Dec 10 2013 8:10am

Is Any Profession Forbidden for a Hero?

Last Hit by Jessica Clare and Jen Frederick and Kresley Cole's The Professional both feature Russian men who are engaged in criminal activities—while the latter's hero isn't explicitly a hit man, as Last Hit's hero is, it's understood that he has done some unsavory, illegal things.

How forgiving are you of a hero who is also a criminal? Are there types of criminality that are more justifiable than others?

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Alma Katsu
1. AlmaKatsu
I'll be watching this thread with interest because in the next book, the main character makes a unique designer drug. There are mitigating circumstances as to why he's doing this, and the drug doesn't have any harmful side effects that he knows of. Still, I know some readers might be turned off. Readers?

I fall on the side of "give me an interesting character and let me see where he/she goes". I like seeing the internal tug of war as a character struggles with both sides of their personality, or with circumstance.
Megan Frampton
2. MFrampton
Over on Twitter, we're having an interesting discussion because one of our bloggers, Jennifer Porter, said she's just not able to suspend enough disbelief to go with a hitman hero. I'm reminded of Anne Stuart's anti-heroes, especially Black Ice's Bastien, who is an assassin, and who is planning, for a good portion of the book, on killing the heroine.
3. CdnMrs
I'm cool with hitmen if they have standards. As in, no women - no children and no sexual violence.
Personally, I would have a harder time reading about a priest/minister/pastor. Particularly in a romance/erotica, but those are just my issues.
Jennifer Proffitt
4. JenniferProffitt
I think I'm really okay with hitmen, drug dealers, and other violent professions--especially when those men are taken out of our societal context and put in a dystopic world. I'm looking at you, Kit Rocha! And I think I'm ok with them outside of even that if, like @CdnMrs, says they have standards. I think I can be okay with just about anything as long as we are fully immersed in the world. Don't try to make me believe that a guy is a CEO by day and the enforcer of a motorcycle club by night. That's mixing two different worlds and is going to make me not only notice the fact that I'm fine with a hitman but is going to have me questioning the reality of this world. I can suspend belief for just about anything, but don't take advantage of that.

The place I draw the line is with pimps--I'm even fine with strip club owners--but pimps profit off of the sexualization and demeanment (I don't even know if that's a word but I'm making it one) of women, literally using them as property. How can we expect the hero to respect the heroine if he literally has women as property in the back room?

I read one book--might have been an erotica, might have been an RS--where the hero was a club owner and had prostitutes. His mother had been a prostitute and was severely beaten and raped by her pimp and so the hero knew that prostitutes were part of his business, but he wanted to give them a safe place to be and would never make them stay in the business once they wanted to leave. A pimp--or glorified club owner who has prostitutes in his club (in historical or otherwise)--has to be done very carefully in order for me to accept his profession and it usually has to be folded into another aspect of his job, as well as have a reasoning (aka the protective pimp).
Monique Neaves
5. Kadiya
Totally cool with a hitman or assassin. Some of my favorite characters have been hitmen, assassins, or otherwise involved in that sort of thing: Jed from Gennita Low's Virtually series, Bastien and company from Anne Stuart's Ice series, even Ilya Prakenskii from Christine Feehan's Drake series. Drug dealer is a no-go, unless it was a former life and he is no longer doing it. Drug runner or smuggler, (or otherwise involved in the criminal enterprise of drugs) I'm on the fence about. It generally depends on the other characteristics of the character. Pimp is a no-go.

Jennifer's example of CEO/MC enforcer would work for me, actually, depending on the type of company.

Ultimately, it is going to depend on how the H is portrayed. Is he a sympathetic character or just a criminal?
Jennifer Proffitt
6. JenniferProffitt
@Kadiya, 100% agree with you that it all depends on how the H is portrayed. Like I mentioned with my pimp example, I wasn't OK with it in theory, but this one books made it a believable part of our heroes backstory and made him sympathetic.

I don't think that a CEO/MC enforcer would work in theory, but in practice it might become my new favorite. It all just depends on if the rules of one world could feasibly mesh with the rules of the other.
7. PhoebeChase
What Kadiya said reminded me how I have almost no problem with Jax from Sons of Anarchy killing people, but when he juiced up Wendy after she got clean I was disgusted. I'm okay with professions that include violence, but not those that take advantage of people. Kind of weird when I think about it.
8. carmenlire
I agree with @PhoebeChase. I don't mind if a hero's career includes violence but I wouldn't be able to read a book where he unabashedly takes advantage of people for really no purpose--especially if it was a "good" guy or girl.
And Something someone else brought up made me think: in a historical, the hero runs a gambling den that he took over from his father-in-law and while he acknowledges that there must be prostitues, he doesn't have much to do with them and they are free to choose their own guys and make their own hours. He didn't even take a percentage of their pay. In that example, I'm ok with it, but I couldn't take an actual pimp-- that would be too much
9. JenniferPorter
@PhoebeChase I don't think it is weird at all. I have the same issue.I have no interest in reading the Last Hit and am not sure if it is the blurb or the hit man thing that turns me off. Yet, I am intrigued by The Professional and do intend to read it. I hate to say that "I will never read a book with a hero who does x, y or z" because I might miss out on a fantastic story. I have been amazed at how some authors have been able to redeem characters that I thought were evil. But I am seeing some books with nasty sounding heroes (and heroines) out there that just cross the line for me.
10. ChelseaMueller
What it comes down to is the quality of the character. A fully rounded character can show us a good guy in a bad situation, or a not-so-great guy dealing with what he's got and climing out of it to be a better person, or a whole host of other scenarios.

I think it's easy to say I wouldn't like Violent Job A, but I expect a hero to be more than just his job. Yes, that affects the choices he makes, the situations, his past, and how he views his future (it also likely brings a host of demons), but for me it's more about how he handles those situations.

So, I'm not putting jobs off limits, but I—like @CdnMrs—expect to see growth (and, generally, standards). As long as a character is interesting, engaging and someone I understand/want to understand, I'm there.
11. pamelia
I think any well-written character works for me, no matter what the profession. Kristen Ashley's "Knight", R. Lee Smith's "Heat", Anne Stuart's "Black Ice", Kresley Cole's "Lothaire" all rank among my favorites and in them we have (respectively) a nightclub owner/pimp (although he's the protective noble type)*, a murdering drug-manufacturing alien, an assassin, a somewhat mentally unstable vampire.
I say bring on the different types and make them feel real and make them sympathetic (but never pathetic) and I love to read about them!

*I'm pretty sure "Knight" is the book Jennifer Proffitt is referencing in comment #4 above...
12. Kareni
Thanks for a thought provoking post.

Something that I've been pondering -- what is the difference between a sniper and a hit man? They both kill for money (for the first, it's for wages; for the second, it's a contract).
Jennifer Proffitt
13. JenniferProffitt
@pamelia, why yes it is! A book I do actually really love. Although since reading it I feel like I then read several others with similar backstories. Also I would argue there is no "somewhat" to Lothaire--he is mentally unstable.

@Kareni, for me the difference between a sniper and a hitman is usually the context. A sniper is a trained gunman with extreme skill for accuracy, especially over long range. A sniper is also found a lot more often in the military and therefore is a government sanctioned killer. Also, a sniper can be a hitman, and a hitman is more like a modern term for an assassin. For example you can be a hitman and kill your victims by strangling, stabbing, drowning, etc, but a sniper requires a very specific set of skills.
14. 715Helva
I'm kinda in a rush here, and can't remember name of series, but what about the "hero" named Terrible, the drug czar's hitman-enforcer? This series I think is dystopian with heroine a drug-taking ghost hunter. It is a great series, and only my rush and my loss of brain cells prevents me from giving more details. Anyway, I have suspended my distaste for that lifestyle and really enjoy the stories.
15. ChelseaMueller
@715Helva - You're thinking of Stacia Kane's Downside Ghosts series (first book: Unholy Ghosts). LOVE that series (and Terrible).
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