I'm going to start introducing the characters in On Jacaranda Street, the second novel that makes up the trilogy titled 'A Jack & Bea Mystery.' I've already introduced you to Ben, the canine detective, but let's meet Pete Mulligan.
Pete is a survivor. He grew up in The Rocks, an area of Sydney that was a rat-infested slum around 1900. It was not the tourist attraction known today, full of pretty colonial sandstone buildings and eye-wateringly expensive shops. The bubonic plague hit Sydney in January 1900 (yes, plague in Sydney!) and Pete's two-year-old sister and parents died, leaving Pete in the care of a well-meaning aunt. When WWI broke out, Pete, who was then 20 years old, volunteered to go to war, if for no other reason than the army would give him a square meal a day. Like many men returning from war, Pete found it hard to get back into civilian life and couldn't hold down a job. He had no choice but to turn to crime and become a member of Colin O'Callaghan's rough and tough gang of art and curio thieves, whose base was in the rather seedy Woolloomooloo area.
Pete is told to break into Currawongs' Crossing (the palatial home in Jacaranda Bay where Jack and Bea are staying) and is busted by the cops. Jack meets Pete at Sydney Central police station because Jack is asked to take some mug shots. If you've read Ashgrove Park, you know Jack was a photographer before WWI. You can read here about the amazing mug shots taken by police photographers at Sydney Central during the 1920s - they are remarkable photos, and one shot partly inspired Pete's character.
Before I write, I know my characters, and I prepare a biography for each one, complete with an image of someone who in my mind looks like the character. I slot that image into a Word document, which is full of character bios, plot points, ideas, links to research, and so on.
I scrolled through dozens of mug shots from the 1920s, known as 'specials' by the New South Wales police. I was looking for Pete. The chap in the middle of the above mug shot was the original Pete in terms of characterisation. I saw Pete as downtrodden, lacking in determination, almost giving up on life, kind of shy. As I wrote, though, and once Pete met Jack Collingwood at Sydney Central, Pete turned into the chap on the right - a young lad with a bit of cheek about him but also someone wanting to make a better life for himself.
Jack gives Pete just that - an opportunity to try for a life beyond crime - but if Pete accepts, he will come face-to-face with the violent gang leader, Colin O'Callaghan, who is on a desperate search for raw cut diamonds rumoured to be hidden at Currawongs' Crossing. What will Pete do? Take the once-in-a-lifetime offer from Jack or stay with the only lifestyle he's ever known, one that at least means he's a part of O'Callaghan's gang, not opposed to it and in the path of danger.
Next up: I'll introduce you to Julian Bartholomew - the Sydney art and curio collector suspected of killing his wife at Currawongs' Crossing in 1914. How do Jack, Bea, and Pete become involved with him? And what else is Julian accused of?