Some days shriek off in unexpected directions almost from the word go. I was all set to get back into some semi-serious blogging — tossing up between, on the one hand, reporting on the rumour that Donald Trump had threatened to take a starring role in the next Star Wars spin-off if he didn’t get elected President, and on the other, revealing that DC has announced Zack Snyder is working on a follow-up to two of his most controversial flicks — a masterpiece titled Sucker Punch 2: Batgirl v Supergirl — Scrag Fight of Justice — when my study door was kicked in, literally. A tall, firm-muscled bloke in a leather coat, a Motorhead tee shirt and somewhat ragged jeans burst in, scowling fiercely.
“Can I help you?” I said.
“I’ve come to put a stop to your evil plans, Hood,” he snarled, as mystic energy splashed around the corners of the room.
“Which evil plans are those?” I replied. “The Snyder rumour, isn’t it? Desperate, I know, but someone has to do it—”
He scowled, but kept his distance. “I thought I was rid of you forever,” he continued finally, “but then I heard rumours you were back.” His simmering eyes evaluated me some more. “I must say you look… different.”
“Hood … my nemesis.”
“I don’t think I’m who or what you’re looking for.”
He growled some more. “Are you saying I might’ve jumped the gun?” he snarled.
“The shark maybe.” I responded. He didn’t smile. “Who are you again?”
He sighed as the magic currents he’d dragged in with him began dissipating. “Caine,” he said. “Alex Caine.”
Light dawned. “Right. I get it. I read volume one of the thrillers that Baxter bloke wrote about you. Bound, wasn’t it?”
His eyes narrowed. “So?”
“Don’t fret,” I added. “I loved it.” He scowled again. “Look,” I said. “I’m not THAT Hood, okay. I’m less sociopathic in my evil ways. I tell you what. Give me an exclusive interview right now, and I won’t sue for defamation or make you pay for the door. A new edition of all three volumes of Alan Baxter’s Alex Caine trilogy comes out this month, so… good timing to advertise the event.”
“I don’t know…”
“It’ll be great! We could arm-wrestle for it. If you win, you do the interview.”
“Of course I’d win.”
“Great! So there’s no need to actually do it. Now about that interview….”
To cut a long story short, I won him over in the end. We talked. I’d escaped from Trump and Snyder, so for me it was a BIG win.
So here’s the exclusive, first-ever interview with Alex Caine
Undead Backbrain: Thanks for agreeing to talk to us, Mr Caine.
Alex Caine: [grunts]
UB: So… tell us about yourself? How accurate are the books?
AC: Tell you about myself? I’m a man who just wanted to be left alone. Everything was going fine, until that interfering Welby showed up. The books, sadly, are very accurate indeed.
UB: But you’re a professional fighter, aren’t you? Doesn’t that tend to keep you in the spotlight?
AC: That was the beauty of taking part in the underground scene. The fights were more real and by its very nature, it eschewed too much outside attention. I was a successful fighter without having to endure all the interviews and other false media bullshit. That’s all I ever wanted.
UB: What about now… you know, as your life has become more … shall we say, complicated. Has all the supernatural stuff changed the way you see the world?
AC: Dude, the world changed, not me. I had to make some pretty quick adjustments. Like a blind man given sight, only to see the world is a more terrifying place than I could have imagined. But you know what? I’m getting used to it. And maybe that’s the scariest part of all.
AC: I’m sure you’ll believe whatever best suits your worldview. That does tend to be what most people do. But there’s more than is dreamt of in your philosophy and all that. See this scar? That was made by a creature you wouldn’t believe could possibly exist. Yet there’s the proof.
UB: What are these creatures and what makes you such a magnet for their attention?
AC: Just lucky I guess. Honestly, what they are is something I’m not really qualified to even guess. There are demons and monsters from who knows how many realms out there. A while back I had to fight two gargoyles made of stone, for fuck’s sake. That’s some serious magic at work. But what are they? Stone gargoyles, man. What other explanation is needed? Why am I such a magnet? Maybe because now the bastards see me as a challenge. Everyone wants to have a go these days. Bring it on.
UB: What about that namesake of mine? (Hood? Really? Not to mention the fact his partner is named “Sparks”… as is mine! What sort of coincidence is that?) Who the hell are they and what sort of role do they play in these events?
AC: Well, they fucked everything up, quite frankly. That Hood is a psycho and a megalomaniac. But you know, I learned a long time ago that a person’s greatest strength can often be exploited and used against them. That is a pretty crazy coincidence, though, isn’t it? What are the chances of those two evil nutcases sharing your names?
UB: I’ve heard it said that Hood is to you what the Joker is to Batman. What do you say to that?
AC: It’s a fair comparison. The Joker is nothing but ego and chaos, and the same could be said for Hood. But where the Joker is only chaos, Hood is also driven by more specific plans. I’m not sure if that makes him more or less dangerous. But of course, the important part of this is that it makes me Batman, and I’ll take that. Trouble is, it turns out that real life is not like the comic books. Who’d have known? I don’t recommend it.
UB: So what, in your experience, is the downside of “real life” as compared to the comic books?
UB: But according to Baxter’s books, you’re pretty much a superhero yourself. Would you admit to that?
AC: There’s a saying in the traditional martial arts: Anyone who calls himself a master, isn’t. It’s a title for others to bestow. I think the same thing applies here.
UB: Sure, I understand that in relation to conventional fighting, but unlike Batman you’ve got a bit of magic going on there, too. Or is that just artistic embroidery on Baxter’s part ….?
AC: Welby said that to me and I thought he was mad. I’ve just trained my arse off my whole life. And got a lot of experience. But it turns out there’s a bit more to me than I realised. But magic, man — it’s more trouble than it’s worth, I reckon.
UB: Give us an example of the downside.
AC: Well, I used to fight humans. Now I’ve found myself up against anything but! Mind you, if I’m honest, I’ve always loved a good fight and most humans weren’t much of a challenge any more. Maybe it’s not so bad…
UB: A common thematic thread within the superhero comic world (and elsewhere, even in traditional Westerns) is that heroism attracts the bad guys, and to defeat evil you need to have a touch of evil within you. Maybe only monsters can defeat monsters… Are you afraid of becoming what you seek to defeat?
AC: That’s always a concern. Would there even be monsters without heroes? Yes, there fucking would. Monsters are eternal, and they prey on the innocent. The only way to defeat them is to stand up and fight. If that’s being a hero, then so be it. If it costs the hero something, even his heroism in the long run but for the greater good, so be that, too.
UB: A worthy answer! Batman would approve. Yet you were dragged into this life. It was foist upon you. Perhaps you can explain, for those who haven’t read Baxter’s novelisation yet, how this came about. That mob you ran afoul of? What was going on there — and is that how it began?
AC: King Scarlet. Yeah, in truth, I suppose it did begin with him. Can you even believe he calls himself that? Honestly, what a dick. But a dangerous dick. I’m sure you know there’s all kinds of corruption in sports, so you can imagine the levels possible in underground events. But I’ve always played solo, never buying into that stuff. Trouble was, I was so successful that King Scarlet decided I had to fight for him – no doubt take falls for him – or die. I couldn’t allow that. I was prepared to go up against him, but a training buddy of mine, who is also into… shall we say, under-the-radar business, said he could help me out. I just needed to get out of town for a little while. At the same time, Welby had arrived with promises of all kinds and an offer of a trip to London. So I took it. Big mistake, man. Really big.
UB: But wasn’t Welby only the start of your problems?
AC: Oh man, yeah. Since I met him I’ve been all over the world, and to other worlds if you can believe that. I’ve fought things you people wouldn’t believe. And you know what? You owe me a lot, if only you knew. But I suggest you and everyone who reads this should check out Baxter’s novelisations for more details. Judge for yourself! And it’s not over yet. I’ve actually got a lot still to do.
UB: Such as?
AC: There’s no end of monsters in the universe! It’s a wild —
[At that moment, the room darkened and a rumbling began somewhere up in the far corner of the ceiling. It spread fast. I was hit by a wave of maleficence that wasn’t just in the room, but all through me – in guts, bones, blood…]
UB: What the —?
AC: [Laughing] It’s about time!
[The nausea took on a shape, a gruesome amalgamation of sickness and dread with horns and three eyes — two in the normal place and the other, larger, where its mouth should be. I could see something in that Eye, something human — a person screaming for help — and it was me! The world had become dripping flesh, biliousness, motion-sickness and claws like katana.]
UB: [Shouting over the noise] You’ve got to be kidding me! This a friend of yours?
AC: Hardly! But I was hoping he’d show up if I pretended to drop my guard for a while.
[Alex grabbed me then and tossed me back behind him as the demon or whatever the hell it was came at us.]
AC: Stay down! I’ll deal with It!
[He leapt at the Whatever, rammed into it and forced it back the way it had come. The last thing I saw of them was Alex beating into the creature’s sodden flesh as it screamed in fury (from a mouth that wasn’t even there) and they were both sucked into swirling darkness like flotsam down a whirlpool. They disappeared. Light returned. I rushed forward.]
UB: [Shouting into the void] See you at the launch of the books then?
[In the distance, beyond the wall of my office, echoing from some place I didn’t want to know about, I thought I heard a laugh…]
Postscript: new editions of the Alex Caine books: Bound, Obsidian and Abduction, will be launched at Galaxy Bookshop in Sydney on June 30th. Come along! Who knows, Caine and a bevy of bad-arse monsters might turn up!
- This interview was undertaken by Robert Hood under the auspices of author Alan Baxter.
Alan Baxter is a British-Australian author who writes dark fantasy, horror and sci-fi, rides a motorcycle and loves his dog. He also teaches Kung Fu. He lives among dairy paddocks on the beautiful south coast of NSW, Australia, with his wife, son, dog and cat. He’s the award-winning author of several novels and over sixty short stories and novellas. So far. Read extracts from his novels, a novella and short stories at his website – www.warriorscribe.com – or find him on Twitter @AlanBaxter and Facebook, and feel free to tell him what you think. About anything.