Sunday, February 24, 2019

Old Men Showing How It's Done

John Wilkins — Wilk — of THE DICTATOR’S CHILDREN is the oldest protagonist to so far appear in one of my novels, being in his early fifties. A quite fit fifties, to be sure. That makes him a couple or three years older than Ted Carrol of the Cully Beach novels. If I write any sequels, Wilk will, of course, be even older. One or more of those might be forthcoming, but so might tales of the Polish ex-pat adventurer set earlier in his career.

I did something with Wilk of which I would normally disapprove, and that is to allow him to have an affair with a younger woman. Okay, two of them actually (but not at the same time!). And I mean quite a bit younger, in her early twenties. The other is mid-thirties which is not near as much a reach.

Why does this happen? In large part because Wilkins lost his wife/love of his life in the recent war (WW2) and is somewhat at loose ends, feeling empty and bit sorry for himself. Naturally, all this says something about the women with whom is involved as well. The much-too-young Elena is probably not averse to recreational sex in the first place — I do not say this but it is somewhat implied. She may not even be overly serious about it all. But also she has a tendency to hero-worship, and to attach herself to people and causes. She too is searching for something or someone to fill up her life.

As for our other affair, that is run of the mill mutual attraction. There is tension between the two from the start and it takes its course eventually. Then it ends, largely on grounds of practicality, and that is that.

Nothing of this sort is likely to happen in any future Wilk novel. Certainly not a sequel, as he remarries not long after DICTATOR and is not the sort to cheat. And yes, the wife is fairly young (the novel implies who it will be). So no running around by our hero when he is even older. Earlier, he will also be married, from sometime in the middle of the Thirties up until the end of the war, when he searches for his wife, missing somewhere in China. I say only ‘missing’ in the book but, believe me, she is dead — it just takes him a while to completely accept this.

Before that? The woman of China he eventually married does pop in and out of his life, as I have laid things out (that could change when I get into plotting another novel). He will also be engaged for a while in Europe in the earlier Thirties when he is trying to make a ‘normal’ life. I did mention that in THE DICTATOR’S CHILDREN so I have to stick with it.

An older protagonist certainly has (in theory) more experience dealing with life. This can be a worthwhile trade-off against the vigor of youth. He can show the young’ns how it’s done. Of greater value, maybe, is the ability to make insightful remarks on things. And I very much like to make remarks on things!

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