Friday, January 7, 2011

Death of an Inspiration

Anthony "Tony" Cannatella at one time was the police captain of the Sixth District in New Orleans. He wore other hats during his tenure with the department, rising even higher through the ranks, but his role as the captain of the Sixth is what is important to me because he inspired the creation of one of the characters in Gumbo Justice, Ryan Murphy's father, Captain Kelly Murphy, who, coincidentally, is also the captain of the Sixth District in New Orleans.

Anthony Cannatella retired in 2008, and died this past December from cancer. It was a shock to me, and I took it kind of hard. Whenever I saw him on t.v., I literally thought of him as my character.

I had never actually met the real man, never had a conversation with him, never even had the opportunity to call him as a witness on any of my cases. But when I first began writing Gumbo Justice and began creating Ryan's father, Tony Cannatella's face was the one that appeared in my mind.

I didn't know enough about his personality that I was worried people might think the character was based on him, but the more I read about him the more it seems they are similar.
I've read that Tony had a quick temper, came from a family of cops, and was a family man, all of which describes Kelly to at "T." I know he was good at his job, and from all accounts was a non-nonsense type of person, but someone who could be trusted.

I think Kelly Murphy has a darker side than Tony Cannatella possessed, as fictional characters need a little more "umph," in my opinion, to sustain a reader's interest. We need good guys in real life, in novels we need layers of conflict, a little of the devil on the left shoulder constantly battling the guardian angel on the right, something not so easily achieved with guys who are too good.

Captain Kelly Murphy sprung into my mind after seeing the real man and hearing how spoke and the sound of his voice. Captain Murphy evolved as I pictured how I thought the real man would act based upon how he looked and the way he sounded.

I'll never know if I got it right, I suppose, and it's a shame the real man will never know what a great character he inspired.

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