If I could choose any time and place to live, I would probably pick somewhere in Europe in the 13th century. I am a huge nerd for medieval history, so I would probably love it. Ideally, I would live in a castle or defensible manor, where I would eat roast pheasant in my awesome dining hall with a super long table lit by torches and candles while my servants tested my food for poison and refilled my solid gold goblet with ale. Then, when the time came, I would probably have to skirmish with other local lords and nobles. I would obviously ride my trusty steed everywhere and own an awesome sword and an array of other kick-ass weapons including but not limited to bows, morning stars, hammers, halberds, and axes. On weekends I would go to church and admire the incredible Gothic architecture and stained glass windows as they were meant to be seen. Conversely, there would definitely be a lot of drawbacks. People in the Middle Ages were surprisingly clean compared to people in the Early Modern period (e.g., people in the Middle Ages actually bathed pretty often whereas someone like Isaac Newton probably thought bath water gave you the plague), so that would be nice, but I’d also have to go the bathroom in a chamber pot or a hole in the ground. And there’d be a huge change that I’d die of some plague or the common cold at the age of 45. And I would have to deal with rabidly nationalistic hyper-religious elites hell-bent on stealing land and natural resources from the Middle East in the name of western civilization (ha ha ha ha ha). But all in all, living at any point in history would probably suck to some degree, and medieval Europe would at least be cool and interesting.
This is a photo I did not take of the ambassador of an unnamed country meeting with the CEO of a biotechnology firm and a representative of an organization known as ORION. The CEO sits in a sleek, suede chair in the corner of a hotel suite with a large window, a billionaire philanthropist to the public, who think his mission in life is to end world hunger and climate change, but who is actually developing a strain of fungus that will wipe out a third of the world’s food population, leaving his company the only supplier of grain. The ambassador sits across from him, glancing over and over out the window into the dark city, as he plans to buy the only variety of grain that will survive the coming famine. The representative of ORION stands near the door, her arms crossed, because she knows I am watching. After working for decades in the business, she trusts me to only observe while she facilitates their meeting and follows the lead until we can take down the operation from the inside. Or so I thought. So I do not take the picture. But I should have.
Writing three haikus
Is much harder than it seems
Like rocket science
Thinking of the words,
Five syllables first and last,
Seven in between
Hey, I’ve got this now
I feel like William Shakespeare
My spy character, Roderick Rush, is inspired by several other spies from literature, television, and film along with a lot of my own invention. In large part, I based him and part of his backstory on Jason Bourne. Although I’ve never been as big of a fan of the Bourne novels or movies as some people, I’ve always liked them and they have come to define the modern spy genre. Although he starts with no idea as to his own real identity, Bourne still has amazing intellectual and physical capabilities that make him the perfect spy.
Although not strictly a spy, the influences that Sherlock Holmes has had on the spy genre (including on Jason Bourne) are ubiquitous. Genius-level intellect, unparalleled powers of deduction, and even martial arts skills (in baritsu in the original novels) are all traits that have grown even more popular in the spy genre today.
James Bond, of course, had a big influence when coming up with my spy. I generally prefer the more “dirty martini” or “stale beer” approaches to the spy genre, as TV Tropes puts it, so I tend to gravitate more toward the Daniel Craig films or some of the Sean Connery films, which in my mind tended to be less flashy (following the trends overall) than in the 80s and 90s.
Last but not least, I wanted to add in influence from a variety of the more noir types of classic cloak-and-dagger genre. That includes some great classic works like A Coffin for Dimitrios by Eric Ambler or neo-noir espionage works like Valkyrie.
Needless to say, I have a big appreciation for how independently-minded Holmes, Bourne, and the new iteration of Bond have been in their respective works. I’ve never been hugely into the spy genre, mostly because to me, a lot of literature and films out there are too one-note and bland. Jack Ryan comes to mind for me (no offense). I wanted to come up with a spy that fit what I thought would be the most interesting. If I were casting him in a movie, I would ideally cast someone like Miles Teller or Brenton Thwaites. A young spy still figuring out his allegiances whose talent (predictably) isolates him from others, who doesn’t fit the cookie-cutter mold of the dashing, 40-something year-old, jaded yet charming spy would be the most compelling to me. Hopefully Roderick Rush will come across like that.