As those of you who’ve read the Bullet Books Speed Reads are aware, there is a central character that links all the books into a series. His name is Ernest Anguish and he’s a celebrity reporter for the National News Network (NNN) with a chiseled face and tons of charisma.
Ernest Anguish sounds like a crazy made-up name that is contrived to fit the crime fiction themes of the Bullet Books. But, you might be surprised to learn that Ernest Anguish is a real name that is memorialized in the legal records of the Permian Basin around Midland, Texas. The name was discovered in an old oil and gas conveyance years ago. When I saw documents with the unusual name, I immediately made a note to save it for use in a future novel.
I, as well as many other writers, often use names in writing that allow the reader to sift through a cast of characters, all interacting without a face, to help identify and differentiate each fictional person. Honey Chandler, the attorney in the Bosch novels by Michael Connelly and Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird come to mind. Also, Raymond Chandler’s Dashiell Hammett, Margaret Mitchell’s Scarlett O’Hara, and Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes are memorable. These names stay with us not only because of their uniqueness, but also because the rhythm of the syllables and feeling tone when spoken or read describes the character so well.
When it came time to name the common character in all the Bullet Books, Ernest Anguish came to mind because we needed a moniker that really stood out so that readers could remember it from book to book. It’s one thing to ask a reader to remember John or Mary Doe within the covers of one book, but to remember a name between reads that does not belong to a primary character requires a zinger. Ernest Anguish fills that need and accomplishes that goal very well. He is brought into each book during a time when the national spotlight is on the story being told and usually at a moment in the plot when anguish is being experienced by the protagonist. Use of Ernest Anguish often provides an element of surprise to the lead character as he or she learns that something thought to be a secret is being revealed on the national news.
I think of a cross between Walter Cronkite, Wolfe Blitzer and Diane Sawyer. In that vein of celebrity reporting, Ernest Anguish is going to become more important in one of the upcoming Bullet Books actually adding to the plot beyond mere reporting. Watch for it and let me know what you think.