In the ongoing series of appreciations for the cozy, I wanted to take an opportunity to write about a cozy series with a male protagonist: Anthony Eglin’s “English Garden” series. Eglin’s hero is Dr. Lawrence Kingston, a retired botany professor, who finds himself reluctantly drawn into mysteries (as so many amateur sleuths are).
Eglin’s books move beyond the cozy into Da Vinci Code territory sometimes, in that they often include puzzles, cryptograms, and so on. For example, in Garden of Secrets Past, the author mixes the traditional cozy elements (particularly a strong emphasis on gardening) with thriller-esque puzzle solving and codebreaking.
So, why do I enjoy these books so much? First, as a man who has written a cozy, I think we need to admit that yes, men have a cozy side to them — we too have a need to escape the stressful world into a kinder place (except for the murders, of course). Eglin gives his books a “dude” quotient, too; for example, there’s often talk about classic cars.
But what I particularly like is Kingston’s friendship with his close friend, Andrew. The two men have a close friendship, with the typical bickering you expect among longtime friends. I like that Eglin acknowledges the need for friendship among men – that’s not something that U.S. society has typically been very good about (you know, the macho culture thing and all). Many years ago, I read Wally Lamb’s I Know This Much Is True, which I loved. That book has a very strong message to it: The only “acceptable” emotion for men is anger, which is why so many of men’s emotional needs get funneled into and through that anger channel. Eglin’s books demonstrate men’s need for camaraderie while also weaving a suspenseful tale.
I see friendship between men everywhere I go, and I enjoy “eavesdropping” on it a bit (good for character development). For example, I go to a health club to exercise, and I often see workout buddies there, going through their routine together. I get a huge kick out of some of them. For example, there are two guys – You’d never know they are the best friends, because all they do is argue about politics (one seems to be quite conservative, the other quite liberal) and put each other down. But they’re joined at the hip – you don’t see one without the other. A lot of younger guys from a local college go to the same club; I’ve heard them say that they go there to hang out and get away from their girlfriends. Like these guys, Kingston and Andrew have their own dynamic, and it just feels very real to me.