Buddy Cops with an Undead Twist

Among police and detective stories, we've come to expect certain tropes: the Amateur Detective, the Genius Detective, the Good Cop Who Breaks All the Rules, The Supernatural Cop, and dare I say, the Vampire Detective. While Graveyard Shift's characters share many traits with the last, the one that stands out for me is the Buddy Cop trope.

Growing up, I loved Buddy Cop films (I still do): CHiPS, Starsky and Hutch, Alien Nation, Cagney and Lacey, Lethal Weapon, Miami Vice, and a dozen others. The trope works best when the partners are at odds with one another. We get many pairings of the neat guy and the slob (even better when the slob is a dog) or the streetwise cop used to working alone and undercover paired with the straight-laced, by-the-book cop. The examples can go on and on. Eventually, the partners’ traits rub off on one another and, though they may have started off disliking one another, they become fast friends—sometimes even more.

When I wrote Graveyard Shift, I didn't want to imitate any of these, but I knew I wanted a form of the Buddy Cop relationship. Upon reflection, I can see that specific stories influenced me. The story takes place in Miami, so Miami Vice is obvious—though it has been years since I've seen an episode of the show. Lethal Weapon is another. I adore Martin Riggs's loose-cannon persona.

However, many people think of the Buddy Cop genre as comedies, and the first Lethal Weapon is not that. Alien Nation comes to mind because it shares the trait of dealing with the abnormal embedded within the normal world, a staple of Urban Fantasy. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Forever Knight, which probably donated more of its ancestral DNA to the story than I care to admit. Graveyard Shift is a descendant of these stories.

It is also different (doesn't everyone say that?). Graveyard Shift is also a noir and, therefore, eschews much of the levity the Buddy Cop trope brings with it. I still had to follow the rules of the trope. Alex is more of the loose cannon; duty drives Marcus. Under different circumstances, Marcus would still do much of what he does in the story, whereas someone is blackmailing Alex into his law enforcement role. Shadowy government forces have Alex's canopic jars and threaten to destroy them if he doesn't play along.

Oh, did I forget to mention? Alex is a reanimated mummy. He can pass for human; he's not in his linen wrappings. Marcus, his partner, is a 2,000-year-old vampire. One of them, Alex, derives his power from the sun; Marcus, following the old vampire trope, doesn’t like the sun very much. That gives us our odd couple.

Outwardly, Alex and Marcus still don't like one another. Inwardly, they respect and acknowledge each other's abilities, and that allows them to tackle situations that would appear suicidal to a lesser-abled pair. They've been on-again-off-again partners for a long time, the better part of seventy years. Before they were cops, they were covert operatives. Yet, perhaps because of their history together in the covert world, they don't fully trust one another. Each of them keeps major secrets from the other. When creatures live as long as they do, a friend today may be tomorrow's enemy and vice versa—so they never want to let out too much information that might come back to bite them (pun intended) decades or centuries later.

An interesting development I’ve noticed is that the Buddy Cop films of yesteryear (pre-2000) aren’t like the ones of today. Sure, the partnerships and even the characters were highly implausible (looking at you K-9 and 48 Hours), but they were action films first with comedy seeded throughout. It seems many of the Buddy Cop films of today are the reverse; they are comedies first with action added to them. Nothing wrong with that. Everyone loves to laugh. But it alters the formula.

I’m glad the Buddy Cop trope is still going strong, even if it has morphed a bit over time. I'm ecstatic I could add a small footnote to the long and distinguished pedigree of these stories. Maybe, as we come to know Alex and Marcus better in later tales, I’ll seed more jokes throughout. Or maybe not. I’m very fond of noir. Also, we will need saxophone music—all the best Buddy Cop films had a sax.

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Michael F. Haspil is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, where he distinguished himself as an ICBM crew commander. After retiring from the military, he served as a launch director at Cape Canaveral. He has been writing original stories for as long as he can remember and has dabbled in many genres. Graveyard Shift is his first novel.

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