Robert McKay: Blog

Back to Robert McKay's Blog
February 27, 2012
Posted at 3:19 pm
 

Where the titles come from

I've given the titles of my novels, some of which I've either posted or am posting here (the rest I plan to post, with one probable exception). But it occurs to me that, since I'm not posting the title pages, the titles may puzzle some people (or not, but I sure don't know). I am, therefore, giving here the sources of the title, first for the actual Carpenter books and then for the ones that are in the Carpenter universe, but aren't Carpenter stories.

CARPENTER BOOKS
1. Half-Life
From the title page: "The half-life of plutonium is 24,000 years." --Glenn Seaborg, co-discoverer of plutonium." And from the book itself, where Darvin tells Cecelia, " I love you – for a million times the half-life of plutonium." I can't post this one yet for reasons I may explain another time, and probably won't in any event.
2. Red Hawk
This one's simple - the story recounts Darvin's first trip to Red Hawk, OK, since he left in the 1980s.<g>
3. A Wall of Fire
This comes from the epigraph: "'For I,' declares the LORD, 'will be a wall of fire around her, and I will be the glory in her midst.'" (Zech. 2:5 NASB; unless I specify otherwise all quotes are from this version)
4. Where You Go
This also comes from the epigraph, which is also a quotation from the Bible, this time from Ruth, which is one of my favorite books: "Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God." (1:16)
5. Something
Again the epigraph, but not the Bible this time. It's Edward Abbey, in a Time-Life book on the desert (IIRC the title is Cactus Country) quoting what a friend once told him: "There's something about the desert."
6. Angels’ Hands
We're back to the Bible again, this time Psalm 91:11-13, which says, "For He will give His angels charge concerning you,/To guard you in all your ways./They will bear you up in their hands,/That you do not strike your foot against a stone./You will tread upon the lion and cobra,/The young lion and the serpent you will trample down."
7. Unalienable Rights
This comes from the Declaration of Independence, where Thomas Jefferson wrote, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness..." I find that I didn't create a title page for this one.
8. Dead and Over
This comes from something Darvin says about his friendship with Straight: "It was a friendship which probably should never have existed. But it’s over now – dead and over."
9. Do Not Despise
We come back to the Bible here, which supplied the epigraph for the book: "See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven." (Matt. 18:10)
10. A Strong Woman
The epigraph here is Proverbs 31:17. The title isn't a direct quote from the epigraph, this time: "She girds herself with strength/And makes her arms strong."
11. The Chief
This one refers to Darvin, who has become the chief of police in Red Hawk for a year.
12. Life Is Short
This one came, believe it or not, from Stephen King. In Firestarter a helpful man says to Charlie's father, "Life is short and pain is long and we were all put on this earth to help each other." The serial murderer in my novel quotes only the first part of this, and uses it to justify his actions.
13. Sweet Home Alabama
Lynyrd Skynyrd fans will recognize this - it's the title of one of their most famous songs. I used it ironically, because the book takes place in Alabama, which on this occasion proves to be anything but sweet.

NON-CARPENTER NOVELS
1. Flower In the Wind
Alan McGee says to Alison, his new wife who has just left prostitution, "You’re fragile, I know, a flower in the wind. And I don’t want that wind to blow the petals off."
2. Genesis
The narrator's name is Genesis Carter.
3. Adown
This is the Hebrew word for lord which Sarah used when addressing her husband, Abraham. Cassie Hudson uses it as an endearment when talking to her husband Yirmeyah.
4. The Walking Wounded
Karin Seguín says to her OB-GYN, who's still mourning her dead husband, "I guess we’re the walking wounded – me, you, and Kevin."
5. One Flesh
Now we come back to the Bible, which provides the epigraph. It's Genesis 2:20-24, and I won't quote it since it's a fairly long passage.
6. Hadassah
The main character's name is Hadassah Garvin, that being Esther's original name in the book of that name.
7. High Flight
This is the title of a poem by Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee of the Royal Canadian Air Force, who died in World War II. I've loved the poem for decades, and when I came to write a novel featuring two characters who are in the US Air Force I immediately thought of the poem. If you remember the days when TV stations went off the air at midnight you have likely heard this poem - they would frequently play someone reading it before ceasing to broadcast for the night.