While brainstorming for the antagonist in White Rock, I had to keep in mind that the story I was weaving was set in a split time line – one in modern-day following Laura Milton and the other set in the 1960’s following the elusive Rose Marie Davis. The story required multiple characters with intense motivations, people who had complex backgrounds and definitive reasons to set in motion the heartbreaking events that could affect a family across decades. I was entirely drawn to the stories I found about how deeply the mafia was involved in Dallas during the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s in Dallas, Texas. The overwhelming collection of conspiracy theories surrounding the JFK assassination was just the tip of the iceberg. For generations, the whole region had been owned by families originating from Louisiana and beyond, controlling the parimutuel betting landscape, alcohol distribution, pornography, strip clubs, as well as the intrastate influx and saturation of controlled substances. Unbeknownst to many, that mysterious subculture was such a definitive element of Dallas during those years that I knew that was where my antagonist would originate.
When we are first introduced to Lester Davis, he is an elderly man, presumably with the patience of a saint for his quiet acceptance of his alcoholic wife’s bi-polar insanity. The question I aimed to pose to my audience was ‘how did he find himself in this predicament?’ The story I wanted to tell would hint at the origin of that relationship. How did he meet this woman? What drove his wife crazy? Why did she take her anger out on him? Why did he feel obligated to stay with her? And, ultimately, what dark cloud of guilt might someone like that harbor in his rotting soul?
Lester’s ties are to a dark past, a time when he was a very different person than the meek spouse and parent we are first introduced to. As a young man, he’d been tough, brash, and fearless, working for questionable people doing questionable things for enormous amounts of money. His connection to this underworld becomes the catalyst for every other horrible incident in his life, like a winding karmic debt he must pay for the rest of his life. A debt that unknowingly he could pass on to those closest to him. His fate is not to be taken by the violence he has propagated, but rather he is damned to live a long, lonely life watching everything he’s ever loved taken viciously away from him, one at a time.
Using elements from the Southern Gothic playbook, I create in Lester Davis a character who not only weaves the web of his own despair, but also summons a corrosive penance on himself that parallels and compliments the crimes of his past. The end product is a complex character whose identity is tied as much to what is eventually revealed in the story as it is to what I chose to keep hidden.