I am often asked how do I come up with the various characters in my books. The short answer is, every major character is based on someone I know. Both the good ones and the bad.
Cletus “Tank” Bone is the perfect example. The huge, red bearded member of the Tyranny Rides biker game, known affectionately by Victor McCain as Evil Santa, appears in Revenge, the latest Victor McCain thriller, and is a throwback to my wicked youth.
When I was around nineteen or twenty years old, I worked for Pony Express Pizza in Prospect, Kentucky. During the summer months a biker gang hung out at Buzz Parsons, a local dive which is now Cunninghams Creekside. The bar sits on the banks of Harrods Creek, a stone’s throw from the Ohio River.
Back in the day, the bikers would gather at Parsons, drink beer and smoke marijuana. Often on a Saturday night they would order a large amount of pizza and they got to know me and would request me to bring out the pies.
One night I arrived with about ten pizzas to find the entire gang outside, drinking and partying hard. The biker who usually paid me was huge. Picture Santa, well over six feet tall with a huge read beard and a gut large enough to smuggle a small elephant. In my mind I’d dubbed him Evil Santa, though he’d always dealt with me fairly. I don’t remember his real name or his nickname, but one night a guy yelled for him by his given name and when he came out the door he yelled, “Don’t you ever call me that %$*& name again, you hear me?” Evidently Evil Santa had a nickname because he hated the one given to him by his parents.
This night I sat the pizza down on a bench outside of Parsons and turned to Evil Santa for payment. Instead of him handing me the bills, he said, “What are you going to do if we just kick your ass and take these pizzas?”
Every biker stopped what they were doing and turned to watch. I glanced around at them for a moment and replied, “I guess I’ll take my ass whupping like a good boy.”
To which Evil Santa slapped me on the back (nearly knocking me to the ground) and said, “Ah pizza guy, we ain’t going to hurt you. You’re alright.”
He handed me the money, which always included a generous tip, and the rest of the gang laughed. I let out the breath I’d been holding, thanked them and made my getaway.
I knew one day, if I ever wrote a novel, Evil Santa would be a character who I’d want to include and with Revenge I got to do trot him out. Evil Santa, AKA Cletus Tank Bone was born.