The Quirky and Sane Heroes in Popular Crime Fiction

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Photo by Alice Hampson on Unsplash

As we continue crafting our Fourth Novel in the Tom Stone Detective Story series–One Shot, One Kill–a realization struck me and Lon that Tom Stone is different than some other popular, fictional crime fighters.

He makes sense and he works to make sense of the chaos around him.

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61 Hours (Jack Reacher, #14)

Jack Reacher – Entertaining and Socially Inept

Quirks, tempers, and gruff outsides mark many fictional detectives and thriller heroes. Lee Child’s Jack Reacher is one of the most colorful characters I’ve known. In 61 Hours, Reacher is traveling on a bus that gets stuck in the snow in a town where the police are suspecting a prison break. He has no luggage and makes it clear to the people he meets that he travels light.

Reacher is a former military policeman and looks at every situation through the eyes of what crisis could erupt. He’s witty and lives with a wary eye, waiting for the bad guy to spring into the open at any moment.

And he’s a loner—just like a good thriller hero.

Detective Harry Bosch – The Tough Guy

Slightly different is Harry Bosch, Michael Connelly’s Los Angeles detective character. Bosch isn’t quirky like Reacher. But he’s cop-tough and gruff. He gives brief, deep guttural answers and is fairly much a loner except for his teenage daughter.

Everyone Nods: The Dragnet Style Files: "The Big Amateur ...

Sgt Joe Friday (Jack Webb) – Dragnet – The Man of Few Words

One of our first blog posts on this site was about Jack Webb’s infamous character who showed little emotion and said few words. Webb played him neutral and said you don’t where he stands on topics like religion and politics.

Tom Stone: Day of the Dead (Tom Stone Detective Stories -  Book 3) by [Bixby, Lon Casler, Simkovich, Don]

Detective Tom Stone – Rational, Sane

Then there’s Detective Tom Stone. We realized after writing three novels so far that Stone is the calm one in the center of quirky and desperate characters, like the eye of the hurricane. The rational one who works hard to keep society heading in a straight line so people don’t destroy each other.

In Book One, Tom Stone: A Nitty Gritty Christmas, Stone reluctantly accompanies his partner on the force, Jake Sharpe, and hands out Christmas presents at a group home. He befriends a boy, Andrew, who constantly fights the staff at the group home and can’t sit still. He sees the boy as growing up and heading right into the prison system which is the fate of so many kids in foster care. Through the novels, we see the relationship deepening.

He has two daughters who are middle and late teens and he has worked hard to remain on good terms with his ex-wife Kelly, realizing that both of them focused on their careers instead of on each other. Yet, he and his ex- have given them stability.

Being loyal to friends and family is important to Stone, just as its important to his girlfriend, a savvy black woman Alisha Davidson.

Davidson is the defense attorney for the man that Stone is originally pursuing, Anthony Angelino – a quirky and desperate character who both Lon and I enjoyed creating and shaping. But Stone sees her determination and how she approaches her work and develops deep respect.

Here are links to the books.

Click here for our Crime Books page

Click the titles to see the books in their outlet:

Book 1 Tom Stone: A Nitty Gritty Christmas

Book 2 Tom Stone: Sweltering Summer Nights

Book 3 Tom Stone: Day of the Dead

Our work in progress is Book 4 Tom Stone: One Shot, One Kill

If you like short stories, we recommend A Deadly Path – a father-son hike above the Los Angeles foothills turns tragic and uncovers the mystery of an unsolved murder.

Jake Sharpe and his son, Darrell, invite Stone and Andrew along for a hike.

Here’s an Excerpt

The mountains that ran west to east created a wall of wilderness between Los Angeles’ urban sprawl and the High Desert. Unfortunately, the cracks and crevices made great hiding places for crazies. Fugitives could crawl back in for miles, find a campground, or live among the coyotes and bears and surface along the homes and stores that ringed the wilds, stealing food or shaking someone down for money.

Another shot rang out.

Or shoot someone for sport.

Darrell was breathing heavily from panic. He slid across the dirt by his Dad. “What are we going to do?”

“Calm down, buddy,” whispered Jake. “We’ve got options.”

The boulder that protected them was several feet high and wide. Not bad. But Jake had no line of vision and if the shooter was creeping toward them, he could sneak up unnoticed. To the right and closer to the falls was a stack of large rocks that were stacked like a fortress. It was a good hiding spot. Getting behind it and keeping watch on the boulder would give them room to move back and forth.

Down the trail, just a little, was another stack of rocks. It would make sense for them to appear they were running back that way, like they were trying to escape.

Jake looked at his son. “I got an idea.”

“Yeah?” Darrell sounded hopeful as he pressed his back against the boulder. There were no more shots so either the gunman had gotten tired of the torment or else he was picking his way closer.

Jake knelt and locked eyes with Darrell. “See that rock?” A flat stone lay beside him.

“Yep.”

“I want to keep whoever’s doing the shooting distracted. Pick it up and throw it down the trail.” He pointed. “Low, so it hits near the rocks.”

“That’s it? That’s your idea?”

“For now. Yeah. I want us to have a little space so we’re not stuck together. Believe me, son, I’m not letting anything happen to you. Now, just toss that stone way down there.”

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Crime Thriller Novelist Lurks Among Police– and Drinks Coffee

My meeting place was clear – the Burbank Police Dept blue canopy outside Café Olla on Victyory Boulevard was the destination for me, a crime and thriller novelist, to get info.

Okay, enough with the dramatics – but, hey, that’s what I do in the Tom Stone Detective Stories with Lon Casler Bixby, isn’t it?

The Burbank police held a meet and greet to get close up with the community. Each officer was easy to chat with—down to earth and pleasant in a very tough job. I was impressed that Chief Scott LaChasse had already spent 32 years (if I remember, correctly) with the LAPD and 8 years with Burbank. Forty years plus in law enforcement.

The department also has an active police foundation that’s volunteer-led.

I’d like to find out how many departments in Southern California have occasional get-togethers. I’m sure it varies a lot. Conversations are helpful to have as we’ve portrayed Tom Stone and Jake Sharpe as quite down-to-earth. In fact, in Tom Stone: Day of the Dead, Jake plans a Halloween party with his church.

It’s important to get away from behind the computer screen and chat, get to know people, and appreciate who they are in order to get past the cliché. Police are appreciated and yet feared and sometimes loathed because they have to enforce the law. Not an easy thing to do.

Now enjoy this excerpt:

EXCERPT Tom Stone Day of the Dead Chapter One

Jake came back to the bodies and noticed a bloody stub where each man had his little finger cut off. He fought a wave of repulsion as he pictured them not just being shot, but deliberately disfigured.

“I see somebody has a sense of humor.”

The abrupt comment shook Jake from his thoughts. His partner Tom Stone arrived on the scene and pointed to a large poster hanging on the wall that read Ghoooulll! showing a Day of the Dead skeleton dressed as a soccer player scoring a goal.

“Maybe the attacker didn’t like the pun,” said Jake. “Glad to see that you finally made it. I’m on the verge of solving this and was getting ready to take all the credit.”

“I wouldn’t mind if you had it wrapped up.” Stone surveyed the area around the corpses.

“Where you been?”

“Kids. The girls were at my place last night instead of their Mom’s. Of course, Meagan forgot her phone so I had to run it over to her. College freshmen forget everything these days. Traffic seems like it’s getting worse everywhere. Burbank to Studio City used to be a quick run.”

Jake didn’t sound sympathetic. “It could have waited until after school.”

“She needed it. Had to call her mom to arrange a ride or else I’d be playing chauffer this afternoon.”

“You’re becoming soft, Stone.” Jake spoke in a low voice as he knelt alongside the dead men. “Or should I say, domesticated? Speaking of which, how’s Alisha?”

Stone changed the subject. “Maybe we should just talk about this.” He motioned to the corpses. “What happened? And to answer your question, Alisha’s fine. I just wish we could find more time to see each other. Getting more than a quick date with her has been almost impossible.”

“I’ll be glad to offer advice. Being a black man and married, I think I’m an expert on women of color.”

“No man is an expert when it comes to women, regardless of their color. But if I need your advice, I’ll ask.” Stone looked closely at the dead bodies. “Do we know who these guys are?”

“They owned the store. Father and son.”

“Any ideas who didn’t like them?”

Jake wrinkled a brow. “Haven’t gotten that far. The money’s not been touched so the assailant, or assailants, didn’t want cash. And the credit card receipts are neatly tucked away.”

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British mystery Endeavour’s fun with family pests

Solving murders in a crime drama is tough enough, but add the challenges that relatives bring and – good grief! Bring out the stress balls!

It’s fascinating to see how detectives are played and portrayed – not just in books, but also in TV and film. Here on our Detective Tom Stone crime story blog, we feature crime fighters from the whole world of entertainment.

The popular Endeavour, a British mystery and drama that airs in the U.S. on PBS, brings us the human foibgI_71240_press-release-1les of Inspector Morse (Shaun Evans) and Detective Thursday (Roger Allam).

In the current season, episode 2, Cartouche, that aired July 1, featured murders in the local movie theater. But the show gave us a personal glimpse of Detective Thursday’s annoyance with his brother Charlie, played by Phil Daniels.

 

Charlie brought his wife Paulette, played by Linette Beaumont, a good-natured woman who was a bit embarrassed at the antics of her husband and daughter Carol (Emma Rigby) who accompanies Morse on a rather awkward tour of Oxford.

Family brings depth and gives the character a chance to explore sensitivities and quirks that we hide in the workplace.

It’s a personal side that didn’t come out of Jack Webb’s Sgt Joe Friday on Dragnet whom we wrote about here or in Richard Boone’s Paladin in the 1950s western Have Gun will Travel, featured here.

In real life, we can’t avoid chatter from family or co-workers, like Morse not appreciating the banter of assistant DC George Fancy, played by Poldark actor Lewis Peek.

Entanglements are a universal problem and our Tom Stone finds his own in each of the three crime stories so far in the series—from befriending a boy in a foster care group home, to catching his daughter in a marijuana dispensary, and falling for the attorney who defends the man he’s pursuing.

It’s great to see the creators of Endeavour work these personal challenges so naturally into the story line. After all, detectives are people, too.