The protagonist for my SAN JUAN ISLANDS MYSTERY SERIES is a twenty-something recent college graduate making her way and finding herself among the blue-green waters of that Pacific Northwest archipelago.
The protagonist of the Rockford Files is a broad-shouldered, middle-aged, unlicensed private detective living along the shore of Southern California.
Let me explain how I was inspired by one in the making of the other.
Rockford was a private detective/mystery series heavy on personalities, a bit of humor, and the easy-come, easy-go demeanor of its namesake character, Jim Rockford.
Adele Plank, the main character found in THE WRITER, DARK WATERS, and the soon-to-be released, MURDER on MATIA, doesn’t yet possess the easy-going nature of Rockford, but does share his ability to piece together the seemingly disparate pieces of a mystery puzzle while engaging with an ensemble of colorful supporting characters who often help, though, sometimes hinder her along the way.
It is the emphasis on dialogue and character that both share. Violence did occur in the Rockford Files, but it was both relatively rare and secondary to the primary story. The same applies to my SAN JUAN ISLANDS MYSTERY SERIES. While violence is suggested, it is rarely emphasized.
And like Rockford, which has the Pacific Coast Highway and Malibu as a backdrop (itself a supporting character) Adele’s adventures both great and small take place in the mysterious saltwater beauty of the San Juan Islands. (I know both locations well. The islands are superior to Malibu in almost every way but for the lack of year-long warm temperatures.)
Rockford rarely uses a gun to defeat his enemies. Adele has yet to use one.
Rockford talks his way out of trouble. Adele thinks her way out, or better yet, avoids it altogether.
It is a testament to the quality of the Rockford Files that it continues to inspire decades after its final episode was created. I recall watching the reruns. My father loved the show. To this day, I’ll stop and catch an episode if I happen to come across it while channel-surfing.
Now, if only Hollywood could possibly turn its attention to a young, female island-detective-journalist making good on her promise to herself to find her own way.
Until then, it’s more Rockford…
D.W. Ulsterman is a bestselling, award-winning author and socio-political commentator.
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