As I’ve talked about before, I like using large or small portions of the names of people I know and like as character names. It’s just a little tip o’ the hat to them. No big deal. I need names, they have names. First names, last names. If they read it, they might get a smile out of it. If it enrages them, well, it’s just coincidence. Lots of people have that name. Nothing to do with you, so go away before I call the cops.
In Blood for Blood, a character mentioned in Bandit’s Moon steps out from behind the curtain. One of the trainee investigators sent to Night and Day Investigations for training by area government. His name is Harvey Browne, and he goes by Brownie.
It’s a combination of the names of two early supporters of Night and Day. One of them, let’s call him Mr. Browne, was reading Bleeding Sky and commented on another “familiar” name. I mentioned Brownie to him. Mr. Browne is also an animated filmmaker, and has a successful comedy/psychodrama (depending on your perspective) series starring a superhero called Underpants Man. He said that if I could work an Underpants Man character into Blood for Blood, we’d really be talking.
And suddenly it hit me…
Brownie smiled and looked at me. “You remember that Heidemann case a couple of months ago?”
I thought for a moment. “The guy who was ripping off City Federal with the bogus accounts?”
“That’s the one,” he said. “So I’m tailing him, right, to see what he’s spending his money on. He goes into this midtown cut joint. Philly’s.”
Sara started to laugh. “Oh my God,” she said. “The Underpants Man.”
Ricky looked at her. “What?”
“You know about this?” Brownie asked her.
“Everybody knows about Philly,” I said. I looked over at Ricky. “Sara might not have mentioned it, but Vees aren’t affected by heat and cold. Winter, summer, all the same to them. They dress the way they like.” I paused. “And Philly likes underpants. Just underpants. Jockey shorts. Usually white, but he changes it out for holidays. Pink on Valentine’s Day, green on St. Patrick’s Day, that kind of thing. It’s all he wears, on the street, in his club. They call him The Underpants Man.”
On one level, including Philly, The Underpants Man, is just having some fun. A few people will get it and have a laugh. To everybody else, it’s just part of the sometimes-strange background ambiance of the Night and Day series.
But it’s more than that for me, as the guy writing this. Because as I’ve mentioned, unless a character is just a walk-on…the cop who says “move along”, for example…they go into my character toolbox. Ready to be hauled out again, when the moment is right.
In the case of Philly, his time will definitely come.
One of the things I want to focus on in a future Night and Day book is the whole ‘cut joint/slurp club’ thing. The vampire equivalent of a bar and grill. A place where human employees, usually referred to as “refreshments” allow the vampire clientele to make small cuts on them and lick off the blood. It was a part of the story in Night and Day, and Welles even went inside a place called Carpenter’s, a high-class cut joint, and saw the business in action.
Yes, it’s revolting and creepy. But they are vampires, right? Katarina Schleu, in Bandit’s Moon, makes a very good point – “They look like us, though they are not us.” Definitely not in their dining habits. And in many other ways as well.
So I’d like to center one of the upcoming stories on these establishments. No idea right now in what way, or how Welles will get involved with it. As I’ve said, it’s a wide, strange setting where the series takes place, with lots of interesting little crevices to explore.
I could, of course, come up with a club owner to be part of that story. But now I don’t have to. Because Philly, The Underpants Man, is in the character toolbox. We don’t actually get to meet him in Blood for Blood, but he seems like he might be an interesting vampire character. I mean, what’s the story with the underpants, dude?
Red Jockeys. Crimson Briefs. No, I will not use either as a title, of course. I’ll come up with something a little more clever. Not much more, maybe, since it is me we’re talking about, but something less pedestrian.
It all goes to show that like a vampire’s body, my writing is very efficient. No waste products.