One of the cardinal rules of storytelling is that the characters must do something. Having characters who sit around doing nothing worked out for Beckett in one instance, but it is not generally a good idea. Robin Llewellyn, the alcoholic, terminally ill, homeless, Welsh private detective at the center of Robert Lewis’ Swansea Terminal, (Serpent’s Tail, 2007) is hopelessly passive. He lives, if it can be called that, only for his next drink, and he doesn’t have any real desire to change. As such, he does not make a very interesting protagonist.
For the first three-quarters of the book, the story involves Llewellyn staying drunk, getting involved with some small time gangsters, and ending up with a job sitting in the dark babysitting a warehouse full of smuggled booze. Although this is clearly a setup of some sort, Llewellyn is more than content to sit in the dark, drink warm lager and wallow in self pity and degradation. It’s difficult to care about someone who does not care about themselves, and Llewellyn doesn’t give a damn. Even his pitch black observations about life don’t make him any more interesting or sympathetic. By the time he finally gets off his ass and decides to do something about his situation it is too late for him to fully engage the reader.
Lewis is a young, promising author, and unlike his protagonist, he has a future to worry about. He might want to consider creating a character with a little more to lose.