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And the Best Suporting Role Is: Lurio

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Supporting Role Characters
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We all know the protagonist is the hero (or anti-hero!) of a novel. He or she usually has a companion main character, often the ‘love interest’ or maybe the stalwart side-kick, but what about that next rank down: the supporting role guy or gal? You know, the one who doesn’t get Best Actor, but Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars. I thought it time that some of these supporting cast characters had a chance to step from the shadows of novels and have a turn in the limelight.

So, a rousing round of applause please for…Cornelius Lurio

a Supporting Role Character from 
The Roma Nova Series

by Alison Morton

Helen: Hello, I believe you appear in Alison Morton’s novels, INCEPTIO, PERFIDITAS and SUCCESSIO.  Would you like to introduce yourself?

So gracious of her to fit me in (snorts). In INCEPTIO I’m an Inspector in the Department of Justice Custodes – police to you. In PERFIDITAS, I’ve been promoted to Commander and in SUCCESSIO, Senior Commander of the Urban Cohorts, Roma Nova. Oh, and as you’re an English speaker, custodes is pronounced cust-oh-days.

Helen: what role do you play in the novels?

Role? Ha! I’m the one who chivvies the so-called super hero Carina Mitela along and clears up the mess she makes. I’m a simple policeman, not like that glamorous Praetorian Guard lot she belongs to. Okay, in INCEPTIO I assist the Justice Minister – damned desk job mostly – then later in SUCCESSIO I run the entire urban police force for my sins.

Helen: No spoilers. But are you a ‘goody’ or a ‘baddie’? (Or maybe you are both!)

What sort of a question is that, for Mercury’s sake? Are you some kind of do-gooder? The custodes (cust-oh-days, remember) keep law and order in Roma Nova. They’re police. End of.

Helen: So you support the lead character? Who is she? Tell tell us a little bit about her.

When I first met Carina Mitela, I thought she was some little rich girl amateur, dabbling in serious matters, a complete nuisance who’d scream and run away if a mouse squeaked at her. Then I saw her in the arena at her gym. Pluto, she managed to down Mossia Antonia, the five times champion gladiatrix. And she turned out to have great instincts for undercover work. She completed a hard assignment well and kept her cover in trying circumstances. Kudos to her. Oh, and she wiggles her arse nicely.

Helen: Now be honest – what do you really think of this lead character!

You take what I’m going to say now out of this room and I’ll throw the whole Lex Custodum at you. Or I might settle for less and have your hide.

She’s hellish irritating, goes off piste all the time but so persistent and dedicated that I usually forgive her. She’s one of the most intelligent and effective undercover operatives I’ve ever had the privilege to work with. Gets a bit emotional at times, though, and has a big mouth on her. She’s pretty nifty in bed as well, but the less spoken of that, the better. I was devastated when she made a different choice, but I’ll sail over the Styx before I show her or anybody else that I cared. Just remember that.

Helen: Do you like being the ‘supporting role’ or do you wish you could have a lead part in a book of your own?

Support? Isn’t that what we scarabs always do. Oh, you didn’t know that’s what the public call us? (Gives interviewer a look as if explaining the obvious to a one day recruit) Scarab is a dung beetle that processes shit. That’s what we police do. A book of my own? What in Hades would readers find of interest in my life?

Helen: What is one of your least favourite scenes?

How much time have you got? The first time I sat down and worked with Mitela, it was at her place and she was so up herself. Okay, I’d been a bit rude to her the day before… I’ll let her tell the story:

Of course, Lurio picked holes in it [the plan] – out of perverseness, I thought at first. But to be fair, he was right about some of his points. When he stopped being so prickly, he was easy to work with and sharp with it. I could see why he was Fulvia’s special assistant. We identified the areas I needed training in, but thankfully they were few, mostly spook stuff.

We reached a natural break when something occurred to me. ‘If this operation is deep-cover then why are you here?’


‘What’s the reason for you coming to see me? I haven’t done anything criminal yet and Aemilia Fulvia isn’t here with my grandmother, so you can’t have tagged along with her.’

He flushed again. Really, it was fascinating watching a tough nut like Lurio doing such a girls’ thing.

‘It doesn’t matter.’

‘Really?’ I raised my eyebrow.

‘Will you stop saying that in such a superior way?’

A few moments passed in silence.

‘The cover story is that I’m seeing you,’ he mumbled.

‘What!’ I burst into laughter.

He looked like thunder. His chin jutted out and deep vertical lines appeared between his brows.

‘You can’t be serious,’ I retorted.

‘I wouldn’t be the first man in uniform you’ve boffed.’

Helen: and your most favourite?

That’s easy! When Mitela was undercover, she used the code name Bruna. She was detained by the Praetorian Guard Special Forces after the operation take-down. I went to recover her at their barracks and had the pleasure of wiping the smile off that Praetorian major’s face when he realised who my undercover agent was. It was so funny I nearly pissed myself. She tells it best:


He didn’t greet me or say anything else. He straightened up and fixed me with an intense stare. A warning. Absolutely no mistake. I stayed silent, but my thoughts were unprintable. He was so lucky my hands weren’t free.

[The Praetorian major] dismissed the guards. He glanced at me then turned a full-strength glare on Lurio. ‘Is this really your agent, Inspector?’

‘It certainly is, Major.’ He smiled at me. ‘Hello, Bruna.’

‘Hello, sir.’

[The major]’s eyes locked on to me. He stared at me as if I were a Martian. His disbelief was obvious. Despite feeling cold, tired and furious, a glimmer of smugness stirred in me.

Lurio beamed an extra-friendly smile at me, his shoulder turned away from [the major].

‘Have you eaten recently?’

His faux concern was overdone, I thought. He was relishing getting one over the oh-so-clever PGSF.

Helen: Thank you – that was really interesting – I look forward to meeting you again in ‘your’ novel!

Pleasure. Now I must get back to work. The duty custos will see you out.

Helen: Now something for the intrepid author to answer. You can invite six fictional characters (not your own!) to Christmas Dinner – who will they be?

(It would be Saturnalia on 17 December rather than Christmas)

Falco and Helena from Lindsey Davis’s Roman detective series

Sally Gilmartin from William Boyd’s Restless

Deb Grantham and Max Ravenscar from Georgette Heyer’s Faro’s Daughter

Gordianus the Finder from Steven Saylor’s Roma Sub Rosa series


Connect with Alison on her Roma Nova site:

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Come back tomorrow to meet the next Supporting Role Character 

Here’s the full list of authors and their characters  – links will be added as each character makes his or her entrance

6th     Inge H Borg and Vergil
7th    Matthew Harffy and Coenred
8th     Alison Morton and Lurio today’s guest
9th     Regina Jeffers
10th   Anna Belfrage
11th   Christoph Fischer
12th   Pauline Barclay
13th   Antoine Vanner
14th   Annie Whitehead
15th   Derek Birks
16th   Carolyn Hughes
17th   Helen Hollick