“His real name is Charles, but I’m not sure whether that is his first name or his surname. As I walk up the rickety staircase the stink hits me. I peer through the doorway and see him gnawing at an oversized chicken leg. He’s sweating hard, and the stench fills my nostrils. He has grease-streaked silver hair and unruly mutton-chop sideburns. He hasn’t been near a shower in months, and all of his clothing is tinged yellow with filth.”
Skull Meat (Chapter 3: Slippery When Wet)
All fictional characters have a shelf-life.
Even Joe Rey – my thuggish loose-cannon of a private investigator, who has now notched up story appearances spanning 15 years!
Thankfully, Rey’s use-by-date is still decades away, but another one of my favourite characters – the deranged ex-cop Wet-Look – is preparing for one last hurrah.
Everything this guy says and does is obscene, which obviously makes him one of my favourite characters to write. He did bad things in Skull Meat and even worse things in Meat Bubbles & Other Stories, and I think it’s fair to say that his narrative trajectory will remain horribly consistent when he re-enters the Paignton Noir fray next year.
Like a lot of my characters – in appearance at least – Wet-Look was inspired by a real person. Nine years ago (shortly after starting my current job) a group of middle-aged ex-Devon & Cornwall Constabulary officers used to travel home on the same train as me – from what I assume was some kind of regular liquid lunch for ex-cops. In their midst was a man resembling Wet-Look: sweaty, red-faced, half-crippled and genuinely unnerving.
Every week this posse of tough-looking men – all wearing matching commemorative police ties –would sit in edgy silence, while an older guy gazed around the carriage, a lascivious grin etched across his puffy face. Every week the collective sigh of relief was tangible, as their elderly ex-colleague hobbled off the train with his walking stick, and the queasy spell finally was broken.
Sitting a few seats back – beer in one hand, hardboiled book in the other – I became fascinated by this awkward interplay, and the power that he clearly held over these men. Immediately, Wet-Look was born – featuring in a story at A Twist of Noir in September 2010. His scenes were resurrected and retooled for Skull Meat in 2017 and I liked the character so much that I remixed Meat Bubbles & Other Stories to allow Wet-Look to explore his… full potential.
I know that rumours are swirling about a 1980s-set Wet-Look prequel, so I am happy to confirm that these whisperings are true. What kind of sordid horrors turn an idealistic, clean-cut young cop into an obese, murderous degenerate? I already know – and you lucky people will have the pleasure of finding out!
Are you curious about the past – and future – of Wet-Look? Watch this space, sun-beam!