Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Bright Lights, Big City, Black Orchid—Part Four

If one were writing an advertisement for a literary detective to appear in a series, it might look something like this:  

In search of a detective. Must be far more intelligent, perceptive, clever, intuitive and knowledgeable that everyone else. Prefer someone good with weapons, in case of danger. Quirks and foibles acceptable, indeed, encouraged. Should be well-read in the genre…

Hmm. Well, maybe not. What I was looking for, in my prospective story, was someone who fit into the mill village venue and could still be believable as a gumshoe. He or she had to know the people around him, be smarter than they were, yet be someone they would tell things to. And he—or she—needed a Watson or an Archie, someone to narrate the adventure. 

Guy Henson, I decided my detective’s name was going to be. This was a mash-up of names from my family: my Great-Uncle Guy Sanders was a baseball player for several mills in the area back in the early 1900s. His mother’s maiden name was Henson. So, the name taken care of, I needed a backstory. I set my mystery in the early 1920s, not too long after the Great War in Europe. I was sure Guy had fought in the war. He hadn’t been wounded, though he’d been affected in other, more subtle ways. 

Mills are noisy places, with hundreds of machines going full-out all the time. What if Guy had suffered through trench warfare, with its constant and unremittent shelling, and had come back home with the inability to handle loud noises? What if he’d tried to return to the mill life but simply couldn’t stand it? What sort of job might he do? 

Well, he could run the company story. As I said in an earlier post, the mill village company store was the Wal-Mart of the early 20th century. Everyone got everything there, from food to clothing to shoes to, well, everything. So everyone in the village would come to the store. 

This seemed to me to be the optimum spot for my detective to be, so he could observe and detect.  

So I started filling in a bit of backstory for Guy. Smart: he went to college and was an engineer, so prior to the war, he helped install some of the huge looms and such in the mills. Competent: see ‘smart’. Brave: see ‘fought in trenches.’  

All right, now I have a detective. All I need is a side-kick. Hmmm….

1 comment:

  1. I am amiss in congratulating you on winning the BONA. So congrats! I won two years ago and had a lovely time. (It was interesting getting into and out of NYC, two months after Superstorm Sandy.). Perhaps we will meet at Bouchercon in Octobe?

    I look forward to reading Dyed.