Monday, June 16, 2014

An Interview With Robert Lory

Have I mentioned lately how much I enjoy the John Eagle Expeditor series? It’s probably my favorite series of all, just a perfect mix of escapist entertainment, adventure fiction, and the lurid elements ‘70s pulp demanded.

The series was written by three authors: Manning Lee Stokes, Robert Lory, and Paul Eiden. Stokes passed away in 1976, and Paul Eiden is practically a cipher; the only thing I can find out about him is that he apparently began publishing under various pseudonyms in the very early ‘60s (ie the pulpy WWII novel Bloody Beaches, published by Monarch Books in 1961 under the awesome pseudonym “Delano Stagg”).

Robert Lory though has had a prolific career in fiction, from the fan-favorite Dracula series he did for Pinnacle to a handful of science fiction paperbacks under his own name. I came across an interview Sidney Williams did with Robert Lory in 2011 on his blog Sid Is Alive, and I want to thank Sidney for putting me in touch with him.

Fortunately, Mr. Lory was willing to answer my geekish questions about John Eagle Expeditor. Here is the interview, as well as details about a new book he has just published. And finally, I’d like to express my thanks to Mr. Lory for taking part in the interview!

How did you become involved with the John Eagle Expeditor series?

Lyle Engel called, saying he'd read one of my Shamryke Odell science fiction books, liked what he saw, and asked if I was interested in doing two John Eagle books. He said he had a writer for the first two books -- which at that point consisted of a mostly-complete manuscript and a rough outline -- but the publisher wanted to get the third and fourth books out as soon as possible. I said yes, and my association with the series -- and with Lyle -- began.

A side note: When I got the materials for the first two books, Eagle wasn't an Expeditor. The series was to be John Eagle, Survival Ranger (or something very close to that). "Expeditor" was my first -- and immediate -- contribution to the series before I'd written a word.

How did Lyle Kenyon Engel's Book Creations company work? Did Engel edit or oversee each of his series publications himself, or did he have a staff of editors?

I'm not sure about Lyle's involvement after a series got underway. His son George did some editing, and I think his wife Marla did also. At various times, other editors were on the BCI payroll, but I have no idea as to how many were working there at any given time.

Was there an Expeditor series template you were asked to follow, or some sort of source document on all of John Eagle’s various gadgets and equipment?

No template per se. Obviously, we all worked the same back story and continuing characters, and Lyle made sure I knew what the other writer(s) were working on in general terms of plot, location, etc. For the most part, this worked well, although there were a few slips. There was no source document or list of gadgets, just basing on previous books and introducing something new if the spirit called.

How much freedom were you given with your volumes of the series? Did you come up with your own plots/concepts, or did Engel or someone else at BCI come up with a plot germ and ask you to deliver a manuscript that followed up on it?

I felt I had close to total freedom. The plots, villains, geographies all were mine.

What are some of your memories of the Expeditor volumes you wrote? Do you have any particular favorites, or ones you wish had come out differently?

The timing of the first book I did [The Laughing Death] couldn't have been luckier. Right after I signed the contract, my daytime job took me to Hong Kong, Singapore and the jungles of central Sumatra. The Laughing Death's first chapters are accurate reflections of both notes and photographs taken.  The Fist Of Fatima's Libyan geography was made easy from my having spent two years living there.

Of my books in the series, I guess my favorite was The Holocaust Auction, which I remember mainly for a happily drunken ex-RAF DC-3 pilot.

I read an interview with you from a few years ago* where you mentioned that another of the Expeditor series authors once complained that your version of John Eagle was "too sexually active for someone who had a steady girlfriend." Do you remember which of the authors this was, Manning Lee Stokes or Paul Eiden? I'm especially curious, because both of those authors featured a John Eagle who was sexually active on his missions, despite his girlfriend back home!

At the time, I had no idea who else was involved in the series. Actually, I thought there was just one other writer. As to the complaint, it seems to me now to have centered on the fact that my plots didn't have much use for the lady. Except for maybe a quick nod to her existence, I pretty much ignored her. I viewed her as an unnecessary distraction to Eagle -- and myself.

Did you have any other involvement with Stokes or Eiden? Did you ever read their contributions to the series?

No involvement. I did read their books, yes, to make sure I didn't change any history.

How much notice did you receive before the series was cancelled? Curious if you have any unpublished Expeditor manuscripts sitting in a closet...!

No prior notice at all. And, no, there are no unpublished manuscripts -- or even notes -- gathering dust at the homestead.

Did you have any ideas in mind for installments you didn't get to write?

No. At the time my Eagle days ended, my ideas were focused on another BCI series featuring a well-known Transylvanian count.

*The interview in question appeared in Justin Marriott's first issue of Men Of Violence, from 2009. In the John Eagle Expeditor series overview, Justin included a “Bob Lory on the Eagle books” sidebar, where he quoted Lory as stating:

“One of the other John Eagle writers was abusively irate that “my” Eagle was too sexually active for someone who had a steady girlfriend. The conversation was short, cut off when I said that, if I heard from him again, the next John Eagle book would have him seeking out the young woman’s rapist/maimer/killer. The series ended before I decided whether I’d do it anyway.”

As mentioned above, Robert Lory has recently e-published a brand-new novel, available now on Amazon. It’s titled Ragnarok, and here’s his summary of it:

This book took more than 45 years from start to completion. The writing began in Tripoli, Libya—a few weeks before the 1969 Ghadafi revolution. It was put aside for more urgent matters then, as was its fate in the years that have followed. There were always new projects that screamed louder for my attention. But when the dusty pages turned up in our latest move, I decided Ragnarok's time had come—for two reasons that I viewed as positive omens. 

First, 1960s Madison Avenue has seen several successful seasons on the home screen. 

Second, Thor and Loki have made excellent tracks on the wider cinema screen, although I have to admit that any resemblance between the Marvel characters and the ones you'll meet here is limited to their names only.

1 comment:

Kurt Reichenbaugh said...

Thanks for posting this. I always like reading about the biz right from the writers who were in the thick of it. It's cool that Robert Lory did this. I've read the 1st two novels in this series and liked them both. About a year ago I found The Laughing Death in a used bookstore in Mexico City of all places. It cost me 10 pesos-about 80 cents! It's a Mews Books edition from 1976 and they have it as number 5 in the series instead of number 3.