back when Gibson’s Neuromancer wz just out, i recall my colleague d4vid qu4ntick getting into a strop abt the fact one of its characters is called “Quine”: he argued – he may be right – that the ONLY reason for this choice wz to signal to certain readers that Gibson wz in w.the in-crowd and knew the name of a legendary underground lou reed guitarist; this clue to cool perhaps intended to spread, as a thin film of beneficent unguent, across the entire book…

Naming characters is about making choices, and probably there are any number of reasons, good and bad, behind the choices. John Bunyan’s, for example: “The gentleman’s name that met him was Mr Wordly Wiseman: he dwelt in the town of Carnal Policy !!DO YOU SEE!!” There’s a class of authors who take pains with inventions which are obviously invented, but also precisely evocative: Dickens (Mr Micawber, Edwin Drood); Mervyn Peake (Fuschia Groan; Dr Prunesquallor); Pynchon (Osbie Feel, Brock Vond). And of course there’s “realists”: writers who want to intensify the happenstance mundanity of their fictions (or rather, the contexsts of their fictions), because they’re less interested in wow-factor fabulousness than some nub of psychogical or political truth, possibly. Sometimes you can also spot an author’s unconscious sending messages, to them and us. Dorothy Sayers hands out the surname “Jukes” to several very minor, quite unrelated figures over her 20-odd detective novels: since she’s hardly one for self-referential gamesplay (esp.when so piffling), I read this as purely unintended signal: “Yet another named character that I have nothing to say about and zero interest in, who I require at this point for purely technical plotting reasons…”

Anyway this all came up bcz i wz rereading Leon Garfield’s Black Jack, for the first time in more than 30 years. Some of Garfield’s other books (Smith; Devil-In-The-Fog) I own and know well: this one – which I had very largely forgotten and somewhat think may be his best – has a hanging, a travelling circus complete with psychotic giant and grumpy midgets, a mountebank, a mad girl, a madhouse and an earthquake! And when I first read the mountebank’s name, I had a peculiarly dizzy qu4ntick-quine moment: “Dr Daniel Carmody”… Common sense and the laws of space-time make it perhaps unlikely that Garfield is paying actual real homage to Robin of that Ilk (he wz born a good two decades after it wz written, i wd think), but i couldn’t get this notion out of my head while i wz reading, and in a daffy way it made the book even better.