The excerpt posted the other day was from a science fiction adventure novel of mine called Prodigal Prince. The hero of the tale is an interstellar secret agent named Foxe. He’s been characterized as a James Bond figure, which is fair, although I like to think of him as more of a Jack Bauer type: a tough but sensitive action hero who’s obsessed with accomplishing his mission no matter what it takes, or how little sleep he gets.
Foxe works for an interstellar espionage agency called ARI: Aligned Research and Intelligence, which is an arm of the Aligned Worlds, a loose confederation of planets inhabited by humans and aliens who are mostly concerned with matters of trade and commerce. ARI’s role is to step in whenever anything might threaten peaceful relations and endanger business between worlds.
But Foxe has his origins in an earlier century.
I created him when I was about 12 or 13. He was inspired by the “Men’s Adventure” paperback novels being published by the truckload in the 1970s. I bought and read them obsessively:
• The Executioner: Mack Bolan, a soldier home from Vietnam after a family tragedy sparked by Mafia loan sharks, declares “War Against the Mafia” and takes on the mob with an arsenal of automatic weapons and a calm trigger finger.
• The Destroyer: Remo Williams, a cop convicted of a murder he didn’t commit, who is “executed” and then recruited to become the enforcement arm for a supersecret government agency called CURE. He’s trained in the martial arts by Chiun, the Master of Sinanju, to become the deadliest assassin in the world.
• The Death Merchant: Richard Camellion, CIA agent, a master of death, disguise, and destruction, who takes on impossible missions around the globe that typically require him to take on hordes of KGB agents, Nazis, Red Chinese, international terrorists, and the occasional mad scientist.
Yeah. I know. This is the kind of stuff I read in high school. Along with Doc Savage novels, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, some Agatha Christie, and my first Raymond Chandler books. A mixed bag, to say the least. In my defense, I sort of knew these paperback vigilante/spy novels were kind of awful, but I have to admit that as a somewhat nerdy adolescent male I did find something satisfying about reading scene after scene of bad guys being gunned down by tough-guy heroes with automatic weapons (or deadly martial arts skills) while saving the world, and the girl.
Foxe came out of that. In his original incarnation he was Ernest Radley Foxe (the name came from James Hadley Chase, a popular thriller writer of the time) and he was a New York City private detective who took on contract missions for the CIA. I wrote two novel-length adventures featuring him when I was about 13, and then two more in my “mature” phase, when I was 17 and 18. So that’s four novel-length “works” I wrote about him before I started college.
Anyway, sometime in the early 21st century I came across a carton of these books and started reading them again. One interesting thing that happened was that I quickly realized that some of the books I thought weren’t that good when I first read them really aren’t that good. I’d thought I was missing something, but it turns out I already had some kind of discernment about character and narrative even when I was in 8th grade. Of course what I remember most from them is the sex scenes—some of the old paperbacks literally open right up to the parts where the girl walks out naked and tries to seduce the hero. What can I say? I was still sneaking peeks at my father’s collection of Playboys.
Ahem. So I was reading a Death Merchant novel one morning when I should have been doing real work, and I thought, this is so completely unbelievable for so many reasons, but one of them is that no guy could travel around to around the world killing so many people without getting caught somewhere along the line no matter how many fake passports he had. “Now, if he was going to other planets . . .” I thought. And that’s when I got this great idea for a science fiction adventure novel:
What if one of these adventure heroes was in outer space? Maybe not the Death Merchant, but I had this one character, Foxe—what if he was in outer space? And a secret agent? And maybe not quite as ridiculous as a 1970s action hero, but still pretty deadly? Hmm . . .
So there you have it. I like to think that this version of Foxe (first name Erick) is the 26th-century descendant of the original Ernest Radley Foxe, although I can hardly imagine THAT guy ever settling down to get married and have kids. And I like to think that this guy is a little more realistic, although, hey, he’s an action hero: deadly, indestructible, and irresistible to women. Well, that last part is strictly a fantasy. I have to draw the line somewhere.
Anyway, after all that, I've posted Chapter two of Prodigal Prince. Enjoy.