Tom Hunter is the violent protagonist of the Ted Denton thriller Tight Lies. A blunt instrument deployed by The Unit, a private kidnap-rescue organisation assembled by the shadowy Charles Hand who is known ubiquitously as the Hand of God, Hunter is a powerful, larger-than-life character to write. Relentless, honest, unpredictable, good humoured, violent and consistently flawed. He represents the extremes that can exist in all of us, serving perhaps as an exemplar of the fragility of the common human condition. As a consequence, there is a relished freedom that accompanies writing this character. He is not afraid of the consequences of his savage actions nor ashamed by his often-puerile attitudes which may often be incongruous with a decent, moral and politically correct society. The writing can reflect this. Hunter is a visceral character. He is the anti-hero that the reader can at once find repellent yet remains inexorably drawn towards, unable to look away from, compelled to know more. He straddles the line of right and wrong and that incongruity can make the reader feel uncomfortable as they have to work to understand how they do actually feel about him versus the response that their own relationship with society demands of them.
Despite accepting what he is, at a base level, with an overt bloodlust and rampant carnal appetites for sex, drugs, coffee and alcohol, Tom has a ready, often self-depreciating sense of humour and underlying intelligence which belie the abhorrent machismo and unedifying sexist behaviour – for which there is no excuse given.
He wears his manifold mistakes and challenges with an uncurrent of bravado. Whilst Hunter displays self-awareness, embracing a relentless torrent of painful introspection through the recognition of his own personal demons, it cannot be said that he truly likes himself. Nevertheless, he embraces his fierce capabilities and understands what drives him. The deep contradictions that ride as an unwelcome passenger with all of us, however much we may battle against them, are evident in his ever-present discomfort with normality. Hunter is haunted by persistent waking nightmares left over from a life lived absorbed in so much violence, addiction, and of his true love brutally ripped from him as a consequence of his own bad choices. The disconnection he feels from belonging within a civilised society is exacerbated by his pervasive feeling that he doesn’t actually deserve that privilege. Instead Tom clings onto his sanity by his ragged fingertips and a pervasive belief that if he just keeps moving forward relentlessly and at least makes an attempt to show some signs of conventional social norms and interaction, then he might just get away with it unnoticed. Tom Hunter’s lust for extremes in all things is simply perpetuated by this overriding need to feel something relatable. To feel alive. The daily torment he endures from the terror of his retrograde memories may serve to generate the unwelcome illusion to him that he is already residing within a version of Hell itself. The physiological responses that he craves to pain, adrenaline and high octane risk-taking therefore, which are induced by the human body’s real-world stimuli and response mechanisms, serve to prove to Tom Hunter and to his sense of self, that he is still very much alive and kicking. And he is determined to make a dent in the world in order to prove that to himself.
Tom Hunter is a larger than life character and a figment of Ted Denton’s creative imagination. However, the etymology of his inspiration is born from a a desire to present a personality to the world which is as flawed and potentially as conflicted or even contradictory as many people happen to be in real life.
The action drives the books and Hunter is a key proponent of this. However, in positioning his lead character, Denton did not wish to emulate many other action heroes of the written word. Unlike such characters where the world is black and white and the reader easily knows where to place their allegiances, there is much that may actually prevent us from being drawn to admiring or siding with Hunter. Or admitting that we may do so to ourselves given the uncomfortable reflection upon us it may bring.
Hunter’s choices and motivations are often self-centred, a fact which he acknowledges freely and unremorsefully. He does not feel that he is on the side of right versus wrong. He doesn’t actually feel that he deserves to make that linear distinction. Hunter knows that he possesses a dark and tormented heart. As inescapable as the demons of his past which persistently haunt him, he is ultimately captured by an insatiable bloodlust for killing, born of self-loathing and a life of addiction, misdeeds and pain.
Despite this plain truth that the character does not actually like himself and doesn’t feel comfortable within a normal, conventional world doing typical things and reacting in expected ways, he does possess a self- depreciating sense of humour. He has a sense of self-awareness, appreciating that his best uses are potentially only as a blunt instrument to get a dirty job done. He navigates his world with swagger and a cavalier charm whilst intent only upon his mission. This simple myopic focus is surely a distraction from too much self-introspection and a need to shed the unnerving sense that he may already be inhabiting a form of Hell itself. Perhaps there is little of that in all of us. It’s certainly something that resonates with the author himself, however uncomfortable it may be to conjure.
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