I’m in love. My heart speeds up when I spend time with him. He makes me smile for no reason. We’ve been together for over twenty years, and it always seems new—but also familiar. Of course, I could say this about my husband, but I’m talking about a character in a series. Melrose Plant, I adore you. I love that you don’t use your title, even though you are an Earl. I love that you tease your Aunt Agatha with goats and hermits. I love that you’ll do almost anything for your friends, even if that is because you're bored and have nothing better to do. I love your green eyes, your mussed hair, and your glasses. I love how much you make me laugh. I thank author Martha Grimes for creating you, giving you life, and letting you assist Chief Superintendent Richard Jury in her novels. And I thank you for accepting my friend request on Facebook.
For those of you unfamiliar with Melrose, we first meet him in Grimes’ Man with a Load of Mischief. Melrose lives in the village of Long Piddleton, and Richard Jury of Scotland Yard travels there to investigate a murder. Melrose is there when the body is discovered, and becomes part of the investigation as well as a friend to Jury. In the first few pages, you learn that he reads Rimbaud, drinks Old Peculiar, has a dry sense of humor and is a peer of the realm. Dreamy…
The series continues with Melrose and his group of eccentric friends, who hang out at their local pub, the Jack and Hammer, assisting Jury in solving mysteries. All of the books are named after the various pubs the feature in the mysteries. The sixteenth book, The Lamorna Wink, brings Melrose to the forefront. Grimes has said in an interview at Mystery Net that she gave him his own book, because many of her fans are “Melrose Plant addicts” and that she wanted to answer some of lingering questions about his past. The other addicts and I are grateful!
Now, I've had crushes on lots and lots of book (and movie, and TV…) characters. I've had long standing relationships with Spike from the Buffy and Angel franchises, Jamie Frasier from Diana Gabaldon's books, Matt Damon's Jason Bourne and Nathan Fillion in anything. I've had affairs with even more characters. But I would give them all up for Melrose Plant. His wit, intelligence, impulsiveness, and humor, I just adore him. He's a keeper.
I know I’m not alone in loving fictitious people. Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, fan sites, slash fiction, fan art, conventions—all these things are proof that characters creative people dream up and present to the world can be powerful totems and clearly objects of affection. Fantastic words and images can make us laugh and drive us to tears. But it takes something extra, something special, to keep our attention over years, to hold our regard for so long. There’s no formula and no way to predict what strikes your own, or the population’s, chords. But when you find it, you just have to hope that the creator keeps on creating and stays true to their creation.
Thank you Martha Grimes, for inventing such a wonderful man, and for giving him a life outside your books. Your eye for detail, your truth to this character you created, your gift for dialogue, and what must be your own wit have provided me with such pleasure for decades of reading. Your talent has made him real.
Amy Dalton is a buyer for a large, Midwestern library system. She has written news and reviews for several book and film sites over the years.