‘Classical wizard’ cop quells archaic brutes

By Benjamin Bassham, Staff Writer

He’s 6 feet 9 inches tall, wears a black duster coat and wields the primal forces of the universe against the darkest creatures of ancient mythology. He carries a rune-carved staff and a gun and his car just broke down. His name is Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden. Conjure by it at your own risk.
The Dresden Files series follows Harry Dresden, a private investigator and wizard in modern day Chicago.
The author, Jim Butcher, said the concept of the Dresden Files was about taking the archetypical, classic PI and blending him with the archetypical, classic wizard.
“Storm Front” was released in 2000, and Butcher is writing what will be the 16th book, “Peace Talks.” The series has been clever, humorous, dark and dramatic all the way through. “Harry is intended to be as much Sherlock Holmes as Gandalf, as much Columbo as Merlin,” Butcher said.
Butcher’s characters all have a rich uniqueness to them. All characters who merit a name have a distinctive feel to their personalities, even the few who are never mentioned again.
Mac, the eponymous owner of McAnally’s pub, has been a consistent character since the first book — always quiet, always bald, and never the focus of the story, even when the action tries to draw him in. He sits behind the bar, brews the best beer in town and helps Harry when it suits him.
Even objects like Harry’s barely functional car or locations like Mac’s pub or Harry’s apartment and basement lab become familiar characters.
Butcher also writes side stories that flesh out the world but aren’t part of the main plot. Most are mini-adventures similar to the books, others are written from perspectives of other characters. It’s implied that the books are actually Harry’s case notes, so books adhere to Harry’s perspective. If Harry doesn’t notice something then the reader doesn’t hear about it. Reading about Harry in another character’s words lends new dimensions to the world. Some are collected in the anthology “Side Jobs,” the others are less available.
The series spawned some spin-offs, like the short-lived TV series on the SyFy channel “The Dresden Files” and the tabletop “Dresden Files Roleplaying Game.”
The TV series languished through 12 episodes before being canceled. Changes were made to accommodate TV filming, like changing the iconic Blue Beetle into a jeep for easier camerawork. Further it was decided to ignore the story of the books. Fans of the books were alienated by the arbitrary changes to beloved characters, and the series failed to entice new viewers.
The role playing game and the graphic novels have been successful, and the publicity of the TV series raised sales of the books, which escaped the TV series unscathed. People like a heroic character who, to quote Butcher, “is willing to confront those who clearly outclass him —whether they be towering, flame-wrapped demons or cynical agents of the FBI.”