Thursday, June 23, 2011

How I met Dr. Gil Tailor

I think most every fiction writer is asked at one time or another, “Where do your characters come from? Do you make them up? Are they people you know? Do you just change their names?”

Truth is, the characters in NO MORE BULL are a combination of the above. Dr. Gil Tailor for instance. He’s the protagonist in the three book mystery series that starts with NO MORE BULL. I have wanted to write mysteries most of my adult life. But, like most folks there was this thing called “life” that kept getting in the way. You know, little things like making a living.

I did, however, have time to read. The more I read, the more I wanted to write. I knew that I wanted to write mysteries. Many of the writers I enjoyed wrote series. Robert B. Parker’s Spencer and Jesse Stone series, John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport, John D. McDonald’s Travis McGee, Loren Estleman’s Amos Walker and Page Murdock to name a few.

I started thinking about developing a character that could sustain a series. I wanted him to have something to do with the livestock business. He needed to have a reason to be involved in situations that could allow bad guys and murder to flourish. For quite a while I thought he might be a brand inspector. But that put him IN law enforcement. I wanted him to be someone forced by circumstances to solve crimes.

And I wanted him to be a character.  Luckily I’ve been blessed with the kind of life that put me face to face with a bunch of Characters. (Notice the capital C.) Growing up in Cripple Creek, Colorado was a start. That town draws Characters like posys draw bees. Living in Wyoming and Texas helped too. Some of the Characters I have met are melted down and remolded into the folks in my stories. Some are pure imagination. But it wasn’t until one night at the Golden Bee Tavern, a part of the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, that I met Dr. Gil Tailor.

The place was packed and the honky-tonk piano player was leading a sing-a-long. There were only two cowboy hats in the place so it was natural that those two hats would gravitate to each other. The fact that Jack Daniels sat in front of both of us probably helped too. His name wasn’t Gil or Tailor. For the purpose of this writing I’m going to call him Nick. He was a veterinarian. Colorado Springs was his home base, but he didn’t have a practice. He had inherited some money. I don’t know how much. Wasn’t any of my damned business. But it was enough that he didn’t have to work. However, he loved working with livestock. So he became a relief vet. Much like a substitute teacher, he’d set in for a veterinarian giving them a chance to get away for a while. Most rural practices are one-vet operations. Taking care of other people’s critters is a 24/7 operation and can be exhausting. These talented professionals work a lot harder than your private physician for less pay. They need and deserve time off.

Nick was picky, however. The clinics he worked at had to be close to either hunting or fishing – preferably both. He worked in Alaska, California, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana – you get the picture. He had a fancy motor home that towed his Jeep. He’d spend two or three weeks practicing veterinary medicine then a month or so fishing or hunting. He had carved out a lifestyle that would be the envy of many a man.

Unlike my Gil, Nick was a big man. Six foot four or five. Well over two hundred pounds. And he had fun. WE had fun. Got to know each other. Talked cows and horses. Sang along on the songs we knew. Met a couple of ladies from Texas (this was B.C. – Before Cy, my wife) and treated them to dinner. They were attracted by our hats. Imagine that.

When I woke the next morning I knew I had my character for my series – a veterinarian who would have a reason to visit different places and be caught up in various nasty business.

I gave Gil a law background. In my backstory he took criminal justice classes at Casper College before his dad got killed leaving Gil enough money to fulfill his lifetime ambition to be a vet. You’ll learn more about that as you read further into NO MORE BULL, which will require you buying the book when it is published shortly. And I hope you’ll want to.

I never saw or heard from Nick again. But he’s lived with me for thirty plus years. And now a piece of him is in NO MORE BULL.

I still have that hat.

Hope we run into each other on this same trail next Monday.


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