Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Significant character names

I've just finished Plunder Squad by Richard Stark (also known by his real name, Donald E. Westlake) and started Peter Temple's Identity Theory (also known as In the Evil Day).

In each book, the author gives at least one character a highly evocative name. Stark's Jacques Renard is an oily, dangerous middleman, and renard is the French word for fox. Temple's Con Niemand is a former mercenary and a security agent trained to kill. Niemand means nobody in several Germanic languages, including Afrikaans, a language of South Africa, where Niemand works and Temple was born. That's not a bad name for a potential killer whose services are for sale. I'll hope to have a full report on the overtones of this name in a few days.

In the meantime, what characters can you think of with significant or evocative names?

© Peter Rozovsky 2007

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9 Comments:

Anonymous Maxine said...

Harry (turns out to be short for Hieronymous) Bosch?

February 28, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

That's a good one. I've never read Connelly, but L.A. is a garden of earthly delights, all right. Any author who gives a character a name like that had better create a world and a character so convincing as not to induce eye-rolling in the reader. Connelly, I gather, succeeds, and I think Peter Temple will, too.

The name is less of an issue in the Richard Stark book I mentioned, where the character is minor.

February 28, 2007  
Blogger Perry Middlemiss said...

Garry Disher's character Wyatt is another interesting example - though more from cultural implications that specific language meanings. It has always implied, to me, a sense of the outlaw West, which certainly fits the character. I don't think we ever get more than the one name - and we're not even sure if this is a first or family name.

February 28, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Thanks for the note. The name Wyatt certainly has Wild West overtones, at least partly from Wyatt Earp. Earp was a lawman, which opens the discussion up to even airier realms of speculation about connections -- or to academic papers at univesities that have popular-culture departments.

Kickback and Paydirt give just the one name -- Wyatt -- though I did read a reference, probably on Amazon, to the character as "Wyatt Wareen." I suspect that was a mistake, but there's only way to find out for sure.

March 01, 2007  
Blogger Perry Middlemiss said...

I must admit that reading through the Wyatt novels last year I didn't notice any other name being used. Later in the series (can't remember which one off-hand) his nephew makes an appearance. I would guess if any of the novels provides another moniker for the character it would be that one. I'll try to check.

March 01, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

I hope to be able to do the research myself. I've read the first two Wyatt novels. The others have been expensive and hard to find, at least in the U.S. But I shall keep looking.

March 01, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Yesterday's sad news that Michael Dibdin had died brought to mind the possibly significant name of his protagonist, Aurelio Zen -- Aurelio, as in Marco Aurelio, or Marcus Aurelius, and Zen, as in that form of Buddhism that has connotations of acceptance, resignation, and laughter in the face of adversity.

April 05, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi. I am the author of the Wyatt novels. I've never given Wyatt another name and consider it to be a surname. Soho Press in NY have for some reason called him Wyatt Wareen without consulting me. Thanks for your interest, Garry Disher

July 12, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

What the heck is a wareen? A small war, I'd say, if the character were Irish.

July 12, 2011  

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