Sunday, July 14, 2013
The Genesis of Officer Borsch
So where did the Borschman come from?
Pre-kids, Mark and I were living in a duplex in a not-so-great part of town. Well, it was actually half of a little house on a full city lot in a bad part of town. It looked like a cute little cottage-like house from the street, but it was weirdly divided down the middle and the "central heating" was the water heater, located in the corner of the kitchen. This was the place where the refrigerator half-blocked the doorway to the bedroom.
One night we came home and discovered the front room was turned upside down. The couch pillows were all flung around, stuff was strewn about--just chaos. The bedroom was the same, and the back window was pried wide open.
We called the police and the reporting officer is the person who became the character Officer Borsch.
"Do you usually keep house like this?" he asked me after he'd taken in the front room while sucking on a tooth.
"No!" I cried and couldn't believe he was serious.
"Just askin'" he said (dead serious).
And after he'd taken a half-hearted tour of the kitchen and bedroom and had noted the things we'd already determined were missing, he seemed to be preparing to leave. So I asked, "Aren't you going to take any fingerprints?"
He scoffed. "Couldn't lift anything off of these surfaces."
And that was it.
I was mad and violated and frustrated and disillusioned all at once.
And we never got our stuff back.
Writers pull from their own experiences, so years later when I was creating Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief, I thought back to my encounter with the SMPD, created Officer Borsch, and had my (very satisfying) little revenge.
What's funny is that at one of my book signings at the "Santa Martina" mall, there was a long line and I could hear bits and pieces of conversations as the people in line move closer to the signing table. The books are very popular in the inspiration city, and one of these approaching conversations was about "Officer Borsch." "I think I know who it is!" one woman said, and after a volley of whispers ensued she approached the table and asked me, "Is Officer Borsch [So-and-So]?"
"I will neither confirm or deny," I told her, but I must have been grinning (at least a little) or glinting (maybe a lot) because she cried, "I knew it! I knew it!" I hurried to point out that I had neither confirmed or denied, but it was hopeless.
So that's where the character came from, but the original Officer Borsch in no longer the guy I write about. Sammy's Officer Borsch has become much more than some gruff guy who "presses his shirt from the inside out." He's become someone I understand and empathize with. Someone I like.
Maybe the real-life responding officer was simply misunderstood (or overworked, or also disillusioned, or just burned out), but I sometimes wonder what the evolution of the inspiration officer has been. Has he "grown" like Officer Borsch? Did he make it to Sergeant? Is there a compassionate guy under all the gruff?
I'm sure I'll never know, and that's probably for the best. Better to imagine that there's more to him than I met that night, than find out that there isn't.
So...do you have a favorite Officer Borsch moment? (I'll just fess-up with mine right here: It's the "oinkers in love" scene from Sammy Keyes and the Curse of Moustache Mary. Laughed 'til I cried.)
As always, thanks for checking in. See you in the comments!