14 November 2015

Will the Real James Murray Please Stand Up?

One of the fun-frustrating elements of approaching a new work of fiction is coming up with appropriate names for the characters. I had just finished plotting out “Murder at Eastern Columbia” when the name of the main character dropped into my lap, so to speak.

At that time, “Eastern Columbia” was to be a stand-alone novel, not the first in a five-part series that it became. I had to choose a good name for the lead male character, not realizing that name would come to represent the entire series.

I’ve written a lot about Hollywood over the years, mostly historic Hollywood. Combine that with a soft spot I have for the underdog and then fast forward to the day when my spouse, Matt, was watching the commentary for a film we had just seen called “Heroes For Sale” (1933). As I walked out of my office into the living room, the commentator mentioned that the bit part of a blind soldier was played by the actor who was once famous for being the star of “The Crowd” (1928) and was, when this later movie was made, down and out and forgotten by Hollywood.

Needing a name for my lead character, I selected that name and James Murray, of The James Murray Mysteries, was born. The name is the only similarity -- my character is a writer, not an actor; a small, sincere homage to the man who first bore the name who died broken and unknown. He was only 35 years old.

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