I’d like to say he came from a flash of genius from on high. Unfortunately, that’s not how it happened. When outlining the novel, I knew I needed a deputy sheriff for some of the action to work, someone to talk to provide backstory for Michael and to be in charge when Sheriff Davis led the posse.
At first, he didn’t have a name. I only knew he was big. In my mind, he had John Wayne’s wide shoulders and swagger. So he makes his first appearance wearing a derby hat and talking with an Irish brogue. Okay. I did not expect that and I tried to stop it. He wouldn’t.
And then he told me his history. He came from Ireland in 1851 at the age of eight or so. He doesn’t remember his actual birthday. His family fled Donegal to escape the potato famine and the British oppression after the aborted rising of 1848. His family settled first in Boston and then moved to New York City, living in the Irish communities.
In 1861, he enlisted in the Irish Brigade of the Union forces and fought in the Civil War. He won’t talk at all about his experiences in the war. After the war, he stayed in the Army and moved West, serving in the Indian campaigns. He left the Army in 1873 and drifted, trying cowboying and railroad work, settling in Riverbend in 1875 where Caleb Davis hired him as deputy after he helped Caleb break up a fight among rowdy cowboys.
The most important thing to Pete is to protect people, especially the defenseless and oppressed, those held in or threatened with bondage of some sort. Other than being shy and tongue-tied when he’s with school teacher, Annabelle Stewart, he is confident, easy-going, and strong in body, soul and spirit.
Pete is a fun character to work with because he constantly surprises me with the tender core and humor that underlies his tough exterior.