“Family Values’

52 Pick-up 2.0, #28, 7/7/2020

Thad Vinson- “Walt says his smart aleck tendencies came from his mother. His love of books and learning from his father. Did his tenacity, stubbornness, temper and overall bulldog attitude when on a case come from his grandfather? If so, are the similarities what really drove the conflict in the kitchen you describe in Dry Bones?”

Hi Thad,

Sometimes when you’re compiling a character, you can’t help but use some aspects of your own life. My mother was a teacher—she also had an extraordinarily dry wit, and I like to think I picked a little of that up. She was also one of those people who are just naturally funny, whether they mean to be or not.

​There was one time we were sitting with my mom, and she was talking about how long she and my father had been married, when she realized that one of the people at the table had been divorced, so to keep from hurting that person’s feelings she added, “We would’ve gotten a divorce, but we were always saving for something like a washing machine or a car…” We all like to died.

Then there was the time the whole family was together for a holiday and my father was puttering around out in the yard out of reach and my Mother said, “He’s such a handsome man.” We all sat there in the glow of familial warmth, when she added, “If he wasn’t such an asshole.”

My father was relatively quiet and read a great deal, but he was also a man of action. Dad built his place the same way I built mine–he fixed cars and the broken-down washing machine. I remember walking into our garage as a kid and seeing the transmission out of our ’63 Valiant station wagon, a thousand parts of it, laid out on the floor. He calmly looked up at me as he pieced the thing back together. “Nothing is as difficult as it first looks.”

​My father read everything and had a photographic memory. I’ve got that, but I can’t seem to get it to develop… In his later years, I’d send him a carton of books a week, and he would just devour them.

My relationship with my paternal grandfather was a little more complex. He didn’t completely approve of my life path, and in turn I didn’t completely approve of him. We had an on-again-off-again relationship for decades. I could tell you how it turned out, but then I might be giving away some plot points of future books.

​We’re composed of the positive aspects in the relationships with our families but the negative as well. It’s pretty obvious that Walt and his grandfather were set-to the majority of their lives and that’s generally what happens when family members are a touch too alike—it’s always interesting to me that these individuals are usually the last to notice these similarities.

​It’s been curious to see the response to the segment you mention, which first appeared in Dry Bones. It’s interesting to me to see how Walt and the relationship with his family developed, but I wasn’t sure if that was something the readers would want to know about. The response has been surprising and I’m looking forward to writing that portion of Walt’s life–I just need to find the proper book for it to fit into…

See you on the trail,


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