I’ve given Nick a lot of sidekicks. There’s Wolf, the ex-Marine suburban cop who might be just a little crazy. There’s Deputy Reese, the family man. There’s Gypsy, the call girl and stripper who credits Nick with getting her off heroin. And of course, there’s Elaine. But we talked about Elaine before, didn’t we?
But I haven’t mentioned Eric Teasdale. And if I were to sell any of these characters to Hulu or Netflix for a series, it’d probably be Teasdale. When we meet him, he somehow manages to function as a private investigator despite owning a behemoth of a car, a 1968 Ford Thunderbird with a gas-sucking big block motor under the hood. And unlike Nick Kepler, you can spot this guy a mile away. Nick dresses down for his job and drives a car “so boring, you’d be hard pressed to notice it if it crashed through your living room window.” Teasdale wears loud shirts, drives that tank of a Detroit piece of iron, and is a bit over-the-top in his personality. I haven’t written anything with Teasdale in it since about 2006.
I created Teasdale to use as part of Nick’s backstory. He was a small-time PI who got his license through a correspondence course. (“Do you want to make more money? Sure! We all do!” Classic late-night commercial.) I’d written a story about Nick getting involved with two strippers for Thrilling Detective back when they did fiction, but after some back-and-forth, I could not get the story to work. They went with “Roofies” instead, which introduced Gypsy to the cast. The aborted story had Nick falling for one stripper to find out she was trying to frame him for murdering her abusive boyfriend. That was actually somewhat out of character for Nick, especially when he balks at starting something with Gypsy later on. I liked the general outlines of the story, so I created Teasdale as the one who got in trouble, and Nick fires him for nearly costing him his license and his sweet deal with his former insurance company employers.
So, when Second Hand Goods happened, I needed someone Nick could coerce into helping stash a car (and its trunk full of dead guy) wihout too much ethical conflict. Teasdale fit the bill. When someone needs to make things right with you, guilt is a powerful motivator.
But I needed to flesh out Teasdale. He couldn’t be just a punching bag for Nick. Where did he live? What did he do? I put him in a small town (if it can be called that) where I once had a factory job and made him an on-call detective for another nearby township most of my classmates remember mainly as a speed trap or for its abandoned amusement park. His job came about because, like a lot of cash-strapped townships, this one fought a long battle to keep the sheriff from taking over its meager police department. So Teasdale was a pseudo-cop. Mostly, though, he lay around in his trailer in his boxers watching Jerry Springer.
But Teasdale is one of those characters that shouldn’t work in a “serious” PI novel. His loud, flashy, and not exactly discreet. On the other hand, had Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul been around back then, I might have made Teasdale the main character. I’ve actually thought about it. For now, though, he’s Nick’s weird friend, the one who comes through in a pinch.