In the March newsletter we asked our readers who the best author of secondary characters is.

Here were their responses:

Chris: Hi Graeme–these times are quite unsettling but, thankfully, we have books to help us cope. In my opinion, two writers, one from the past and one from the present, have created powerful and memorable secondary characters. The one from the past is the great Charles Dickens, whose funny, endearing and sometimes frightening characters will live as long as there are readers! And for the present, J. K. Rowling has created equally unforgettable characters that enchant and entertain us in her wonderful books.

Sam: The best in this category is James Rollins. I mentioned in an earlier topic that my favorite supporting character is “Kowolski” from the Sigma Force series. Factually, Rollins is the best at writing in supporting and secondary characters. You get a full feel for who they are, where they came from and why they are the way they are. They each have their own specialties and areas of expertise. Whether he writes them in one novel or in recurring roles, they’re all awesome. And a lot of times I find myself wishing he’d bring in one of those “one-novel” characters again for another adventure (which he does on occasion).

Steve: I’ve been enjoying J. C. Fields’ “Trail” series. His primary character is FBI profiler Sean Kruger but he would find it much more difficult nabbing his suspect without the computer skills of his super-hacker friend JR Diminski.

Kris: WHICH WRITER IS THE BEST AT WRITING SECONDARY CHARACTERS? My pick would be JD Robb. Her standard secondaries, who show up in all of the books, are super. It’s hard to even pick a favorite one! All of the detectives in her squad are gems, and I look forward to seeing how she works them into every single book. She really makes you care about those characters, so much so that even the “one-off” secondary characters who show up sometimes end up getting a permanent recurring role in the books. (Best example of this would be Crack, the guy who has the strip joint who seems to pop up every few books, even it only for a few lines.) For a series that took me until the 5th book was out to get into it, now that book 50 just came out it’s my “I’ll die if she doesn’t keep writing these” series! I should add that even her Nora Roberts books do a great job of adding secondary characters that you care about, but since it isn’t series-driven it’s hard to get as invested in them.

Steve: I’ve been enjoying J. C. Fields’ “Trail” series. His primary character is FBI profiler Sean Kruger but he would find it much more difficult nabbing his suspect without the computer skills of his super-hacker friend JR Diminski.

Sheila: IN my opinion that is James Rollins. Sigma force series -there are several characters I feel you get to know as well as the commander of the unit. I love the fact that we get to know each character in detail. He doesn’t just focus on one. They all play a relevant part to the story. Always love reading his books.

Thank you for your monthly news letter, always looking to add to my list of favorite authors. And I agree Clive Cussler will be greatly missed.

Kenicia: Elizabeth Peters was great at secondary characters. In the Amelia Peabody series, Amelia’s husband Radcliffe, her son Ramses, and her sister-in-law Evelyn are terrific. Her “villain”, the Master Criminal, is delightful as well. In the Vicky Bliss series, Sir John Smythe just makes the books. I always enjoy her ensembles!

Max: Hi Graeme,

Authors who are good at writing supporting characters? Well, two writers come to my mind immediately — Harlan Coben and John Sandford. With Coben, Myron’s good friend Windsor Horne Lockwood III is the best secondary character in the Myron Bolitar series. In fact, Win probably is the best continuing supporting character in any book series anywhere, any time! And Myron’s goofy sidekicks Esperanza Diaz (“Little Pochahontas”) and Big Cindi also are endearing and dependable characters.

With Sandford’s “Prey” detective series, Lucas Davenport’s partners Del Capslock and Marcy Sherrill are excellent supporting characters who are a big part of the story and who the reader really feels for. Especially Del! Sandford’s villains also are extremely well drawn, especially arch-villainess Clara Rinker, who was so cleverly bad she was good. A villainess you can actually cheer for is a rarity.

Those would be my first two choices, with Michael Connelly coming in a close third.

Judi: The “Longmire” series has the best secondary characters. Starting with Vic, of course. Henry is the best sidekick in all of literature. The other deputies are all individuals. not from a cookie cutter. His Daughter is terrific with all her adventures, and romances. I look forward to the next book every autumn.

Susan: Robert Crais. His main character, Elvis Cole, is a standout. But Joe Pike, second, partner, and stand alone, is in a class by himself.
And in his book, “Suspect”, a main/secondary is a *dog*.
And I’m working my way through all the Dick Francis books again.

Sandy: I think that J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts) is one of the best at writing secondary characters. She has truly “fleshed out” the cast of characters she writes about in the In Death series so that I feel I know them and can picture what the look like. It is a great series and has a truly wonderful cast of characters.

Phoenix: I recently stumbled across a new series that fits rather nicely into the topic question for this month. It’s the Heathcliff Lennox series by Karen Baugh Menuhin. Englishman Heathcliff Lennox is the main protagonist in this series of murder and mayhem in the 1920’s, but this good man doesn’t seem to stay in England much. In “Murder at Melrose Court” Lennox finds a body, quite literally, on his doorstep. And we’re off! (The next books are The Black Cat Murders, and The Curse of Braeburn Castle.) While Lennox (he prefers to be called Lennox instead of Heathcliff, a running gag throughout the novels) is getting pretty good at sleuthing, the “secondary” characters are equally engaging. Chief Inspector of Scotland Yard, Johnathan Swift, is well written and a thoroughly engaging character, very much his own person in this series. Lennox’s manservant, Greggs, is also a wonderfully quirky character who doesn’t take a back seat in the series. Of course, we cannot forget Mr. Fogg, Lennox’s dog, and Mr. Tubb, Lennox’s kitten, whom he carries about his voluminous pocket. So far, there are three books in the series, and I read them one right after the other. And, oh joy of joys, a fourth (Death in Damascus) is coming out in March!

By the by…I wonder sometimes why we think “the butler did it” is such a cliche’. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where the butler “did it.”

Mark: As to which author writes the best secondary characters, it would be hard to argue against “James S. A. Corey” in the Expanse series. So many excellent ones that they seem like main characters after a while.

Nancy: Secondary characters-Louse Penny

Louis: Graeme – I believe there are too many; for instance, Parker’s Hawk to Spenser. Then the two homicide “dicks” to McBain’s Carella or other detectives in the 87th precinct series. Of course, Sandford’s Virgil Flowers to Lucas Davenport and don’t forget Shrake and Jenkins. Also, Virgil has a few in his standalone thrillers. Secondary characters can “boost” the story lines & results so well, my opinion………….or make it tumble.

Linda: Who is one of the best at writing for secondary characters? I have mentioned this series before. Tess Gerritson’s ” Rizzoli and Isles” books. The interesting thing is I feel Rizzoli is the main character and Ilses is her side kick, but Isles is written so intricately that she could be the lead. I loved this series. Then it was made into a tv series and I never missed one and still watch over and over. Thank you for another good newsletter. Found two books to put on my never ending list. I am now 71 (40 in my mind-lol) and know I will never finish all of my books, but cannot resist adding more to my stuffed book shelves. I just found out I am a Tsundoku according to a Japanese word. Basically I am a book hoarder. I don’t think it is a bad thing, but my son who lives with me, keeps telling me to get rid of them. I do gradually and now I have a kindle so it is easier to hoard them on that. I think reading is one of the most entertaining things in the world. I am transported al over the world and never leave my comfortable chair. I get high just reading. I hope younger children will learn the love of books and put down the computer screens and enjoy life that way. I am now reading an older Grisham book
Rogue Lawyer” that you recommended last month and you were right . It is a very good one. Still think “The Firm ” was my favorite, but did also love “The Whistler”, but probably because it reminded me of “The Firm”. Here is to happy reading this month.

Janet: I think Stuart Woods has amazing secondary characters, Teddy Fey, Dino, Katherine & Will Lee, Holly Barker, Lance Cabot to name just a few. Faye Kellerman brings us Rina Lazarus, Marge Dunn, Scott Oliver, Cindy Decker, Chris Donatti, Gabe, and now Tyler McAdams and many more. Both authors give their characters so many likes, dislikes, individual personalities and write them to sound like very different people. I will also add Catherine Coulter to the list with the Sherlock and Savich FBI series, but there are too many to list.

Doris: The author who is best at writing secondary characters? None other than Janet Evanovich. Her descriptions of Grandma, Lulu, and other characters will just make you laugh out loud.

Allen: My vote goes to Janet Evanovich

Have you seen the new pbs series Vienna Blood? Clever plots, interesting characters and spectacular scenery. The interesting thing is that most of the actors speak German and this is their first time acting while speaking English

Doris: Thanks for your monthly newsletter, always look forward to it.

Just reading the 4th book in the Cormoran Strike series by Robert galbraith (J.K. Rowling) and have to give praise to Cormoran’s sidekick Robin Ellacott.

The romantic tension between them is frustrating but also enjoyable, makes the plot gripping and I can’t put them down.

While I’m waiting for book 5 (which I’ve already ordered 😊) I will reread the earlier ones.

Bud: Since Windsor Lockwood III is my #1 favorite character, I would have to vote for Harlan Coben as the best writer of secondary characters. The neat thing about Coben is that he continues to develop and build his secondary characters in subsequent books so that they feel like familiar family members.

Bonnie: Hello again! John Lescroart was the first author I found who introduced strong secondary characters and made them the center of some of his later books. I wanted to learn more about the secondary characters because they had great storylines and backgrounds that allowed for further development. Other authors have tried this, but he was the first one for me and I think still the best.

Fredericka: Louise Penny for secondary character development. The rich cast is unbelievable. And, I feel that the setting, Three Pines, is a character also.

April: My favorite secondary characters are Win, from Bolitar series (Harlan Coben) and Tomlinson, from Doc Ford series (Randy Wayne White). Also really like all the secondary characters in Genevieve Lennard series (Estelle Ryan) and the Gabriel Allon series (Daniel Silva). AJ

Beth: Which writer is the best at writing secondary characters? – Anne Perry
Not only in her Pitt and Monk novels but the Christmas books (she produces one per year) in which secondary characters from her novels become more involved.

Bev: Hi Graeme,

My submission for the author that does the best job at writing a secondary character (s), is JK Rowling. Her books have quite a few, and they’re all brilliantly portrayed. You can smell their sweat, and see every stray nose hair.

Pam: I always enjoy your contribution to my little part of the reading world.

I am one of the Nick Petrie fans. I did get the new book in the series and read it immediately. I did miss Lewis and Peter’s lack of secondary characters, but I did like the book. I read it pretty quickly.

I did not care for your idea of who would be on the Mount Rushmore of authors as I don’t pay a lot of attention to the authors of the books I love, I just love their work. I am sitting in my “computer room”. Surrounded by at least sixty-four years worth of books I’ve kept. I sometimes miss the ones I’ve donated are have disappeared for whatever reason, but I don’t have them to remind me of their authors, but of the great work the authors have created. It was a thought-provoking question for many and that is good.

I am kind of amazed that anyone would think Delores Claiborne is a great Stephen King book. It is pretty much the one that killed my love of all things Stephen King back in the day. There was just something disgusting about it. I did get it finished, but there are Stephen King books still sitting on the shelf that I haven’t opened since I finished that one. (He was always on my blind buy list). Anyway, it’s a good thing we all like different genres and different authors so the authors can stay in print.

I wouldn’t have Agatha Christie on my top list of anything, but I liked the list of authors otherwise.

I agree with getting lost in new authors and the old ones linger waiting for me to remember to pick them up. That has happened a lot. I might have ten or twelve (Cussler’s and Griffens) in particular waiting for me to get back to them but there are so many new good authors at there that I am easily sidetracked. Of course, you are the cause of quite a few of those side trips. Nick Petrie is a case in point.

I still blindly buy all my favorites, but am doing better by reading the newest one when it comes out and then going back to catch up on one or two of the earlier ones until something else catches my eye. I think it helps that I can read a chapter or two of a book, put it down, read another, etc. and then cam pick up the first one where I left off and know what has happened. Most of my. Friends just look at me and shake their heads. They can’t even imagine how I can do that. I had a couple of teachers that didn’t think it was a good idea, but I have no interest in a teacher who thinks that trying to stop or change someone’s reading habits in any way would be a good thing. My students were always amazed at how often I would have finished a book and have a new one. I had some huge book on my desk one day and there was a new one the next one a couple of kids would ask what happened to the first one and when I said I’d finished it and was on to the next just amazed them.

I was saddened as well at the passing of Mr. Cussler. I found it out a couple of months ago when I was looking at my shelf of unread books (easier than check the list on the Kindle of the newer books) and checked to see when the next Cussler was due out. His son has been writing with him for a while and when you’ve been reading a series as long as I have, I know that the authors will be gone far before I am done with wanting more of their work. Edith Pargater (Ellis Peters) is a case in point. Dick Francis is one I really miss, although I do make due (this has a read squiggle from Word so I looked it up. It seems make due is outdated and has been replaced with make do, but since I’m 68 I figure I’m as outdated as my word choice) with his son’s work, but don’t find it as enjoyable. Virginia Lanier was another favorite. She lived a good, long life, but came to writing so late that her life force gave out before she could write as many books as her readers wanted. I don’t go back and reread books very often, but I look at the cherished volumes and remember they joy they bring, (Too many new ones with too much joy to reread the older ones.)

Your new question on secondary characters is appealing, but I have to get some others things done. I do think about Virgil Flowers as an excellent example as well as the other secondary characters in Sandford’s work that warrant an exploration of a book or two of their own.

I have text-to-speech on my Kindle so I don’t have any patience with audiobooks. I think they take up precious reading time with unneeded dramatic pauses, etc. I can supply all the special effects and drama in my head a I listen to the computer voice reading for me as I drive across Kansas on my various trips who I’m by myself. Every once in a while Kindle decides that I wanted the audio version and won’t let me listen to my text-to-speech, so that book usually has to wait until I can actually read it. I’m glad that other people are thrilled with audio books, but it annoys me to have to listen to that as much as it does when people read to me. I appreciate the gesture, but I can read so much faster than they do that it just seems like a waste of my time. If I am hanging around with other people, there are better uses of our time together.

Anyway, I just popped in to check my email and thankfully was distracted to read your newsletter and see what is up with your wonderful recommendations. I have to get back to what I was doing before. I hope you enjoy your outing to the XFL game. Enjoy your break. I look forward to April’s newsletter.

e Welsh writes in. I’m Scottish so I love that stuff. This is a short story about Frank, a prison guard who tweets that he could kick the crap out of Kim Jong-Un and it takes off and he actually fights him. Surreal, ludicrous and both hilarious and entertaining. Amazing writer.

Order of Books » Newsletter » Reader Mailbag: Best Author of Secondary Characters

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