There is one thing that will draw readers in droves, that will keep me engaged even when the plot leaks faster than a sponge: the human element. Decent characters are necessary, quality characters are rare, and great characters can often elude even the most talented of authors. And then there is the Hall of Fame- my Hall of Fame. Many of these characters will never show up in literature textbooks, but they have nevertheless been permanently branded in my brain. I expect that your list would be vastly different than mine; you might hate half of them. My Character Hall of Fame correlates nearly directly with my favorite books and authors- this is no coincidence. Good characters make good books. Stars will appear before the names of those characters whose entries contain spoilers. Many characters are impossible to discuss without some degree of spoilers, but there will certainly be some that are spoiler-free. This entry doesn’t include any major plot developments, in my opinion, that you couldn’t read from the back cover or surmise if you think hard enough. A character’s inclusion in this list is my direct recommendation for the books in which they appear, unless I say differently. If you find something interesting, buy it here on eBook, or go to Katy Budget Books.
In no particular order:
Lisbeth Salander (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest; author: Stieg Larsson)
Lisbeth Salander is vivacious, unflinching, insecure, astronomically intelligent, and often unpleasant. A truly dysfunctional human being, other’s descriptions of her throughout the books contain words such as “Asperger’s syndrome,” “Autism,” and other equally heavy words. She was locked up in a mental institution at a very young age; she has been charged with a slew of criminal offenses; she has taken on giants who feel no pain, bikers with guns, sadistic millionaires, a brutal rapist and a covert section of the Swedish Security Police. She has an expansive and diverse range of sexual encounters and almost no friends to speak of whatsoever. Her social skills are atrocious and has severe intimacy issues; she is permanently scarred in multiple facets of her life. Piercings and tattoos blanket her extremely thin physique. There are no simple answers when it comes to describing Salander. She is simultaneously an expert hacker with a photographic memory and under guardianship by the state, unable to manage her own affairs.
She is one of the most dynamic characters in modern literature, and she is sure to take her place in the annals of the genre’s history. After I finished the last novel I found myself saddened at author Stieg Larrson’s death (Larsson died shortly after submitting the manuscripts for the three novels) for more than the surface tragedy of the early demise of a burgeoning talent. Salander went with Larrson to the grave. The series is purported to have had a total of ten planned novels, but as readers we must settle for a mere three Salander adventures. Rooney Mara (below) will bring Salander to the big screen in December 2011.
Myron Bolitar (Deal Breaker, Drop Shot, Fade Away, Back Spin, One False Move, The Final Detail, Darkest Fear, Promise Me, Long Lost, Live Wire; author: Harlan Coben)
Myron Bolitar is witty, handsome, and reluctantly courageous. A former star basketball player sidelined for good by a career-ending knee injury, Bolitar works as self-employed sports agent with the company MB SportsReps. How much work he actually gets done, however, is a mystery. He is constantly drawn into harrowing adventures. Coben is a master of the hook-and-twist, and Bolitar seems to get hooked and twisted well beyond his fair share.
Coben is the most consistent author I’ve encountered: I’ve read all but one or two of his published works and haven’t found a single stinker. He never disappoints. His work with Bolitar might be the pinnacle of his writing; the cast surrounding the sarcastic sports agent is unbelievable eccentric. His partner, Esparanza, is a bisexual former professional wrestler who performed under the moniker “Little Pocahontas.” Her enormous former tag-team partner “Big Cyndi” plays a key role in the books. His partner, Windsor Horne Lockewood III, has his own entry on this list. I mention his supporting cast because they are so crucial to unveiling who Myron really is.
Many of the predicaments he finds himself in stem from his compassion and his loyalty. Often, he agrees to investigate something at the request of a client or friend, only to find himself up to his neck. A refreshing break from the traditional mold, Bolitar is a worthy read.
Windsor “Win” Horne Lockewood III (Deal Breaker, Drop Shot, Fade Away, Back Spin, One False Move, The Final Detail, Darkest Fear, Promise Me, Long Lost, Live Wire; author: Harlan Coben)
Myron Bolitar’s sidekick Win appears in every Bolitar novel by Harlan Coben. He is a thoroughbred prep from old money with a high-caliber three-handicap golf game. He is a 6th-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, the highest ranking one can achieve in the United States. Win is described as being extremely good looking, and he films each of his considerable sexual exploits. He is calm under fire, an expert at dealing pain to those who deserve it, and utterly loaded when it comes to finances as the top partner of Locke-Horne Securities. He is almost universally hated for his looks and his money.
Win’s firm loyalty to Bolitar is one of the few elements of his personality that deviates from textbook psychopathy. Their relationship is the one redeeming societal quality the guy has going for him. The two are fast friends, and Win nearly always turns up when Myron is most in trouble. He is rarely empathetic when it comes to others, however. Win seems almost to enjoy torturing those who wrong him or Bolitar, and he never lets a slight go unpunished. Win, quite simply, makes for great reading. He may by the most static character on this list, but he is never boring.