To me, anything that makes the characters seem more real to the reader is good. Life is rarely black and white; neither is good fiction. Your example of the note passer between gangs is a good example. Based on that description, I don't know I'd even call him an antihero. Economic opportunities are severely limited in many places; he's doing what he has to do to keep things together. Not breaking the law himself, though I can see where he might have two competed perspectives: aiding and abetting to help them increase their criminality, or helping to keep the peace by ensuring safe and open communication. Also, I;m sure there are forces that pull him in either direction: to clean up his gray areas by either going straight all the way, or all the way bent.
Sounds to me like you have a fascinating character set up to explore those gray areas. Good luck.
Interesting topic. I can't help but think back to my policing studies and a paper by Carl B Klockars called, "The Dirty Harry Problem." http://www.kyoolee.net/dirty_harry_problem__the_-_klockars.pdf
Klockars an associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Delaware posed the question, "When and to what extent does the morally good end warrant or justify an ethically, politically, or legally dangerous means for its achievement?"
How many of us have had our fictional detectives cross the line, break the rules, or make ethically questionable decisions to get the job done? So many I'd suggest, that it's almost normal. Good vs evil is never black & white, neither in fiction or real life.
Thanks for providing that link, Liam. I disagree with some of what he wrote, and I'm not sure about quite a bit of it, but it certainly is thought-provoking. And timely, for me, as the book I'm planning on writing next will force my detective to think about these issues, and the ambiguity of any such situation and its resolution.
I agree with you Dana, I don't agree with a lot of what he wrote either. For myself, in my own policing career, what I took out of it was that at times you may be faced with some difficult decisions. In making your decision, you have to be able to live with the choices you make as well as the consequences of those choices. It sounds simple, but isn't always the case.
The hero who is totally admirable is old and pretty much passe. In crime fiction, even the remote and brilliant detective showing off his superhuman intelligence is dated. This includes Sherlock Holmes in spite of the fact that he has a few questionable habits. Recent crime fiction portrays flawed characters who strive to be better. Policemen who drink and ruin their marriages for example. I do not deal with characters involved in a life of crime, but there, too, human traits make the story more realistic. I only draw the line at glorifying a life of crime by making the criminal clever and admirable
My own character is one of those men who fail occasionally, both in his public and private life, and suffer from guilt, but who persist against the odds to do the right thing. The heroic characteristics lie in this humble persistence.
What made Holmes great as a character was the timing: Doyle basically made the general people aware of forensic science. I love the stories, though I have some of the same concerns expressed here. What we need to do when assessing him is to think of how this must have been received when Doyle was writing in The Strand, and no one had seen anything like it before.
Fascinating. That's something that somehow appears in everything I write - I like to mix up the bad guys and the good guys a little! The series I'm currently writing goes one step further as I took the bad guy from another series and I'm writing mostly from his point of view. I wanted to see if I could make the reader empathise with somebody who openly admits to having killed people and see things from his point of view. I think we're all a product of our childhood and our environment and we choose our own paths accordingly.
I have problems with making killers likable. There has been too much of this lately and immature or disturbed people are influenced by it.
I also think that any criminal is going to rationalize his behavior in terms of putting the blame on his background, childhood abuse, or the injustices perpetrated against him by society. It's human nature to defend oneself. Whether that makes certain actions defensible is another issue.
My favorite crime novel is the police procedural which allows the author to weigh the claims of the criminal against those of society.