Zoë Sharp: Your series characters go by the highly memorable names of Simeon Grist, Junior Bender and Poke Rafferty. Where did you find such wonderful names for them?Learn more about the author at Timothy Hallinan's website and blog.
Timothy Hallinan: I always think they're just regular names and later ask myself what I'd been smoking. Actually, that's only partially true; I was reading a ton of stuff on early Christianity when I started the Simeon books and named him after a favourite saint, Simeon Stylites, who spent the last 37 years of his life standing on an ancient pillar in the Syrian desert. As if that weren't enough, he wouldn't allow any woman anywhere near his pillar. When he got sores on his legs and the sores developed maggots, he would encourage the maggots, saying “Eat, little ones, what God has provided you,” or words to that effect. I thought that was a little stiff, and he came to embody for me Santayana's famous definition of a fanatic as someone who redoubles his efforts when he's forgotten his aims.
So I was being pretentious when I named Simeon and later found that most readers pronounced it “Simon” anyway.
Zoë Sharp: I particularly loved the title for ... THE BONE POLISHER. How did that come about?
Timothy Hallinan: When members of the Chinese diaspora, in the early days, had the misfortune to die in whatever country they had emigrated to, they were buried where they died. A generation or two later, the now-prosperous family would pay to have the bones disinterred, cleaned, polished, and sent to China for permanent burial in The Middle Kingdom. The specialist who did this was called a bone polisher. In the book, the killer puts a malign twist on this, He kills men who came to West Hollywood from small towns where they lived closeted lives, and each time he murders one, he sends evidence of his victim's “deviancy” back to the town from which he came. (This was in 1995, when, arguably, a much higher percentage of gay people were in the closet.) So in this case, it's the dead person's...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: A Nail Through the Heart.
The Page 69 Test: The Fourth Watcher.
My Book, The Movie: The Fourth Watcher.
The Page 69 Test: Breathing Water.
Writers Read: Timothy Hallinan.