Charles "Charley" Coote is an old friend of Roderick Childermass, and professor at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.
Coote first met Johnny Dixon following the latter's encounter with Father Baart. An expert of local history, folklore and magic, Coote is often invited by Childermass to visit Duston Heights and provide background, explain motives, or answer questions about recent adventures. Childermass confides in Coote, making phone calls or quick trips up to Durham, to discuss developments and theories. His invitations to join Childermass, Johnny, and Fergie usually are declined by his admission of scaring easily and "bad legs," though he finally gives and joins the trio in the field when investigating the whereabouts of the body of Perry Childermass, Roderick's late brother (The Chessmen of Doom).
Coote is later targeted when he innocently accepts a miniature drum wanted by a voodoo cult. Johnny, Fergie and Professor Childermass must turn their attention to saving the life of Coote and stopping the work of the Midnight Blood priests (The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie).
Coote's profession is similar to that of Bellairs's friend, Donald Wilcox (1938-1991), as both were instructors of history at the University of New Hampshire. Coote is also described as pedantic and frequently wearing horn-rimmed glasses, much like the other character Wilcox inspired, Snodrog, of The Pedant and the Shuffly.
At first glance, Bellairs possibly picked the name as it is a word that could be used to describe a foolish person. If not that he may have come across the name from his reading of history or interest in music:
- There exists a Sir Charles Coote (d. 1642) and his better known son (c.1610-61)
- Turlough Carolan (1670-1738), an Irish singer and composer, wrote a ballad in honor of the Coote Baronets.
- A character Charley Coote is mentioned in passing in the Henry James story, The Bench of Desolation (1909).