A friend of mine once said that the two types of garments most flattering to almost every man were the tuxedo and the military uniform. I think she had a point. Uniforms and tuxedos square the shoulders and frame the body as other garments just don't quite. Even the less dynamically built characters on shows like JAG or China Beach looked good in a uniform. And proficiency with weapons is another plus. So for today, we'll leave the tuxedos to the spies and focus on warrior heroes (in and out of uniform). For the writers among us, we'll also touch on resources for creating and equipping these guys.
Vikings seem to be enjoying a resurgence lately. My favorite Viking film, which I discovered because Gerri Russell assured me I'd love it, is The 13th Warrior, starring Antonio Banderas. It's the role in which I like him best because of the challenges his character faces and the ways he grows as a result. He isn't a Viking, but he's surrounded by them. They're the other twelve warriors. This film has noble purpose and lots of swordplay. Banderas' character isn't a warrior hero at the start of the film, but he is at the end.
If you're writing a Viking hero, how do you know what he wears or carries? Or what his world is like? There are a lot of terrific books out there about Vikings and their culture. My favorite source for information about warriors of all eras is Osprey publishing. Click on the appropriate country, and prices will appear in your currency. The books are not cheap, but they're aimed at military history buffs, so they contain fabulous details that can be hard to find elsewhere. When I needed to know how much a medieval archer earned, I found the information in an Osprey book.
Moving forward, there's the medieval period with its knights and dragons and derring-do. I'm seriously biased in this regard, but I don't think you can beat the Plantagenets for pure flash and dash in the whole spectrum of British history. Medievals also seem to be having a resurgence, especially ones featuring Knights Templar. Claudia Dain's The Marriage Bed and Christina Dodd's Candle in the Window (a medieval, not a Regency, despite what the cover implies) are wonderful medievals. So are all of Gerri Russell's Scottish medievals, which start with The Warrior Trainer.
Equipping the medieval hero is easier than it is for warriors of other eras. There are many, many medieval histories available, and there are probably enough books in print about castles to built one out of them. Dorling-Kindersley's children's books about medieval life and about knights can be a great resource to get a feel for the era. Osprey, of course, has terrific resources for various medieval periods. Some of these books are available in libraries, though not all. It's always worth checking since books can become a huge expense.
The American Revolution doesn't seem like a very popular period, but the Regency, with its popular veterans of the Napoleonic Wars makes, up for that. I've always wished there were more naval heroes in Regencies. It's hard to set a Regency on a ship, of course. You'd lose lots of the period's fun conventions. Major Lucas Winter, in Sabrina Jeffries' wonderful Never Seduce A Scoundrel (School for Heiresses series), is an American Marine, a veteran of the campaign against the Barbary Pirates, and a wonderful character and one of the few American military heroes I've seen from this period. While Victorians seem to have a strong market presence, I haven't seen any Crimean War heroes. Maybe someone can recommend one.
I'm hoping World War I and World War II begin to gain market share because I love those stories. The Vietnam war doesn't seem to have produced many romance heroes, either. Maybe it's too recent to be historical and too remote to be contemporary. I do love all the current and former SEALs who keep turning up as heroes. My parents were in the Navy, so I'm naturally biased. I loved the TV show JAG, even though the primary weapons utilized were legal briefs. Veterans from all service branches seem to be appearing in a lot of romances, and I enjoy that.
Cassondra tipped me off that YouTube can be a gret resource for video of weapons in use, so I've been consulting that site from time to time. Osprey has great contemporary source material, including several books on Special Forces, and there are many, many excellent memoirs out there. The U.S. Navy website has a special section on SEALs with video of their training and interviews with trainees. The conflicts in Iraq and Iran have produced excellent memoirs by soldiers, such as Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell with Patrick Robinson (SEALs), Chasing Ghosts by Paul Reickhoff (infantry in urban warfare), and The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell by John Crawford (National Guard in various settings).
Who's your favorite military hero in books or on film? Why does this particular hero appeal to you? If you're a writer, what are your favorite sources?