When we first meet Strike’s oldest friend, Dave Polworth, he’s a civil engineer living in Bristol with a wife named Penny. Polworth grew up in St. Mawes, where he and Strike became friends as far back as nursery. Having grown up on the sea coast, Polworth is really into surfing, fishing, sailing and scubadiving.1
Polworth’s nickname is Chum, due to an incident that occurred when he and Strike were visiting Dave’s multimillionaire Uncle Kevin in Australia for his eighteenth birthday. He couldn’t resist touching a nearby shark while they were diving, and the shark attacked him, biting off a “tidy chunk of his forearm.” As a result, he has “only partial feeling in his right thumb.”2
Described as “stubborn, reckless, a thrillseeker to his core,” Polworth is also a “man of many pithy theories,” some of which have to do with Strike’s love life.3 He calls Charlotte “Milady Berserko” and tries to warn Strike off of her.4 Polworth’s nickname for Strike is Diddy, a reference to the Cornish word “didicoy” for “gypsy.”5 With his frequent comings and goings from St. Mawes while growing up, Strike led somewhat of a gypsy lifestyle.
In The Silkworm, Polworth assists Strike in collecting evidence for the Owen Quine case, which sees him diving into trecherous sea waters. Polworth is offended by Strike’s suggestion that it might be too dangerous.
In Troubled Blood, the book opens with Strike celebrating Polworth’s birthday at The Victory Inn in St. Mawes. Without telling his wife Penny, Poloworth had recently quit a managerial job at an engineering firm in Bristol, moved his family back to St. Mawes and took a job as head gardener at a local garden. Having been “relentlessly physical and restless since childhood” Polworth is an accomplished diver, surfer and competes in Ironman competitions.6
Polworth is described as the complete physical opposite of Strike with Polworth being “short and spare as a jockey, weathered and prematurely lined, his sunburned scalp visible through his thinning hair.” In addition to the scar from a shark bite on his right hand, Polworth has a black and white cross of St. Piran tattooed on his left forearm.7
Strike describes Polworth as his “oldest friend”8 and often thinks back to when they met as children. Polworth had immediately defended and befriended Strike when he had been enrolled at the school. Polworth had, “become both friend and champion, making it his business to impress upon their classmates all the reasons that Strike was worthy of their respect: he was a “Cornishman born, a nephew to Ted Nancarrow of the local lifeguard, he didn’t know where his mum was and it wasn’t his fault if he spoke funny.”9
Strike explains to Robin that Polworth doesn’t have a great reputation with women and jokes that even his own wife doesn’t like him.10 Much to Strike’s chagrin, Polworth is also extremely passionate about Cornish politics and a member of the nationalist party, Mebyon Kernow. Strike often tires of hearing Polworth’s arguments for Cornish independence.11
In The Ink Black Heart, Polworth attends Strike’s 40th dinner party arranged by Nick and Ilsa. This is the first time Robin meets him, and, as Strike had predicted, she doesn’t like him much. At the dinner party, Polworth comments negatively on every aspect of London and calls all the women, including the waitresses ‘tarts’.
Despite his flaws, Polworth is a loyal friend to Strike.
In the TV series, Poworth was omitted from The Silkworm. However, in Troubled Blood Polworth is portrayed by Cornish comedian Edward Rowe.
1-3: The Silkworm, Chapter 31
4-5: The Silkworm, Chapter 38
6, 7: Troubled Blood, Chapter 1
8: Troubled Blood, Chapter 58
9: Troubled Blood, Chapter 1
10: Troubled Blood, Chapter 72
11: Troubled Blood, Chapters 1, 44
12: Troubled Blood, Chapters 1, 31
13: Troubled Blood, Chapter 31
14: Troubled Blood, Chapter 37