Friday, December 11, 2015

Why Lupa Schwartz seems to have a "girl's name"

   The titular hero of the Lupa Schwartz mystery series has a strange first name which has caused several people to assume that Lupa is the female character suggested at on the eBook covers. This, I admit, is a reasonable assumption since Lupa, traditionally refers to a she-wolf. Specifically, Lupa is the name given the she-wolf who – according to legend – suckled the orphaned twin brothers Romulus and Remus, founders of the city of Rome.
   But there’s a reason behind this seemingly odd choice of nomenclature. Well, actually there are several reasons. There’s the reason his parents chose this appellation, and there’s the reason I – the author – chose this moniker. To explain why, I have to make you, the reader, familiar with backstory and homage.
   Here’s the backstory. Lupa Schwartz is the Balkan born son of an ex-CIA operative and his former-freedom-fighter wife who years earlier joined the underground opposition against Yugoslavia’s tyrannical Tito government. His father, Solomon Vladimir Schwartz, and his mother, Carla Schwartz, raised him as a Jew in one of the rare Balkan Jewish enclaves. When her son was born, she named him Lupa after the alias her own father had once used, August Lupa. When Solomon noted that Lupa means she-wolf, Carla countered that her own name is the feminized version of Charles, which literally means “strong man.” And Solomon, for that matter had a middle name meaning “Lady of the Lake.” Gender-bender forenames were – after all – a family tradition.
   But now for the real-world reason. The Lupa Schwartz series is thinly veiled pastiche of the Nero Wolfe series of mystery novels. And the Nero Wolfe books were a pastiche of the Sherlock Holmes series. The Nero Wolfe books were written by a man named Rex Stout. Nero, as you may realize, is the name of a Roman emperor. In one of the books a character mentions this fact to Wolfe, and he counters that he was not named for an emperor but rather for a mountain. The mountain he was referring to would be Monte Negro, a Balkan mountain which shares its name with a small Balkan country (and former Yugoslavian state.) Wolfe was claiming that his name is a variant of Negro – which means black; making his full name Black Wolfe. (Schwartz, by the way, means black.)
   Knowing this story, when I was creating the series, I decided that my character’s name would be a variant of black wolf. I also knew that in the series, Wolfe had a daughter named Carla. Carla’s last name was Lovchen, and Lovchen was also the name of a Yugoslavian mountain. Is there a mountain anywhere in the world, I wondered, named for a wolf? As it happens, there is. Mount Lupa is in Antarctica near Romulus Glacier.
   And it happens that there’s also a previously existing homage to the Nero Wolfe books written by the author John Lescroat. His character, Auguste Lupa, frequently uses aliases pairing a word meaning wolf with the name of a Roman emperor. Remember earlier when I mentioned that Carla chose the name Lupa as it was an alias previously employed by her father, Nero Wolfe?
   So there you have it. I carefully chose the name Lupa because it’s both the name of a mountain and a wolf; and I can justify the fact that it’s traditionally a feminine name by employing the serendipitous happenstance that the character who I had chosen to make his mother had been given a cross-gender name by the very author who’s series I am paying homage to. 

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