Ken Winterpol, the victim in Suspects, is a scoundrel. I didn’t want to insult anyone I knew by making Ken in any way similar to them. And just as importantly, I didn’t want someone I didn’t know to sue me for defamation because Ken’s name was similar to their own. Not only did I want a unique and obscure last name for Ken, I wanted it to be very clear where I did get his name so no one could accuse me of appropriating theirs.
Unique and obscure? Winterpol is the name of a ski resort in Poland. There is hardly anyone in the United States, and no one in Oregon as far as I can tell, named Winterpol. Best of all, the name was clearly derived from a famous and horrible fictional character named Kenneth Widmerpool in Anthony Powell’s series of novels, A Dance to the Music of Time. The Wikipedia entry for Widmerpool says “Initially presented as a comic, even pathetic figure, he becomes increasingly formidable, powerful and ultimately sinister as the novels progress.” I was particularly attuned to Powell’s character because, in the midst of my business career, I met a woman at a party who thought she was intellectually and culturally superior to my money-grubbing, career-minded, and hopelessly dull-witted self. She turned to her husband and said, “He’s just like Kenneth Widmerpool, don’t you think?” meaning to insult me and reveal my total lack of sophistication in the same breath. I told her I certainly hoped I was not like Kenneth Widmerpool. “Why?” she said, realizing I knew who the character was and trying to cover up her bad manners. “Because he is the most despicable character in all of twentieth century literature,” I said. “Oh, I don’t know,” she said.
Candy Winterpol’s first name might imply that she is sweet, attractive, and uncomplicated. Candy is attractive. She is also a talented artist and a good skier. She can be appealing and persuasive when she wants to be. But Candy’s name is intentionally misleading. She is a complex character, with mixed motivations, and she is, at heart, anything but sweet. She’s a bit of a riddle but she may be the most interesting character in the book.
In future posts I’ll describe where the Martinez family and some of the other characters got their names. Also Dan Martinez’s law firm, Oxton, Rath, and Flynn. Is it a coincidence that Rath is also the last name of a former Attorney General for the state of New Hampshire?