When most people talk about a book, they talk about the plot. It’s the most obvious facet of any work of fiction. Plot is what makes best sellers sell, and gets movies made. When someone decides to re-read a book, or author, it’s the characters that bring them back.
Some books have too many. The Phone Book comes to mind, so busy doing information dumps on characters there’s no time to get to know any of them, and the story goes nowhere. There can also be too few, if the main character lacks enough stimulation and conflict to be interesting. The trick is to hit the right balance.
Have I found that balance? Probably not. I lean toward multi-layered stories that require several people to tell them. The trick is to keep each character memorable and interesting, so readers will not only remember them if absent for a while, but will want to read what happens when they do re-appear. Here are the characters who carry the most water for me in Worst Enemies:
Ben “Doc” Dougherty, Detective, Penns River Police. Penns River native who returned after several tours as an MP, one of which took him to Abu Ghraib, where he was not involved but knew people who were. Mid-thirties, lives alone, eats Sunday dinner with his parents, meets his father to shoot pool one night a week at the American Legion. The kind of man who attracts women better than he can hold onto them. Not quite sure how he feels about how the future looks for Penns River.
Daniel Rollison. Private Investigator, rumored to be a retired spy. Rollison makes a good living using information gained in one case as leverage in others, and can often get facts faster than the police, as he’s not concerned with warrants and other legalities. Brought in to work on the defense team of a key suspect, he’s not above using what he learns on this client’s tab to his own ends.
Mike “The Hook” Mannarino. Boss of the Pittsburgh mob, lives in Penns River. Nickname derives from his success as a high school pitcher with a devastating curve ball, at least to high school hitters. Attended Auburn on a baseball scholarship for one year, expelled for selling steroids. Fancies himself an old-school Don, keeps most crime out of Penns River through his own methods, one of which includes tying offenders to a backboard and throwing baseballs at them.
Jefferson West. Retired army, working as a handyman. Survivor of the Vietnam War’s “Lost Battalion,” which suffered 80% casualties during the Tet Offensive. Lives in the townhome next to the unit where a murder takes place. A widower estranged from his children, West wants nothing more than to be let alone, bit refuses to close his eyes to what happens around him.
Marian Widmer. Mother of two, married to securities trader Tom Widmer. Still hot in her early 40s and knows it, also knows Tom is in the process of no longer being able to provide for her in the manner to which she would like to become accustomed, and is not the kind of person to take an affront like that lying down.
There’s more to tell about all of them, and several others in Penns River, but I’m a whore, not a slut. No giving it away here. Go to Amazon or Barnes or Noble on March 1 with at least $2.99 left on credit card limit and see for yourself.