East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Dreaming up a new series (because rust never sleeps)


I was talking with some friends, a few days ago, of how much The Avengers (the British TV series, not the guys in spandex from Marvel) had an impact on my life. It was the vision of the classic Steed & Peel seasons back when I was around 8 that made me a committed Anglophile for life – and so everything, from my desire to learn English to my spending one year in London as a student, stems from there.

My interest for spy stories and a certain brand of strange, surreal adventure certainly owes a lot to The Avengers (and to The Prisoner).
I believe my attitude towards women was shaped (also) by an early crush on Mrs Peel, and if I keep writing stories about couples bickering, chattering and working together as partners in crime, it is certainly because of The Avengers.

Here I should note that when I was a kid we did get an awful lot of British TV series, and those shaped my tastes and left a huge impression: The Avengers, The Prisoner, The Persuaders, UFO, Space 1999, Children of the Stones…
It was good being kids back then, and a lot of the imagination sparked by those shows filtered somehow in what I write.

Anyway, in another chat with some other friends, we ended up discussing occult detectives.
I like occult detection stories, and I have written a few myself – on one hand, the sword & sorcery procedurals featuring centurion Nennius Britannicus and his Boys, on the other the Edwardian adventures of Valerie Trelawney. While both share the theme of Egyptian magic and supernatural, these two series sit at the two ends of the spectrum – with Nennius Britannicus being the more action-oriented, “hard boiled”, so to speak, while Valerie acts as a more classical, British-style sort of occult detective.

The two discussions – The Avengers and the Occult Detectives – sort of collided when one of my friends suggested I do a third series, featuring a couple of occultists, and set in a non-canonical time period, and falling about halfway between the action/adventure and the detection/horror polarities.

This led me to go back to check some of my old notes, and resurrect some old ideas.
Apart from John Steed and Emma Peel, I think a series such as the one my friend postulated would be indebted also to Nick & Nora Charles from The Thin Man (a movie I re-watched for Christmas)…

their parody Dick & Dora Charleston as portrayed by David Niven and Maggie Smith in Murder by Death (A movie I was talking about a few days ago when someone attributed the screenplay to Truman Capote)…

and obviously Frank & Sadie Doyle from Thrilling Adventure Hour: Beyond Belief

And of course the adventures of my duo of detectives should involve a fair share of globetrotting, snappy dialogues and the most chilling adversaries possible.
And the unusual time period… the 1950s? Or the ’60s? Why not the ’80s?
Ah, decisions, decisions…

But really, setting March as a deadline, I’m starting to write something.
It would be fun, to try and do something different.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

2 thoughts on “Dreaming up a new series (because rust never sleeps)

  1. The 1960s would be a good choice for that series, I think. There was a lot of exploration going on in that decade, with airplanes and ocean going ships becoming more readily available and new medicines making going to exotic locales safer–or at least less suicidal. Culturally there was a lot going on in America and Europe, although it was far less spectacular than the modern retrospectives would indicate.

    Can you make them a cross-Atlantic couple? Either a refined British lady with a Walther in her clutch bag paired with a crude Californian daredevil, or maybe an Oxford professor and a Boston gun moll? I think the gentle American-Anglo culture clash makes for marvelous banter.


    • I was thinking about making the couple cross-cultural, yes – but I was thinking more along the lines of a British husband with a continental wife… French, say, or even Italian. Just an idea, while I am at the drawing board.
      And the ’60s would be good, but I’d stay on the earlier, pre-Beatles years. Possibly the best choice would be on the cusp of ’50s and ’60s. But I don’t want to stray in MadMen territory.


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