First of all the news. The second proofs of Painted Ladies have come back and look fine. No doubt I’d find things to alter every time I looked through it, but I think we’re ready to go. It’s getting exciting.
So, sidekicks. Every detective has to have one – or do they? The most famous is of course Holmes’ Watson. As the narrator he plays an important role in the stories as well as providing an ear for Sherlock’s explanations of his genius. Morse has Lewis who does the hard slog – he can use those new-fangled computers (back in the 80s) – and acts as if he’s slow-witted while also being the everyman in the stories. Marple and Poirot have a variety but not really a constant companion, although dumb Hastings accompanies Poirot in a number of adventures. Most often the sidekick is junior to the principle detective, such as Jones to Midsummer’s Barnaby. They lack the lead character’s dazzling skills but keep the plot bubbling. Occasionally they are equals such as in Scott & Bailey, feeding off each others’ insights and domestic problems. Sometimes the detective has no close companion, such as Chandler’s Marlow, but he recounts the stories in first person so we follow the plot in his head.
Whoever it is, the sidekick performs the essential task of keeping the reader informed of the facts of the story, standing by the hero when his/her judgement is questioned and quite often coming to their rescue at the denouement. A sparky exchange between detective and sidekick “shows” rather than “tells” the necessary details.
What about Jasmine Frame? The problem is that she is a loner, a self-employed private detective. Like many transsexuals she is fighting to establish her new identity. She has lost the close companionship she once had with her wife, and she is suspicious of people who may wish to befriend or ridicule her. There may be a number of trans friends in the background offering support, but life for a transitioning trans-man or woman can often be lonely and fraught.
Jasmine does have her ex-wife, Angela, to some extent, and her GP, Jilly Gould but for the purposes of an investigation she relies on DS Tom Shepherd. Tom is a former colleague; they worked together in the Kintbridge CID. They’re the same age with similar professional experience. Tom got the promotion to DS which Jasmine should have had when she left the police service. Tom provides the link to the police that Jasmine has lost. He can handle all the official stuff and follow “procedures” while Jasmine does her own thing.
Most importantly Tom acts as the male mirror to Jasmine’s femininity. He’s tall, heavily built and dark, while Jasmine is blonde and slim. Standing beside Tom she feels petite. While he wears his dark suits and heavy size 11 shoes, she can be cool and sexy in short-sleeved blouses, light skirts and ballerina pumps. Tom is still confused by what Jasmine has done – he still misses his mate, James Frame – but he tries to accept her and help her.
Tom does not appear much in the short stories I’ve put up on this blog but I hope you will get to know him through the pages of Painted Ladies and the sequels, starting with Bodies by Design.