Book Series Binge: Q&A with Archer Mayor on the Joe Gunther Series
By Crime HQMay 19, 2020
Archer's newest book, The Orphan's Guilt, hits shelves September 2020!
Describe the first time you pictured Joe Gunther in your head.
Joe came to me first as a voice, more than as a physical type. What I wanted was a go-to spiritual model that every other character (and the readers) could consult in moments of confusion and stress.
At various times, I have played the pick-a-famous-actor game in my mind, of course: Newman, Keitel, Hackman. I mean, why not? I can dream. But the common denominator was always an inner quiet, a moral integrity, that each actor could portray. Which is why when Peter Dinklage first occurred to me, it was because of his soulful expression and manner, rather than anything reflecting his physique.
Joe is more spirit than character, and remains so for me, even all these years later.
I’m often asked what Joe Gunther looks like, since I chose early on to never describe him. The reason for this was that I wanted each reader to come up with an image that suited their fancy, instead of settling for anything from me. That being said, I did harbor a mental notion early on that vaguely resembled my father. Not as I knew him, mind, but as he’d appeared in early photographs, before my birth. My father died at the age of 99, by the way, so it’s probably good I didn’t go too crazy using his appearance as Joe’s template.
How has Joe changed since you began the series?
Joe’s physique isn’t the only place where I’ve handed over creative license. This series now dates back over 30 years, and folks will wonder how Joe has changed over that span. The answer is essentially up to them. I supply some biography. I describe his family, his personal life, how he interacts with his colleagues and the world in general. Even his love life. But I’ve never aged him. 30 years on, Joe is more or less as we all discovered him in Open Season (Book 1.) My decision here was based on how I think most of us travel through our lives, which is more based on how we’re feeling than on how old we are or how we appear in the mirror. I hope so, at least, or my own mirrors are getting painted over.
Describe Joe Gunther.
Joe, in essence, is a rock, or as I’ve described him before, the keel of the ship on which his colleagues, family, and friends all travel. A few of my regular characters have some seriously bad hair days; others have misfortune crash upon them. Joe, however, is a brick. He is dependable, avuncular, thoughtful, considerate, intuitive, and smart. He can also take a punch and be tough when necessary, but generally, he’s the embodiment of reason, unlikely to fly off the handle. This would not be his own self-image, incidentally; it’s rather how we’ve all come to see him.
How would Joe Gunther describe himself?
If asked, he’d likely call himself a farmer’s son, trying to do the right thing and not screw up.