Catrionia never fails to make me laugh and this post isn’t any different. She’s celebrating the release of Scot Mist, the fourth book in her Last Ditch mystery series. Here’s a bit about the book:
March 2020 and Operation Cocker is a go! The owners of the Last Ditch Motel, with a little help from their friend Lexy Campbell, are preparing to support one another through the oncoming lockdown, offering the motel’s spare rooms to a select few from the local area in need of sanctuary.
While the newbies are settling in, an ambiguous banner appears demanding one of them return home. But who is it for? Lexy and her friends put a plan into action to ward off the perpetrator, but the very next night, a resident disappears and a message scrawled in human blood is found.
As California shuts down, the Last Ditchers make another gruesome discovery. They tried to create a haven but now it seems as if everyone’s in danger. Is the motel under attack from someone on the outside? Scary as that is, the alternative is worse by far.
Catriona: A Roderick by any other name, would smell as sweet.
I’ve never named a child. (When I was having fertility treatments I did tuck some names up my sleeve but, even though it’s twenty years later, they still don’t feel like something to share.)
I have named kittens, and it’s been suggested that I gave them baby names (I didn’t.) Maggie and Arthur were first, then Clive and Poppy, Carrie and Spud (See? Who’d call a baby Spud?), Dennis and Rachel.
And now there’s a pond outside I’ve had to name fish: Gloria aka Lumpy, Biggles, Max, Tiddles, and Imogen Brocklehurst. If you can work out the policy there, you’re doing better than me.
Of course, mostly I name characters. I gave Leagsaidh Campbell – the heroine of the Last Ditch series – her name in an effort to fictionalize how it feels to be called Catriona in the USA. Her name is pronounced “Lexy rhymes with sexy”, like my name is pronounced “Katrina like the hurricane”, but she gets called “ . . . pause . . . Lego-what?” like I get called “Cahhh . . . what?”
It made me really happy to hear a British podcaster correctly call Caitriona Balfe “Katrina like the hurricane” recently. She must go through a lot.
It wasn’t an issue as long as I stayed in Scotland. (There were three Catrionas in my class at school.) And I wasn’t entirely joking when I asked my niece and nephew whether they named their baby daughter to make sure she never emigrated. As long as she stays in Scotland, or goes no further than Ireland, Eilidh will be called “EH-ly” with no fuss. If she ventures over here, she’d need to get used to “Eyelid” till everyone was trained.
All this thinking about baby names is because there are four of them in SCOT MIST. Two of the new characters who come to spend the lockdown at the Ditch bring babies and toddlers with them.
It was a new experience in character naming for me: baby names so recently chosen reveal a lot more about the parents than the children. What I mean is, I think the woman who called her kids Navy and Salem is definitely different in some way from the woman who called them Bob and Joan. Right? Paltrow and Cusack names, these. Cusack after the acting family with John, Joan, Bill, Anne and Susie, not the one with Sinead, Niamh, Padraig and Saoirse, obvs.
As Noleen, owner of the motel, says – “There’s gotta be a happy medium.” Or, as Ricky Gervais (I think) once said – “If you want someone in your family to have a funny name, change your own.”
How do people ever do it? How does a decision that momentous ever get made?
One friend of mine was so sure she was having a boy that she struck a deal whereby her husband could name a girl. It was a girl. She’s hated her daughter’s name for twenty-five years.
Parents can pass on their own names. Like Nigel Lawson did, when he was an obscure back-bench politician. Then he became a very high profile chancellor of the exchequer and his daughter, Nigella Lawson, sounded like a drag queen. She one-upped him by becoming even more famous, of course. “Nigel Lawson” just sounds weird now.
Sometimes parents outstrip even Gwyneth Paltrow to wield their ultimate power. Jamie Oliver’s kids are called Poppy Honey Rosie (sounds like it was chosen in the “never again” zone, if you ask me), Daisy Boo Pamela, Petal Blossom Rainbow, Buddy Bear Maurice, and River Rocket Blue Dallas (or “Seriously this time never again”.) Who are Maurice and Pamela, is all I want to know.
In the end it doesn’t matter what someone’s called, does it? Names leach of all meaning when you get to know their bearer. (This isn’t true of Navy, Salem, Bob and Joan, by the way. Their names do some work in the plot.) But still it’s a big responsibility and I’d love to know, if you’ve done it, how???
Bio: National-bestselling and multi-award-winning author, Catriona McPherson (she/her), was born in Scotland and lived there until immigrating to the US in 2010.
She writes historical detective stories set in the old country in the 1930s, featuring gently-born lady sleuth, Dandy Gilver. The latest of these is 2021’s THE MIRROR DANCE. After eight years in the new country, she kicked off the comic Last Ditch Motel series, which takes a wry but affectionate look at California life from the POV of a displaced Scot (where do we get our ideas, eh?). Book 4, SCOT MIST, came out in January. She also writes a strand of contemporary psychological thrillers. The latest of these is last year’s A GINGERBREAD HOUSE.
Catriona is a member of MWA, CWA, Society of Authors, and a proud lifetime member and former national president of Sisters in Crime. www.catrionamcpherson.com