A MATTER OF CHARACTER by Jay Bonansinga
Pinpointing the origin of a fictional character can be a dicey proposition. Some are based on real people who have either populated the writer's life or have made an impression on the writer from a distance. Some are composites of different people that have lodged themselves in the writer's imagination. Some are completely imaginary, based more on the requirements of the tale itself. But once in a great while, a character will spring fully formed from the festering stewpot of the imagination as though he or she were incarnated through some inexplicable cellular mitosis.
The latter is the case with Ulysses Grove, the epic hero of my four-book series of hybrid thrillers beginning with FROZEN (now available in a brand new, updated and edited "Author's Cut" from Burns & Lea Books). This spontaneous birth of a character occurred a few years back in my friend Dave's car as we wended our way up into the rugged hills of Marin County, California. Dave had just finished telling me the fascinating true story of the world's oldest intact mummy -- the five-thousand-year-old Otzi, discovered in an ice capsule in the Italian alps by two hikers back in the early 1990s. "The weirdest part," Dave said finally, capping off the story, "is that the mummy was apparently a homicide victim, the oldest cold case in human history."
At that moment, Ulysses Grove was born like a lightning bolt in my brain. Even his name rang out in my head -- Ulysses, the heroic traveler from Greek literature -- a tightly wound FBI special agent who would endeavor to solve the prehistoric crime. I instantly knew he would be African American, perhaps due to my admiration for real-life investigator, Jud Ray, a brilliant original member of the FBI's Behavior Science Unit who also just happens to be black. I knew Grove would be a clothes hound, and he would be meticulous, and ultimately would be connected to the ancient world in mystical ways.
Story grows out of character, and Ulysses Grove was a gift that kept on giving.