The dashing hero – or anti hero – of classical robber novels has to have a Devoted Follower. It’s a must have accessory.
For instant Rinaldo Rinaldini has the ruffianly Ludovico. Pushkin’s Dubrovsky, by contrast, is spoilt for choice – all his band, who consist of his former serfs, are devoted. Perhaps the former blacksmith Arhip is best fitted for the role.
George Orwell in ‘Homage to Catalonia’ described the sort of man perfectly, I think – ‘The sort of man who would commit murder and die for a friend’. Personally, I have a great deal of sympathy for such an attitude – I find it in some ways far more understandable than cold calculation, a limited loyalty and an aloof moral attitude.
Accordingly, my own characters Émile Dubois, the eponymous anti-hero of ‘That Scoundrel Émile Dubois’ and his cousin Reynaud Reynaud, also eponymous male lead of ‘Ravensdale’ , must have a devoted fellow scoundrel, too.
Georges Durrand is handsome with his curly black hair, flashing dark eyes, devastating profile and muscular build, and can’t get over it. His self indulgent philandering in the days in Paris when he and Émile are running rival groups of robbers is notorious.
Just as the cynical Émile meets his fate in his ‘Miss Goody Two Shoes’ Sophie de Courcy, so Georges meets Sophie’s pretty, Tarot reading maid. Both of them, however, give in to temptation with another woman and accordingly end up as Man Vampires, and a menace to the women who they love.
I must admit, I thought Georges would have more admirers than he has acquired so far – unless women readers who find him appealing prefer to keep quiet about having a liking for such a ruffian (true, Émile is very violent, too, but his savagery is to some extent diluted by his intellect – Georges might be called an ideal type of a ruffian).
On the same topic, some readers have said how they admire Émile for going in to a fight to the death with Kenrick and his own devoted follower Arthur Williams to protect Sophie and the other women in his household; this when he knows how, having lost most of his inhuman strength that the chances are massively against him.
Yet only a couple of reviewers have commented n the heroism Georges shows when he joins Emile in that desperate fight; for while it’s certainly partly through devotion to Emile – and to protect all the women in their house, too – it’s mainly to protect Agnes, who at this point refuses to have anything to do with him.
Georges deserves some credit for unselfish devotion…
While Georges, though no intellectual, is a suitably efficient and unscrupulous partner in crime, fellow bandit and highwayman for Émile, Reynaud Ravensdale, another highwayman (the family is rather given to taking up that occupation) is a good deal less lucky in his own Devoted Follower, Jem Higgins, otherwise known as Longface. Longface is ineffectual, prosing and self-righteous,and has the most infuriating habit of leading the thief takers and Bow Street Runners directly to his master. Ravensdale longs to get rid of him…