The above illustration, "Blowing Bubbles," has been adapted for use here by generous permission from the artist, Cyril Rolando.

April 16, 2012

An almost ordinary hero.

Heroes and Villains is the theme this week, and is the name of the event sponsored by Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts. Be sure to check out Jen's blog and vote in the contest this week between the ultimate hero and the ultimate villain.

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


  1. I would get rid of #49(Slow Hand) and #65 (What's Love Got to do With It) and add Van Halen's Jump and Mellencamp's Pink Houses.

  2. What, no Beatles? All that Stones and no Beatles, who really brought rock into modernity? Gotta disagree. But then, I'm probably just showing my age...

  3. Les, I'm in full agreement. Without The Beatles, the list has no legitimacy. But in the book, Lucas expressly and deliberately refused to include the Fabs. I don't remember him explaining why either, but suspect that if he included them, half of the list would belong to them. Still -- what kind of "best of" rock list doesn't have their version of 'Twist 'n' Shout'?

  4. I have to say, this is an interesting mix of music. It is odd that there's no Beatles. Some is stuff I love, others are songs you could torture me with.

    But this post is wonderful! Thank you for including it in the theme week, Naomi! You're so creative.

  5. My son sure likes Sanford but when I see a list of books like that it puts me off. I know I won't read them all so why even begin. Standalones are better for me at this point.

  6. Congrats to dman4227 on winning the newest John Sandford book when it is released next month. Dman, I can't find any contact info for you, so please email me at to make arrangements to receive your prize. Thanks!