We asked Anthony Award-winning thriller author Chris Holm about how he crafts brilliant sidekick characters and what their most important qualities are.
I’m tempted to say loyalty—but from a writerly point of view, I think the most important quality in a sidekick is that they serve as a good foil for the protagonist. Left to his own devices, my protagonist—Michael Hendricks—is a prickly, self-destructive loner. His sidekicks—Lester in The Killing Kind and Cameron in Red Right Hand—are funny, sociable, and surprisingly well-adjusted given the circumstances in which they find themselves. (I’d like to think they’re also quite different from one another.) Each injects their story with an interesting friction that’s fun to write, and hopefully to read. Each sees the good in Hendricks, and refuses to let him give into his darkest impulses.
Discover Chris Holm’s Michael Hendricks Series:
Michael Hendricks kills people for money. That aside, he’s not so bad a guy. Once a covert operative for a false-flag unit of the US military, Hendricks now makes his living as a hitman entrepreneur of sorts–he only hits other hitmen. For ten times the price on your head, he’ll make sure whoever’s coming to kill you winds up in the ground instead. Not a bad way for a guy with his skill set to make a living–but a great way to make himself a target.
When viral video of an explosive terrorist attack on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge reveals that a Federal witness long thought dead is still alive, the organization he’d agreed to testify against will stop at nothing to put him in the ground. FBI Special Agent Charlie Thompson is determined to protect him, so she calls the only person on the planet who can keep her witness safe: Michael Hendricks. After teaming up with a young but determined tech whiz, Cameron, Hendricks reluctantly takes the job. Of course, finding a man desperate to stay hidden is challenging enough without deadly competition, let alone when the competition’s shadowy corporate backer is tangled in the terrorist conspiracy playing out around them.
More From Chris Holm:
It began four years ago with a worldwide uptick of bacterial infections: meningitis in Frankfurt, cholera in Johannesburg, tuberculosis in New Delhi. Although the outbreaks spread aggressively and proved impervious to our drugs of last resort, public health officials initially dismissed them as unrelated.
They were wrong. Antibiotic resistance soon roiled across the globe. Diseases long thought beaten came surging back. The death toll skyrocketed. Then New York City was ravaged by the most heinous act of bioterror the world had ever seen, perpetrated by a new brand of extremist bent on pushing humanity to extinction.
Detective Jacob Gibson, who lost his wife in the 8/17 attack, is home caring for his sick daughter when his partner summons him to a sprawling shantytown in Central Park, the apparent site of a mass murder. Jake is startled to discover that, despite a life of abject squalor, the victims died in perfect health—and his only hope of finding answers is a twelve-year-old boy on the run from some very dangerous men.
Chris Holm is the author of the Michael Hendricks thrillers and the Collector trilogy, which blends crime and fantasy. His first Michael Hendricks novel, The Killing Kind, was named a New York Times Editors’ Choice and won the Anthony Award for Best Novel.