The Queen's Marksman In the 19th century a young Englishman signs on for more adventure than he expects when he enlists in the army to fight in Afghanistan. On the way there, he encounters two strangers on the Orient Express who change his life forever. After a successful two year campaign he returns home to a hero's welcome and a knighthood. But his service to Queen Victoria becomes far more dangerous when he must confront two of the most famous villains in history. ♦
About the book: - When I came to Robert St. John's story, I decided he was British from the beginning. I had been watching British television since I was a teenager, and I hungrily devoured adventure and mystery shows like "The Persuaders" and "The Avengers"; "Sherlock Holmes" (the eternal consulting detective, of which there have been several different series produced); and the "Hercules Poirot" series based on Agatha Christie's mystery novels. I had also been a fan of spy films, television shows and books like "Secret Agent", "The Prisoner", the James Bond series, and so on.
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I am also an avid fan of English history, the Arthurian legend, the rise and fall of the Plantagenets, the on-and-off war with France, the lives of kings and queens. I could not ignore the amazing proliferation of English literature devoted to the concept of a hero who could save all but who only appears when needed, to fade out when his task is done. I kept this in mind when writing this novel.
Robert is described as a young man about 20 years of age. I modeled him after Roger Moore, but he has his own style and mannerisms. In fact, he is a blend of Moore and several other heroic actors who distinguished themselves, including Ian Ogilvie, Timothy Dalton and Roger Daltrey. He has a fully developed sense of honor and tends to deprecate his innate skills as a soldier and detective. It takes him some time to become comfortable in his new skin as a vampire since it is as restrictive as his role as a young nobleman with a love of adventure.
Robert's rebirth enables him to do many things other men would find impossible, yet he never sees it that way. He wears his guilt about his new life like a suit. That he loses three women in the course of realizing his full powers does not sit well with him, and the enormous responsibilty with which he has been saddled after his return from Afghanistan is like an albatross hung from his neck.
After a series of adventures, he matures into a serious man with the task of protecting the nation. His expertise in the war makes him ideally suited for his position, but he does not want the burden. Part of his independent spirit nags at him to get free, but he cannot. Like the protagonist in "The Prisoner", he is mired in the village of his heart. The resulting story is an amalgam of all those influences coming together to produce what I think is my favorite work, in that everything old is new again. Robert's journey toward self-realization is almost a reflection of everything I hold dear about England, the good and the bad of it.
My introduction of a second character who features as Alexander Corvina's friend, the Count Karel Nikolai Arkelin, is modeled on another famous spy character, but I won't spoil the story for you by revealing who that is. You will just have to read the book to find out.
I was also enamored of unsolved mysteries and followed stories from serial killer cases. The most notable and most accurate for the time in which I set my hero is Jack the Ripper. I pay a cursory nod to Edgar Allan Poe's short story The Murders in The Rue Morgue in beginning the last half of the book, but most of the investigative nature of the narrative is taken from actual case files recovered from the old Metropolitan Police headquarters after a fire destroyed the building. I used the profiler's eye as I observe from the "CSI" series of shows, "Criminal Minds", and of course our ubiquitous Mr. Sherlock Holmes. It is not just about the murders but what effect they had on English morality, sensibilities, political standards and popular myth; and what Robert does with the information.
Note that this story takes place in a ten year period before and during Arthur Conan Doyle's publication of the first Sherlock Holmes story A Study In Scarlet in "The Strand" magazine in 1887, and Bram Stoker's novel Dracula in 1897. Therefore any reference to these are absent. I concentrate instead on mentioning other vampire novelists, including Tolstoy and Polidori, and the popular science fiction novelist of the time, Jules Verne. No one of that time could possibly know that the next few decades into the 20th century would produce several wars, economic depression, and a revision of the old system of monarchy. Yet for all the difficulties England has experienced, I recall Winston Churchill's speech about the British commonwealth enduring much but there was the hope it would prevail and last for a thousand years. The resilience of the British in the face of punishing adversity is part of Robert's entire emotional and moral makeup, which is why he has become one of my favorite heroes.
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