The Perfect Lanky Man


Photos: Story board for my second mystery novel — in the works, more or less;  My “perfect lanky man,” photo snapped in 1937 in Central California.
There’s been some conversation this week on the DorothyL mystery list about romantic shenanigans in mystery novels, and the sexiness of “lanky” men.

It reminded me that somebody posted a review on Amazon saying she didn’t like the perfect man in my mystery novel, ABSINTHE OF MALICE. Too perfect.

Ha. There’s no such thing as a too-perfect man.

I’ve known two perfect men in my life. I was married to one of them and I invented the other one. As long as I was making him up I decided he should be every girl’s dream — rich, handsome and sexy. What’s not to like? I hope that negative review won’t deter a potential reader.

Besides, it’s not as if my fictional perfect man never made a mistake. He let my protagonist get away, spent more than 20 years married to the wrong woman, lived long enough to regret it, backed up and started over. A perfect man is not afraid to admit his mistakes.

It was only after my husband died that I realized he was the role model for my fictional perfect man. In going through Ed “Curly” Browning’s files I came across a snapshot I had never seen before. Taken in 1937 when he was a strapping youth, it was like a slap upside the head. There was the guy I had been writing about without even knowing it.

Physically there’s not much resemblance between the fictional man and the real one. What they have in common is attitude, a mind like a steel trap and a sense of humor. My fictional perfect man has a solution for every problem. Ed understood how things work.

Twenty-five years ago he was the only person I knew who had a computer. Sears was the only store in town selling them and Sears had only one for sale — a Commodore 64 — so that’s what Ed bought. I came home from work one day and he had broken some kind of code and printed out reams of that machine’s programs.

Probably not a big job in those early days but even today’s computers are basically a box with a set of programmed commands. I miss his expertise every day of my life.

The memories are bittersweet. The men we choose to grow old with sometimes leave us too soon. As the author in charge of her characters, I assure you that will not happen to my fictional protagonist and her too-perfect man.

Their further adventures are still in the works—a book getting its umpteenth revision. Thank goodness for my story board. I only have to rearrange the sticky notes stuck on each chapter square. The story board leans against wall and the pictures have stared back at me for months going on years. I cut them out of old Vanity Fair magazines, and they fit my characters perfectly.

If the pictures could sing, they would be singing Jelly Roll Morton’s song, Hesitation Blues – “How long … how long do I have to wait?” In fact, I use the song in my sequel-in-progress, working title METAPHOR FOR MURDER.

And if my perfect man were still around, the book would have been finished because he would have asked me every day, “Are you working on your book?”

Stay tuned ….


About browning26

mystery author, former English teacher, former newspaper reporter, former legal secretary

Posted on June 28, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Pat,
    Loved your story, altho’ it made me sniffle a tad. Not tall, nor lanky, but short, fat and female: have you worked on your book today?

    • Hi, Dory:
      Thanks for stopping by! This day is full of distractions but I am going to write at least ONE PAGE on that darn book before I go to sleep tonight. I promise. (-: And thanks for the nudge!

  2. Keep those distractions coming. You’re going to get a book out of them at long last, I can tell. Lots of wisdom in your post (which I discovered on the DL and followed here). Liz

    • Hi, Liz:

      Thanks for your comment — and your promise that I’ll get a book out of all my distractions. Honestly, they never stop. Out of the blue today I got a phone call from a cousin-in-law I have never met. She’s visiting her new husband’s relatives about 15 miles from here so we made arrangements to get together on Saturday. Fortunately my sister is coming to my rescue — we can meet at her house, which is large and beautiful and always spic and span. (-:

      Meantime, the book languishes — but thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your faith in my writing!

      Pat Browning

    • Liz, I know what you mean about getting started with WordPress. It has been a process for me, too and I still don’t know much about it.

      Do you have a website? When I saw “Bend in the River” I thought of Bend, Oregon. Do you by any chance live in Oregon?

      Pat Browning

  3. I see a memoir: “In Praise of Lanky Men.”

  4. What a great post, Pat!!!!! Can’t wait to read this book (and the memoir as well).

  5. P.S. Doesn’t nonfiction give us enough IMperfect men to satisfy those that want THEM?

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