Men of Honor

by JT Ellison

We’ve had far too much smart stuff here lately. I thought it was high time to drag us all down into the gutter. So grab your popcorn (or popcorn flavored coffee) and let’s do this.

I have a confession to make. I should be embarrassed; on the contrary, I feel the tiniest frisson of giddiness at sharing.

I have been watching THE BACHELORETTE. And enjoying it.

Phew. Okay. Lighting has not struck me down. You haven’t run away with your hair on fire, screaming obscenities for my lack of culture, grace and intellectualism. (And if you have, we don’t want you here anyway. So there.)

I started watching the show because Jennifer Weiner, an author whom I greatly respect for her ability to not just write great books, but touch people’s hearts, mentioned on Twitter she was planning to live tweet The Bachelorette. Knowing that the manly half of the Ellison household would not stand still long enough to see the opening credits roll, when he went to fetch me a glass of wine, I surreptitiously changed the channel, hit record and got the TV back on track without him noticing. I’m crafty like that.

He left town the next day, so I had an evening alone. And you know what we women do when the men aren’t about – we watch stupid romantic comedies, paint our nails, give ourselves facials and read Jane Austen (or Jennifer Weiner.)

After crying my way through (God, I can’t even remember what movie it was, if that tells you anything) I switched to the DVR and pulled up The Bachelorette. Ashley stood in a ball gown, and a limo full of totally hot guys pulled up (I think I missed the first limo) A very cute man emerged with a bottle of wine and two glasses, and I thought to myself – okay, I can stand a few more minutes of this drivel.

Five weeks later, I am hooked. Hook, line and sinker. I am wondering about J.P., who seems to be the most down to earth among them, or should I say, the earthiest, if you catch my drift. Ames reminds me of every boy I hung out with in college, that sweet, blank wide smile hiding a pretty big brain. Ben F. – he of the smooth opening wine segment, could be a front runner here soon, he seems like the kind of guy who has staying power (and hello… vineyard…). I was thrilled when William left, he wasn’t in it for the right reasons, and his suicidal reaction spoke volumes about what kind of situation she’d be getting herself into with him. Mickey is ridiculously cute, but West, poor West, really made me cry.

And I am furious with Bentley.

For those who aren’t watching, Bentley is the cad. He’s the classic bad boy with a huge sob story. He’s the man Mama warned us about, the one who would use you, hurt you, and leave you breathless in the gutter, heartbroken and praying he comes back. I know he’s a plant. I know this is all scripted. Don’t worry, I haven’t lost all of my mind. But poor Ashley, she who is the Bachelorette, I think actually liked this asshole.

Bentley is a man without honor.

And in my world, that is an unforgivable sin.

The producers are milking it for all it’s worth too, which makes them fall into the same category, though to his credit, Chris, the narrator/host dude, has been rolling his eyes every time Ashley whines about Bentley (which it’s become, whining, so I’m about ready to smack her too. But all they have to do is show her the videos, and let things move on, and I think it’s really disingenuous of them not to, because they’ve gotten snookered here too, so it would be good for the show to make a statement that they won’t put up with this kind of duplicity and move on. And it’s not just duplicity, it’s evil, it’s harmful, and we all need to shut these kinds of people out of our lives. Bentley really gives me hives. I’ve known too many just like him, people who will say or do anything to further their agenda. YUCK!)

Compare and contrast my other favorite shows right now. GAME OF THRONES took a while to get started (and really should be called GAME OF TITS AND ASS FOR THE THRONE) but has me captivated now. Ned Stark, Hand of the King, Protector of the Realm, is a man of honor. He’s so honorable, in fact, that it may end up getting him killed, because he operates in a world that has nothing but greed and avarice, except for the small band of brothers on the wall, the Men of the Night Watch, who have no choice but to be honorable, though some do choose that life. Even Jaime Lassiter, who is on the surface one of the most dishonest worms ever, has a spark of nobility in him. He just needs someone to believe in his goodness and he’ll shatter into a million pieces and rise like the phoenix from the ashes. I see it in him. It’s coming.

No show, no book, can have a hero who isn’t honorable. The trick, of course, is to watch the people around the honorable man use his honor to manipulate him. Honorable men in these stories are almost always naïve, which is what gives them their charm, and is their biggest flaw.

JUSTIFIED, with the brilliant Timothy Oliphant as Raylan Givens, the Federal Marshall who is forced back to his extremely backwater hometown to face all his demons, is another honorable man. He’s a shoot first ask questions later kind of guy too, which makes him all the more intriguing to me. To be that certain in your creed, your code, that you can smell injustice… yum. And his nemesis, Boyd Crowder, is also an honorable man, but a thief, crook, criminal… he’s the perfect anti-hero.

Heroes and anti-heroes must have a code of honor. It’s their armor. It can be pierced, and it can be damaged, but it will never be shed, not fully.

I like writing about heroes with honor. I surround myself with the kind of people I can be secure in, the ones I know live honorable lives. My father, my husband, both knights in shining armor. My friends. My agent. I want people who I can trust, who inspire me, who I want to emulate. So it’s not surprising that these are the kinds of people I like to write.

Taylor Jackson has honor. John Baldwin has honor. Dr. Samantha Owens, the subject of my newest novel, has honor, though she is damaged, possib
ly beyond repair. And there is a man in that book who is an honorable sort as well, who was so, so much fun to write. (That’s all I’m saying about the new book, A DEEPER DARKNESS, which comes out next March. After we get through September and the release of WHERE ALL THE DEAD LIE I’ll discuss it more thoroughly. But yes, it is a Sam book, not a Taylor book.)

Men of honor are romantic. Plain and simple. The Bachelorette has captured my imagination solely because of this concept. What started as curiosity became straight on research. I know how I conduct my love affair. To see how a stranger does it, albeit one with a script, is fascinating.

So tell me today, since we’re down in the gutters – What are you watching that you’re slightly embarrassed about? Guilty pleasures? Favorite heroes, male or female – fictional or otherwise?

(Just a quick note – please, no spoilers on GAME OF THRONES, I’ve still got three to watch to catch all the way up.)

Wine of the Week: Evolve 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon – a little something from Ben F.’s winery in Sonoma…

Exciting news! We are honored to have our two newest members up this week. On Sunday, please welcome the lovley and talented Gar Anthony Haywood. And Wednesday, the dashing, delightful Dr. Jonathan Hayes will be joining the ranks. We are super excited to have these two grandly diverse writers become a part of the blog, and I hope you’ll welcome them with open arms and lots of page views ; )

32 thoughts on “Men of Honor

  1. Zoë Sharp

    Hi JT

    OK, confession time. We have just watched the DVD box set of all four seasons of THE PROFESSIONALS.

    My shame knows no bounds.

    But I really really really cannot stand any form of reality TV. Sorry!

    I love the honour concept in characters. And sometimes the bad guys possess more of that quality than the good guys, which is a great way to mix things up.

  2. David DeLee

    Great post JT,
    As for my guilty pleasures, okay, I'll admit it. I watch and really enjoy THE VAMPIRE DIARIES on the CW. In some ways it may be BUFFY lite, but it has a compelling 2-century-old back story that is constantly evolving, involving feuding vampires and werewolves and witches, and the performances are quite good, especially Nina Dobrev in the duel role of Elena and the vampire Katherine. You've got to love a show that dubs the resident, ditzy-blonde, who's recently been turned into vamp, "Vampire Barbie."

    And also on the CW (I hope its coming back in the fall) I watch NIKITA, part "24", part Joss Whedon's DOLLHOUSE, about a top-secret government agency that recruits assassins for black ops operations that has gone off the rails and is now being targeted for take down by one of its own, now rogue, assassins, the best they've ever trained. What's not to love, especially for an adolescent, middle-age guy like me, when the heroine is the beautiful, exotic, kick-ass Maggie Q.

    Okay, those are my guilty pleasure, at least the ones I'll admit to in public. Can't wait to hear about everybody else's.

    David DeLee
    Fatal Destiny – a Grace deHaviland novel

  3. PK the Bookeemonster

    The Game of Thrones, yes. I read the books years ago so I knew what was coming though I'd forgotten the small details. We had watched The Killing and was disappointed in the finale. We watched Camelot and that was pretty disappointing. I had meant to keep up with The Borgias but I'll have to do some marathon viewing. I got sucked into The Voice accidentally because the night it premiered I was ill and could only stare at the TV. We still have Deadliest Catch and Ice Road Truckers but things have mostly ended now so I can have my evenings back for reading. 🙂
    Guilty pleasures in reading? A dab of romance every once in while; Zoe Archer's Blades of the Rose four books were fun.

  4. Chuck

    Hey JT:

    I don't watch a ton of television but I'm a faithful follower of Survivor. Not sure why, but I can never seem to look away.

    One of my favorite shows (ever) is BREAKING BAD. Such a fresh premise and unforgettable writing. If you haven't watched it, you should. It's wonderfully acted, about a cancer-stricken high school chemistry teacher who starts cooking meth to leave his family a nest egg. The tentacles of his seeming simple ploy begin to get longer, eventually spinning out of control. Good stuff.

    Thanks for the fun Friday diversion.

  5. Sarah Shaber

    Guilty as charged. I love GAME OF THRONES, too! So much I am also reading the books–now on Book 4. Also love THE TUDORS and THE BORGIAS. It does seem that nudity–mostly women-s–is an integral part of these shows. Why else have cable, I guess!

    What I hate is when a favorite gets canceled before everything is explained. There is a hole in my head where the resolution of FAST FORWARD should be.

  6. Rae

    Fun post, JT!

    Guilty viewing pleasures, although I’m not really guilty about them:

    American Idol: I adore Steven Tyler. I’ve been an Aerofan 😉 for years and years, and to see him having so much fun, and doing so well, is just fabulous. I love his line, “Compassion is the new black”. Also loved his autobiography. I am, however, still totally bummed that Haley didn’t make it to the final two.

    Dancing with the Stars: Tom Bergeron rocks, and I’m so happy that Heinz Ward won. It was great that so many of his teammates were there to cheer him on. It almost makes me like the Steelers. Almost.

    Guilty reading pleasure – again, not so guilty about it – is Nora Roberts’ JD Robb series. I want to be Eve Dallas when I grow up.

    Favorite fictional heroes, wow there are oodles of ‘em. Top of the list: Jack Reacher, Elvis Cole, Lord Peter Wimsey, Frodo Baggins. They all have an unshakeable moral code (whether or not it happens to agree with what everyone else is doing or thinking) and an equally unshakeable determination to finish what they start.

  7. Louise Ure

    My guilty pleasure is "Say Yes to the Dress." Me. A woman who got married at City Hall on her lunch hour.

  8. Sylvia

    It isn't on right now but The Biggest Loser – good TV with lycra, scales, crying… What's not to like?

  9. Murderati fan

    There are times I wish I were steeped in psychology and could interpret the deeper meanings of the men we women adore. Rae, Elvis and not Joe- you're not into saving people- don't even need to be saved – a woman on her own. Louise, married on your lunch hour? You certainly ended up with a tasty tidbit and are able to squeeze all the fun and wonder out of life. JT an extremely well balanced individual who delights in secret pleasures, bet that's a side that draws all those friends. What a great group. I spent a lot of my youth in the gutter in front of our house, splashing in rain water, digging balls out of culverts…the adult gutter is just as much fun.

  10. Allison Davis

    So this is what I am missing by not having TV? My guilty pleasure? Murph and Mac in the morning (sports radio junkie)…after the Giants won last year, I actually called in after thinking that these folks who call in sports radio are lunkheads. There I was, tears streaming down my face, things spouting from my mouth on the radio (FP Santangelo was sweet about it). Ever since I've been tuning in…listening to the 7:30 am show with either Mike Krukow or Duane Kiuper while I am putting on my make up for work. Ridiculous. Wonderful.

    When I do have a TV (or had one) I loved the try outs for American Idol. (Louise, we watched "dress" when my bro was getting married, wonderful…)

    Heroes? Someday I want to have champagne with Hawk. That's all. Oh, and maybe a beer with Elvis Cole (come on, Joe Pike is a weirdo). Ok, and a White Sox game with VI. And I know those bad boys, every one. I beat them at pool.

  11. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    I really didn't think I was going to be drawn into your post today, JT, really. I mean, The Bachelorette, painted nails and romantic comedies? The razor was hovering above my vein. And then you brought up protagonists as men of honor and you had me hooked. Because that's what I'm struggling with in my WIP, and that's the message I needed to hear this morning. It rounds off my theme, and I've been in need of a theme. Thank you.

  12. Gar Haywood


    Thanks for the wonderful intro, though I can't recall anyone ever calling me "lovely" before.

    As much as I rag on reality TV in general (so much pain and humiliation on display for the amusement of the masses), I have to say I find some of these shows completely irresistible.

    The bonehead little boy in me could watch WORLD'S DUMBEST and IT ONLY HURTS WHEN I LAUGH on TruTV all day and all night. My wife can't believe she ever married me when I'm watching this stuff, but I swear to God, the moronic things people do in the video clips on these shows brings me to tears.

    STORAGE WARS on A&E is both fascinating and funny.

    On the opposite tip: Am I the only person in the world who can't sit through four minutes of TRUE BLOOD without wanting to barf? A trauma ward surgeon must see less blood in five years than these people splatter on the screen in thirty seconds, no?


    Don't let the maddog fool you: I'm a pussycat.

  13. Dudley Forster

    Not sure I have any guilty pleasures. I suppose you could count Army Wives, but I gave up on the show near the end of last season. Besides the crime shows most of us watch and some sci-fi I’m a Discovery, APL, Science channel, History channel, NGEO, etc. nut. I hate reality TV. The closest I come is “Deadliest Catch” and “Dirty Jobs” While I don’t watch many of the “true” medical shows, I’m addicted to “Monster in Me”, which has the added effect of driving everyone else out of the room and I can be alone.

    Heros? Hmmm Some of my favorite fictional heroes, let’s see — In my youth it was John Steed & Mrs Peel, Spock & Scottie. Now, Rick Blaine (Casablanca) Samantha Carter from Stargate SG-1 ( she is kick ass smart and for me smart=sexy)and it’s her brain that saves the day. Spenser and Hawk. Yes, I know Hawk is amoral, but he has a code and his loyalty to Spenser is absolute. Some more are: Harry Dresden, Samwise Gamgee (Biggest hero in LoTR), Mora Isles, Kate Shaukat, Isaac Bell & Alexia Tarabotti (from Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series)

  14. JT Ellison

    Hi guys! Sorry to be late to the party – had a match this morning (I lost : ( ) and then an appt, and just got back. So…

    Zoë, I'm with you. I rarely seem to like reality tv, though over do have some great standouts on the Home & Garden channel, like International househunters, to which I am addicted as well.

    David, did you see the original show Nikita, with Peta Wilson? Excellent show. I also must confess to GOSSIP GIRL. My old editor got me hooked on that, darn her.

    Barbie, Gar's right – he is a pussycat. Worry not, you'll be entranced.

    PK, we've actually been turning off the television and reading a couple nights a week, since things are so nice and slow. Love it!

    Chuck, you're the second person to evangelize BREAKING BAD – I have it on my Netflix. I used to be a Survivor fan, but somehow trailed off. Now they have the new one, Extreme Race or something, and it looks crazy too.

    Sarah, that's how I felt about FIREFLY. So many unanswered questions, so many missed opportunities. I do hope there's an eventual sequel, but who knows.

    Rae, your house sounds like fun. Can I come over?

    Louise, I do so love looking at wedding gowns….

    Sylvia, watching people with real struggles work hard is incredibly inspiring, isn't it?

  15. JT Ellison

    Allison, I'll stand you the quarters for that pool tourny. Sounds like a great time! And yes, George is free again. He is adorable, I agree.

    You're welcome, Stephen. And for the record, not ALL of us do the whole nail polishing thing – but it did sound girly, didn't it?

    Gar, I can't handle the gore in TRUE BLOOD either. And Stephen Moyer doesn't work for me as Bill the vampire, so I can't get into it properly. I too am a fan of stupid people videos – thanks for the tips, I'll be searching them out now. And you are lovely. Trust me.

    Dudley, you've hit one something interesting with Spenser and Hawk – immoral, but loyal. Which is a huge part of the honorable code…

  16. Sarah Shaber

    JT–did you know there was a 2hr Firefly movie made after the series was cancelled? It was good though sad in places, as a couple of characters die. They aired it on the SyFy channcel recently.

  17. JT Ellison

    Sarah, yes, SERENITY. I thankfully watched it before the series – since it's the prequel to the show. It was awesome, wasn't it?

    Murderati fan – a nice psychoanalysis there… : )

  18. David DeLee

    Never saw the original La_Femme_Nikita but had heard good things about it.
    One man of honor from TV I enjoyed was Captain Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, especially in the last few years during the whole Dominion War arc. Tough as nails, compassionate as hell, and as amoral as he needed to be to get the job done. Very, very underrated show in my opinion.

    Oh, and put me in the don't watch reality TV camp. Sorry, just not for me
    David DeLee
    Fatal Destiny – a Grace deHaviland novel

  19. Jake Nantz

    JT – I really needed this post, so thank you. I think you will love and hate Game of Thrones, all at the same time. No spoilers, but you simply have to go to youtube and search for "Game of Thrones Episode 9 post show reaction." DO NOT do so until you have at least watched that episode, but if you're anything like me you'll be nodding along with the guy and laughing your ass off at him at the same time.

    As for guilty pleasures, I have to admit that, even though I haven't watched wrestling since I was in my 20s, the WWE Tough Enough show has been a hoot to watch. Of course, I had to do so after my wife fell asleep, because she just thinks I'm a dork when I watch it. Well, ok, her actual words are, "MORE of a dork."

    Honorable characters. I think in a lot of cases it's more about a self-generated moral code, even if it's not always what's 100% right by society's standards, it only matters if it matters to the character. Take Reacher, or Pike, or even Han Solo. Those guys don't always abide by the rules, but they stick to their code and are loyal to the people they choose no matter what. And JT, I'm going to have to drop another plug for The Chicago Code. Dte. Wysocki is exactly the kind of guy I'm talking about. Reminds me a little of Raylan, actually. He's a kick-ass cop, but won't allow people to curse around him (especially if there are kids around! Established in the first 10 minutes of episode 1). And I say I needed this post because that's the handle I've been trying to get on my own characters. So again, thank you, and God bless.

  20. Allison Brennan

    GREAT blog and great examples, JT!!! No, I don't watch THE BACHLORETTE. I really don't like so-called reality shows. I don't even watch the good ones–my mom loves Dancing with the Stars and American idol, but I just don't have the patience to sit through them.

    My guilty pleasure is CASTLE. It's so wrong sometimes, but I love Nathan Fillion and what crime writer on the planet wouldn't want to be on a perpetual ride-along? At least for the fun stuff. He's not around for the paperwork and boring shit, so to me that's ideal 🙂 LOL.

    I completely agree about men of honor. JUSTIFIED is a perfect example because it's rare that both the hero and anti-hero are honorable. The season finale of season one showed that honor in amazing ways. I just love that show! I wouldn't call Raylan naive … not about the job. But women? That's a whole 'nother story (and why women love this show, I think.) Now if he would just DUMP WINONA I would be much, much happier because I have never liked her EVER. And now she's pregnant. Grrrr. SHE has no honor, that's why I can't stand her, and she doesn't deserve Raylan. I'd love to see a new female lead come in as part of the Marshal's team, someone worthy of Raylan. I could write a whole series … okay, I'll stop.

    Anyway, I also like GLEE. Far too much. Don't know if that counts as a guilty pleasure …

  21. JT Ellison

    Jake, the Chicago Code is another favorite of mine. Jerrick is sort of an honorable man, though he cheated on his wife, which kind of disqualifies him, but we'll see.

    Allison, I tried Glee. I really did. I lasted five minutes. It felt so mean spirited, the nasty gym teacher who's out to get everyone… Couldn't do it. Winona really is a wormy kind of girl, always looking to see if the grass is greener. But a baby Raylan? I'd love to see him in full on papa bear mode.

    Alafair, I used to watch that, then missed a few… You know how that goes. But don't be embarrassed. It's mind clutter cleaning.

    Reine, I haven't heard of that, I'll go look. Thanks for the suggestion!

    Chevy, it's amazing.

  22. Jake Nantz

    JT – I'm telling you, now that you've seen the last three, check out the Youtube I mentioned. It takes a little of the sting out to see someone else so clearly upset.

  23. Pari Noskin

    I'm going to have to wait for GoT (and George even lives in NM and I know him . . .argh!), but my guilty pleasures are related to what I can stream on Netflix. Right now they're Army Wives (talk about tear jerkers) and last night when the kids weren't about, I had a Samantha Who marathon. I really like that show. I love the conflict she feels all the time about who she was, is, and the extraordinary power of deciding she wants to be.

    Guess that relates to where I'm at right now.

  24. Office 2010 Key



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