Thursday, April 11, 2013

Characters At Breakfast: Mick and Casey - Historical

For my first Characters at Breakfast post, I'll be talking about Mick and Casey McKee, a pair of young gunslinger detectives. 

When the story is set in an historical period (even a generic version of one) the characters are often constrained by the period and location.  And an author is also constrained by what we know of the period (as well as what most people know of the period -- accurate or not).

For instance, while yogurt certainly existed in the 1870s, most readers would be upset if your young saddle bum in the American west had yogurt for breakfast.  And even if you created the more likely scenario where he comes across a visiting Turkish pasha who came with his own chef who made yogurt for him, it's really unlikely that they would sprinkle granola on the top.

Unless, of course, it was an intentional "wink wink" satire, in which the pasha was sharing his yogurt with a young John Harvey Kellogg, who was experimenting with his special healthy diet of toasted nuts and grains....

But that's not the kind of thing I do in the Mick and Casey series.  (A pasha with yogurt might someday appear, but no winking references to the present.  Except in chapter titles.)

Mick and Casey At Breakfast

Character Name: Mick and Casey McKee.
Series title, Book title: Mick and Casey Mysteries; Have Gun, Will Play
Location: American West (generic), 1876-ish.

For Mick and Casey the setting and the situation almost always dictates the food. They are saddle tramps.  They have no home or kitchen, and for the most part, they do not travel with a pack animal.  (They would in situations that call for it.)  They might carry some cornmeal or old hard biscuits -- to get them through to the next town.  But they mostly eat in town, or what a farmer is willing to sell them.

So Mick and Casey are opportunistic eaters. They eat what is given to them. or what they find or can buy, or what Casey shoots.

As a result, they have a surprising amount of variety, given the culture.  In Have Gun, Will Play, for instance, they get some rice porridge for breakfast from a Chinese grocer who has befriended them.  Later in the same book, they have a full hotel breakfast -- steak, eggs, beans, bread and flapjacks.

Usual breakfast: whatever is available (which is usually some form of  ham or steak, beans and biscuits).  And normally they'd eat at the cheapest digs in town that is also clean. Preferably a place that has pie.

What they make for themselves: When forced to rely on their own devices, corn dodgers can be cooked on a metal plate, and Casey will shoot something they can roast.

Fancy or special breakfast: Pie. (And also everything else on the menu.)  Mick is partial to pie, and will eat it any time of the day or night.  Any variety, sweet or savory, it doesn't matter.  Casey considers it kinda sissy to be fussy about food, but she'll go for some kind of steak for a treat.  And, okay, maybe some pie.

Breakfast on the run:  when you're running you ain't got time for breakfast! (They tend to interpret "on the run" literally.)  When you stop running, you eat what you find nearby, or what you got in your saddlebags.

Another note about Mick and Casey, and about much of the eating habits of the frontier: what they have for breakfast, lunch and dinner are highly likely to be the same things.  The fancier and more formal the restaurant (or the more civilized the homestead) the more likely the offerings would differ.  But many places you'd find food would be highly limited in terms of menu. They'd make what they make.

I have so many fun books on food in the west, though, I hope to talk about food again later.  It's a great subject.  (It seems to me that folks in the west were either in a phenomenal hurry... or in no hurry at all.  It made for interesting eating patterns.)

Next up: Contemporary breakfasts with George and Karla.

(NOTE: this is a blog challenge inspired by an article in The Guardian -- write about your favorite characters and what they do or would eat for breakfast. It can be your own characters, or famous characters you love in literature and film.)

If you want to check out the first Mick and Casey Mystery, you can get it in paper and ebook form at:, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Deisel, Apple iBookstore, Sony eReader, or get it in all formats without DRM at Smashwords.

Shorter stories are also available at the same vendors: The Curse of Scattershale Gulch (a novelette) and Waiter! There's a Clue in my Soup! (a collection which contains two Mick and Casey short stories).  Soon a new novelette A Fistful of Divas will be available too.

Buying books not only encourages me to write more of them, but it also supports the blog.

See you in the funny papers.


Kyra said...

This is really interesting! I imagine that this is pretty similar to what my characters Silas and Lainie eat; even though it's a fantasy, the setting is very much like the western frontier. Eating regular meals when you have no home, no kitchen, no cooking equipment and (most of the time, in Silas and Lainie's case, later on) no money, is problematic and takes some thought on the author's part. What's available, portable, long-lasting, and cheap? (Sometimes the answer is: Not much.) Beef, mutton, and beans are plentiful, but those don't work well when you're on the run, except for beef and mutton jerky.

Oh, and I like how it's Casey that does the shooting. :) And I can agree with Mick on pie for breakfast. Or anytime. Yum :)

The Daring Novelist said...

And with the roving -- quick/easy cooking is important. That's why beans are more problematic for people who don't have a pack horse. You need a big pot and long cooking time. But hoe cakes can be just water and cornmeal, cooked on a rock.