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Getting To Know A.X.L. Pendergast, The Lead Character of Doug Preston/Lincoln Child Novels

Paul Bettany: Will he become Pendergast?

Paul Bettany: Will he become Pendergast?

It would appear that Gale Anne Hurd, she of the ever popular series The Walking Dead has set her sights on bringing Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child's exceptional F.B.I. agent A.X.L. Pendergast to the small screen. If this is so, this will be a moment that millions of readers and fans have awaited for many, many years. Finally, we will get to see Pendergast in action!

To me, the list of who could play Pendergast is short. Benedict Cumberland has been mentioned and while I enjoy his acting abilities and believe he might pull this off, I am holding out for another actor. Paul Bettany has the suaveness, the look, and the acting chops to take this character on and breathe life into him for the screen. He would be perfect for the part. To those out in La La Land, hear me! Pursue Paul as Pendergast!!!

Before we arrive at that moment whereupon the show airs, I feel it would behoove someone to introduce Pendergast to the masses, to those who have yet to read about his exploits and abilities, his unique person and past. And as I have read and own all of the books dating back to the beginning, back to Relic which was first published in 1995, and continuing to the current day, I believe I am qualified to do so. So fair reader, carry on; if you do not know Pendergast at present you will at least have a working knowledge of him once you have completed reading this primer about him. From there, you will need to continue by reading the books yourself. A caution: he can be addicting.

There are nine stand alone novels at this time. That is, stand alone if you desire to read only one book. Personally, I find it impossible to read only one of these books. There is also an e-book, Extraction which sheds some light on Pendergast's early years. In addition there are two trilogies: The Diogenes Trilogy and the Helen Trilogy. Various characters branch out into other novels from these but as we are discussing the preeminent character we will focus on only the collective works which include Pendergast himself.

An Introduction...

Allow me to introduce A. X. L. Pendergast, Special Agent extraordinaire of the F.B.I. office in New Orleans, yet spends the vast majority of his time in and around the City That Never Sleeps, New York. He has had some, shall we say, "interesting" cases. As he is independently wealthy from old family money, he contracts his special skills to the F.B.I. for the miserly sum of one dollar per year. As they get to utilize his unique talents for this sum, they generally allow him to roam the country and often the world, seeking cases and clues in some most unusual locations.

A Southern gentleman born and bred, Pendergast retains a smooth Southern accent often described as mellifluous or smooth as buttermilk. Little of his childhood is known but we do know he has (had?) a brother named Diogenes. Each have their own special abilities with Aloysius using his for good by solving crimes and Diogenes using his for the exact opposite. It is often said that master criminals are brilliant, genius' in their own way: Diogenes is most definitely that. The two meet on opposite sides of the law at several junctures and each distinguishes himself in one manner or another.

Pendergast has multiple degrees from some outstanding edifices of higher learning such as Harvard and and an offshoot of Oxford known as Baliol College, with his studies as varied as his interests; Anthropology, Philosophy and the Classics being foremost. He has also served in the military although in what capacity is not known for certain.

He has a series of rooms at the distinguished hotel known as The Dakota in New York, a mansion albeit less than attractive from the exterior on Riverside Drive also in New York, and a family home in old Louisiana. He has a personal assistant slash chauffeur in one Proctor who works for him.

He is a quiet soul outward yet has a fiercely burning desire to succeed within. He is seldom, if ever truly incorrect. While he may make a small mistake often that mistake leads to a positive outcome. His powers of observation are second to none while his ability to draw correct conclusions and insight border on the unbelievable. At times, it appears as though he has a mystical power to see that which is hidden from the general public. More on this at a later time.

Polite to a fault, Pendergast can and often will slice a snide bureaucrat to the quick with a comment or phrase when they displease him sufficiently. Generally, he is considerate, somewhat eccentric and aloof to people in general. Few there are who can or have pierced his exterior and come to known the inner man. One who did was to be his wife. Helen Esterhazy married Pendergast in the past but was killed while on safari in Africa. Or was she? As it turned out, Helen had something to hide from her husband which forced her to disappear for twelve years before a single clue put Pendergast on the trail to discover the truth. In the Helen Trilogy, which consists of Fever Dream, Cold Vengeance and the exciting conclusion Two Graves (the title was my contribution to the authors, thank you oh so much) we follow along as Pendergast discovers the truth, that Helen didn't die, that she still may be alive, and there is a massive conspiracy hiding her from him. If you set forth on this trail, be sure to allow sufficient time to read all three novels in short order for you will not be able to put these books down. He pursues the truth and travels a trail that is difficult at best, insane at times, and presents the reader with an alternative to a known situation that transcends time itself.

Physically, he is a reasonably tall man standing just over six feet tall. Slender yet powerful, silvery gray eyes that shield themselves from allowing anyone to know what is being thought behind their shield and hair so blonde as to be white. His skin is pale to the point of being translucent. His color of choice for clothing runs to the dark side, with a tailor made suit of black wool being first in his closet. However, he is also a master of disguise who has a chameleon-like ability to blend into any scenario that is required.

He is an intellectual who can discuss anything from food and wine to rock structure and art. He is a master of many languages, some current and in use in various dialects, some ancient and forgotten. He also has a knowledge of an ancient Tibetan meditation technique known as Chongg Ran which he has combined with concepts discovered in an Italian manuscript and allows him to enter a state of unusually deep meditation, to enter into a memory crossing. This memory crossing permits Pendergast to see things which took place at another time, another place and his use of this knowledge to solve cases which otherwise may have been unsolvable is astounding. He can literally transcend time and space, even see and hear a conversation which took place some hundred years ago or more.

We first meet Pendergast in Relic, a novel of particular uniqueness in which he arrives on the scene and meets a New York police officer, one Lt. Vincent D'Agosta. D'Agosta is thrown unwillingly into a scenario whereby a monster is discovered living in the sub-basements of the New York Museum of Natural History. In time, he becomes friends with Pendergast although at great personal heartache.

We also meet one Dr. Margo Green, a curator for the museum; William Smithback Jr., a somewhat tawdry news reporter bent upon gaining ground in the dog eat dog world of reporting. We also meet a Dr. Frock, another curator for the museum. Brilliant yet flawed, we find him once more in Reliquary along with the others.

The Museum Beast as it comes to be known, is far different from the beast shown in the film Relic. Of particular note is the peculiar absence of Pendergast himself in this film. As he is the central figure in the book it was depressingly odd to find him nonexistent in the film. I did not and do not understand Hollywood at times.

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The premise for this book is that an expedition into the Amazon rain forest discovers something, something evil. This evil follows the expedition back to New York leaving a trail of blood and destruction in its path. Once there it takes up residence in the Museum and continues to murder people to feed its need. D'Agosta becomes involved in the case and comes to meet Pendergast, who as an FBI agent seems to be able to pick and choose cases which appeal to him due to their uniqueness. As this is a particularly unique case, Pendergast is drawn to it and assists in the solving. It is harrowing, it is deceptively scary, and makes for a tremendous read on a cold, windy, rainy evening.

You will not wander into the darkened areas of a museum in the near future once you have finished this novel.

From there we move on to Reliquary. Also set in New York it tells the continuing tale of the core group and a strange phenomenon which is occurring in the city. Pendergast goes deep underground to a fabled, if misunderstood world which exists without our knowledge. There he finds an entire civilization, a veritable city whose presence is at best a whisper. But he also finds a murderer most foul, a demon of sorts who preys upon any and all who dwell beneath the city and some who live above.

The next in the Pendergast series is the novel The Cabinet of Curiosities. It is here we finally begin to learn a bit about his past, and that he had a brother. We meet Dr. Nora Kelly, an archaeologist for the museum who then falls victim to Pendergast's charm and assists him in the series of murders, some of which date back some 130 years. William Smithback makes his return and has gained some notoriety of his own for having written a book about the museum killings. We also learn that Pendergast's ancestor was involved in these ancient murders.

We then arrive at what is my favorite title of all the Pendergast novels, and perhaps one of the best titles I have ever seen: Still Life With Crows. Set far from the New York lights in Medicine Lodge, Kansas, SLWC is simply an outstanding read. We meet one Corrie Swanson who appears in several novels after this and becomes a Pendergastian protege of sorts.

Set in the modern time frame a murder is committed using 19th century Cheyenne arrows. Additional murders are committed and the case is seemingly unsolvable to any but our protagonist Pendergast. Using skills lacking in others he eventually solves the case but not before carrying us along on a ride of memorable proportions.

The next in the Pendergast series are the three Diogenes books: Brimstone, Dance of Death and The Book of the Dead. Spread out over some 1,500 pages the story is non-stop, from the initial roasting of a deviant social personage of some import to an Italian count to meeting Diogenes as an adult with a fiendish plan of destruction. These novels are involved, they are intense, they are in a word: brilliant.

The next Pendergast novel is The Wheel of Darkness in which we learn more of a person of some import and age who appears in an earlier novel, one Constance Greene. Constance is an enigma, as she literally is the product of a scientific experiment gone mad by Pendergast's ancestor and is in excess of one hundred years old, yet looks to be a maiden of barely twenty. She hid for many years in the basements and catacombs of the old mansion in New York before making her presence known. Pendergast takes Constance on a trip to Tibet where they travel to a monastery and find a dangerous artifact has been stolen which if unleashed could destroy the world.

We next find Pendergast in Cemetery Dance in which two of Pendergast's close friends Smithback and Nora Kelly have wed and have been attacked; and we learn that Smithback is now dead. However, after viewing the security video they find the killer is a man who was already declared to be dead. Could a zombie be at work here? A person who is undead, come back from the grave to kill others? It appears as though this is what is occurring.

We have now reached The Helen Trilogy, as described above. Pendergast discovers evidence that Helen was not killed and is possibly alive. He sets out on a twelve year old cold trail in Fever Dream. In this work we discover that no less than John James Audubon is involved albeit it at a distance. We find that Audubon was afflicted with a rare form of avian flu which spawned within his brain hitherto unknown abilities that in turn created the masterpieces we know him by today. He follows the trail into the bayous of Louisiana then to the moors of Scotland and learns that a shadowy group known as Der Bund have undertaken a science experiment of their own, and his dear wife was part of it.

The conclusion in Two Graves sees Pendergast's desire to solve the mystery and find his wife alive stronger than ever. Regardless of those who feel he is losing touch with reality and that his wife truly is alive, he sets forth on a trail of revenge: there will be no stopping him. Along the way we discover a murderer at work in New York who is as brilliant as Pendergast himself. We also learn...

I will not tell you. You must read and discover the truth for yourself. Suffice it to say, there is a shock as large as any you have read or seen in film waiting at the end.

The remaining Pendergast novels, White Fire, Blue Labyrinth and Crimson Shore each tell the tale of evil and murder ranging from the remote mountains of Colorado in White Fire to a deserted mine in Blue Labyrinth to the Massachusetts seashore in Crimson Shore. He receives assistance from various personages we have met along the way, including Corrie Swanson, Constance Greene, Vincent D'Agosta and others. Each is worthy of a read, and each is unique in its ability to supply hidden nuggets of information regarding one Aloysius Xingu Leng Pendergast.



Mr Archer (author) from Missouri on April 12, 2016:

Cheyenne they most assuredly do. Preston and Child are storytellers extraordinaire and keep you turning page after page after page until you look up and a couple of hours have passed. If I were to pick one to start with I think I would try The Cabinet of Curiosities. Or maybe Fever Dream, if you want to jump in and learn about his missing and presumed dead wife. Or you could start at the beginning and read them all! I guarantee you will not be disappointed! take care Cheyenne and have a wonderful day!

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on April 11, 2016:

Mike, I haven't read any of these books, but the way you tell it, I need to! I love the intrigue of Pendergast's ability to transcend time.

And the hunt for his (dead?) wife after twelve years?! These books sound like they're fast moving and keep you turning the pages, wanting more.

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