Characters I Love # 20: Special Agent Pendergast

still lifeEvery Wednesday, I focus on a character from adventure fiction (film, comics & prose) that I simply adore. This week we’re talking about: Special Agent Aloysius Xingu L. Pendergast, created by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. An agent for the FBI, Pendergast made his debut as a supporting character in the novel Relic, which was adapted into a movie (without including Pendergast). Born in 1960 and raised in New Orleans, Pendergast is noted for his Southern good manners and his accent. He is pale and thin, with an overall look of an enticing undertaker.

Pendergast is practically a modern-day pulp hero. His knowledge extends to almost every known discipline and he’s no slouch with a firearm. He has an insane archenemy in his brother, a Cabinet of Curiosities at his disposal and frequently finds himself in crimes that border on the supernatural. My personal favorite is Still Life With Crows, which is the one book that I usually hand folks who are interested in the character. “Read this! You’ll love it and then you can go back to the beginning and read them in order.” I loved his relationship with Corrie Swanson, a young girl who accompanies him on this particular adventure.

Given how disappointing the Relic movie was, I’m kind of glad they left Pendergast out of it. I’d love to see a film or tv series starring this character. He has a wide range of characters who comprise his supporting cast and several of them come to unfortunate ends as the series progresses. My favorites are Corrie Swanson, Vincent D’Agosta, Constance Greene and Bill Smithback. Often, these characters are just as much fun as Pendergast himself.

Originally a very mysterious character, we now know an exhaustive amount about Pendergast’s background, which I think was a bit of a mistake. Read Still Life With Crows and tell me you’re not just eaten up with curiosity about him. Then come back to me after The Diogenes Trilogy and The Helen Trilogy and tell me you’re not more than a little bit tired about hearing about his past. Sometimes giving fans what they say they want can be a big mistake. Like The Shadow, Pendergast worked best as a man of mystery. Some background info is good… but when the stories are all about his brother, his family or his supposedly dead wife, we’re getting too navel-gazing for my tastes.

Still, the series is well-written and quite fun. White Fire will be published in November 2013 and features the return of Corrie. I’m quite looking forward to it!

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