“The Enemies You Keep” – 52 Pickup, Week 15

Question #16

It’s just a week until Depth of Winter is released, so naturally our “pregunta de la semana” is about Walt’s nemesis and most vexing opponent, Tomas Bidarte…

Sue Lee McMeen:

“Tomas Bidarte first appears in A Serpent’s Tooth, but there seem to be hints about his impact on Walt and Company at least as far back as Hell is Empty. What was the inspiration behind Bidarte’s character, and when did you begin developing him?”

Actually, the character first appears in A Serpent’s Tooth as a hired hand to the cult down on the Texas border… He’s muscle at that point, but we get an indication that not only is he the brains of the outfit, but possibly one of the most ruthless individuals Walt’s ever gone up against. It’s interesting, but when the two first go up against each other it’s professional, but Bidarte rapidly ups the ante making the situation personal. Walt has trouble with that, but finally concludes that Tomas is one of those guys that just keeps coming at you and you’re going to have to deal with him one way or another.

Bidarte’s development came along with the idea that I wanted an antagonist that Walt was going to have to deal with over a series of books. Generally the bad guys in the books come and go in a single novel and that’s one of the regrets—that there are these multi-faceted characters that you nurture and they’re gone in a single book. Tomas was interesting and I wanted to see what would happen with him if I left the door open just enough for him to stay alive and in conflict with Walt. At first, we’re not really sure it’s him, but as things develop it becomes clear that he’s the force behind the tragedies that are plaguing the sheriff.

The name, Bidarte, is Basque for in-between and that’s how I look at the character as someone who walks between two worlds. At some point in the past he took a dark road and that set him in opposition with Walt. In A Serpent’s Tooth we not only get to meet Bidarte, but his mother as well. It’s interesting because Walt goes to great lengths to attend to Bidarte’s mother which you would think would ease some of the difficulties between the two, but instead is seen as an intrusion by Bidarte.

The conflict doesn’t end well for Tomas in that he almost loses his life to Vic, but then he takes revenge on her and Walt in an ancillary way. Not likely to make the same mistake twice, in Depth of Winter he arranges to take Walt on in Mexico, a lawless place he’s perfectly suited to succeed. Walt is at a disadvantage here in that he doesn’t have any of his usual resources or allies and as little power as he has outside his county, he has even less outside of his country.

The Cheyenne have a wonderful saying, that you can judge a man by the strength of his enemies and I think in Bidarte, Walt has his hands full.

—Craig Johnson

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