The 1930s and 40s were more than the Golden Age of pulp and comic-book characters…they were also the heyday of movie and radio heroes…many of them served as the templates for what became known as “action heroes.”
There was Boston Blackie, Bulldog Drummond, The Lone Wolf, Nick Carter and even the Man Called X.
Among the most popular was the mystery man known as The Falcon.
The character first appeared in the 1936 novel, The Falcon’s Prey by Charles H. Huff, under the pseudonym, Drexel Drake. Two more novels followed—The Falcon Cuts In and The Falcon Meets a Lady as well as a short-story, “The Falcon Strikes.”
A freelance adventurer and detective who went by the name of Malcolm Wingate, The Falcon was very similar in attitude and action to Leslie Charteris’ Simon Templar AKA The Saint. Wingate’s assistant and comic foil was an ex-police detective named Steve Hardy, but who answered to “Sarge.”
Like The Saint, Wingate even had his own personal signature illustration—his was in the form of a falcon wearing a top hat.
A version of The Falcon was brought to the screen in a 1941 RKO film as a replacement for its popular movie series starring The Saint. The debut film, the unfortunately titled The Gay Falcon, was sufficiently successful to give birth to nearly a decade’s worth of sequels.
The first three starred former Simon Templar impersonator George Sanders as Gay Lawrence and nine with Sanders’ real-life brother, Tom Conway as the Falcon’s brother, also named Tom. Upon the death of Gay, Tom adopted his sibling’s avian nom du guerre.
The success of the films led to a radio series that premiered in 1943, and was broadcast for the next ten years on various networks. The Falcon, now calling himself Michael Waring, worked first as a wise-guy insurance investigator. As the series progressed, Waring became a special investigator for US Army intelligence.
A number of the radio episodes presented The Falcon in Indiana Jones-type milieus, involving stolen artifacts and treasures in exotic, foreign settings.
The Mike Waring incarnation of the Falcon was made into a series of three low-budget films starring John Calvert.
The movie and radio incarnation of the character was adapted in the mid-fifties as a short-lived syndicated television series, Adventures of The Falcon.
Charles McGraw starred as a less sophisticated and more hardboiled Waring.
His occupation this time around was as an undercover agent who traveled the world on “hazardous missions”, according to the promotional material. He was one of the earliest secret agent heroes in mass media.
When both the TV and radio series ended, The Falcon seemed fated for obscurity, although the RKO movies became staples of late night TV for the next twenty years.
Even though The Saint enjoyed renewed popularity in the 1960s due to an internationally distributed TV series starring Roger Moore, The Falcon was eclipsed by Mike Hammer, Peter Gunn and James Bond as the new faces of adventure heroes.
There never was a revival of the character, except in occasional retrospectives. The Falcon became an orphan, waiting to be adopted, cleaned up and modernized.
After my decade-plus long stint writing the best-selling Outlanders series came to a close, I wasn’t sure about creating a new series…I knew if I did, I wanted to go a little more retro and a lot less complex than Outlanders… I had in mind a series closer in spirit and structure with the books, movies and TV series I’d enjoyed growing up–straightforward action-adventure with a spy-fi slant…The Saint, Doc Savage, I Spy, T.H.E. Cat, The Wild Wild West and of course, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
I’d written the last comic incarnations of both The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and The Wild Wild West and I’d always yearned to write something similar in tone, but in prose.
Unlike Outlanders, I didn’t want an ensemble cast of characters. I preferred to craft a series focusing on a central hero with a minimum of a supporting cast and who was basically on his own…similar to a modern-day take on Paladin from Have Gun-Will Travel. Like Paladin and The Saint, he would be a man of mystery, who only hinted at a dark past.
I thought about how Dr. No, the first Bond film, actually created a new genre…or subgenre. In that inaugural outing, Bond operated independently with only a couple of allies as he faced off against a genuine super-villain who had the backing a large organization.
Tonally, Dr. No was as different from subsequent Bond films as it was possible to get and still be part of the same series. It was a straightforward action-adventure film with far more focus on the backstories of Dr. No and Honeychile Ryder than Bond himself…and that was okay. Bond worked best as a dark, somewhat ruthless “man who was only a silhouette”, to quote Ian Fleming.
Unfortunately by late 2008 due to an industry-wide implosion, no mainstream publisher seemed interested in producing books featuring that kind of character. Since it’s highly unlikely they will ever again, I decided to do it myself…mainly because I know there is audience for that kind of character.
When I thought about all the men of mystery heroes who once populated books, pulps and movies, The Falcon kept flying to the forefront of my mind—he was a true mystery man. We didn’t know his real name–since he had so many–where he came from or even when he was born. The Falcon simply existed…complete and fully-realized.
Rather than cast about for a character “like” The Falcon, there was no reason not to go with the genuine article, but reframed and streamlined, with my own personal stamp on him—still a modern adventurer, although more in line with contemporary action heroes. Oblique references to a past that alluded to his earlier incarnations would take the place of the tedious origin stories which are so popular in Hollywood as of late.
(A two-hour backstory for The Lone Ranger? Really?)
Using the paperback originals produced by the legendary Gold Medal imprint as a model and inspiration, The Falcon: Resurrected is the first entry in a series of tightly plotted and tautly paced thrillers showcasing what I do best and what I’m known for: blazing, cinematic action, exotic heroines, stylish, colorful heroes squaring off against a Rogues Gallery of larger than life villains, Countdowns to Doom and some smart-ass dialogue sprinkled liberally throughout.
Two more books in the The Falcon series are already in production and another is in the plotting stage.
The Falcon: Resurrected can be purchased as an affordable paperback edition and/or ebook at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and pretty much all booksellers.
The cover art is by the brilliant Rob Moran and the book’s designer, Melissa Martin-Ellis.
If you enjoy action-adventure with a focus on the “action”, I guarantee The Falcon series will more than meet expectations.
I think it was Rex Stout, creator of Nero Wolfe, who said: “If I’m not having any fun writing a book, no one will have any fun reading it.”
In case you were wondering… I had a lot of fun writing The Falcon: Resurrected. I’m looking forward to more of the same.