Meet him in "The Devil's Quote" and read more fine historical short stories in the anthology And All Our Yesterdays.
Yes, I know it is spelt Icarus, but in the 1700s spelling was less regular, and I like the fact that spell check favors his name with red squiggly underlines.
I'm not entirely sure how or why I came up with the character. I do remember the first glimmer came after I had added a horse called Benjamin and a kitchen cat to another series because I had no animals in any of my work. OK, the murder victim in one short story is a pet bird.
I wanted to start with a horse, so his father gave him a mare called Medusa. I have not described her but I picture her as dark bay with no white makings. The two types of horses in New England at the time were the Narraganset Trotter and the Morgan. Medusa is Morgan type, stocky and general purpose. She is not beautiful, her coat doesn’t shine, but she is an easy keeper, reliable and sound.
While rummaging through an old trunk I came across my father's master's thesis, a history of the town of Norton. From there, he can reach most of eastern Massachusetts by horse in a day or two. While he traveled a lot, but he always came back home, as he does at the beginning of "The Devil's Quote".
He was educated in the apprentice system. His father apprenticed him first to a lawyer and then to a doctor. Being restless, Iccarus didn't complete either apprenticeship, but he did get a fine basic education. At 18 he and Medusa set out on a series of adventures.
So far, he has tutored a boy for the Harvard entrance exams, worked as business manager on a farm, ghost written the autobiography of a gentleman from Boston, fostered the creation of a ladies seminary in his hometown. He has dealt with murder, counterfeiting, identity theft, and fraud.
How much is real and how much have I made up? A lot of this is based on my memories from childhood. Toss in some historical realities and add a lot of made up stuff. The town is real, but since the stores are set in the late 1700 and early 1800 it was a very different place that the one I knew. Iccarus and his family live in the house I lived in, which wasn’t built for century. To the best of my knowledge no one named Norton ever lived in Norton. Many of the names of the residents in my story are names I remember from my childhood. I tried to keep the geography the same, but childhood memory gets in the way here.
Every Iccarus story starts with him in a particular place where something happens to him. The first time he appears he is asleep in the saddle when Medusa stops because there is a body in front of her. My second story starts when he enters his room at the inn, He finds a dead woman in his bed. Private rooms were unusual at the time, so what better place to dump a body?
Once I have a paragraph or two, I close the file and begin thinking. Morning walks with the dog, meditation at Tai Chi, drives to work are all times to work on the next section. I figure out where the story is going, but not how it gets there. More thinking and I come up with an ending. At that point I have about 2000 words. That leaves me roughly 1500 to go. The hardest part is connecting the beginning to the end. Every possible turn in the story seems improbable. People are never where I want them to be. Too much or too little time passes. The process seems impossible until finally fill in the blanks. I spend two or three times as long thinking about the story as I do writing it. Then I go over it to smooth out the rough spots, come up with reasons for everything.
Right now Iccarus is in another inn, again sharing a room, this time with someone who calls himself Icarus Norton. Why? I have no idea yet.
My hopes for the guy is for him to appear in public in a couple more short stories and then have his own collection.