Thursday, December 9, 2010

'Tis the Season

By Kelli Stanley

What kind of charity or cause would your protagonist support?

Charity--in essence, helping other people, living things, cultures or intangible treasures survive in the face of adversity--is ideally something that becomes part of who we are ... not just an envelope during the holidays. And I'm proud to say that Miranda Corbie's empathy and altruism have never abandoned her--despite her cynicism, bitterness and devastating loss during the Spanish Civil War (and consequent PTSD).

Miranda, after all, cares passionately--stubbornly--defiantly--about who killed Eddie Takahashi and why. No one pays her for this--her life is threatened--cops warn her off. Sure, she's stubborn, and that's part of it ... but the real reason she pursues the truth in CITY OF DRAGONS is because she *cares*. Behind all the posturing, the profanity, the checkered, humiliating background of escort girl and abused child, Miranda has never lost her ability to empathize. Never lost the ability to feel, to want to make a small dent in the gross injustice and existential bleakness of an unfair world.

To me, that makes her a heroine--and a realistic one.

So, other than the anti-fascist fight for Republican Spain--and teaching English to Dust Bowl migrants in the valley during the early '30s--and various cases that come her way--from women seeking divorces from unfaithful husbands to (next year) a peep show model brutally murdered--what causes would she support?

Certainly Bundles for Britain. Far from an isolationist, Miranda admires Churchill and the character of the British people and wants to do what she can to help them survive--the only beacon light of democracy in a fascist Europe for almost two years. She doesn't trust politics or politicians in general, but is a fervent supporter of F.D.R. (though he greatly disappointed her with the tragedy of the M.S. St. Louis).


She likes the Reverend Birkhead and his Friends of Democracy, and admires how this gentle Methodist minister takes on some of America's most powerful anti-Semitic bullies, from Father Charles Coughlin to the German-American Bund (American Nazis).

She supports the NAACP, and the ACLU and their stance on protecting freedom of speech ... though she would have torn up her ACLU card in 1978, when they fought for the right of the Nazi Party to march through a Chicago suburb where many Holocaust survivors lived. Miranda understands the point behind their defense, but that would have crossed the line for her.

After the events in CITY OF SECRETS, she sends money abroad through the Red Cross and the B'nai B'rith.

If you ask her about these things, she'll just shrug and light up a Chesterfield. She knows her money and time and energy is a drop in an ever-growing ocean of troubles and injustices and wrongs, but she does what she does. She just doesn't want to talk about it.

Then there's Arcturus. Well, if Greenpeace and In Defense of Animals and The Humane Society existed in Roman Britain, Arcturus would be a member. He loathes bullies, and his biggest hot button cause is the exploitation and abuse of the innocent. Especially animals.

In fact, I understand he wanted to be an animal healer when he was a child. And that his adopted father discovered him in hiding in a grove after Boudicca's revolt and the murder of his mother. Arcturus was trying to heal the injured hoof of a goat he'd rescued.

In THE CURSE-MAKER, he finds this donkey ...

Obviously, he doesn't go to the arena. He figures people can kill themselves all they want--but don't bring animals into it.

So there you have it. Two protagonists, two different sides of the same coin--empathy--and a lot of worthy causes ... for the holiday season, and throughout the year!

Thanks for reading!


Rebecca Cantrell said...

Miranda and Arcturus are making the world a better place with their stories (as are you, their scribe). I like their choice of charities though. Makes me want to sip a glass or whiskey or wine and chat with them a spell longer.

Thanks for the post!

Reece said...

Miranda and Arcturus are clearly two characters that have their heart in the right place. Just like their creator.

Kelli Stanley said...

Thanks, Becks! :) Backatcha! One of the most satisfying things about writing crime fiction is getting to right wrongs through our characters. For me, the puzzle is almost secondary to the cause.

As for that whiskey or wine ... you can bet that neither protagonist would join a temperance league! ;)


Kelli Stanley said...

Aw, thank you, Reece! :) I like to think about what I'd do with Bill Gates' money, the kinds of charity I'd support. They'd be remarkably close to Miranda's and Arcturus', but I'd add in a lot of land preservation and environmental protection.
I worry that the earth is becoming one giant, global strip mall ... with a Starbucks on every corner.

Shane Gericke said...

I'm not a fan of the ACLU for a number of reasons, but believe they were spot-on defending the right of the Nazis to march through Skokie. I went to the event that replaced the march when the Nazis got cold feet at the prospect--funny how tough they were on TV, but the thought of facing REAL screaming hordes of people made them wet their little leiderhosens--and it was amazing. Thousands of protesters completely surrounding and outshouting the little toads. It was very refreshing to see.

And you're so right, Kel--righting the wrong is what makes crime fiction so worthwhile to write.