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Winks 1  - Names

"Proper names are poetry in the raw. Like all poetry they are untranslatable."

-          W. H. (Wystan Hugh) Auden, (1907 - 1973) English/American poet.


Hugo DiConte

With the plot about vampires in our contemporary world, I might have been tempted to include some references to the whole vampire genre via the names I used for my characters. I chose not to follow this easy route; instead I took inspiration from the huge amount of research I had to do for the novel.

Hugo DiConte was inspired by Ugolino Di Conti, otherwise known as Pope Gregory IX. Gregory IX was the head of the Catholic Church from 1227 until his death in 1241. His papal reign is remarkable because this was when the ill-famed Inquisitions started. Gregory initially charged Konrad von Marburg, an extremist heretic hunter, with purging the Church of heretics. Note that at this point in history, the Catholic Church considered heresy not just an ecclesiastical crime, punishable by excommunication, but a secular one also, often punishable by death.

The method employed to search out the heretics was crude, to say the least. Once the Inquisition’s monks arrived in a particular place, the townspeople were given a month to confess their religious crimes. After that month had elapsed, the monks proceeded to extract confessions through torture so extreme, many died. The Church then took their lands, which might explain the almost 300 million acres spread across the World the Vatican owns today, placing it in third place in the ranking of landowners worldwide.

During the times of the Inquisition, many of the people running the process subsequently became Popes.

Many might be mistaken for thinking of the Inquisition as the Spanish Inquisition; those guys who gave us some of the greatest torture methods ever invented by Man, including Waterboarding (see Full Disclosure), but you would be mistaken. The Tribunal del Santo Oficio de la Inquisición (Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition) was in fact established in 1480 by Fernando II of Aragon and Isabel I of Castilla, the Reyes Católicos or Catholic Kings, as a means to impose Catholic orthodoxy in their kingdoms, and replace the Medieval Inquisition which was under Papal control.

There were three main Inquisitions:

The Papal (or medieval) Inquisition, started officially in 1233, after Pope Gregory IX had placed the persecution of heretics under the control of the Dominican order two years before.

The Spanish Inquisition, which was a tool used by the Spanish monarchs, primarily in their territory and was run by Tomas de Torquemada.

The Roman Inquisition, started by Pope Paul III in 1542, and which also introduced book censorship as one of its prime actions. This Inquisition was still going strong in 1633, when Galileo Galilei, 69 at the time, was brought before its courts for espousing the Copernican view of our Solar System (planets, including Earth, moving around the Sun – the Church insisted the Earth was the centre of the Universe). Galileo was not tortured explicitly, although he was condemned to house arrest for the rest of his days. The Catholic Church finally pardoned him in 1992!

It was estimated by Victor Hugo that 5 million people became victims of this Inquisition. Officially this last Inquisition did not end until 1965 when the papal office responsible was renamed the Congregation of the Holy Office and refocused on promulgating doctrine instead of pursuing heretics.

Pope Gregory IX was also cited as being responsible for ensuring a feline holocaust. As cats were seen as part of Satanic worship, he is supposed to have ordered their destruction wherever they may be found within the scope of the Catholic Church’s domains, thus aiding the spread of the Black Plague, as the natural enemy of the rats that were responsible for its spread, were systematically eliminated.

So, to commemorate the contribution of this particular person to the history of the World, I updated his name and made him into a character.


Amy Bree & Ralph Graham

If you say those names, what is the fleeting image that springs to mind? Yes. Food. Graham Crackers and French Brie cheese. That just happens to be one of my favourite snacks; one that is often the basis of a brief respite while I’m in the throes of writing. Is this, then, homage to some food I like… or is there more?

I was looking for a name for my younger protagonist, something that would be short, sharp yet not violent. Onomatopoeic, yet pleasing to the ear. I was also aware of the early fate of Thin Ralph. I needed to use subliminal tricks to cement the partnership of Amy and Ralph in the readers’ mind without having to recount a huge mutual backstory, because the events that affect them both happen right at the start of the novel. Cheese and crackers was the result. They go together so well, and what’s even better, everyone knows that. ‘Cheese and Crackers’ is one of those phrases that seem to fit and immediately conjure images of harmony and complicity in peoples’ minds. Amy’s given name needed to ‘fit’ and complement her partner’s, so after much trial and error, I hit upon the one, I think, clicked. Katie is a more guttural name; a hard, throaty start that punctuates the presentation of the two. Amy is softer, drawn-out, leading to the punctuation. Starsky and Hutch, Tom and Jerry; you get the picture, right.

Also, it made a pleasant change after all the torture and mayhem of DiConte.

So there you have it; the birth of a legendary partnership.


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