Upon Some Midnights Clear Characters
by K. C. Constantine

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Upon Some Midnights Clear Characters

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

All of Constantine's characters are realistically presented, and nearly all may be related to the theme of authority. Readers learn something about the characters Balzic deals with through his reflections, but characters are primarily revealed, as in drama, through their speech and actions.

The characters may be divided between those who recur throughout the series, and those who are unique to a particular book. The latter group consists mainly of those essential to the plot, but a few minor characters are introduced for thematic reasons.

Of course, the central character in all the books, and a major source of their appeal, is the Serbian-Italian police chief, Mario Balzic. As with any effective series, part of the reader's motivation to follow the whole series is interest in following the development of the protagonist. In Upon Some Midnights Clear two particular aspects of Balzic's character are introduced. One is his friendship with the newspaper editor Tom Murray, which in turn, as they are both veterans of World War II, leads to a revelation of the chief's feelings about his war service, and relates to the subplot of the trouble that the police have with some Vietnam veterans. The other bit of Balzic's background especially worth noticing is his memory of failing high school chemistry because of the teacher's misuse of authority.

Along with Balzic himself, each book includes something about his family, co-workers, and friends. His wife, Ruth, his two daughters, and his mother, who lives with them, provide a constant test of Balzic's struggle to be responsible in his actions as a husband, father and son. In his relations with the policemen working for him, readers see another side of his use of responsibility and authority; sometimes he is arbitrary or forced to be harsh, most often he is manipulative yet understanding. But the most interesting characterization, apart from Balzic himself, is that of three of his associates: the priest, Father Marrazo; the syndicate leader and tavern owner, Dom Muscotti; and the Greek lawyer, Mo Valcanas. These three, each representing a different institution of authority, rather than being mere instruments of institutional power, are able to "work within the system." The bar owner is able to keep crime under reasonable control, and the priest and the lawyer are able to express their maverick humanity. Upon Some Midnights Clear mentions Father Marrazo only in passing, but Balzic learns important information while drinking with Muscotti and Valcanas. The cynical, philosophical attorney, drinking heavily as usual, is important to the kind of poetic justice obtained in the book's denouement.

As for the characters unique to this particular book, representatives of life's losers are central. Mr. and Mrs. Garbin, contrasted in their response to their poverty, are especially well presented, through both the details of their home, and their speech. One should also notice how Constantine presents some characters who have no direct relationship to the plot, such as the old lady who irrationally assaults Balzic near the Garbins' house. It is a measure of Constantine's skill in characterization that readers do not resent her seemingly pointless appearance in the story, and actually her indirect contribution to the theme, setting, and especially the tone of the book makes her not so pointless after all.