In the beginning, G&B Detective Agency: Case of the Missing Tucker was created. And there were four: Max, Skip, Monica and Milton. And each of the four had to be a person. Someone who was more than two ex-cops who won the lottery, a stripper and a cop still working the beat. And I will admit that I drew from both myself and the hundreds, if not thousands, of cops, strippers and just people that I’ve known. I took little pieces from here and a little from there and made these people as realistic as I could. As I always say, you can’t create anything from a vacuum.
Here’s a little real-life fact about myself: I speak Spanish. It is something that I picked up along the way and I do pretty well, if I might pat myself on the back. Good enough to chat with the plumber who didn’t speak English and who came to fix our cistern in Puerto Rico or the handyman who fixed it before him. I’m conversational, let’s say. How I got there is a story in itself.
In order for a character to be interesting, for a character to have depth, they have to have something more to them than the bare essentials to carry the story. They need something that identifies them, makes them different. After all, if there is nothing more to Max and Skip than ex-cops who win the Power Ball and decide to start a detective agency, they are the same person. I decided that Max needed to speak Spanish to set him apart. So when we see him in the Lucky Lady for the first time, he addresses Monica in Spanish and then tells her what he said, just to clarify it for our non-Spanish speaking readers. I thought it would work. Instead, it quickly became cumbersome.
When I wrote Lonelyfarmer, I decided to drop the Spanish. One, it was hard to work into the story and secondly, it was just too much Rollie. I didn’t want Max to be me, I wanted him to be his own person. But I wanted something that Max could be looking at, learning in his free time, something to occupy his mind, something to talk about. So Max went in search of an expensive Martin guitar on the internet. It comes up in casual conversation with Skip. It is also something that continues throughout the series. Max became a guitar player instead of a Spanish speaker.
At the time I wrote Lonelyfarmer, I was learning to play the ukulele. Another story, very much like how I learned to speak Spanish. I won’t go into it here. But I did not know that much about guitars. I hadn’t really thought much beyond the four strings of a ukulele and that fact that is was considerably smaller than a guitar, a bit easier to play and easier to take around with me to entertain myself with. I could do what I wanted to do with the uke, why waste my time learning to play something else? But like the Spanish, it would have been too close to home to make Max a ukulele player. Max had to do his own thing. So I began researching guitars. Checking out what was popular at the time, what they cost, whatever I needed to know in order to write the story.
If it had just stopped there, that would be one thing; but it didn’t. I got more and more interested in guitars. I started thinking that maybe I might like to learn to play guitar as well as ukulele. I started meeting people who played both. It grew on me, sitting there in the back of my mind, Max playing the guitar and all, making me get on the internet to search out a new guitar maybe, just like Max was doing. I fought it, I rationalized, and right around Christmas 2019, I got a little serious. Then I got real serious. Then I bought a Taylor guitar. If I was writing a G&B Detective Agency book right now, Max would be buying a Taylor, or maybe a Gibson, probably not a Martin, but as it is, each to his own. He led the way, after all. He did it first. Life imitated art. The next time you see me playing my Taylor, don’t jump to the conclusion that Max is me, I am turning into Max.