Tag Archive | characters

What’s in a name?

The
naming of my private detective was a convoluted and somewhat
ridiculous affair, coming as it did from the routes of my
fascination with hard boiled literature. Dashiell
Hammet’s
Sam Spade – the hero of one of my favourite
pieces of fiction – The Maltese Falcon. Sam Spade IS hard boiled, no nonsense and
represents an unthinking sense of action and grit that is nothing
at all like me. I fell in love with the clipped prose of
Hammett and Raymond Chandler with their stories of the street and
its violence, of betrayal and classy ladies with tawdry secrets.
The real crime with Hammett was how little he wrote compared
to some crime writers, with only five novels – fortunately there
are several collections of short stories and Bogart’s portrayal of
Spade in the 1941 film is spell binding, ensuring the character is
cemented as an icon of noir. The Spade character inspired
Chandler when he created Phillip Marlowe, a similar detective with
similar problems, similarly portrayed by Bogart in the 1946’s The Big
Sleep
. Chandler concisely solved that age old
problem of writer’s block with his law: “When
in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his
hand.” All these links entertain in their own way, as
part of what caught my attention in the first place, the logical
conclusion being Mike
Hammer
. Hammer lacks finesse, even stood next to
Marlowe and Spade. He’s a first class bastard who rules the
pulpier end of market, kicking in doors and teeth with equal zeal.
In ‘Vengeance is mine’, Spillane’s no nonsense PI wakes up in
a room next to the body of a friend who has apparently killed
himself with Hammer’s gun. They had both been drinking all
night and Hammer can’t remember what happened. Despite my
general preference for the more nuanced characters of Spade and
Marlowe, this beginning creates a brilliance of opportunity for
story and adventure that match Chandler’s law for its simplicity,
laziness and dumb brilliance. Both create the story by
taking it to (or in Spillane’s case starting from) a true nowhere
point. The action creates an avalanche of questions and
mystery, throwing the reader off guard and gifting the author with
a multitude of plot directions that require very little in the way
of planning.
I wanted to root my character
in both the dark waters of noir and the muddy stank of the river
Medway. Following the pattern of messrs Hammett and Spillane,
I wanted to combine a monosyllabic christian name with an
everyday tool, but avoid the inevitable Nick Screwdriver or Dave
Fork. Chavelle combines that which moves dung with the much
maligned, Romani term of endearment ‘Chav
referring to a young man or youth. Chav is inextricably
linked to Medway through its more recent usage to describe a
particular youth culture that supposedly (in some mythologies)
originated in Chatham, where I was born.