Robert Wilson, author of Capital Punishment and You Will Never Find Me, discusses his protagonist Charles Boxer and the duality inherent in a morally ambiguous character.
Does it get any easier? If it does then you’re not doing it right. I’d have liked to think after twenty years at the desk that character development, plot twists, scene setting and transitions, dialogue and description would start to fall miraculously into place, but they don’t. This is because each time I sit down to write another book or series, I’m driven to step over the last boundary to which the previous book took me. This time I found myself drawn to a new morally ambivalent character, Charles Boxer, who is neither obviously an avenging angel nor evidently a psychopath.
Lead characters who resist the convention of either being good or bad will always create a stir because readers prefer to know whether to love or to hate. Boxer’s demanding job as a kidnap consultant means that part of his work is to maintain as stress-free an environment as possible. He has to control all the emotion around him as well as his own. He has to be impregnable, and this he learnt to do from a very young age when his father walked out on him, leaving him bereft.
As anyone with any understanding of psychology will know, this ruthless suppression will come at a cost, and Boxer has reached his moment. Trained in combat by the army, a killer in the first Gulf War, he is now putting his other skills to use by offering an additional ‘after sales service’ and meting out ‘justice’ to bad guys.
There is, however, some confusion in his motivation. We feel the complexity developing as we learn that his father was wanted for questioning by the police in relation to the murder of his wife’s business partner before absconding.
Boxer has also been married to a Ghanaian policewoman, Mercy, from whom he is now separated, but not without having had a child, Amy, who, as a seventeen-year-old, is proving to be a handful. He is a poker player, a man used to playing by the rules but breaking them when he feels like it. He is attractive, sexy, dark and dangerous, but also faithful, loyal and a force for good with a capacity for love that betrays a powerful need.
The reader gets to know Boxer at the pace of real life. I offer few insights into his past, and it is up to each individual reader to interpret him as hero or anti-hero. I hope, too, that I’m encouraging the art of patience in my readership. Charles Boxer is not a character who is going to sit on your lap and tell you his all in the first ten pages. There is work to be done by both the reader and me before we get to the bottom of Charles Boxer . . . if we ever do.