The Unlikely Spy

The first Grant Scotland omnibus is finished and available for purchase! You can grab it HERE or HERE or get it on Nook/Kobo/Apple in a few days. It includes the first three books of the Adventures of Grant Scotland, lovingly bound in this collector’s edition cyber-volume. Order now and we’ll also include this attractive virtual slipcase!

 

Made with the finest virtual materials and rarest digital ingredients.

Made with the finest virtual materials and rarest digital ingredients.

 

Thank you to everyone who participated in the contest to come up with a name for this collection. I received many responses, both on the community page and through email. Some were creative, some were funny and some were unabashedly ridiculous. Although I didn’t find this exact title among the submitted entries, I do have to credit one person with directly contributing to the final decision. So, congratulations to Daria Liston, whose several recommendations revolved around Grant’s profession as a spy and his seeming perpetual state of being unready for the role of protagonist that we keep demanding of him. I think she really captured the essence of our hero in these first three books.

So, I included a special thank you to her in the acknowledgements and will be sending a signed print copy as soon as those become available. When will that be? Hard to say, but rest assured that it will happen. I will contact Daria for shipping info as soon as it does.

I decided on the titleĀ  “The Unlikely Spy” because it spoke to one of the central themes I wanted to explore in this series. The idea of “the unlikely hero” is a common one in genre fiction, but all too often I find that even though I am promised an unlikely hero, the protagonist is generally quite capable and even extraordinary in one or two ways. I remember growing up this was everywhere in fantasy fiction. The books that stand out in my mind most are the Dragonlance Chronicles. We were told on the back of the first book and at several times throughout the narrative how “unlikely” these heroes were, but in fact they were anything but. Even when we first meet them they are already accomplished at their various talents, widely traveled and almost always more experienced and gifted than most everyone else in the world. Is it any wonder they were drafted by one god to fight another?

So, while I loved those books, I was always a little put off by the constant assurances from the writers that these people were just like me. No way. Not in one single way. In fact, the only thing I could point to that made them seem unlikely is the fact that they were outsiders. Well, I guess they would be, right? If such a heavily armed troop of death dealers were ever to settle down anywhere, they would instantly become the de facto ruling party of that area. Then you’d have to admit that they were not in fact unlikely heroes, but instead exactly the right guys for the job. Who is going to investigate these weird lizard people that keep eating our children? Well, I guess it’s probably going to be that Tanis fellow and the Majere boys. After all, they live here. This effects them, too. And, seriously, what am I supposed to do? Go into the swamp and start poking seven foot tall lizard men in the nose with my rake?

 

'spose I could try baking him a pie. He does look hungry.

‘spose I could try baking him a pie. He does look hungry.

 

So, when I set out to write about Grant, I wanted a hero that wasn’t just paying lip service to being unlikely. I wanted a well and truly unlikely hero. I not only wanted the ordinary man in the extraordinary circumstance, I wanted my hero to have very big, very obvious faults and weaknesses that would battle him just as hard as any enemy. I wanted the reader to be genuinely unsure Grant was going to be up to the task of solving difficult situations. Added to that, I also wanted the reader to be protective of Grant and sympathetic to him because they recognize he’s battling with common everyday internal and external pressures, just like us. In short, I wanted people to worry a little bit about him, to see him attempting something heroic and think “hey, wait, if he’s just like me, there’s no friggin way he’s going to pull this off.”

You see, I’m never all that interested in how a book ends. I’m really not. I always assume that the end of the book works out just the way the author intended. How could it not? I’m more interested in tracking how he gets his protagonist/s through the trials. This was one of the things that always amazed me about Robert Parker. Spenser was incredibly tough – the obvious hero – and could easily shoot his way out of most situations, but he was also a deeply sensitive man constantly worrying about his antiquated code of ethics; a modern knight errant. So, while he could just kill everyone who bothers him, he very rarely allows himself to do it. The drama from most of the Spenser novels comes from the hero finding a way to solve his problems and lead an enriching life without always reaching for the gun. Obviously, he ends up reaching for the gun quite a bit, but that’s because a good book needs its doses of action and Parker probably knew he couldn’t let his series get too cerebral. Anyway, the point is that most of the plot of each book revolves around Spenser making life difficult for himself by holding on to his code.

I took this idea and turned it on its ear for Grant. Instead of having a code to wrestle with, he makes life difficult for himself by holding on to his own trauma. He is haunted and bedeviled and when the rapidly changing world brushes his shoulder as it goes by, he gets spun around a few times and falls down.

But then he gets back up. After all, he’s just like us.

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