Some of the most fun I have when writing is fleshing out the character of the bad boys and girls who may not be the villain(ess) but who add depth and color to the hero(ine) ‘s troubles. Occasionally, one bad boy or girl will demand more reader time. No matter how carefully plotted a book or series is, they refuse their assigned part, wanting more. I always think of Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet when characters pitch a fit, because to my way of thinking, Shakespeare killed Mercutio because Mercutio insisted on vibrantly stealing the show.
A rampant bad boy or girl in a mystery or thriller can be a problem or add unexpected depth to the plot and to the main character. I have had more than one walk-on demand extra story time. Sometimes like Shakespeare, I just whack them, either write them out or whack them, not as in cutting them from the text, but as in off them in the story. Still some refuse to take their curtain call, one example is an Indochine named Pierre Minotier who slunk his way into my Cooper Quartet series. He is a walk-on in Dead Legend, a shadowy figure in Head First, a player in Pay Back, and that’s just the first three books. Trust me, Pierre inhabits Don’t Tell, the newly published final book in the series..
What is it about Pierre?
Pierre was raised on the family plantation, Bonne Chance, southeast of Saigon. His father, a French plantation operator, was both a legitimate businessman and head of one of the five French sanctioned opium cartels. As his father leaves for Dien Bien Phu and his death, he burdens Pierre with the family business(es), entreating his son to ensure his sister Chloe’s safety, not that Pierre’s sister needs much saving. Chloe is a pistol, too. Still, Pierre makes a deal to get Chloe out of Vietnam that brings him to near ruin, requiring him to consider his future, the cartel’s future, and whose side he takes in the Vietnam War.
Pierre is a raptor, and I’m very fond of him. I hadn’t meant it to be that way. At first, I felt betrayed by his refusal to fade away before realizing he had an irresistible sleazy, rotten, wonderfulness about him and welcomed him to each successive book. And in turn he enlivened the books, adding a bit of rot to each, and moral ambiguity to my hero Laury Cooper’s journey. That’s a lot to carry for a bit player that wasn’t supposed to exist.
Is it his sleaze or his power?
Before Pierre appears in Dead Legend, Laury Cooper considers Pierre’s reputation:
The one-hundred-year-old Minotier franchise was operated by Chloe’s brother, Pierre. Laury knew him by reputation. They had never met.
Over drinks in Saigon, Philippe Latondre, the photographer, had ratted that Pierre bought and resold downed pilots for exorbitant amounts of lucre. Latondre boasted, as though Pierre was some how his, that Pierre was adrift, immoral, deadly, corrupt, loaded with funds and impossible to find, moving as he did in the dappled gray of the shadow business.
In Head First, Robin Haas, Laury Cooper’s cousin, finds an envelope folded between the pages of Jolie Minotier’s diary (Chloe’s daughter). Robin shares it with the darling Chief Warrant Officer Dan Cisco, another bit player who refused to stay within the bounds set for him. His footprint grows in each ensuing book, a bit of a ying to Pierre’s yang. If Pierre is a dark knight, Dan is a dumpling.
“The address on the envelope is in San Leandro.”
“She’s sixteen. Her mother and her pack of Rottweilers are in town. They tried to nab her in Berkeley, she came to you. There aren’t a whole lot of people she trusts. For some reason, you appear to be one of them. Pierre Minotier may be another.”
“Not Pierre, Dan. No.” Robin disagreed.
By Pay Back, Pierre demands everyone’s attention:
A small, elegant man in his mid-forties perched on the cot at the back of the chamber. He was blond and dark-eyed with a two- or three-day growth of reddish-blond beard. He was dressed, not unlike Cooper, in white linen slacks, with socks, blue canvas shoes, and a soft, yellow lawn shirt that fit. He crossed to Cooper with his right hand extended, showing the copper bracelet he wore around his wrist.
“Mais, oui.” Pierre directed Cooper away from the others, his silky gate silent in his canvas shoes. Cooper and Minotier were a study; one dark, one light, one tall, one short, yet both moved as though their timing belts were tuned perfectly for combustion.
And, finally, in Don’t Tell. Pierre Minotier and Laury Cooper are joined by mutual daring and admiration:
Pierre rotated the envelope so that the flap faced Laury. “Avant de l’ouvrir, I have had the contents for a month. It was a gift of sorts, more a bribe, je pense. These people, they are not what they wish you to believe, mon cher. They do not play with fairness.”
“And you are overcome by French-ness,” Laury quipped.
Pierre lifted one shoulder, stared into the brightening fog, and said, “Mais oui. I find these things difficult with those I have strong feelings for—good or bad.” A frisson rode up Laury’s back at the softness in Pierre’s voice.
Or the whole package?
I took great care in writing Pierre’s character, and in return he offered shading, nuance, moral ambiguity and more than a few thrills. He has his fierce loyalties. To those he trusts, he is patient, caring, and slyly supportive. Over the arc of the Quartet, Pierre skulks from a shadowy, frightening participant in a horrifying scam to an ally, the kind you can rely on when all of the cards are against you — for a price — a price you may not expect or want to pay. I’m glad he fought for his place in the telling, stayed true to himself and the Coopers, and let me have fun with a character that, like Crabby Appleton of yore, is rotten to the core. Or is he?
The books of the Cooper Quartet, Dead Legend, Head First, Pay Back and Don’t Tell are available in ebook, papeback and hardcover on Amazon. Pierrre starts here: https://www.amazon.com/Dead-Legend-Cooper-Quartet-Church/dp/1735520829.