Second Hand Goods: Nikolai Karpov

He is the godfather of Cleveland organized crime. Unlike Vito or Michael Corleone, he is Russian. He also doesn’t care about ethnic considerations. He also doesn’t see himself as a criminal. He only sees himself as “an extralegal businessman.”

His name is Nikolai Karpov, and he imposes his presence on Nick Kepler in a big way. Karpov owns Collinwood Distribution, a shipping company on Cleveland’s east side that fronts and covers all manner of “extralegal” business for him. When the sexy Valeria hires Nick and claiming Karpov is the client, Karpov wants a sitdown. Whatever Karpov wants, Karpov gets.

During the writing of Second Hand Goods and its follow-up, one of my beta readers suggested that Karpov wasn’t scary enough for his nickname, The Antichrist. Within the story, though, there is a reason he is called that. Prosecutors have been trying for years to bring down Karpov, who has, in fact, left a bloody trail across the Northcoast. Unlike John Gotti, the Teflon Don, they can’t even bring an indictment. Karpov is, to them, this malevolent force they can’t touch, kind of like the devil. Hence the name.

In reality, when he was conceived, I was subjected to an acquaintance’s intense love of the poorly-written Left Behind series. In Left Behind, the actual Antichrist is a Romanian male model – Well, I thought he seemed like a male model – named Nicolae Carpathia. Rather than malevolent and evil, I found him to be an annoying metrosexual with a huge ego. To tweak the writers’ noses, I named my Russian mob boss Nikolai Karpov. Mind you, there are Russian Karpovs. They used the name in the Val Kilmer version of The Saint. There are no Romanian Carpathias. Unless you mean the mountains.

Neither here nor there. Karpov knows he’s a gangster, but to him, it’s business. And he desperately wants to be accepted in the legitimate world. When he meets Nick, he takes an almost paternal interest in our young, self-absorbed PI. It’s a relationship Nick doesn’t want, and he dreads the moment when Karpov points out not only the similar initials, NK, but that they’re both named “Nick.”