A: On publication Day, October 12, 2021, 70 characters are referred to by at least one name; most characters appear with their full names. Of these, 58 play a role, 31 with more than incidental speaking roles, 10 with one or two lines each; 6 are referred to in passing, and 4 are characters in a story within a story.
A: Two. Tucker Thursnoose, a court watcher known as Courtly Tuck, who hadn’t missed a day in Judge Pickscreed’s Southern District of New York federal courtroom in two decades, was dropped in an early revision because his role, principally to comment on the judge’s procedures, was too insubstantial to warrant clogging a reader’s memory. He would not, in any event, have appeared after Chapter 1. Another character was named in a later chapter only in passing in a single line; he remains in the book only by reference to his position.
A: Yes, three or four. The most significant character to be upgraded was Mallory Greenstock. In the original draft, she filled a merely clerical role as an unnamed lawyer in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, serving as a go-between in chapter 3 to pass along Romo Malbonum’s offer to plead guilty. But she kept kicking the author in the frontal cortex (and wherever else subconscious prods can be felt) and eventually, as a reward for her effrontery, was furnished a name and retrofitted into parts of the manuscript that were already in draft at the time she was promoted to central character status.
Q. Does Everything Is Jake have a higher percentage of unusual character names than any other such book in the American crime fiction vernacular in the last half century?
A: Most come from a list of Potential Character Names the author has been maintaining for more than a quarter century. Some come from corruptions of names encountered in books or TV credits, a few from reconstructions of names of people the author has met, and most are conjurations from a will-o-the-wisp of perfect names.
A: As of publication date, 900-plus.
A: To the best of the author’s knowledge. Before committing a name to manuscript, the author webbles (the author’s preferred term for “runs a Google search for,” or, as he would tell his writing students, “Googles”) it, and if even one instance pops up, the name is discarded. This unhappily was the fate of “Boxcar Johnson” when a single use appeared online in 2018.
A: Undoubtedly not. Who would accept, for example, “Hiawatha Schwartz”?
A: Don’t nobody print this page out.
A: Yes, many do. Some have both. A few names or places, like the name Luana, TR’s mother, are a wink or nod to an old friend; and TR doesn’t live on Dumbarton Street in Georgetown just by accident. Some are tributes to other writers; Formerly Mumford, for instance, is a salute to the great Ross Thomas. Other names have a meaning, though perhaps not always very deep, which a few moments thought will usually reveal. You needn’t have studied Latin to understand the odd juxtaposition of the two parts of the Deckled Don’s last name; he’s first met on line 3 of chapter 1, and you can consider at leisure whether the name suits his revealed character.
A. The Author won’t say, but he also claims that any intrepid reader of detective fiction can figure it out from clues salted in the story. Consider cultural references, the length of time the characters were in school, and calendar references to specific dates sprinkled throughout the text. Add your deduction to a Comment, and the Author will confirm all correct deductions if you leave a working email address.
A: Feigning politeness, it depends on the book. Oh, you mean this one? We have data. The author began writing page one on June 29, 2018, and finished all but what was then the last chapter on June 29, 2019. The final chapter was completed in early August, after he returned from what has turned out so far to be his last travels. Though a year or more had elapsed, not all of that time was in front of the keyboard; perhaps nine out of the twelve months were devoted on a daily basis to the manuscript. Editing the manuscript, in stages (through 15 revisions), consumed another year, roughly from September 2019 to September of the First Pandemic Year. For example, an entire week was required to eliminate the many overuses of 30 common words. A final major line edit consumed November and December and part of January 2021. Along the way, chapters decreased in length and increased in number from 12 to 26. Though the structure of the book did not change markedly from first to last draft, some significant features were added much later. The short Prologue arrived around October 2019, and the important “Presidential Treats” did not appear until the sixth or seventh revision in February 2020.
A. Not really. For the first several months of the first draft, before he enters the story in Part II, he was known in the author’s notes as “Our Guy.” His name appears in a list of 50 or more potential names for the character, but by the time his nine-year-old self gets socked in the jaw in the first line of Chapter 6, the Softly name was firmly embedded.