Suspense Thriller Fiction by John T. Cullen
Jean-Thomas Cullen writing as John T. Cullen
Quick Background: 21st Century James Bond: Jack Gray. I've always loved thrillers, with their opportunity to craft not only a fast-paced mystery or suspense novel, but to actually highlight philosophical or political theory. I've traced out a quick history of all this in my novel Valley of Seven Castles. Quick take: Leslie Charteris' The Saint (1920) is one of the predecessors of Eric Amber's classics (1930s onward) and Helen MacInnes' (1940s onward) immortal spy novels, as well as Ian Fleming's (1950s) James Bond and I'm already out of breath. These were followed by Robert Ludlum and John Le Carré, to name just two more. My novel about CON2 is a mere standalone in that swift-moving current of powerful thrillers. Since writing CON2 in 1992, I've had a lot of time to consider and mature in my views, far beyond the brainwashed and simplistic Reagan era that ushered in a catastrophic age of corporate tyranny in the United States (more on that elsewhere, soon). Therewith, let me say that my James Bond of the 21st Century is Jack Gray in Doctor Night.
Jack Gray in Doctor Night Decades After The Generals of October, we have a world government (not the paranoid, neo-Calvinist idiocy typically based on a misreading of Revelations). Same as in Valley of Seven Castles (which I style as being the world's first Progressive Thriller) we have a world run by corporations. In the macro-historical (Annales) sense, we are in a post-nationalist age. National governments (which delivered us industrial slaughter of unimaginable proportions in two world wars, not to mention swarms of lesser bloodshed) are now second-fiddle to powerful global corporations. Many of these corporations even now are more powerful and wealthy in many ways than many national governments. This is the world in which Jack Gray operates as Secret Agent of Last Resort.
Thinking Thrillers. Brainy Thrillers. I've come to learn that my thrillers (e.g. The Generals of October) are way over many people's heads. That's too bad. I don't purposely write brainy, thinking person's thrillers. I'd maybe rather write New York-style pablum (fast food fiction) that requires little in the way of digestive juices. But here we are. I've thought of splitting Doctor Night into a trilogy, and I may one day do that if I have time. It's a big, tough, demanding novel but I think you'll see the movie(s) in your head as you slog through it.
Clues, Hints. The first portion picks up in China, where Jack Gray is on the track of a criminal mastermind. Remember, China's mines in Inner Mongolia contain almost the entire world's supply of rare earths, needed to build computers and other equipment vital to modern civilization. China could actually shut the world down if she wanted to. But this is only the starting point for an adventure leading to a (yes, Doctor No-like) character who has taken over an international terrorism brokerage and wants to run the world. Think Smersh and SPECTRE, updated to the 20th Century. Jack Gray tracks Doctor Night to a remote Scottish island (borrowed, actually, from Herge's Black Island Tintin adventure) named Barra. After a rousing conflict there (which could be a whole movie or novel in itself) the action moves to the ancient Roman island of Vulcano, located north of Sicily.
Assassination from Orbit. Doctor Night has hijacked a corporate technology borrowed from long-ago Cold War days, based on CIA and U.S. Air Force spy satellites. Only now 'shooting' from orbit has a meaning different from using cameras. And Doctor Night has more in mind than bullets. He has stolen truckloads of radioactive materials to kill an entire city if his demands aren't met. That brings Jack Gray and his nemesis into a final confrontation in the guts of Vulcano, the island mountain that gave its name to all big rocks that go boom. And I left the door open for a series of Jack Gray novels set in that future corporate world. It's the same corporate planet resembling a feudal New World Odor that we see in Valley of Seven Castles.