A couple of weeks back I signed off on another Bulldog Drummond novella. I might have made more of a fuss of it at the time, only there was another announcement about to come out that then didn’t and then was going to and then got delayed . . . an announcement which sort of merited a little more fuss.
Here’s an extract from the first one.
I was in two minds, back right at the start of last year when Bulldog Drummond came my way. On the one hand it’s writing to someone else’s tune; on the other, I had some free time coming up over the course of the year (which then got used up when Sekkrit Projekt came along, and yes, that’s writing to someone else’s tune too but never mind that… SEKKRIT PROJEKT!). To be fair to Piqwiq, they weren’t at all prescriptive about what needed to be done. I think they would have been quite happy to have a great-grandson of the original Bulldog Drummond running around in the dying days of the cold war having Bond-like adventures. Even sticking with the nineteen twenties setting, I’m not sure they would have been that troubled one way or another by how closely I stayed with the originals.
Which is probably just as well, although it was initially my intention to try and stay true to the original. Well over a dozen Drummond novels originally published in the twenties and thirties and nearly as many movies, and they’re mostly out of copyright and a good few of them are available for free via the internet. I have read and watched bits and I can’t really recommend much of it. Product of their time. They’re just . . . a bit dull. And original Drummond as a character . . . he’s a bit not my cup of tea. I’m entirely fine with the whole action hero thing and the Moriarty-style super-villain and there’s a nice bit of wit here and there but I never quite picked up what makes Drummond himself stand out as actually interesting to a modern eye. And yes, England in the nineteen twenties wasn’t a picture of equality and social justice but even within that setting, original Drummond is pretty conservative. I don’t necessarily mind that – a reactionary hero trying to cling to old ways and values while the world around him is changing and leaving him behind is a trope any writer can have some fun with and I don’t see anything particularly wrong with having a bigoted and prejudiced lead character provided that the narrative challenges that view of the world rather than continually supports it – but original Drummond . . . doesn’t.
I will admit to having played a bit fast and loose with the source. What I’ve aimed for, in the end, is to maintain a character who echoes the likes of James Bond (for whom the original Drummond was an inspiration) and Indiana Jones but with a little more of an awareness of the world and how it’s changing back in those times. Why? Because history interests me. Why do it at all? Oh, because who doesn’t like a good old-fashioned fast-paced action-adventure in which villainous master-criminals embark on grand schemes and are thwarted (or not) through gritty resolve, wily thinking and the careful application of a good right hook. And if you’re reading this and find yourself thinking ew, not me then these stories, my friend, are indeed not for you.
In Dead Man’s Gate, the story begins with an explosion at the Bank of England as dozens of anarchists and Bolsheviks pour into the building, something more akin to a riot than a robbery. As the unrest is subdued and as the last of the anarchists are either restrained or make good their escape, we see a man walking calmly away. In his hand he tosses a very large and old-looking key. This is the enigmatic Mr Crabbleston, and it’s down to Drummond to infiltrate London’s anarchists and Bolsheviks to uncover Crabbleston’s dastardly plan to bring the British Empire to its knees as he stages the most daring theft in modern history. I have no idea who the woman is on the cover for this one, but does Drummond look a bit like Bond in this cover art? Rumour has it that the model is/has been Daniel Craig’s body double.
I kind of like all these covers. They’re simple but have a nice forties feel to them. I can see Humphrey Bogart in them. Well . . . if I close my eyes and use my imagination I can.
There are a few reviews kicking about (other than Goodreads and Amazon) for Dead Man’s Gate, but only a few.
“It is no easy task to revive a vintage property, particularly when society’s mores and attitudes have changed radically since its commercial heyday. Deas acquits himself honorably and leaves me looking forward to Books Two and Three over the course of the next year. Here’s hoping we haven’t seen the last of John Crabbleston.” Black Gate (kind of nice and kind of alarming to be reviewed by someone who clearly knows the original source materials considerably better than I do).
In The Faceless Men, the death of a government Secret Intelligence Service agent draws Drummond into the opium dens of Limehouse in pursuit of a mysterious Chinese Triad lord, a far-off conflict between nationalist and communist forces and the shady world of international espionage while all the time umm-ing and ah-ing about getting married. I had a lot of fun in this one with my Chinese spy, Wei Li. Wei Li might have to come back in something again one day.
In the Jaguar Mask, the story begins at the Museum of Natural History in New York. Yale university, sponsored by Senator Hiram Bingam, have allowed a quantity of Incan artefacts to be put on display. At a private party at the museum the night before the exhibition opens, Senator Bingham is the guest of honour. He finds himself in conversation with an unknown Englishman who calls himself Crabbleston, who seems to know a great deal about the Incas, about the fabulous golden Jaguar Mask that’s the centrepiece of the exhibition, and also about the general political instability that blights Peru as a whole in these troubled times. After the stranger takes his leave, Bingham goes to take a closer look at the mask again. Something is wrong. Right in front of a hundred people, the real mask has been stolen and replaced it with an expert fake…
Actually I haven’t written than one yet. Drummond may or may not be married (yes, the author is umm-ing and ah-ing too). But it definitely sees the return of Mr Crabbleston, because he was WAY too much fun in Dead Man’s Gate, and if the first two were Bond movies in disguise, this time we’re going for Indiana Jones.
Anyway, that’s it for now. Um . . . hum the Bond theme as you leave. Or Raiders of the Lost Ark. Oh, and here’s a very short extract. And a picture of a Supermarine Southahmpton, because I had to look up seaplanes, and because it’s kind of like a banana with wings and a tail.