Aging Fictional Protagonists: A Dilemma

Alexandra Alter interviewed authors of fiction for the WSJ July 1, 2011.

Huge conundrum for mystery writers of aging protagonists: What happens when that energetic young detective (or whomever) after ten or twenty years of chasing desperadoes finds himself/herself now in their fifties, sixties, or older?   What happens if those arthritic knees won’t cooperate when there’s a tall building they have to leap?

Ms Alter captures the authors’ thoughts and concerns, and I’m certain that the authors’ followers won’t let this pass without their say.  I’m one of those, as these authors have kept me captivated for many hours on end–and sometimes (many times) late into the night.

Our fastest growing population in America are the baby boomers. Give them their heroes.  The fifty, sixty, and older crime solvers will have knowledge and wisdom beyond the mere span of the forty years olds, where half of their age was entangled in working out childish games.  If a crime stopper of the senior ilk comes from good stock, and keeps in shape–there’s no reason he/she can’t scale that wall, draw the 9mm HK, or run up that flight of stairs.

Heaven knows the mass media does everything it can to degrade those of earlier birth.  Ads and articles boast how to stay slim, trim, fit, and youthful. Every commercial offers medicines to cure anything  that a person imagines could be wrong.  If you haven’t thought of it  a few minutes of watching television will make you wonder if you have restless leg syndrome or the start of hemorrhoids.  Magazines make anyone who isn’t anorexic think they’re old and fat. It’s time to honor our elder citizens with a good guy (or gal) in the second half of their life who’s a “wise-can-do-take-em-out” hero.

About Char of inkydancestudios

Writer by nature and for the soul. Educator for life. Artist for love. Passion: All things good and true.
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3 Responses to Aging Fictional Protagonists: A Dilemma

  1. Pat Wood says:

    I think a good argument could be made that there are those older sleuths who DO survive. Miss Marple seems to still draw in readers, as does Hercules Poirot. Back in the day, Mrs. Pollifax had quite a following, and probably still would if they reissued her books. The inescapable fact is that EVERYONE (who doesn’t die first) ages. When they do, the seek companions in literature they can identify with—at least in age, if not in derring do!


  2. Pat Wood says:

    they, they, THEY!!!


    • “They”–at least it’s not all about us (smile). Good points, Pat. Miss Marple and H. Poirot appear to have reached classic status in appeal. My friend Ed makes an excellent point about the elder sleuth’s diminishing stamina demands increased reliance on ingenuity and wisdom to solve crimes. If most of these heroes are perpetually trapped in god-goddess-like forty year old bodies, when most of the reading population face wrinkles and sun-spotted skin in their mirrors every morning, book sales and readerships may dwindle.


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