The Rat Bastard Protagonist or How Long Can You Play a Reader About a Central Character?

I’m reading an old Michael Gilbert novel called End Game which has a rat bastard protagonist.  David Morgan is hard-drinking, insensitive, and immoral, a man who comes in late to work, late to dinner, and stays late to search the boss’s office.  He picks fights with his girlfriend who supports him financially, deliberately upsets a fussy, older woman at work who rightfully suspects him of slacking off and drinking on the job, sleeps around, and picks the locks of people who trust him to read private files about a business titan named Blackett.  He’s a creep.  The first time I read the book, I thought, “Why am I reading about this guy?” and kept reading anyway.  The next time I read it, I looked at the plot which was as finely tuned as any of Gilbert’s stories.  This time I read it just for that bastard protagonist: Why would any reader (especially a woman reader) stay in a story with David Morgan?

Continue reading