The inspiration for Mama Gale

Believe it or not, my godmother by courtesy was a lady named Cyralene Gale, and she ran the Bequia Bookshop until sometime in the early 1990s. Needless to say, she was neither a witch nor several hundred years old; she was originally from Barbados, but had lived on Bequia with her husband, Ian Gale, for longer than I’d been alive.

When I was a kid and we happened to be anchored in Port Elizabeth, one of my favourite things to be allowed to do was to go and hang out in their bookshop and dust the books, and occasionally, be allowed to stay over up at their house in the hills. Every so often, they would come out to our yacht for lunch – a visit which usually lasted well into the afternoon.

So, when I was looking for a name for this character, it was a given that she was going to be called Gale.

Mama Gale in Death is for the Living

Mama Gale is a bit of a mystery figure. She holds significant authority over the Bahamian hunter teams; she and Francis Hardy know each other well, and she’s got a history with Sean, Cristina, and Jean.

We first meet her directly after the Artemis’s return to their home port, when she comes aboard to decide what shall be done with the vampire captive, and not at all coincidentally, to evaluate Sean and Cristina.

‘…he stood, belatedly, as an Islands woman in a patterned dress came up the ladder, followed by Cristina. The setting sun, a huge red ball hanging just above the edge of the sea, illuminated her mass of silver hair.’

By the time we meet her, she appears elderly, but her authority is unquestionable. Francis defers to her; she shuts the team loudmouth down with a few well-chosen words. Although she is clearly powerful, it’s an adjunct to who she is.

‘…either immune or oblivious to the humming power coming off the tall, portly lady wearing her bright dress like a robe of office in the middle of their cockpit.’

Mama Gale is, by intent, more of a wise woman in the true sense of the phrase than a witch or a voodoo priestess (both of which character types have been done to death in my not-even-slightly-humble opinion).

She sees almost everything, but she comes across as a very calm presence, even if that is with a distinct undercurrent that it’s the calm at the eye of the hurricane, and she could unleash some serious whup-ass if the situation happened to call for it.

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