Tuesday, 24 July 2018

What's in A Name?

I write under a pseudonym. I have always sought to distance my writing life from my domestic one and psychologically that seemed an important facet of that compartmentalisation.

But I have always been fascinated by people operating under different names and have written about it in several of my novels. In my debut novel "A,B&E" a gangster's moll faked her own death to try and avoid the contract he'd put on her head, and needed a fake identity sharpish. 

For she simply cannot afford to be tracked down by her name. She can't appear on any bureaucratic lists. She has no driving licence, no social security paperwork, no health insurance records and no credit card in her (assumed) name. She has nothing to her name, not even her real name. 

"My assigned identity was forged for me by someone I’ve never even met. Karen Dash. My new moniker. A bit of a giggle. An in-joke on my way out the country." 

Karen's new identity is that bestowed on her by way of a counterfeit passport. The name 'dashed' off the top of the counterfeiter's head. Referring back to the high quality Swiss colouring pencils of my and maybe his childhood. Where he first had his interest pricked in visual reproduction. Do you remember Caran D'Ache colouring pencils? At the time they were as ubiquitous as the Swiss Army knife and gave the lie to Harry Lime's contention that Switzerland had only ever produced the "cuckoo clock". Now they brand themselves as "Maison de Haute Ecriture" (maybe Harry Lime had a point after all).

Karen Dash never existed, despite her larger than life presence on the pages of the novel. It is a name wrought to prevent her true identity being revealed, found and then expunged. It is a dead end of a name.

In my novel "Not In My Name" a homegrown terrorist stalks the internet looking for a patsy and necessarily adopting whatever name he requires for his task. The world of the internet is populated by soubriquets and people hiding their identity. Yet he is able to track down one specific person's true identity for he needs to groom her for his purposes....

In my new novel "Three Dreams in the Key Of G" I've taken the opposite tack. the three central female voices all have the same name in terms of the sound of their name.

First is the mother of two young daughters in post peace-agreement Northern Ireland

My name is Jean Ome. Phonetically speaking. And in actuality too, though I have no passport to prove this (denied me since now they bear the EC’s {Papist} impress). Nor do my other personalised permits and financial enablers bear this out, since my maiden name has never been supplanted (not because I’m an independent career woman, instead just too much of a put-upon mother to have gotten round to it). So in all my transactions outside the house promising to the bearer, I am still Jean Malcolm. She of a whole lifetime ago. Who gleefully mocks and taunts me for my divergence from her.

The family name really should be Home as in ‘home sweet home’, ‘home is where the heart is’ or ‘home and dry’. As in arid. Home is a very important concept where I come from. A closed, reinforced door, buttressing the street, the neighbourhood, the community, the town, the county and the province. Home is the be-all and end-all of who you are. It’s what you stand for, rather than it standing for you. Bricks and mortar proprietary, or bricks and mortar projectiles. Indeed, how we do hail from our unwelcoming streets.

The second is a seventy year old English woman domiciled in Florida, where she runs a shelter for victims of domestic violence. If only it was that simple...  

My name is Jean Ohm and I’ve encountered major amplitudes of resistance in my time. In fact, I’m generating some right now, through this little social experiment I’m currently conducting. We’ve got FBI, DEA, ATF and all manner of sect-obsessed acronyms and cult-crazed codons pointing their telescopic, turned-up snouts, to tune in to our drop-out community...

My name, as conferred upon me by my parents. Marking me for life. Or rather expunging me, as it now appears. Draped around me like the orange garb of the death row prisoner. The name embodies me, even as I enflesh it. But it was ever thus. The ‘H’ kept apart the feuding factions of my parents. The capital ‘O’ I take from my father, buffeting the stout, lower-case maternal ‘m’. Each seeking my allegiance against the other. Pressed in upon from both sides, until I lose consciousness and slip under. Thus is my feminised ‘h’ silenced and rendered inferior. A typographical error. The ‘O’ and ‘m’ too hellbent on knocking seven bells out of each other, to let anything come between them.

The third character, the human genome itself. Complaining at its assigned nomenclature, at our febrile assaults to decode its life-giving (and removing) mysteries.

My name – My name in full, apparently, by your latest dead reckoning, contains three billion characters. It is not the book itself that you are after reading, all two hundred volumes; more the thirty-odd thousand letters in the appellation which should adorn the book’s spine. Yet I remain innominate.

The historical practise of a wife taking her husband's surname, as with Jean Malcolm/ Jean Ome above, is still extant, as a woman is stripped of her identity which she grew up with and has a patrilineal name conferred upon her. 

All three of the female character in this novel fight back against such impositions upon them, in order to preserve their sense of self. And just what is the psychic link that unites all three of these characters?
Published by Dead Ink Books 26/07/2018
Available from Amazon and all good book shops in the UK

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