rock On · David Essex 6. Radar Love · Golden Earring 7. Heart of Glass · Blondie 8. White Rabbit · Jefferson Airplane 9. Somebody to Love · Jefferson Airplane 10. Layla · Derek and the Dominoes 11. Roadhouse Blues · Doors 12. House of the Rising Sun · Animals 13. Sweet Emotion · Aerosmith 14. Dude (Looks Like a Lady) · Aerosmith 15. Dancing in the Dark · Bruce Springsteen 16. Born to Run · Bruce Springsteen 17. Thunder Road · Bruce Springsteen 18. Every Breath You Take · Police 19. Heart of Saturday Night · Tom Waits 20. Hot for Teacher · Van Halen 21. Won't Get Fooled Again · Who 22. Hotel California (covers the Eagles) · Gipsy Kings 23. Give Me One Reason · Tracy Chapman 24. Down on the Corner · CCR 25. Lyin' Eyes · Eagles 26. Life in the Fast Lane · Eagles 27. Skateaway (Roller Girl) · Dire Straits 28. Mary Jane's Last Dance · Tom Petty 29. Me 'n Bobby McGee · Janis Joplin 30. Black Water · Doobie Brothers 31. I Love Rock 'n Roll · Joan Jett 32. Jack and Diane · John Mellencamp 33. The Wall (Part 2) · Pink Floyd 34. Money · Pink Floyd 35. Piano Man · Billy Joel 36. After Midnight · Eric Clapton 37. Lay Down Sally · Eric Clapton 38. You Shook Me (All Night Long) · AC/DC 39. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap · AC/DC 40. Long Cool Woman · Hollies 41. Like a Rolling Stone · Bob Dylan 42. Knockin' on Heaven's Door · Bob Dylan 43. Subterranean Homesick Blues · Bob Dylan 44. Satisfaction · Rolling Stones 45. Brown Sugar · Rolling Stones 46. Sympathy for the Devil · Rolling Stones 47. Anarchy in the UK · Sex Pistols 48. Sugar Magnolia · Grateful Dead 49. Slow Hand · Pointer Sisters 50. Sweet Dreams · Eurythmics 51. Jailhouse Rock · Elvis Presley 52. Ziggy Stardust · David Bowie 53. Night Moves · Bob Seger 54. Bye-Bye-Love · Everly Brothers 55. Purple Haze · Jimi Hendrix 56. Lola · Kinks 57. Tender is the Night · Jackson Browne 58. Louie Louie · The Kingsmen 59. Bad to the Bone · George Thorogood 60. Turn the Page (covers Bob Seger) · Metallica 61. Sweet Home Alabama · Lynryd Skynyrd 62. We Will Rock You · Queen 63. Ramblin' Man · Allman Brothers 64. Rock 'n Roll · Led Zeppelin 65. What's Love Got to Do With It · Tina Turner 66. Born to Be Wild · Steppenwolf 67. With or Without You · U2 68. Paranoid · Black Sabbath 69. Blue Morning Blue · Foreigner 70. White Wedding · Billy Idol 71. Sweet Child o' Mine · Guns 'n Roses 72. Paradise City · Guns 'n Roses 73. Knockin' on Heaven's Door (covers Dylan) · Guns 'n Roses * 74. Walk on the Wild Side · Lou Reed 75. Feel Like Makin' Love · Bad Company 76. Rock of Ages · Def Leppard 77. Brown Eyed Girl · Van Morrison 78. Devil With a Blue Dress · Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels 79. Respect · Aretha Franklin 80. I'm in the Mood · John Lee Hooker & Bonnie Raitt 81. I Got You (I Feel Good) · James Brown 82. Unchained Melody · Righteous Brothers 83. Little Red Corvette · Prince 84. Roll Over Beethoven · Chuck Berry 85. Mr. Tamborine Man (covers Dylan) · Byrds 86. Ohio · CSNY 87. Peggy Sue · Buddy Holly 88. Great Balls of Fire · Jerry Lee Lewis 89. Pretty Woman · Roy Orbison 90. Runaway · Del Shannon 91. Walk This Way · Aerosmith / Run-DMC 92. (Sittin' on the) Dock of the Bay · Otis Redding 93. Smells like Teen Spirit · Nirvana 94. Still Crazy After All These Years · Paul Simon 95. Who Do You Love? · Bo Diddley 96. One Toke Over the Line · Brewer and Shipley 97. I Wanna Be Sedated · Ramones 98. Should I Stay or Should I Go · Clash 99. Burning Down the House · Talking Heads 100. Waltz 2 / Jazz Suite · Dimitri Shostakovich