Sunday, July 26, 2015
What's In a Name?
"I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide!"
(Nelle) Harper Lee
Recently I read in the NYT about Canada's Prime Minister — Stephen Harper — on the same day the air waves were filled with the new news of Harper Lee.
I wondered: Is there ever any connection between people who bear the same name?
Lee — to most Americans — means Robert E. Lee. ( My Tennessee born mother named my brother Robert, after the famous American.)
And many of us connect the name Harper to Harper's Ferry.
The name of Angela Merkel is in the news, daily — vast numbers of Americans (of a certain age) connect that name with Angela Lansbury of Cabot's Cove, Maine.
And many think — Jimmy Carter — when they see Ashton Carter on the news — and Ashton is a far cry from a peanut farmer!
The British Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, connects in my mind to Prince Philip and Hammond organs!
Elvira Nabiullina — the Governor of Russia's Central Bank — I can't imagine a Russian woman having the name Elvira!
And the name Brokaw will always be that famous nightly news anchor!
A quick glance at just one page of the daily Times shows a bunch of names with no hint as to their origin - Lebo, Kilgo, Morey, Capote, Nabel, Finch, Gettleman, Randle, Delzell — to name a few.
And who among us would name their kid… Tiger?
So, you ask, what does this have to do with crime writing?
Just ask any sober writer… "Where do you find the names for your characters?"
Not always an easy task… sometimes a writer takes days… or months… to come up with the perfect name…
And then has another problem… when you have the name in your head… can you find a story to use it in?
Today we are fascinated by the names Harper Lee used. And this interest brought me to her own life…
She accompanied Truman Capote to Holcomb, Kansas, to assist him in the research of what became In Cold Blood.
She also wrote part of a novel — The Long Goodbye — and of a factual book about an Alabama serial murderer.
She also researched a true-crime book — The Reverend. (Now that tickles my interest — was the guy the criminal?)
Speaking of names — Gregory Peck's own grandson is named for her — Harper Peck Voll!
In 2007, Lee told the audience of the Alabama Academy of Honor — "Well, it's better to be silent than to be a fool!"
In 2007 President G.W. Bush presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the highest civilian award in the USA!
In 2010 President Obama awarded her the National Medal of Arts.
In 2015 Harper Lee issued a statement: "I'm alive and kicking and happy as hell with the reactions to "Watchman"!
Way to go, Nelle… my kinda writer!
T. J. Straw
P.S. If you have followed news on the current publication of the Harper Lee book, you will find a piece by James Scott Bell of great interest.
Go to the blog — Jungle Red — for 7/18… to Lucy Burdette's referral to James Scott Bell's post on Kill Zone for 7/16. Then read Bell's post on Kill Zone.
Both Bell's ideas and his reader comments are excellent! This is the best I've seen anywhere.
I'd love to read your own comments on this topic! Hope you will share with us here at CWC! tjs