Have you ever thought about what happens to characters after a novel is ended? I don’t mean protagonists or (for series, anyway) ‘regulars.’ I’m talking here of other characters who move in and out of a novel, but whom we never see again. If you think about it, that’s a lot of characters out of work. What if there were an employment agency dedicated to matching upcoming crime-fictional roles and characters in need of parts? What might that be like? If you’ll give your disbelief the latest great novel and some snacks, let’s take a look at the…
New Roles Employment Agency
The scene is a modern-looking reception room. It’s simple, but comfortable with a coffee stand and a table next to it in one corner. There are various characters sitting on the chairs, waiting for their appointments. A bored receptionist looks up from time to time to check on everything. After a moment, a door leading to an inner office opens, and a secretary steps out into the waiting area.
Secretary (Glancing down at a clipboard she’s holding): Violet Bassington?
Violet: That’s me, ma’am. She gets up and follows the secretary into the office. An employment agent is behind a desk, waiting for her. As she curtsies, the secretary leaves, closing the door behind her.
Agent: So, Ms. Bassington, tell me about yourself. (He waves her to a seat)
Violet: Well, sir, my last role was as a kitchen maid. I was just learning me job, but I was coming on alright. We did have that murder, but I wasn’t involved, no, sir, I wasn’t.
Agent: And your author was…
Violet: Agatha Christie, no less. She liked me, she did. But when the story ended, there I was, sir, with no job.
Agent: Hmm….your record seems good (Looks down at Violet’s resumé) I’m not sure at all what roles we might have for a kitchen maid. I’m afraid most households don’t – well, they don’t use maids these days. But let me look among my authors. He clicks a few keys on his computer keyboard. Hmmm…I’ve got one here – rich family, exclusive community, dark secrets and lots of goings-on. Would that interest you?
Violet: Well, sir, I’m not much of a one for goings-on (Blushes slightly), but I could try.
Agent. Good. I’ll send your paperwork to them, and we’ll be in touch.
Back in the waiting area, the door opens as Violet leaves and the secretary follows her out. Then the secretary addresses the group again.
Secretary: Cale Hanniford?
Cale: That’s me. He stands up, straightens his expensive-looking suit jacket and follows the receptionist into the office. He walks right up to the agent and shakes his hand, introducing himself.
Agent: It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Hanniford. Tell me about yourself.
Cale: I’m a businessman – done pretty well for myself. Lawrence Block – great guy – used me in one of his stories. You know – successful guy whose daughter was killed and he wants to know why.
Agent: Well, we’ve got a lot of open parts for successful businessmen. What’s your specialty?
Cale: I’m best at ‘estranged from family,’ I think. You know, alienated kids, that sort of thing.
Agent: Oh, we should be able to place you, no problem.
Back in the waiting room, the secretary opens the door again, after Cale Hanniford leaves.
Secretary: Emily Riddle?
Emily (Looks up, smiling): Right here. She gets up and follows the secretary into the office.
Agent: Nice to meet you, Emily, have a seat. Emily smiles and sits down. Now, tell me about yourself (Takes in Emily’s slightly overdone makeup, dyed hair, and tight dress)
Emily: Well, my last job was a girl-gone-missing character in a Peter Robinson book. You know, good girl with a secret life who disappears.
Agent (Smiles and rubs his hands together): You’re in luck. There’s a huge demand for girls who disappear. Everybody’s doing it. You’ll have your pick of roles, I’ll bet. Do you have any sort of preferences?
Emily: Well, I’m familiar with underground clubs, people in high places going bad, that sort of thing.
Agent: Even better! We’ll probably be able to place you by the end of the day. As Emily gets up to go, the agent holds up one hand for her to wait. Just one thing. Are you willing to be found dead later?
Emily: Sure, why not?
The secretary appears and escorts Emily back to the reception area. After she leaves, the secretary looks at her clipboard again.
Secretary: Norris? Mr. Norris?
Norris: (Standing up): I believe you mean me, ma’am. He follows the secretary into the office and remains standing as she leaves.
Agent: Norris, is it? Have a seat. Norris sits on the edge of the visitor’s chair. Now, what’s your background?
Norris: Well, sir, I was butler in the household of General Guy Sternwood. I’m one of Raymond Chandler’s creations. I ran his home quite efficiently, and that was a bit of a challenge.
Agent (Puts his elbows on his desk and leans forward) I’ll be honest with you, Mr. Norris. There isn’t much demand for a butler right now among our authors. But (He glances at Norris’ resumé), it looks as though you have good experience at being, well, discreet.
Norris (Brightening up a bit) I’ve gotten quite good at discretion if I may say so. In the Sternwood house, well…anyway, I can keep my mouth shut.
Agent: Good. I’ll let you know.
The secretary slips in to escort Norris out. When he’s gone, she steps once again into the waiting room.
Agent: Eva Griffin?
Eva: Here I am. She stands up slowly and moves sinuously towards the secretary. She catches the eye of several other characters as she follows the secretary into the office.
Agent: Hello, Ms. Griffin, nice to meet you.
Eva (Moving close to the desk): Please, call me Eva.
Agent: Alright…Eva. Please, take a seat (He waves her to the visitor’s chair). How can I help you?
Eva: Well, I’ve had such a tough time since the end of the Erle Stanley Gardner case where I met up with Perry Mason. (She flips her hair behind her shoulders). I’m really looking for a story where I can, well, shine. You know, a real femme fatale role. It’s what I’m born to do.
Agent: Tell me about the case.
Eva: Oh, it was terrible! My husband was killed, and I was accused! Me! I mean, look at me. Do I look like a murderer? (She all but bats her eyelashes at the agent and leans slightly forward to get the most effect from her low-cut dress).
Agent: So, you wouldn’t want a role where you’re the killer, then?
Eva: I just want a really juicy role. She gets a pleading look in her eyes. Can you help me? Can you get me out of this mess?
Agent (Clears his throat and pulls his attention back to the papers in front of him). Well, Ms. Griffin – Eva – let me see what I can do.
What do you think? Could these characters get new jobs? What characters do you think might go looking for work once their author’s done with them?