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Lord Peter Wimsey. Jamie Fraser. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. Archaeologist Radcliffe Emerson. Dirk, the ScotShop’s 14th-century Scottish ghost. Don’t we love them all? Yes, but what do all these marvelous men in mysteries have in common?

Common sense—yes. Kindness—check. Sex appeal—yep. Integrity—you bet. Inner as well as outer strength—absolutely. Man of my (our) dreams—oh, yeah. All of those. But there’s something more, something deeper, something more elemental.

Here are five hints: Dorothy, Diana, Louise, Elizabeth, Fran.

If you want even broader hints: Sayers, Gabaldon, Penny, Peters, Stewart.

You guessed it. All five of these men were created by women. If we writers want our man to be wonderful, we imbue him with all those attributes we’d love to find in a non-fiction man.

We also, in the interest of keeping our character believable, give him a certain amount of orneriness, a cranky attitude now and again, a stubbornness that no man born on earth was ever completely without. How could he possibly be a real man without those things?

Some of us are fortunate enough to have found a man much like these five. Some of us have given up. Some of us are constantly hopeful. Where do you stand in that continuum?

One of my earliest memories is of sitting, safe and secure, in my father’s lap while he read me the latest Caspar the Friendly Ghost comic book. Little wonder then, that when I began writing the ScotShop mysteries, a ghost (whose birth name was Macbeath Donlevy Freusach Findlay Macearachar Macpheidiran of Clan Farquharson) was an integral part of them, right from the start. With a name like that, is it any wonder that Peggy, the owner of the ScotShop, calls him Dirk?

Did I model Dirk on Caspar? Nope. Did I model him on any one particular man? Well, no, although his common sense is a lot like that of my father, modified a bit by the four hundred years that separate their birth dates. And Dirk does look like somebody I knew a very long time ago, and he has a number of lovely qualities that I’ve seen in various male persons here and there along the way. Dirk is so luscious, in fact, it’s too bad he’s dead.

The three ScotShop mysteries follow much the same arc as a lot of relationships follow, an arc patterned on what happens in a fireplace. A WEE MURDER IN MY SHOP, the first book, shows the kindling phase of Peggy and Dirk’s connection as they get to know each other and begin to adjust to the wonder of being together. Of course, there’s a murdered body to contend with, but it doesn’t cloud the horizon too much.

In the second book, A WEE DOSE OF DEATH, the fire blazes up and the relationship begins to tatter a bit, as Peggy becomes a tad resentful of Dirk’s constant presence in her life and his unrelenting questions about why the 21st century works the way it does. Someone once told me that a lot of marriages go through a rocky period at the seven-year mark, when all the wedding gifts begin to break. Something to think about, although Peggy and Dirk’s unease took months rather than years to develop. Of course, there’s a dead body to contend with here as well. After all, these are murder mysteries.

And now, in A WEE HOMICIDE IN THE HOTEL, as Peggy finds herself more and more drawn to the equally magnificent Harper, her connection to Dirk settles into the deep bed of glowing coals that is the final result, the essence of a good fire. Of course, there’s yet another murder victim to contend with, but you were expecting one, weren’t you?

If you find someone in real life even half as marvelous as Dirk, I applaud your good fortune. If your guy can’t quite compare to my guy, though, just remember that the one I wrote is fictional. The one you have is real.

About the author:

Fran Stewart claims to have seen three ghosts, other than the one she created for her ScotShop Mysteries. Having lived in quite a few locales, the end product of having grown up in an Air Force family, she may have simply invented them, since an outrageous imagination is one survival tool for youngsters who move so frequently, but Fran swears they were real. Author of fourteen books, including the Biscuit McKee mystery series and the ScotShop mysteries, as well as A SLAYING SONG TONIGHT and FROM THE TIP OF MY PEN: a workbook for writers, she lives and writes quietly beside a creek on the other side of Hog Mountain, Georgia.

 

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