Sunday, October 7, 2018

“Mr. Gone-Mobile”

     I’ve had a lot of fun, recently, owing to a kinda-sorta collaboration over my most recent novel, Experienced. (Yeah, yeah, I haven’t released it yet. I’m waiting for my cover artist, and I refuse to hurry her. She’s too good.) Because that interaction, conducted via email with a distant friend, was both productive and fun – it contributed materially to the final version of the novel – I thought I might extend the adventure. So here goes nothing.

     Regard the following character sketch:

     He’s in his early forties, unmarried and without children. He enjoyed enormous success in his trade, but he no longer practices it and is reluctant to talk about it. He drives around the U.S. in his motorhome, apparently unconcerned about the passage of time. He makes a point of knowing where the Catholic Churches are, and of attending Mass as often as he can.

     He’s six feet tall, weighs about a hundred eighty pounds, and is very fit. He takes pride in his appearance and his physical aptitudes, but he doesn’t brag about them. His outward presentation is unassuming: polo shirts or tees, khaki trousers or dark jeans, loafers or running shoes.

     He must have money, for he’s unconcerned by it. Now and then he takes a temporary job, but he’s never concerned about the pay. Moreover, the jobs are of every sort except office work. “I’ve had enough of that,” he was once heard to say.

     He can cook, but he eats out quite often, usually alone. His motorhome is impeccably kept and maintained. He doesn’t do much of that himself; he trusts the specialists who’ve made it their oeuvre...until they try to cheat him.

     His large motorhome contains several compartments that are unobvious to the casual observer, or even one who’s not so casual. One of them contains his firearms. A second is a walk-in refrigerator/freezer, equipped for easy sterilization. A third is large enough for two people to hide in. All of them are insulated against sound, radar, and infrared emissions.

     He’s seldom parted from his laptop computer. It’s a high-end model. He uses it both to read and to write. Now and then he’ll send an article to the op-ed section of the local paper. They’re seldom rejected.

     He likes people and makes a point of meeting the locals wherever he goes, but he’s disinclined to spend more than a week or two anywhere. There’s a lot of country to see, and he knows it could take more than a lifetime to see it all. That doesn’t keep him from becoming involved with the locals or in local affairs.

     Okay, Gentle Readers, here are my questions for you:

  1. What’s his name?
  2. Was he ever married?
  3. Should he travel with a dog?
  4. Does he have any living relatives?
  5. What are his reasons for choosing a life on the road? Is a lost love one of them?
  6. What white-collar trade did he practice that made him wealthy? Why did he give it up?
  7. Where should his first story take him and in what sort of adventure should he involve himself there?

     Feel free to leave suggestions in the comments, or to email them to me at the address I use for the website:

- at –
- dot –


billo said...

I gotta say, the description is a lot like Jack Reacher, but with a mobile home and a pinch of Da Vinci code with the church thing. I know there's a long history of "Man with no name" stories, and mysterious strangers were a trope of old Westerns, but when I read this, the Lee Child novels immediately came to mind.

So, for what it's worth, I'd do my best to separate the two. I'd focus on the religious, but keep it away from the Da Vinci conspiracy stuff.


1) I'd use a name with religious significance, representing whatever I wanted to emphasize. Flawed warriors? Gideon, Samson, etc. Spiritual warrior? John, Constantine, Demetrius, Gregory, Eustace, Florian, Gereon. Mystical Warrior? John, Philo, Devotio, Ignatius, etc. For a last name I'd use a similar system, e.g. Molinos for Miguel Molinos. So... something like Constantine Molinos.

2) Was he ever married? If a Catholic priest, then no. If lay, then yes - a widower. Or, yes, and she's disappeared under suspicious circumstances. But I'd choose widower.

3) Dog? This would depend on what he does and how you view his personality. Dogs imply a certain level of empathy and caring, as well as a level of commitment and responsibility. If there's a dog, then there needs to be a sidekick/second bananna to take care of it when things go bad.

4) Yes. They need not be visible, but can be used in plot development in later novels as support, resource, or source of concern (e.g. uncle bob's been kidnapped, or young nephew is a junkie in trouble), or even an antagonist (the stereotypic mob/priest brother thing). But, unless necessary, they can initially only be hinted at.

5) He's a fireman. He's working with some group to solve localized problems on a discrete basis. He can't be running away, since tooling around in a big mobile home is easily traceable. The fantasy trope for this is a variant of the "Men in Black" thing -- there are evil forces (aliens, demons, wild magic) that springs up, and things need to be kept in control quietly. Similar things can be done on a mundane basis (hence the Jack Reacher novels). The difference with Jack Reacher, however, would be that these are assignments, and it's done uner control, sort of like a religious Mitch Rapp. If you don't like him being part of a hierarchy, he could be a freelancer taking jobs where no traceback can be made to those giving him gigs. Or, he could be getting gigs from God directly, through visions, angels, etc.

6) Lottery winner. That way you can give him any skills that fit your plot, without having to key it to a previous career.

7) Since I'm running with the spiritual thing, I'd decide whether I was going to move into urban/spiritual fantasy, which allows direct demonic threat, etc. I'm not a Catholic, but, for instance, it might be that the Church has decided to investigate the child sex stuff and has found that there has been a corruption of priests that involves demonic possession of priests who had taken vows falsely. His job is to fix things and save those priests from that possession. Or, there's no demons and no possession -- his job is to deal in an extreme way with priests who are damaging the faith. Similarly, there could be an organized group working against him. Other ideas are common horror/religious tropes -- impending breaking of some barrier keeping demons bound, some artifact that can cause great damage, someone performing "miracles" and gathering a group of followers up to no good, etc.

Lergnom said...

It sounds very much like Jeff Schwartz's online novel "The Consultant". He published it in a USENET group ~20 years ago, and I was unable to find it just now, or I would have included a link.

ligneus said...

All too compliferking for me!

Amy Bowersox said...

Lergnom, you're in luck. I saved a copy of The Consultant a long time ago, and just dug it up and made it available here.

Emmett Fitz-Hume said...

1) His name is Jesse Bishop

2) He was never married. Because his fiance was killed in a car accident. Jesse was driving. It wasn't his fault but he still blames himself even though no one else does.

3)No pets. He doesn't consider himself fit for pets or close relationships. In Jesse's mind, he failed the last love he ever had.

4) He has a grandmother who raised him after his mother died when Jesse was a child. Jesse never knew his father and doesn't know if he is still alive. He feels a debt to the catholic church who helped his mother decide to have a child out of wedlock rather than abort it. He was very, very close to his fiance's family but is so consumed by guilt he can't tolerate their presence or attention. He secretly tries to take care of them and his grandmother financially.

5) Jesse lives on the road because he finds it difficult to get attached. By staying on the road Jesse-subconsciously- lessens the sense of detachment since he doesn't know anyone long enough to wonder why he doesn't get attached.

6) Jesse was a Patent and IP attorney who came up with his own set of lucrative industrial patents. One day, he realized, he didn't have to show up for work anymore. So he quit.

7) His first adventure should take him along the Inter-coastal Waterway, where a cabal of corrupt law enforcement officials and DSS/CPS workers are human trafficking (children who have been removed from poor rural families and drug addicts for Neglect). A child is found nearly drowned after he/she jumps in the water to escape one of the smuggler boats. Jesse Bishop uses his engineering knowledge (acquired while writing and inspecting patents and designing his motor home) to discover the smugglers' methods (hidden compartments like the same on his motor home). Possible Plot Twist: Instead of Jesse designing the compartments on the motor home, he had an acquaintance do it-the same acquaintance also designed the compartments in the smugglers' boats. Possible plot twist #2: Jesse gets involved with a woman who works for the "enemy"- Love Interest isn't involved with the cabal but knows about it and is wracked by guilt because she can't stop it.

Thank you Mr. Porretto. This was a fun exercise!

daniel_day said...

Lergnom, would this be it?

LiberTarHeel said...

1. I'm not good with names -- sorry, can't help.
2. This would make a nice recurring mystery for the reader.
3. No; that's too _Travels With Charlie_
4. None ever mentioned; no data either way.
5. An excess of curiosity about the human condition; no mention of lost love

6. Investment technical analyst; late-onset excess of ethical disgust
7. Colorado, where he meets a thinly disguised Bob Lee Swagger

Lergnom said...

To all you good people whose Google-fu is better than mine, many thanks. That is, indeed, the story I was referring to. I commend it to our host's attention, and recommend it wholeheartedly, both as reference and as a fine yarn. This is the story that made me want a Mosin-Nagant.