A Sidekick with a Twist

J. Carson Black @ jcarsonblack.com

When I came up with Arizona Department of Public Safety homicide detective Laura Cardinal, it was like setting up a train set built to my specifications. I put her in a beautiful place—a ranch outside Tucson. After some research, I decided to make her a DPS detective, because she could go anywhere in the state of Arizona to assist on difficult homicides.

This made her an outsider, which meant plenty of tension with the locals every time she went to a crime scene out of town. I already had a story in mind. So I was ready to rock ‘n roll but then I had to do one thing: I had to start writing the darn thing.

So I did. But as I started typing—

THIS happened:

“Francis X. Entwistle showed up in Laura Cardinal’s bedroom at three in the morning, looking war-weary.”

WHAT? Who was THIS guy?

Turns out that Francis X. Entwistle was a ghost. Furthermore, he was the ghost of her former partner on the homicide desk. And he was there to warn her that “A bad one’s coming.”

Peg Entwistle photo

Actress Peg Entwistle


I’d already decided that Laura would have a crusty old detective for a partner. I just didn’t know he’d show up in her bedroom in the first sentence on the first page—as her DEAD partner. I’d just met Laura Cardinal’s sidekick.
Hollywoodland sign

Hollywoodland, before it was Hollywood.


I should have known he’d have spooky underpinnings, though. When I chose his name, I wanted something a little bit spooky, so I thought of the sad story of a young aspiring actress in the 1930s named Peg Entwistle. Peg Entwistle wanted a career in movies, but Hollywood was unkind to starlets, even then.

On September 18, 1932, a female hiker discovered a woman’s shoe, jacket, and purse at the base of the Hollywood Sign (at the time, the letters spelled HOLLYWOODLAND). The woman found a suicide note inside the purse. She looked down and saw twenty-four-year-old Peg Entwistle, sprawled on the rocks and brush below.

(Reverse POV: woman above clapping both hands to her cheeks and screaming)

It was a memorable and spooky story, and I was in a spooky mood, so I named Jolie’s sidekick, homicide desk partner Frank Entwistle, after Peg.

No wonder he turned up as a ghost.