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Behind the Book: Naming a World

In my new double header Saviors I decided to start from scratch. As in, really scratch. Let’s build a city from nothing, a location that can be anything I want it to be, shaped to fit the stories rather than the other way around. Go back to day one, when the city was founded a thousand years ago, and then pick forward through history, marking all the changes such a place would make on the world around it. Small, sometimes curious, sometimes unexpected, differences that shape its culture. Among the clearest signs of a location’s history are names, both of people and places, and that brings all the joy of picking them. As a crime writer I was always going to be influenced by my own loves, by my own history. Of course throwing a bunch of references into a book is self-indulgent, but self-indulgence is a lot of fun sometimes. Here are a few that snuck in.

DI Folan Corey
A cop with a hard edge and plenty of secrets, the bane of our private detective protagonist’s work. Named after the sheriff of Potts County, Nick Corey from Jim Thompson’s brilliant Pop. 1280, and that alone should hint at the dark shapes moving under his surface. While Nick manipulated his small town, Folan runs the anti-corruption unit in the big city, each projecting harmless charm in their attempts to bend the world around them to their wishes.

Parker Street
No prizes for guessing this influence. Richard Stark’s brutal anti-hero was a man who travelled to places, changed them, usually for the worse, and then got out, too often without the loot he went looking for. On the street named for him is a café frequented by a ruthless, violent criminal and a gaggle of his cohorts. This is not a coincidence. Parker is, after all, a man who tried to rob an entire town, Copper Canyon, in The Score.

Vivienne Armstrong
Vivienne’s tough, resourceful, living in a world of criminals and tough guys. Named for Vivienne Michel from Ian Fleming’s The Spy Who Loved Me, a crime novel masquerading as a Bond novel, or perhaps the other way round. Certainly the least Bondy Bond, it gives us a young woman protagonist with a history, one who understands the cruelty of the world. Fleming’s Vivienne learns the hard way that everyone involved in the criminal world is corrupted by it one way or another, my Vivienne is experienced enough to know what already.

Walter Reilly and Filis Marrufo
Two for the price of one. At the beginning of the second novel of the double header, A Line of Forgotten Blood, our private detectives are wrapping up a case where a young woman has seduced a man who should know better into committing a criminal act. In James M Cain’s classic Double Indemnity, Phyllis Nirdlinger beguiles insurance investigator Walter Huff, with murder the true desire.

Randall Stevens
The Cage Street office where Darian Ross works as a private detective is owned by Randall Stevens, a man he’s never met, never even seen a picture of. Just a name on a sheet of paper. Darian’s never checked into the owner, never Googled the name. Perhaps he’s too young, or too busy, to have watched The Shawshank Redemption, and recognised it as Andy Dufresne’s alias. The kind of name that lends itself to stealing lots of money from people who don’t deserve to have it.

Malcolm Mackay’s novels have been nominated for the Edgar Awards’ Best Paperback Original, the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger, and the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. How a Gunman Says Goodbye won the Deanston Scottish Crime Book of the Year Award. Mackay was born in Stornoway on Scotland’s Isle of Lewis, where he still lives.