I’ve never been the sort of person to put up movie star posters in my room, or sigh over rock bands. What I DO have, though is an enduring love of some book characters. I know, it doesn’t get much more nerdy-librarian than that. Even worse, my current infatuation (and an enduring one, I must confess) is for a cynical, middle-aged, angrily sober ex-alcoholic career policeman, who lives in a city that he loves to hate, in a world that doesn’t exist.
I first met His Grace, His Excellency, the Duke of Ankh, Commander Sir Samuel Vimes (Blackboard Monitor) in 1989 in Guards! Guards! (a book that continues to be my favourite out of all Terry Pratchett’s novels). At the time, he was a mere Captain of the City Watch, and I a recently-married student. We have grown up together, Vimes and I, although I have not attained the heady heights of nobility and career stardom that he has. Like millions of fans worldwide I am worried that Snuff, the latest title by Pratchett, may also be his last, and I am both pleased and saddened that of all the characters and stories he could have chosen, it’s Vimes who is the hero of Snuff.
Pratchett’s books, on the surface, are all about farting dragons and innuendo-ridden witches, very tall dwarves and orangutan librarians, and as such are frequently dismissed as being for kids or people who like to dress up in old curtains and pretend they are wizards.
But they are also full of genuinely historical crunchy bits, retellings of classic tales, myth and legend, and characters that are so real you feel you already know them. Their foibles are our foibles, their humanity just like ours (even when they are not, strictly speaking, human), and their dreams and aspirations as valid as ours. All Sam Vimes wants to do at the end of the day is be the best copper he can be, keep his city and home safe for his wife and son, and make it home by 6pm each night so he can read Young Sam his favourite book, Where’s My Cow?
Snuff is a delight, a fabulously funny, heart-warming tale of mystery and murder on a policeman’s holiday, that is also about justice and slavery, nobility and prejudice and standing up for what you know to be right. It is one of the very best books I have read recently, and has only cemented my ongoing love for Vimes, Duke of Ankh, Blackboard Monitor, and policeman extraordinaire.
Now make me feel better by confessing YOUR literary crushes …