The Albino’s Shadow
A lovely review for a recent short story today (http://thesextonblakeblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/zenith-lives-review-part-two-george-mann.html) made me realise that I haven’t yet talked about Zenith Lives!, the new anthology of Zenith the Albino stories from Obverse Books.
Zenith the Albino is, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest fictional villains ever to grace the pages of genre fiction. He was originally created by Anthony Skene as a foil to Sexton Blake, that great, lamentably forgotten hero of British detective fiction, and appeared in 40 odd novels and novellas over a span of 20 years.
Zenith is a Romanian Prince, a gentleman, an albino and an opium addict. He is also a master criminal and a master of disguise, who suffers from terrible ennui and frequently risks his own life in the pursuit of distraction and excitement.
When Stuart asked me to contribute a story to his anthology, I jumped at the chance. Not only that, but given that Zenith’s ‘golden age’ is the 1920s and 30s, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to bring back Peter Rutherford, the British spy character from my novel, Ghosts of War. Regular readers of the blog will know that I love to seed in ‘Easter Eggs’ and little connections between my stories, and the opportunity to have one of my own characters go up against Zenith was too good to miss. Not only that, but it was a chance for Rutherford to interact with some of the other pillars of my fictional universe – namely Miss Veronica Hobbes and Professor Archibald Angelchrist. What’s more, there’s a little throw away reference in the story that hints at what is to come for Newbury and Veronica in The Executioner’s Heart and beyond.
It was a lot of fun to do, and in many ways has become one of the central stories of the extended Newbury & Hobbes universe, along with a few others that have appeared since – namely ‘The Maharajah’s Star’, ‘A Night, Remembered’ and ‘Old Friends’. All of these are set in that same period of the early 30s, feature Rutherford as a main character, and draw links between my different series. They mark the changing of the guard, the passing of the baton from the heroes of the Victorian era – Newbury, Bainbridge, Veronica, Angelchrist – to those who will carry the tales forward into the brave new world of the 1930s and beyond.
There’ll likely be more Rutherford tales to come in the future. I’m interested to see how he develops as a character, and what adventures I can send him on. Someone needs to protect the Empire, once all the other heroes have retired!
In the meantime, Zenith Lives! is well worth picking up. Aside from ‘The Albino’s Shadow’, it features a lengthy new Seaton Begg novella from Michael Moorcock, a long story by Mark Hodder, and brand new tales by Paul Magrs and Stuart Douglas. You can but it directly from Obverse Books as both a physical book and an ebook.