Posts Tagged ‘history’

Spyfunk! Author Interview subject:

Joe Hilliard.

Known Aliases:

El Originario Extraño del Kalypso Kid

  1. Where did you get the idea for your story and your character?

 When we moved from rural Michigan to Los Angeles in the early-80s, one of the big connection points to the other kids was lucha libre (Mexican wrestling), comic books, and tokusatsu. That was my youth. Lucha libre became a real cornerstone when I started writing, the masks, the milieu, that feeling of anything is possible. Watching the 60s and 70s films where Santo or Blue Demon could go from spy to vampire killer to Nazi Hunter to time traveller to solving the Bermuda Triangle, with a, “¡Vámonos! Let’s go!” and out the door. When Milton Davis pushed out the original Spyfunk call in 2017, I wrote “Dory Dixon” in a notebook, and printed out some research on the 1954 Caribbean Games. That initial draft played on a defection and hidden staircases and double crosses. Real Cold War tropes. While that draft “An Incident at the Embassy” never came to fruition, the true life story of Dory Dixon (noted in the coda to my piece) kept haunting me. It wasn’t until post-COVID when I started going to live lucha libre again here in SoCal and saw local guys like Mike Cheq that I realized I was looking, even in a Cold War setting, to capture that hype of live lucha, and the theatrics of those films. Milton reopened the call for stories, and Dante Davis leaped out as a reluctant hero caught up in intrigue, and finding his place in the world. He’s a bit of Dory Dixon, a bit Blue Demon, working on his Napoleon Solo.

Dory Dixon
  1. What is it that’s making your hero and/or villains tick? Motivations, plots, decisions etc.

Like a lot of us, Dante Davis is driven by a few different engines – loyalty, doing what is right, and yes, a desire for excitement, for an adrenalin rush. We all know having those engines driving in all directions, especially when we are young. As the titles says, this is his origin. He is coming to terms with who he is, what those drives mean. How he can live with them? How can he change to fuel those engines? Should he change?

  1. What’s your favourite spy movie?

Just one? Ah! While far from traditional, Bernardo Bertolucci’s THE CONFORMIST (1970) is as intriguing a betrayal of loyalty as you will see. More traditionally, Fritz Lang’s MINISTRY OF FEAR (1944), Carol Reed’s THE THIRD MAN (1949), and Peter Glenville’s THE COMEDIANS (1967), all based on Graham Greene novels really kill it, and I will watch them over and over again. Or, it’s simply JOHNNY ENGLISH REBORN, fight me on the brilliance of Rowan Atkinson in that!

  1. Do you have any stories from real life you find especially memorable in the world of espionage? Why so?

I’m a sucker for the oddness of  Wild Bill Donovan’s OSS, the World War II precursor to the CIA. There’s something about the wide net of recruitment, this throw it all at the wall and see what sticks. Moe Berg the baseball player. Julia Child. Who is hiring these people? How is this real? I think of the opening sequence to the film THE RIGHT STUFF where they talk about hiring circus performers and barnstormers to be astronauts and you have this same feel. It’s what backgrounds the end of my story, where you have a wrestling promoter running your spy ring. It’s real, it’s not believable. It’s “¡Vámonos! Let’s go!,” which is pretty amazing in real life.

  1. So from this, are there tensions between what is believable in fiction and what we have learned recently from real life cases such as the Snowden revelations in the US or the Salisbury poisonings in the UK?

I think the tension is, no matter how crazy you think your storyline is, there is someone attempting something that much crazier in real life, which should give anyone pause. Look at all the Fidel Castro assassination plots that the CIA cooked up in the 60s. It’s been going on forever. Never underestimate the human capacity to concoct means of violence and subterfuge on his fellow man…

  1. Best spy hero?

I have a soft spot in my heart for Mickey Spillane’s Tiger Mann. They are some of the first spy novels I remember reading as a teen, even before Ian Fleming. My love for Fawcett Gold Medal 60s spies knows no bounds though. The “Assignment” novels by Edward S. Aarons starring Sam Durrell – 125 pages, no waiting. So, so good!

  1. …and favourite spy villain?

Michael Dunn as Dr. Miguelito Quixote Loveless from the “Wild Wild West” tv show. So diabolical, and so fascinating!

  1. Scenario question: your protagonist is deep undercover and ends in a relationship in order to keep cover, what is their ethical approach to this? Have they got rules, or would they do anything they had to for their chosen allegiance?

Dante Davis is not the James Bond/Napoleon Solo lothario. He would undoubtedly look to an alternative. We see that he lives in a crazed Cold War place, but the underpinning for him was much more of the straight-forward character. The impetus for this was the Santo/Blue Demon films of the 60s/70s where the hero is “noble” in the traditional sense. Even when spying. And the tokusatsu heroes like Kamen Rider or Ultraman. Not that they are childish, or naïve, but that’s not the main impetus here. Perhaps a little more pulpy than saucy. That’s our Dante. But some of the other rogues that show up in this piece? They would have no such compunctions.

  1. Talk is resurfacing about Idris Elba perhaps being the next James Bond. What’s your thoughts on this?

I was a little crushed Elba didn’t get the Doctor Who gig actually. I love me some science fiction Elba more than anything. Bond still is an intriguing thought. His Luther was (still is), so compelling, I think it would be tempting to compare any Bond appearance by Elba negatively in that light. Much like how Roger Moore’s work as Simon Templar influences my view of his James Bond performance. Or Remington Steele invades Pierce Brosnan’s Bond for me.

  1. Any questions you want to ask *me*?

Who’s your go-to wrestler, when the chips are down? And, when can I come visit you in London???

(Well, there are many fine choices. But if we’re talking in their prime, I tend to look no further than the Deadman. To this day I don’t remember a debut impacting me quite like that one. These days I’m loving Blackpool Combat Club. The latter would depend upon when I’m actually *in London these days, which is not always easy to know! See the introductory post 🙂 – Russell)

Joe Hilliard. Writer. Luddite. Teller of Tales. Michigander by birth, in the wilds just outside the World’s Largest Walled Prison. Misspent teenage years in Los Angeles on a diet of Blue Demon, Chester Himes, Philip K. Dick, the Circle Jerks, Judge Dredd, and This Island Earth, on the fringe of 80s Hollywood. Graduate of the University of Michigan, which only added Kawabata, Tsui Hark, Krazy Kat, and William S. Burroughs to the mix. Marks time as a paralegal in sunny California.

Besides, SPYFUNK!, his short stories can be found in DIESELFUNK! from MVmedia, THE LEGENDS OF NEW PULP from Airship 27, HARD-BOILED SPORTS, SHUDDER PULP, JAMES R. TUCK’S HEROES OF HOLLOW EARTH, and ORIGINS AND ENDINGS VOLUME 1 from Pro Se Productions; AUTUMN PAINTED RED from Asylum Ink; MEAT FOR TEA: THE VALLEY REVIEW; and BLUE COLLAR REVIEW. His non-fiction comic book work can be found in APB: ARTISTS AGAINST POLICE BRUTALITY from Rosarium Press and COLONIAL COMICS VOLUME II: NEW ENGLAND 1750-1776 from Fulcrum Publishing.

I don’t have an online thumbprint these days. Just LinkedIn for the day job. Find me there!

Hey everyone!


This is a good time to dust off this here page and apologise for not being around in a while. Things have been very busy, and in a really good way, though this has of course affected other things. I’ve not had any novels out that I haven’t told you about or anything; the last tale I had out was in The Elementals, where I had a fun time telling the tale of a young East London witch just trying to hang out with her cousin and being thwarted at every turn. If you happen to still be after a copy of this doorstep of an anthology, do get in touch – might be able to help you out there!


Meanwhile, I’ve been busy retraining somewhat as a historian as well as a writer. There have been reasons, and I’ll probably report more on that when I get the chance, though mostly spending time elsewhere on that front. If you want to know more about what I’ve been doing with that sort of thing, I can point you at some volunteering work with the RAF Museum in London which I have been up to in the last year. I should also probably tell you that I’ve additionally been busy taking a History M.A. at the University of Leicester but when I’ve finished that – this is happening:

https://www.gla.ac.uk/news/headline_851573_en.html

Back on the writing; I’ve had a fantastic return to Milford, this time for a retreat on which I got back to one of my favourite places which recharges me like little else. It’s taking time, but I’m working through an Arthurian tale I would really like to tell, though I’m hopeful it will be worth the wait to release it to you all.

However, I’ve been enjoying working on some shorter stuff in the meantime which I’ll keep ensuring sees the light of day. In fact one of the things here is to let you know there’s another story coming very soon, if you didn’t know already. This time, it’s a step into the murky world of espionage as the legendary Milton Davis has compiled a collection of fine spy stories from past, present and future eras centring characters of African/African Diaspora descent, including my own, Rundown in Jamdown. We’ll come to that in one of the future posts but for now, I’m starting with this here intro to what sort of thing to expect and a link to the excerpts up so far. Also, where you can order, because obviously we’d all love you to read the rest! All that remains is to begin introducing you to some of our authors, which will of course begin imminently!

https://www.mvmediaatl.com/product-page/spyfunk


Stay tuned; however be reassured that these messages will not self-destruct.