Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Serendipity . . .

by Kit Ehrman

I give a lot of thought to my characters’ names, both human and equine. When I was writing my Kentucky Derby mystery, TRIPLE CROSS, I needed to name several Thoroughbreds who would become characters in the book, and as a necessary component of the mystery, I needed to develop their pedigrees, too. I wanted the pedigrees to sound familiar to the reader, so, I turned to the Jockey Club’s foal registry.

I also wanted to make sure that my story’s equine characters (the ones who lived and breathed in the story and won or lost races, etc.) were not named after horses currently racing. So for those horses, I used the registry to make sure I wasn’t duplicating a real name.

Anyway, Steve’s father was running a racehorse, Gallant Storm, in the Derby. One of his main competitors, and a significant character in the book, was Gone Wild. I liked that name for him because his connections’ wealth came from Kentucky’s oil and gas exploration industry where “wildcat” is a common term. So, once I decided on Gone Wild, I had to find a pedigree to suit him. I decided that his sire would be the very real Gone West.

So, I’m down in Louisville for Derby week, 2005. I stayed Derby weekend at the fabulous 1888 Historic Rocking Horse Manor on 3rd Street. As is tradition, the manor’s guests draw names, and if your horse wins, you win the pot. Well, who should be running that year, but a colt named Going Wild? And whose name did a draw? Yep, you got it. Going Wild.

1888 Historic Rocking Horse Manor in Louisville

Unfortunately, we both lost.

But the names keep cropping up. A couple of weeks ago, I met a dear, elderly woman at a book club event in Cincinnati, the kind of person you feel you’ve known your entire life. She’s eighty-three and only quit riding two years ago! Her current horse is a Thoroughbred who didn’t really care for racing, and guess who his sire is? Gone West! She was so tickled to find a reference to her horse’s stud in the book.

Keeps me wondering what other connections are waiting to be made.

Happy riding and reading,


Unknown said...

That's tough - working with the names of existing sires but not giving an equine character the name of a real horse. People wrack their brains trying to work in those bloodline names. It's probably a good thing that you didn't pick Storm Cat as your Derby horse's sire because I think every permutation of that one might be in use by now. ;->

Kit Ehrman said...

Hi Rhonda!
Yep, it took a bit of time with the foal registery and a list of top sires to get those names nailed down, but it was fun, too. I got to look at a lot of handsome studs, too. Equine, not human, though come to think if it, that would have been fun, too! :-)