September 3rd, 2006
After all, his employer (Jan Sleet) was the first character to get one, and it’s not really possible to think about her without thinking about him. Sherlock Holmes, as I think he pointed out at one point, was lost without his loyal friend and biographer Dr. Watson, and how could Nero Wolfe have solved a single mystery without Archie Goodwin?
So, it’s really a shame that Marshall has not been recognized until now. Jan Sleet wouldn’t have got far, as a reporter or as a detective, without him, and the one time we see her on her own for an extended period (in the first four chapters of U-town) she’s clearly miserable. Her eerie self-confidence returns the minute they are back together.
But there’s something else important about Marshall, which is that he’s narrated quite a few chapters, the only character to do so. He narrated the last four chapters (and the epilogue) of A Sane Woman, and three chapters in U-town (including the last one). Which is an interesting coincidence, his always narrating the ends of the novels, because current plans are for him to narrate the ending of the current one as well. I didn’t really think about this pattern until now.
We don’t know much about Marshall’s early life. His last name is mentioned only once (and there is a chance that he gave the wrong name in that situation, to see if anybody would notice). He is Irish, and (we can assume) at least a bit older than his employer. There has never even been a physical description of him (as there never was of Archie Goodwin), though I have the idea that he’s good-looking. It’s hard to imagine Jan Sleet hiring an assistant who was not pleasant to look at. After all, one of the few things that Dr. John (or possibly James) Watson and Archie Goodwin had in common was that they were obviously attractive to women.
Of course, Marshall has often had difficulty translating this attractiveness into anything tangible, since his employer is always watching, ready to interfere.
I don’t think I’ve quoted this exchange I had with Cyndi about Marshall:
Cyndi: hey are we going to see any more Marshall’s-POV chapters?
John: yup. not soon, though
Cyndi: woot. I like him.
John: he’s not flashy, kind of quiet, but he’s a good character to write
Cyndi: yeah that’s what I like about him. you kind of have to dig to make him seen.
John: exactly, he’s an observer, but he’s a feeling person, not emotionally shut off (like some people who observe a lot)
Cyndi: right. I like that.
Marshall is currently assisting his employer in a series of mystery stories.
Entry Filed under: characters