The 4th in the Mongo series, the 1st volume in what I have come to
think of as "The Valhalla Trilogy" (with Two Songs This
Archangel Sings and The Cold Smell of Sacred Stone).
There was a long hiatus between An Affair of Sorcerers and
The Beasts of Valhalla. After Affair- I was invited by
another publisher to come over to his publishing house, the
stipulation being that I write a "mainstream thriller," not
a Mongo. When asked what I would want as an advance, I replied,
"enough to free me from teaching" (I had spent 17 years as a
Special Education teacher, instructing the educable mentally
retarded). The result was Turn Loose The Dragon. The publishing
industry was booming then, and indeed I was given enough of an
advance to quit teaching and begin writing full time. The novel was to
be published in both hardcover and paperback, and receive major
promotion. The Editor In Chief was to be my editor. Well, wasn't I the
Almost immediately after I received my advance (on the strength of a
proposal) and began the novel, the industry took a nosedive. The
Editor In Chief was fired, plans to start a hardcover house were
scrapped, and Dragons became an "orphan." It was
eventually published as an original paperback, with no promotion, and,
like most orphans, it dropped through the cracks like a stone. I
ran out of money, and once again had to seek gainful employment. I
considered going back to teaching to be a psychological defeat; I
wanted to remain a "player," so I took a job as a night
security guard so that I would have time to write and do writing
business during the day.
After jumping my first publisher's ship, I did not feel I would be
welcome there any longer. Still, it was during this time that the
notion for Beasts- began to form. I had always loved Tolkien's
Lord of the Rings, and Wagner's great "Ring" tetralogy.
I loved fantasy, dwarfs were a staple of fantasy, and I had a dwarf.
So far, so good. I could come up with giants, etc. from his time in
the circus. I could send the brothers on a Grand Quest where the fate
of the world hung in the balance. I could draw all sorts of
parallels, except one: there could be no magic, since Mongo lived in
the real world. I solved this problem by having cutting-edge science
take the place of magic, and my Evil Sorcerer was a vintage variety
I was having one hell of a good time. This, I decided, was going to be
unlike any detective novel ever written. Better still, following the
traditions of fantasy literature and the operas, I would write not one
but four interconnected books. Sure I was.
I managed to come up with a proposal for the four books, and every
editor my agent showed it to said, "What the hell is
this?" Undeterred, I pressed on and actually wrote Book One,
which I called "Game Of Beasts," to be presented along with
the proposal. Every editor my agent showed Book One and the proposal
to said, "What the hell is this?" Oh, well. The whole thing
went into my trunk, I continued trudging around a rock-and-roll motel
from 11 P.M. to 7 A.M., and eventually came up with something else
that did sell.
One day my agent was having lunch with an editor who, it turned out,
was a Mongo fan. The editor asked what was up with me and Mongo. My
agent, who by this time didn't know, said he would set up a luncheon
appointment. I took Book One and the proposal with me into New York,
gave it to the editor. A few weeks later I received a memo saying, in
effect, that this was the strangest detective novel he had ever read,
but he liked it and was going to pass it on to the editorial board.
Somewhat to my astonishment, I was offered a contract. The four
separate novels I had envisioned would have to be compressed into one
book, but that was fine with me. I was delirious.
It was with the publication of The Beasts of Valhalla that the
Fredericksons' lives and careers, along with my life and career, began
to change drastically.