To make fictional characters, especially villains, scary or believable, an author has to put some serious work into them. You can’t just have the bad guy jump out and say “Boo.” It doesn’t work.
A number of my ghost readers for Devil in the Grass have mentioned that they loved the McFadden brothers, a family of cleaners who dispose of dead bodies in the depths of the Everglades. The family is as old as Florida.
The concept came to me when I was driving through the fringes of the great swamp. I thought, Man, this place is big. You could get really lost out there. Then as my mind is apt to do, I wondered if there were any people who had done this. Florida is a big state with a lot of people and some huge cities. Someone is going to be murdered.
I looked up the following statistics from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for 2014
- 1 crime every 47 seconds
- 1 violent crime every 5 minutes
- 1 forcible rape every hour and 14 minutes
- 1 larceny every minute
- 1 car theft every 15 minutes
- and…. One murder every 9 hours, which equates to 973 per year.
So, some of these people are disposed of, there just has to be…
I tried to pick very different personalities for each of the brothers.
Eric is the older brother, very stable, a hard worker. He is adept at disposals, clean up and murder. He’s not super smart, but as I like to say: smart like a fox. He is the glue that keeps the family together. He has no morals and is your typical redneck.
Isaac is the smart brother. He has an MBA from Cornell University and is the numbers guy. He deals with the clients and organizes his two siblings’ business affairs. His responsibilities also lean towards looking after their youngest brother, Jimmy. These two live on the same property; Isaac in the manor house and Jimmy in the back shed.
Jimmy is the dark horse. I see him as having severe social disorders: Asperger’s syndrome as well as being a psychopath. Every quasi-horror story needs a good psychopath. Jimmy is not evil, he just can’t determine the difference between right and wrong. I would say he has absolutely no morals. It is Isaac’s lot in life to keep him on a short lead.
Devil in the Grass is about how the day to day lives of these bad Floridians and how they cross paths with our hero, Jackson Webb. Well… there is also a Witch involved, but we will talk about Henrietta LePLey soon enough.
I really don’t know exactly where the McFadden estate is located, but I imagined it being northwest of Everglade City, south of Interstate 75. Close enough to be in the middle of everything, but remote enough to be classified as an area full of rednecks. I went to Everglades City this past October and traveled off the beaten trail a bit. I came across this old estate just off route 29, with a cool locking gate at the front. I took a picture of it to recall the details. It was run down and overgrown, just as I would have imagined the McFadden Estate.
If you read Devil in the Grass, I hope that you enjoy these devilishly bad characters as much as I did when writing about them!