Reader Friday: Favorite Fictional Partnership

In honor of Valentine’s Day, let’s talk fictional partners, whether that be man and woman, two women, two men, or (wo)man and animal, like Turner and Hooch.

What’s your favorite dynamic duo, and why?

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About Sue Coletta

Member of MWA, Sisters in Crime, and ITW, Sue Coletta is an award-winning, bestselling crime writer of psychological thrillers. She also writes true crime: PRETTY EVIL NEW ENGLAND is anticipated to hit stores in Fall 2020, published by Globe Pequot (Rowman & Littlefield). In 2017, 2018, and 2019, Feedspot awarded her Murder Blog as one of the Top 100 Crime Blogs on the Net (Murder Blog sits at #5). Learn more about Sue and her books at https://suecoletta.com

40 thoughts on “Reader Friday: Favorite Fictional Partnership

  1. For me, fictional partners started with Frank & Joe Hardy. I’ve always loved, for lack of a better term, ‘buddy stories’. I can’t really think of any adult fiction equivalents (in book terms).

  2. Holmes and Watson (especially as portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the series).

    Why? Because they are perfectly matched partners, one with a knife-thrust mind that goes right for the heart of the matter; and the other with a plodding, bog-like thought process that eventually gets there, after considering every tidbit of minutiae on the plate.

    The two actors mentioned above seem born to play the two parts.

    • Deb, you’ve named my other favorite partners. Yes, in the books, Holmes and Watson are a match in some ways. But Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman bring those characters to thrilling life, reinforcing the bond created through sharing their strengths. Theirs will be the faces I see every time I read the books from now on. Their love for the adventure and the chase, their unspoken brotherly love, and the way their minds cut through the puzzle. . . sheer delight!

  3. I’m finding it hard to come up with true partners. Lots of lead-and-sidekick/assistant pairings:
    Wimsey and Bunter
    Campion and Lugg
    Wolfe and Goodwin
    Etc.

    But true partners?
    Ballard and Bosch
    Bryant and May
    Tommy and Tuppence (my wife’s suggestion)
    Hero Jarvis and Sebastian St. Cyr (another suggestion from my wife)

    Writing a true partnership detective story might be very difficult. Maybe it becomes easier in a situation where the partners have clearly distinguished roles as in the Lincoln Rhyme-Amelia Sachs series (Deaver). I haven’t read these, but I’m thinking Rhyme’s physical limitation may allow Sachs to have equal weight in the story–unlike the Nero Wolfe stories, where Archie is basically a go-fer. That theory might apply to Bosch and Ballard too, as Bosch is no longer a cop and Ballard has already appeared in a solo novel.

    Maybe the theory applies to Mike Romeo and Ira Rosen? Someone involved with KZB might know.

    • I’d like to hear more discussion on this topic. Why ARE true partner stories so hard to find (and I don’t just mean detectives, but other genres too. In a world where you can alternate POV’s, have more than one subplot, & nobody seems to be able to focus on one thing anyway, I would genuinely like to understand a little better why it is deemed problematic?

      Good partner combos are easy to find on TV, but not in print. That seems weird to me. Sure, TV can take a lot of shortcuts, but what makes it so problematic for print?

      • Hmm, great question, BK. I use partners in my Grafton County series. Even though one character is sheriff and the other is his unorthodox female deputy, they’re very much a team. Perhaps we should explore this in more depth.

        Eric, I hadn’t considered Ballard and Bosch a partnership, but you’re right. They are a dynamic duo. And so are Lincoln Rhymes and Amelia Sachs. Great answers!

  4. Frodo and Sam from LORD OF THE RINGS. The smallest of the small among a group of epic heroes yet everything the others sacrifice means nothing unless they do what they must. From a race of happy couch potatoes, they have no magic and no warrior skills, but they endure and succeed, mainly because of Sam, a common gardener with the emotional strength to be the only being not corrupted by the ring. His “I can’t carry the ring, but I can carry you.” is one of the most powerful statements of courage in all of literature.

      • I told my husband about this post and his answer was, “Roy Rogers and…” wait for it…”Trigger”!

        Y’all thought I was going to say Dale, didn’t ya? I guess the horse was more memorable to him than the romance. 🙂

    • Loved Hart to Hart. There were so many good partner shows it’s hard to pin them down. As a child of the 70’s and 80’s there were tons: Roy & Johnny in Emergency!, Simon & Simon, Starsky & Hutch, Bill and Ralph in Greatest American Hero (okay, well, I wouldn’t say that’s a depth of partnership compared to the other ones) and I’m probably forgetting a bunch more.

  5. It’s hard to come up with one that’s been as long-lasting as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson. More than 130 years after they first appeared in print, they are still being celebrated on the page and the screen.

  6. People have already mentioned the first ones that came to my mind: Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin and Nick and Nora Charles. So I’ll go further afield and mention the entire Stone family in Robert A Heinlein’s “The Rolling Stones,” which has more world-class banter than even “The Thin Man,” and Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, and Harry Potter in the first two books of the Harry Potter series. Also Jeeves and Wooster.

    The asymmetry of many of these relationships is what makes it fun. That one can slap the “hero and sidekick” label on some of them is neither here nor there. Or maybe it’s what makes it work. Anyway, with Jeeves and Wooster, who’s the sidekick? And we shouldn’t downplay Archie Goodwin’s many talents, from snappy dialog to being where the bullet isn’t.

    One thing I like about dynamic duos or even larger groupings is their built-in conflict. Sometimes I think the group needs three people to maximize the amount of UNSTABLE conflict. You can’t have shifting alliances in an argument between two people. It takes three. (I thought of this one day while watching that great literary masterpiece, “Kukla, Fran, and Ollie.” Burr Tilstrom could only operate two hand puppets at once, so he added Fran to the mix to provide the straight lines and generally mix things up.)

    • Two characters tend to evolve into a static relationship, three characters rarely do. I call that the character trinity.

      I first recognized the character trinity and its power in the original STAR TREK. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy were an ideal heart, mind, and action trinity. When a problem needed to be solved, Spock was the logical mind, McCoy the emotional heart, and Kirk took both and created the ideal action.

      These characters can also be considered a thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. Two opposite sides of a problem from Spock and McCoy, and Kirk pulling both together to find the solution.

  7. Still and always Abbott and Costello.

    All the rest of them went through life fighting bad stuff, things, and crime.

    Bud and Lou fought vampires, Jekyll and Hide, the Keystone Cops, a mummy, Captain Kidd, and many other villains. They always came out alive and did not have the existential baggage of parental deaths or potentially debilitating diseases.

    None of the super heroes ever had a routine as good as Who’s on First. Give me Bud and Lou over guys or gals in tights, mobiles, or live in spooky castles.

  8. I named my youngest boys (cats) Elvis and Joe, and, lemme tell ya, that Joe is Trouble. Initially I preferred Joe when he played second banana to Elvis, but I’ve gotten where I like his standalones, too.

    I love Nick and Nora. They play their own drinking game every movie. You have to wonder how they stand up after a point.

    Could Bullwinkle exist without Rocky? Or Ren without Stimpy? I think not.

    I loved both Remington Steele and Moonlighting. Chemistry was key in both series.

    Laurel and Hardy.

    One real life partnership, or act, that I can’t imagine as solo performers: Penn and Teller. I’ve seen them live over the decades numerous times (and been picked out of the audience for stunts several times so I can tell you Teller speaks as he is the one who instructs you what to do). I can’t imagine either of them performing on their own, or having any desire to see them do so.

  9. Okay, since Holmes & Watson got so much mention, I’m going to have to try a few more of the Sherlock Holmes stories. I’ve only read two, and while they were partners in the formal since, they never struck me deeply as partners. But knowing me, the ones I read probably started from the beginning of publication so maybe he hadn’t gotten down his writing chops yet.

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