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How the Town Harlot Got Her Name


Back in 2006, I had the honor of participating in an auction to benefit the First Amendment Project. Authors auctioned off the right to name characters in their writing to support the good work of protecting freedom of speech. At the time, I was writing a novel set in 1930s Berlin, so I asked for a German name. But the person who won my auction said she’d really like to have a character named after her, and her name was Irish. So I asked if she’d be willing to wait for an opportunity to arise.

That person is Quinn Heraty, a partner in her own firm specializing in entertainment law. (I was thrilled as all get-out to discover that she works with John Hall, who is also a lawyer, but known to me as a poet; back in the day he was the genius behind the spoken-word band King Missile.) And the fictional Quinn Heraty now stars as the town harlot in “The Once and Future Capital.” (Don’t worry, I asked Ms. Heraty before I used her name for that purpose. She was game. Because she’s cool!) I am thrilled that I finally got to honor our peculiar little contract. Hooray for free speech, and for cool people, and for fiction’s mysterious alchemy.

When you read the story, send some mental thanks her way! To me, the name seems just right for the character: interesting, unexpected, gender ambiguous in the right, sexy way. The story wouldn’t be the same without it.

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