Author David Mark introduced his unconventional protagonist, Detective Aector McAvoy, in his 2012 debut novel, The Dark Winter. McAvoy is back in Mark's new thriller, Original Skin. In a guest blog post, Mark talks about the inspiration behind his gentle giant hero.
We all know what the heroes of crime fiction look like. They’re rumpled. They like a drink. They miss bits when they shave and they don’t see their kids unless one of them has been kidnapped by a serial killer and could be turned into guacamole before the end. What’s more, they drive a classic car. They’re a bit of a maverick. They trade barbs with criminals (in whom they see a little of themselves) and their boss gives them just enough rope to hang themselves with—provided they keep getting results.
Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy isn’t like that. He’s a six-foot-five Scotsman with the personality of a small, bespectacled accountant. He blushes when people use bad language or tell him he’s handsome. He loves his wife and children. He doesn’t drink. His only vice is sugar and he would cut that out completely if his boss or his wife told him to. He plays things by the book and he changes his mind when the evidence suggests he’s wrong. All in all, he’s a decent chap. And apparently, in terms of crime fiction, he’s a completely new entity.
I came up with McAvoy after a decade of having my early attempts at crime fiction rejected. While working as a crime journalist I crafted several novels that were, in the words of my agent, “as dark as the inside of a dead pig." At their heart were cynical, world-weary, despicable hacks trying to catch people who killed for no other reason than their own innate hatred of the world we inhabit. They may have been well written, but if I was ever convicted of a despicable crime, they would have been produced as Exhibit A. They were horrible stories about horrible people, and I’m delighted they never got published.
McAvoy came along as the antithesis of all that. He was a good man. He was an island in a sea of horror. He was a hero, in the old-fashioned sense of the world. He was upright, strong, sensitive and caring. He was the man we would all want to knock on the door and promise to bring us justice if ever something happened to somebody we loved. He encapsulated all of my notions of chivalry and decency. He was my old clan chieftain; my Highland warrior, defending his people and trying to do the right thing. Then I transplanted this timeless man into a world of cynicism and self-centredness and threw the whole thing at the battered and beautiful architecture of the Northern English city of Hull. Somehow, that all worked out for the best.
Aector is now at the centre of a series of novels that fans of crime fiction seem to be taking to their heart. Women all over the world have written to me telling me how they have fallen in love with him. I’m not sure I really understand that. To me, he’s a bit of a bewildered, inert sort of chap who needs the love of a good woman and the odd comforting arm from his boss just to be able to get himself out the door. But it seems I’ve come up with somebody unique. He’s a good guy, chasing the bad. He’s a walking embodiment of the strong, caring, decent men and women I met during my years as a journalist. He sums up all the people I chatted to at crime scenes, who had to phone their loved ones and apologise for being late home, because they had just found some butchered body in the undergrowth.
I don’t know where McAvoy will fit in to the canon of great literary heroes. But I’m pleased to know him.
Original Skin comes out today! Is Aector McAvoy your kind of hero?