Thursday, April 25, 2013

Let's Hear It for the Bad Boys

RHYS BOWEN: Today Jungle Red is delighted to host one of our trusty regular contributors, Linda Rodriguez. Since hanging out with us Linda has written a stellar novel that won her the St Martin's Press Best First Traditional Mystery award plus other honors, and is about to publish the second. (See what hanging out with Jungle Reds can do for you??)

 And I hadn't realized that she is a woman of many talents, an internationally renowned poet. But today she's talking about one of our favorite subjects--BAD BOYS. Take it away, Linda.

In the second Skeet Bannion novel, Every Broken Trust, which is launching May 7, I’ve complicated Skeet’s life and relationships with a dark and dangerous man of mystery who walks into the story and makes Skeet feel things that scare her, as well as bringing out the jealous side of nice Joe Louzon, Skeet’s friend and possible love interest. This was not what I’d planned to have happen in this book. I don’t know where this bad boy came from to complicate Skeet’s and my lives, except of course he had to come from my own head.

I must confess I’ve always had a fascination with the bad boy. You know, like Marc Antony, Heathcliff, Sydney Carton in Tale of Two Cities, Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront, James Dean in Rebel without a Cause, and Buffy’s Spike. I know it’s not healthy, but judging by the sheer number of bad boys in fairy tales, literature, movies, and television, it must be pretty common.
I have been fortunate enough to have been married to two of the nicest men in the world, my late first husband and my current husband, but before and between them, I had lamentable taste in men. I blame it on all the reading I did as a child. The bad boys were always the most interesting guys. I mean, Dickens’s Sydney Carton was a drunken wastrel of a lawyer prostituting his great intellect to the ambitions of lesser men with more willpower, sure. But what a passion he had for pretty Lucy Manette! He sacrificed his own life to save the man she loved, just so she would be happy. Wow! And Heathcliff, well, we all know how he made the pages steam with his great love for Cathy.

One sizzling scene in Buffy of a lovesick Spike watching outside Buffy’s window at night inspired me to write a poem, Outside Your House at Midnight, Coyote” (“Closing his eyes, Coyote can see within/ your walls as you undress and slide under/ covers”).  This was followed by a whole sequence of poems about the bad boy archetype as Coyote, the Native American trickster figure, such as “Coyote in Black Leather,” Three O’Clock in the Morning Alone, Coyote,” “Coyote Invades Your Dreams,” “Coyote at Your Wedding,” and others, ending finally with “Coyote in High School,” where I asked, “I wonder/ if anyone ever warns the hard-shelled boys in leather/ against the honor-roll girls?”  (These are my most popular poems with women. I even have a whole group of female fans in the UK just for the Coyote poems.)
Of course, I am the woman who wrote an entire book of passionate love poems with the title Skin Hunger (“forgive me for touching so much/ while we talk/ I can’t help myself”). So the Coyote poems and the new bad boy in my mystery novels should come as no surprise to anyone, least of all me.
After the wild and disastrous period in my life still referred to by family and friends as the time of “the mad monk” (don’t ask!), I began to date a man who was a number of years younger than me. One woman friend confronted me to tell me over and over again that I was being stupid, that this younger man was only going to get tired of me and throw me over, that it was just sex that was blinding me. I tried to explain that I loved the kindness and brilliance of this man, but she kept holding forth. Finally, fed up, I said sweetly, “You’re absolutely right, of course. I know he’s no good and is going to break my heart, but I just can’t help myself—the sex is just so good!” Her mouth flew open in silence, and she stormed out, never to be seen by me again. That younger bad boy and I have been together now for twenty-five years.
So let’s hear it for the bad boys! Have you a penchant for the guys who exude trouble, the dark and dangerous types? Have you had any of those passionate, crazy, and sometimes destructive loves? Or do you like to keep those guys between the pages of a book, as I prefer nowadays?

And thank you, Rhys, for hosting me on Jungle Red Writers today. I love the Jungle Reds and am grateful for all the ways you lovely women support and promote other writers.

Linda Rodriguez’s second Skeet Bannion novel, Every Broken Trust (St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books), will be published May 7. Her first Skeet novel, Every Last Secret, won the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition, was selected by Las Comadres National Book Club, and was a Barnes & Noble mystery pick. For her books of poetry, Skin Hunger (Scapegoat Press) and Heart’s Migration (Tia Chucha Press), Rodriguez received the Midwest Voices & Visions Award, Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, Thorpe Menn Award, finalist, Eric Hoffer Book Award, KCArtsFund Inspiration Award, and Ragdale and Macondo fellowships. She is the president of the Borders Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime, a founding board member of Latino Writers Collective and The Writers Place, and a member of Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers, Kansas City Cherokee Community, and International Thriller Writers. She was formerly director of the University of Missouri-Kansas City Women’s Center. She spends too much time on Twitter as @rodriguez_linda and on Facebook at  She blogs about writers, writing, and the absurdities of everyday life at

RHYS: Thank you, Linda. And good luck with the new book. I think I had the same illustrator for my first St Martin's books. It looks like one of my covers! And folks, Linda will be giving away a copy of the new book to the best comment of the day, so do chime in.


  1. Yes, same penchant, same wild periods thrown in! Although I never dated the mad monk (would love to hear that story), I did have an extremely explosive relationship for some months about 11 years ago (between my divorce and meeting the very lovely man I've been with for ten years) with a man I met online. We were (are) both double Scorpios - can you say fireworks?

    I decided I had to kill off a version of him and made him the victim in my first published mystery, Speaking of Murder. Very satisfying. Your books are going on my TBR pile, Linda!

  2. Her name was Elizabeth, the new redheaded sports reporter from Chicago. She liked to wear odd clothing, costumes, with lots of boots and scarves that matched her green eyes. There was trouble at home and I couldn't help myself. A year later I was divorced and out of a job.

  3. Thank you, Linda. It's great to get to know you a bit better. And, of course, I MUST read your books. Thanks for the reminder.

    I had forgotten about Sydney Carton. How can anyone not love him? I read that book a few times just because of him.

    And is Rhys' Darcy considered a bad boy? I adore him.

    As far as dating them, I guess I've been pretty boring. There was this guy who drove around in a converted hearse, though.

    How lucky authors are. Like Edith said, you can always kill them off.

  4. You guys are hysterical this morning! So Jack, you are saying you WERE the bad boy??

    Linda, this is a wonderful post--love your poetry snatches--you're so talented!

    Congratulations on the new book and look forward to seeing you at Malice:)

  5. She wore gorilla socks to a New Years Eve party.

    I relate to the lines from Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You"

    I'm frightened by the devil
    and drawn by those who ain't afraid

    Love your first book Linda, and looking forward to your second.

    ~ Jim

  6. first real crushy boyfriend, his name was Mark, and he was my unwilling partner in biology class. By that I mean, he was assigned to me.

    Thing was, he didn't know he was my "boyfriend" since it was all a big wish on my part, age, what, 14?

    But he fixed cars, and I thought the was SO exotic. I remember thinking I could win him over with my deep interest in cars, which came via Beach Boys lyrics. "What's a little deuce coupe?" I remember asking.

  7. Wow Jack, that's a poem.

    Sorry, but I'd say calling Heathcliff a bad boy is like saying Quasimodo had poor posture.

  8. Ah, boring here, guess I just have to write about bad boys and girls...much more fun and no consequences!

  9. Lucy: No. Nice guys sometimes do bad things. I was gender-twisting Linda's idea, as that redhead was serious trouble and I knew the second I saw her walking across the lobby, looking like a gypsy, on the arm of a television actor. Turned out mine was only one of two marriages she helped end at the newspaper. Heard she did it Chicago and New York, too, though I never saw her again after that year.

    Good luck with the new one, Linda!

  10. Jack? Whoa. SOunds like there's MUCH more to THAT story!

  11. Ah, Edith, there's a reason we're so alike. Quadruple Scorpio here.
    And the mad monk was between my marriages also. Recently, for National Poetry Month, I put up a poem I wrote about the finale of our relationship, "Apache Dance in Loose Park."

    That was, of course, before there really was an "online."

  12. Jack, Susan D. is right. You've written a great poem right there.

    I write from my perspective, of course, and I think the bad boy is more prevalent in our society, but there are the bad girls, too.

  13. Marianne, Darcy is a bad boy, yes. Doesn't mean they're truly "bad." Just that they're sexy trouble on two feet.

    Lucy/Roberta, I hate it so much, but I won't be at Malice this year. *sob* I will miss all of you! I do hope to be at Bouchercon, though. See you then.

  14. I love Joni Mitchell, Jim! Her song "The Priest" could have been written about my mad monk.

    And gorilla socks!?!?

    Oh, Hank! "What's a little deuce coupe?" Don't you wish we could go back and just hug those innocent girls we were?

    Susan D., you're right. Heathcliff is sort of the uber bad boy of all time.

  15. Terry, that's my preference nowadays, as well. So much less exciting--and less painful!

    Jack, you should think about writing that story. I'll make a deal. You write that, and I'll write the mad monk, and we'll both hit the NYT bestseller list together. What do you say?

    And the Captchas are getting more and more bizarre this morning, spelling odd words. I now have "holomorphic." I feel like the little elf in the computer's trying to tell me something.

  16. Hank, my sistah, I also had a pretend boyfriend in high school, who had more than a little edge to him. Funny thing, he has lived less than four miles from me for the last twenty-odd years (we live in different states, an hour or more from where we both grew up), and I just ran into him recently. So, so glad we never connected that way for real.

    One of my most vivid memories of high school was seeing this guy get into a fight at a school dance, for no discernible reason. I had enough drama at home, thank you very much, so that took the shine right off him.

    My first husband was a good guy on paper, but he was bad to the bone. I m way happier with the good guy I've been with for most of the last 35 years.

  17. Terry, that's my preference nowadays, as well. So much less exciting--and less painful!

    Jack, you should think about writing that story. I'll make a deal. You write that, and I'll write the mad monk, and we'll both hit the NYT bestseller list together. What do you say?

    And the Captchas are getting more and more bizarre this morning, spelling odd words. I now have "holomorphic." I feel like the little elf in the computer's trying to tell me something.

  18. Karen, yes, when we run into them in person or online years later, all we can do is be thankful they broke our hearts (or we broke theirs) and we didn't end up putting our lives in their hands.

    I joked about my current husband Ben's image to my more staid friends when we first started going out. It was simply because he was a decade younger. Ben's always been the very best of the good guys. I'm so lucky there.

  19. And it sure doesn't hurt that Ben looks like a certain famous bad boy, now does it? ;-)

  20. I'm loving these stories!

    I was the skinny, quiet little girl with her nose in a book who fantasized about helping that bad boy show his true colors. In reality he would be everyone's hero, stoically hiding the sad, mean world he lived in. The REAL reality turned out to be he was just a loser, plain and simple.

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  22. Linda: I've tried many time, and there are pieces of those two relationships, and the related events, in everything I write about men and women. But the WHOLE thing at once is just too sensational -- a case where the truth is unbelievable to readers. :)
    "Nobody would actually behave like that," someone said.

    Alternating chapters, A Mad Monk and the Redhead.

    "Monks were trouble, dead or alive."

  23. Well, Karen, what can I say? You're right. For those who haven't met him, Ben strongly resembles Mick Jagger--in the old days before the drugs and rough life took such a toll on his face.

    Kaye, you're so right! I believe all the bad boy stories and craziness we run into stem from society's pushing Beauty and the Beast and other tales like that down girls' throats at an early age. For many of us, it just means troubled romances with jerks. For far too many, though, it means domestic violence. A lot of times, the Beast is just a beast.

  24. Hey, Linda! Congratulations on the new book!!!

    From the males weighing in, sounds as if we could have a whole post on bad girls. And I thought it was a cliche that she's a redhead. Guess not.

    I toyed with a few bad boys but it was pure lust. I love predictable, loyal, smart... and I got one who was cute and funny, too.

  25. Jack, that's my problem with the mad monk. So unbelievable! I don't even believe it, looking back on it--and I lived through it.

    This guy was an actual monk. We were engaged at one point (he was going to leave the order). And for years after I finally broke up with him for my mental survival, he'd call me drunk in the middle of the night threatening to get a gun and come shoot me and whoever I was with--from three states away.

    i like the alternating chapters. that sounds like a hell of a book!

  26. Hallie, I think that's the secret behind the bad boy--passion. We girls want to think it's their great love for us, but it's just lust.

    I agree. The sweet, funny, smart ones are so much better in real life. But the bad boy's very potent stuff in the pages of a book.

    And Captcha apparently fears for my soul from these posts. Now it's screaming "PRAYER" in all caps.

  27. “I wonder/ if anyone ever warns the hard-shelled boys in leather/ against the honor-roll girls?"

    HA! Love this! Years after high school, I found out my reputation with the boys was "cutest girl in the class -- too smart to date." Idjits.

  28. Leslie, yes! There used to be this horrible hall on the way to the lunchroom. Everyone had to pass through it and the wall was lined with guys. for some reason, they made the worst fun of me, calling me the "Ice Princess" and "The Brain," and making comments on different aspects of my body. Sometimes I skipped lunch and went to sit among the gravestones in a nearby cemetery and dream of eviscerating the one guy who was the worst offender.

    Years later, in another city, his best friend dated a friend of mine and told me that his buddy had had a terrible crush on me, but felt that I was "too good and too smart" for him. That's why the persecution. Idgits, indeed!

  29. The Mad Monk has to make it to one of your books!

    I am ROFL at the warnings about Ben and at your reply!! Good for you!

    Bad boys seem interesting at first, and we always think we can be the one to tame them. Usually they turn out to be simply mean and boring. I like my sweet nerd...who's also younger. :-)

  30. Sally, yes, so often what seems passionate and intense is really just selfish and mean.

    This has been so much fun today. Everyone's stories are just delightful!

  31. Hi Linda,
    Congrats on the new book. The bad boy attraction was always a mystery to me. When I was in high school, I would only like the boys who didn't like me back. I'm pretty sure that was a defense mechanism keeping me from serious relationships when I wasn't ready, and now that I've been writing so much about teenage relationship violence, I think all teenage girls should have that mechanism.
    (although it would be a frustrating bummer for the boys!)

  32. My first high school crush was killed in a bar fight a few years after we graduated. I went to work for U.S. Customs (as a clerk-typist) in San Francisco's Financial District, bought myself a Ducati motorcycle and proceeded to immerse myself in the glorious world of sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll that was the City in 1968.

    I didn't see my boyfriends or my first husband as bad boys, or myself as a bad girl, I just thought we were the most interesting people in the room.

    While it was *loads* of fun for a while, it eventually became fun with problems, and then simply problems. When I cleaned up I met someone I found to be not only the most boring man in the room but the most irritating as well. That was 32 years ago, we've been married for 28 and I freakin' adore him. :)))

  33. "[I}t eventually became fun with problems, and then simply problems." Yes, Lynda, that's so often the way of these relationships. So true.

    I wonder if we ever ran into each other during my own time in SF during 1968-69. Sounds like we ran in similar circles. So glad we both got out of all that before we ended up like some of my friends from those days did.

  34. But Jan, that's some of the bad boy mystique--did they really like us back? And if they did, was it enough?

    You're absolutely right about the problem with teenaged relationship violence today. it's scary. And I find particularly frightening the studies which show that girls now will put up with violence while dating that I don't think too many of us would back in the old days. (Marriage was different because you were stuck in those days if you bought into all of society's expectations for women.)

    I've come to see that boys/men all run after the girl/woman who's scared of commitment or simply won't commit. I point this out to young women who cry on my shoulder, and I've used it with my protagonist, Skeet, who has commitment problems and men who want her, even though she doesn't see herself as pretty or all that desirable. I wish more young girls could get hip to this point. And I suspect that is part of the lure of the bad boy for women and girls. They don't commit. Ah, but I'll make him want to commit to me because I'll love him so much. Yadda yadda.

  35. Interesting comments . . . high school is filled with treacherous landmines just waiting to explode, and kids can be really cruel to each other . . . . Like Terry, I have no “bad boy” stories to share [and the closest my husband ever came to “bad boy” stuff was locking them up when they got too far out of line] . . . but we’ve been happily together for thirty-five years, so I don’t feel at all deprived to have to admit that all of my “bad boy experiences” have been written in the pages of a book . . . .

  36. Jan, that was such an interesting comment about only liking the boys who didn't like me back. I couldn't take being adored by someone I knew I could walk all over. My daughter Jane was the same. When her husband came to our house for the first time my husband said, "That one will keep her in hand." And he has, although she's no shrinking violet.

  37. Joan, I think our consensus has been that, no matter what bad boy stories we might have in our pasts, we all prefer the good guys we now have and keep our bad boys on the page. And anyway, as a recent JR post showed us, what we experience on the page our brain experiences in similar ways to that of actually living through it. ;-)

  38. Rhys, I think that's one of the draws of the bad boy. He's someone we know we can't walk all over.

    When we mature, we find that bad boys are usually not actually strong--just intense--and that good guys can be very strong.

    And Captcha is definitely concerned about my soul with this discussion. Mine now is "Lord ppailw."

  39. Intriguing topic. Those impossible relationships have their own mystique. I remember a friend telling her husband after one party, "We really have to find someone nice for Mary."
    I would try to tell my high school students to look for someone stable, someone their family would like, because in the long run, so would they. I also would sometimes console my male students that the girls would wise up and appreciate the nice guys . . .

  40. Mary, yes. It's hard for those outside that crazy, passionate dynamic to understand why you're in it. And the man (or woman) who works that kind of wild magic on you may not be the person that would have any attraction at all for those outsiders.

    The Elizabethans believed that passionate love was an illness, physical and mental. And having been through it a few times, I'm not sure they weren't absolutely right. Eventually, if you're lucky, you get well, and you can't believe you ever did or felt those things.

  41. Wonderful blog, Linda... so glad to find you here, today! I am in love with your blog, your poetry, and your books.

    Coyote is a regular visitor to my dreams. I admit to a fascination with the bad boys. Fortunately Coyote was out of town when I met the man I married. He's the best.


  42. Linda, you've been great today. Thanks so much for visiting and for creating this lively discussion!

  43. Oh, but Reine, Coyote is not good marriage material! You're much better with your own sweet man.

    And thank you for the kind words about my writing. Readers like you and so many of the great folks who follow Jungle Reds are the reason we writers beat our heads against the typewriter/desktop/laptop day after day.

  44. Rhys, thank you so much for having me! And thanks to all the great Jungle Reds backbloggers and, of course the Reds themselves, for such a funny, fascinating discussion. There's never a dull moment with the Reds!

    And Captcha has given up moralizing to me. Now it's gone over to the dark side, apparently corrupted by my shameless comments. It now cries, "Beer, ergurer."

  45. Thank you, Rhys and all the Reds! And thank to all of the rest of you, as well, for your great stories and comments. We've got the makings of a lot of terrific books here, it seems to me.

    I had a wonderful time, as always. who doesn't with the Reds?

    And Captcha is still goading me. "Limit olicaal," it says. Always nagging!