Do other authors imagine an actor in a television or movie role when they're trying to flesh out their characters? I have, particularly when I'm writing a male character. It helps to pin down the physical description, as well as the personality traits shared by my character and the role the actor plays.
Therefore, when I was writing Charles Tremaine in the first installment of my Anna Nolan mystery series, Framed for Murder, I pictured Laurence Fox as DS James Hathaway in the television series, Lewis. Charles Tremaine is an English transplant, an RCMP sergeant who works with a national criminal unit that investigates homicides in western Canada. Physically, he is 6’4” and lean, clean-shaven, with close-cropped blond hair, grey eyes (I had to change something), and dresses in suits and ties. Sound like anyone we know? He's 31, but has no problem being interested in older women, which is good, because my heroine is 40. He's smart and cool, a play-it-by-the-rules kind of guy, but he also has a sardonic sense of humour, loses his temper now and then, and doesn't mind getting physical.
Here's a scene between Sergeant Tremaine and my amateur sleuth, Anna Nolan. To set the scene, Tremaine has just caught Anna spying on a married couple who are suspects in her ex-husband's murder investigation, even though he has warned Anna away. They are in the driveway outside the couple's house. Anna has left a friend, Amy, who is rather tipsy, in her car to sleep it off.
“You idiot, you nearly gave me a heart attack,” I gasped, lowering the light. Suddenly remembering the couple in the house, I turned back and crouched down between the cars again. I peered towards the windows, but couldn’t see Connie or Karen.
“Where’d they go?” I muttered.
Tremaine, who wasn’t bothering to hide himself, pointed over my head. “Right there on the rug in front of the fireplace.”
I looked in that direction and saw Connie lying on top of Karen. She wasn’t struggling; on the contrary, her arms and legs were clamped around him. As I watched, Connie rose up on one elbow and began fumbling with his pants, yanking them down around his knees and exposing his bare backside.
“Ew, I think I burnt my eyes!” I squawked, before clamping my hand over my mouth. I didn’t want them to hear me.
“That’s what you get for spying on people,” Tremaine said, still behind me. “You can get up now. I don’t think there’s much chance of them looking out the window at the moment.”
I straightened and turned to face Tremaine. His expression was severe, his arms folded over his chest. He uncrossed them and took a step toward me. At that moment, I was more afraid of him than I was of Karen and Connie.
“I have to get back to Amy,” I muttered, ducking my head and trying to push past him. Instead, he grabbed my shoulder and spun me around.
“You don’t have to worry about Amy. She was sound asleep when I walked past your car a few minutes ago.”
“So, what are you doing here?” I asked.
“Shouldn’t I be asking you that question?” he snapped. “Come along – show’s over – let’s get you back to your car.” He turned on his own flashlight and gestured for me to precede him. Once we were past the cars, he paced down the driveway beside me, looking grim.
“How did you know I was here?” I risked asking with a sidelong glance.
“Steve Walker called after you followed Karen and Connie out of the Silver Spur ‘as if your pants were on fire,’ as he so colourfully put it. He was afraid that you and Amy might be up to something, so he asked me to check on the Primos. I’d already interviewed them at home, so I knew where they lived. What did you expect to gain by following them here, Anna?”
I glanced at him, thinking fast. “If you must know, I was afraid that Connie might hurt Karen once he got her home. He was acting very aggressively at the bar, and they were both drunk. I followed them to check up on her.”
“I see. And what were you going to do if he started beating her?”
I tripped over a stone and Tremaine grabbed my elbow to steady me. I was too busy keeping up with him and trying to gauge his reaction to my lies to watch where I was going.
“And what were you and Amy doing talking to the Primos in the first place?”
“Oh, the Spur is an old haunt of mine. Amy and I hit it off the other night, so she invited me out for a drink. We bumped into Karen at the bar, and Amy introduced us. The tables were really crowded, so we joined her.”
“That’s odd. Constable Walker is a regular at the Spur and he said he’s never seen you there before.”
“Uh, that must be because he’s always in the back playing pool.” Suddenly, Tremaine swung me around and started pulling me back toward the house. “What are you doing?” I sputtered, stumbling after him.
“I’m taking you back to the Primos to see if they want to press trespassing charges.”
“Hey, wait a minute,” I protested, ineffectively digging my heels into the gravel. “Let’s not be rash.”
Tremaine dragged me along beside him. “Anna, you just told me a pack of lies. If you won’t tell me the truth, the least I can do is keep you out of harm’s way by putting you in jail for a day or two. Maybe that’s what you need to realize how serious this situation is.”
I stopped and wrenched my elbow from his grasp. “All right, all right, here’s the truth,” I said. “Amy heard that Karen Quill and Jack were sleeping together, and I wanted to find out if Connie was the type to kill Jack if he found out that his wife was cheating on him.” I glanced at Tremaine for his reaction. There was a steely look in his eyes that made me look away again.
“Don’t you think that I already know about Jack and Karen’s affair?”
My mouth gaped open. “How did you hear about it? Not from Karen, I bet.”
“Anna, I am the police. I question people, and they tell me things. If I don’t believe them, I keep digging until I discover the truth. That’s what I’m paid to do. Why do you continue to involve yourself in this investigation when I’ve warned you to stay away?”
I was afraid of Tremaine at that moment, and when I’m afraid, I have a tendency to mask my feelings with aggression. I guess it’s the old “fight or flight” instinct, and I’m not as fast as I used to be.
“Okay, hot shot, just because you’re the police doesn’t mean that I can’t talk to people and look around myself, especially when it’s my head that’s in the noose.”
“Hot shot?” he said, his lips twitching.
Okay, now he was laughing at me, which really made me mad. “Look, you told me that I’m the prime suspect in this case. Has that changed?”
He paused for a moment, his eyes becoming cautious. “No.”
“Then just leave me alone. I promise if I find out anything important, I’ll let you know right away. Come on, Tremaine, I could be useful to you.”
Tremaine took a step closer until we stood toe-to-toe. “Anna, I want you to listen to me very carefully because I’m not going to say this again. You cannot be of any use to me in this investigation. As a matter of fact, you’re a liability. I’ve questioned the Primos, who have been cooperative up until now, and I’m corroborating their alibi. What I don’t need is your ham-fisted interference spooking them and ruining their cooperation. Now, I do not want to see or hear of you trying to interview suspects, spy on people, or anything else that you can come up with, do you hear? I swear that if I find you doing anything illegal, I’ll haul you away to prison before you know what happened. Have I made myself perfectly clear?” He grabbed me by the shoulders and gave me a shake to emphasize his point.
I’m not proud of my reaction that night – okay, secretly I am. I swung back my foot and kicked him as hard as I could in the shin. As he hopped around on one leg, cursing, I shouted, “Don’t you ever touch me again! How dare you threaten me! What kind of a cop are you, anyway? Haven’t you ever heard of police brutality? I swear I’ll make a complaint to the top RCMP guy if you ever touch me again. Just leave me alone!”
Well, what do you think? Could you imagine Laurence Fox playing Sergeant Tremaine? If you could and you know of any producers just itching to make a movie based on the winner of the 2014 Bony Blithe Mystery award, drop me a note. Or, if you're a friend of Laurence Fox, ask him if he'd like a copy of Framed for Murder. I'd be happy to send him one. I'd even autograph it.
Framed for Murder is available as an e-book from Amazon, B&N, Apple iTunes, Smashwords, Google Play, Kobo, and others, and as a paperback from Amazon. Or, you could ask your favourite bookstore or library to order it in.