Most readers I know are drawn to a particular genre. Westerns or romance novels or mysteries. Some are drawn to more than one. I’ve found that many romance readers also like westerns or mysteries. Sometimes all three. Many mystery readers also like a good western, and even a military/action novel. Many western readers also like a good mystery. They also like Civil War novels.
I guess I’m the odd guy out in all of this. I’m not drawn so much to a particular genre, as much I am to a particular type of character. Whether it’s western,mystery, or even science fiction, I’m drawn to the self-sufficient, rugged, tough guy. When I was a kid, I watched John Wayne westerns. Generally, he depicted this kind of character. I watched a lot of TV, and I liked Star Trek, The Big Valley, Gunsmoke, The Rockford Files, and Magnum PI, to name a few. Even today, I like NCIS, Defiance, Firefly, the Jesse Stone TV movies, and Longmire. I also like a good Batman movie. If you notice, there are many different genres present. People found thisodd, and thought I was either really eclectic or just totally screwed up. If you liked Star Trek, you couldn’t possibly like the silliness of Magnum PI, or the seemingly outdated values of Gunsmoke. If you liked a good, old-fashioned western, then how can you like something as weird as Defiance?
The answer is, I’m not as eclectic as you might think. All of these and more, like Tom Selleck’s Blue Bloods, feature the same kind of character. An independent tough-guy who can handle himself in a dangerous situation. He is no slouch at hand-to-hand combat and knows how to shoot a gun. He protects the weak and tries to stand tough against the sociopaths of the world. He’s chivalrous to the ladies, and he dispenses his own version of justice. Occasionally he finds himself at odds with whatever authority he has to answer to.
This type of character is present in Star Trek, with James T. Kirk, captain of the starship that’s exploring the galaxy. True, his gun is not a Beretta or an old-school Colt Peacemaker, but a phaser that can be set for stun or kill, and his sidekick has pointed ears. But strip away all of these surface differences, and he’s the same type of character. Tom Selleck as Frank Reagan in Blue Bloods is essentially a middle-aged Captain Kirk, but in contemporary times, and working as the Police Commissioner of New York City. Like Kirk, who often defies the authority of Star Fleet to do what he feels is right, Frank Reagan finds himself in similar conflict with the mayor of New York. As the police commissioner he has to uphold the law, but as a man he has to answer to his own conscience. It’s a tight balancing act. Leroy Jethro Gibbs of NCIS finds himself also walking this thin line. So did Matt Dillon of Dodge City.
Then you have the more independent ones who aren’t actually answering directly to any authority. Nick and Heath Barkley of the Big Valley are ranchers, not lawmen. Malcom Reynolds, the captain of the space ship called Serenity, generally answers only to himself as long as he can keep the galactic Alliance off his back. Thomas Magnum answers only to himself, as long as he can sidestep the local cops.
I have noticed this kind of similarity in my own writing. I fell in love with the western as a kid, but my story-telling journey actually began with the superhero genre. A cousin of mine, who is more older-brother than cousin, introduced me to the wonders of the Marvel Universe and DC comics with the Avengers and the Justice League. Most of these characters have fantastic abilities. They can fly and shoot various types of energy rays, and have incredible strength. But my favorite quickly became Batman. No superpowers at all. He goes about defeating the bad guy in a way that is sensationalistic, yes, but he has to rely on his own intelligence and physical training. And he answers to his own sense of justice. He is to the world of superheroes what Leroy Gibbs is to police investigations, and what Frank Reagan is to New York City politics.
I then expanded out into non-super powered science fiction. Stuff like Star Trek and Planet of the Apes. In one you have James Kirk, and in the other, you have Taylor. Two characters very much like Batman or Gibbs or Reagan. In fact, both are played by similar actors. It is very easy for me to envision Charlton Heston in the center seat of the Enterprise, and William Shatner running from sentient apes and screaming out, “It’s a madhouse!”
Then, I discovered the western. I was about ten years old at this point. My grandparents loved westerns, and it was because of them and my undying respect and admiration for them that I first watched Gunsmoke and The Virginian. I realized in the western there was a world of adventure that is based not on some fantastical place like Gotham City orfaraway, futuristic outer-space, but our own world. These westerns took place in the deserts and grasslands east of the Rockies and west of them. The Virginian takes place in Wyoming, and there really is a Wyoming. Dodge City is a
real town. You can actually walk the ground where these stories take place.
And so, my journey took me to the Old West, and then eventually to the modern gunfighter stories featuring characters like Spenser and Jesse Stone and Jack Reacher. Like with westerns, you can walk the streets where these stories are set.
With all of these genres, I found I was actually reading the same kind of story. Batman, Captain Kirk, Leroy Jethro Gibbs, Matt Dillon. It could be said that you find them in Johnny McCabe and his sons. You find them in Austin Tremain and Rick McCabe.
So, yes I write in multiple genres. I have some science fiction and supernatural novels available online under the penname Greg Logan. I have the McCabes and the Texas Ranger series available under my own name. Soon I will be publishing my own tough-guy mysteries. But in these various genres, I am actually writing the same character. The independent tough-guy. The self-sufficient hero who answers to his own definition of justice. The crusader, trying to right wrongs, though I give it all my own unique touch. So if you read a story featuring Johnny McCabe or Austin Tremain or even Victor Franken (the hero in my Greg Logan supernatural series), you’re actually really reading the same genre, different on the surface, only.