IBRU is very excited to have David Freed back on the blog. Landra reviewed his book Flat Spin last year and gave it an enthusiastic YAY rating.
The floor is yours, David!
A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME
Aside from the Almighty, what line of work other than writing fiction grants somebody the omnipotent power to create people out of whole cloth? None, to my knowledge. At least none that allow you to do your divine conjuring sitting unshaven at a laptop, swilling coffee, in your gym shorts.
It’s heady stuff, constructing human beings, even rotten ones that you know whose lives you’re going to cut short and kill off in chapter one. You have to imbue your creations with just enough tangible detail that the reader will see them clearly in their minds as their eyes glide over your pearly prose. No detail, in my opinion, is more significant than assigning a character the perfect name. No part of the writing process is more rewarding for me, or challenging. I’m always amazed how quickly I can run out of truly good names, the ones that come to me without too much heavy lifting and fit the character organically. I’ve been known to spend hours looking for names.
Every author has their little tricks. I have a writer friend who, with some slight modification, tends to name the more loathsome female characters in his books after embittered ex-girlfriends and former wives, of which he has no shortage. It’s great payback, he insists, for all the heartache he’s endured over the years at their hands. Another friend names his characters after kids who snubbed him in high school. I’m hesitant to employ either strategy, if only because I don’t want to answer the doorbell one day to find some enraged, knife-wielding former flame standing on my front porch, much less the pyromaniac I partnered with in 11thgrade chemistry class. I want to keep everybody happy. I want them buying my books. Still, I prefer that the names of the characters I create hold some personal meaning, whether poignant or funny. It helps me envision them more easily and, hopefully, write them more vividly.
The hero of my mystery novels, Cordell Logan, lives with a cat named Kiddiot. In the name of full disclosure, I once lived with a cat whose name was Shadow, but who came to be known as Kiddiot because she may well have been the dumbest cat in the history of felines—it took her five years to figure out that we had a cat door, and another two years to realize she could go out and come back in through the same door. The real Kiddiot was a scrawny gray tabby; the fictitious Kiddiot is a big ball of orange fur with legs. But, truthfully, that’s the only character I’ve ever named who I actually knew.
Sometimes, I’ll name a character after college or professional football players I’ve admired, mixing first and last names so it’s not too obvious. I might do the same with the first and last names of good friends, my own children or other relatives—a waiter who appears on page 132; the clerk at Office Max on page 280–just to make sure my peeps have actually read the book.
I often also rely on World War II when in need of a name. Sitting on my writing desk is a large handsome volume, bound in blue, that chronicles the combat record of the 96th Bomb Group, part of the famed 8th Air Force that helped defeat Hitler’s Germany. A cousin whom I never knew co-piloted a B-17 Flying Fortress assigned to the 96th. He was killed in action about a week before D-Day. In the back of the book, listed alphabetically, are his name, those of his nine crewmates, and more than 900 other airman who fell in battle. With more than a little reverence, I’ve borrowed more than a few of their names when giving life to fictional characters, because as long as a man is remembered, he’s never really gone.
I love using ethnic names and nicknames because they help the reader distinguish one character from another. I fall in love with names. And out of love. A character named “Trout” early on may become “Biletnikoff” in a later draft. This is particularly problematic for persnickety copy editors who tend to value consistency in the manuscripts they fine-tune, and who can tend to get a little out of joint when Word’s “find and replace” tool doesn’t always find and replace because I’ve misspelled the name.
I’m also not beyond using the names of loyal fans. Email me. Tell me why I should name a character after you in my next novel, and I just might!
“Told in the first-person, Fangs Out is the second book in the widely acclaimed Cordell Logan series, and like its predecessor is filled with bullet-speed wit, original characters (and a cat to die for), plus a fast-paced and intelligent plotline, climaxing with more than one surprise, especially the surprise on the very last sentence of the book.
“David Freed is a master of mordant one-liners for which Raymond Chandler’s leading man, Philip Marlowe, would have given his eye teeth. Highly recommended for crime and thrillers fans alike.”
—New York Journal of Books
“Freed’s skills as a reporter, screenwriter, and pilot made his first Logan tale (Flat Spin) a delight, and this one continues that roller-coaster pleasure.Logan is a stubborn, wise-cracking, ordinary guy with some extraordinary skills and a passion for flying. He does have a few problems following the Buddha’s precepts on nonviolence, but readers will eagerly look forward to his further attempts to combine flying and detection.”
“In Freed’s crackling second mystery…the appealing Logan, a wise-cracking, marriage-challenged loner trying to practice Buddhist tenets, proves his mettle as both pilot and investigator.”
“An intriguing mystery. When Logan is in the air, Freed’s series really takes off.”
David Freed is a screenwriter, author and former investigative journalist for The Los Angeles Times. He served as The Times’ lead police reporter, was an individual finalist for the Pulitzer Prize’s Gold Medal for Public Service, the highest award in American journalism, and later shared in a Pulitzer Prize for the newspaper’s coverage of the 1992 Rodney King riots. He reported from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq during Operation Desert Storm. He has an extensive knowledge of law enforcement, aviation and military affairs..
The son of a Denver police officer and a graduate of Colorado State University, Freed began his journalism career at the Colorado Springs Sun and Rocky Mountain News before moving to the Los Angeles Times, where he spent the bulk of his newspaper career.
After leaving The Times, Freed worked as an investigator and associate field producer for the Los Angeles bureau of CBS News, helping cover the OJ Simpson murder case. That same year, he sold his first feature-length screenplay, the action-thriller Stealth, to 20th Century Fox.
Other script sales and/or screenwriting assignments have included: City Held Hostage (NBC Productions); Down Range (Nu-Image); Behind Enemy Lines (CBS Productions); Road Rage (Fox Television Studios); A Glimpse of Hell (F/X Networks); Breaking the Code (F/X Networks); The Shiva Club (William Shatner’s Melis Productions); Syncopation, the Davey Yarborough Story (Showtime); Crescent Moon (MGM/United Artists and Trilogy Entertainment); and Rules of War(Court TV). His last film project was The Devil Came on Horseback, a feature film for the independent production company, 72 Productions.
In addition to his work in the entertainment industry, Freed is a regular contributor to the Smithsonian’s Air & Space magazine and other national magazines. His 8,600-word exposé in The Atlantic, detailing how the FBI pursued the wrong suspect in a string of anthrax murders following 9/11, was honored as a 2011 finalist in Feature Writing by the American Society of Magazine Editors.
Freed has also scripted interactive computerized training simulations for the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, the Army’s Battle Command Battle Lab, and other entities within the federal intelligence community. He holds an active government security clearance.
Freed is the author of a humor book, “Dear Ernest and Julio: the Ordinary Guy’s Search for the Extraordinary Job,” (St. Martin’s Press, 1997). His first novel, the mystery-thriller, “Flat Spin” (The Permanent Press) debuted in May 2012. He is a member of Mystery Writers of America and the International Association of Crime Writers.
An instrument-rated private pilot and aircraft owner, Freed lives in Santa Barbara, California, with his wife, Elizabeth, a psychologist. They have two adult children.