Janson: And there is also a new full-length Destroyer novel coming out which will be the 150th book in the series. Can you tell us more about this landmark book?
Murphy: That book, the End of the World, Destroyer number 150, was sort of a mistake. We hadn’t planned to use it as a numbered book and instead wanted it to be the first book in a new format — Remo and Chiun’s stories from the past, sort of “Tales from the Sacred Scrolls of the House of Sinanju.” But somehow it got mixed up and came out as #150. Chiun has now written an introduction to that book, explaining why it should NOT be number 150 and why it is just another example of the stupidity of the “fat white drunks who produce this mess of bird droppings.” That all said, the book is a good read with some uncredited help from Molly Cochran, a long ago Destroyer ghost, an Edgar award winner, and (dare I say it?) a lady who used to be Mrs. Warren Murphy…(before she wised up.)
Janson: Did you ever think that when you and Richard Sapir created the character of Remo Williams some fifty years ago that you would ever see 150 books in the series?
Murphy: This was 1971, remember, and we were more worried about next Tuesday and how are we going to feed Murphy’s kids. Long term for us meant next Friday. I had just escaped from politics, one step ahead of the U.S. Attorney who wound up indicting a dozen of the politicians I worked with, and Dick was somewhat less than gainfully employed, so we were just trying to scratch out a living. Remember, it took us eight years to get published and it was our good luck that this all happened at just the right time. But it took us a couple of years to realize, “hey, we can make a living at this.” Which was a hoot because that was all either of us, writers our entire lives, had ever wanted to do. The real marvel of more than 150 books is that we could do so many for so long. Remember, Arthur Conan Doyle wrote just a couple of dozen Sherlock Holmes short stories and got so sick of Holmes that he threw him over a waterfall to kill him off. Along the way, Dick and I each started to write other stuff and go off in our own directions and we had figured to end the Destroyer which had for many years just been humming around in the background like a base note, but then we both had young babies and then, goddammit, Dick died and I decided, between one thing and another, that I had to keep the series going.
Janson: The first Destroyer Novel was published in 1971. We’re obviously in a very different political climate today. How has Remo changed over 40 plus years and where do you feel he and Chiun fit in today?
Murphy: The real difference between today and when we started back in the long ago, was that back then we were the only people daring to do right wing stuff. Don’t you remember? Everybody knew this and knew that and knew this and knew that, and all the things were they knew were crap and were wrong….Dick and I wouldn’t sign on, so when the rest of the real Americans decided that they those ideas, from NBC and the NY Times and Walter Cronkite etc., were all crap, Dick and I were already in place, and we reaped some benefits from it. And today, now that we’re back once more in the hands of the zanies, Remo and Chiun fit right in, as if nothing had ever changed. Guns to Mexicans, no budgets passed by the Senate in four years, a platinum trillion dollar coin honoring the latest imbecile…please, spare me again….
Janson: Likewise, CURE was born out the Kennedy Cold War era. How does CURE fit into today’s society and global terrorism?
Murphy: Remo and Chiun live in whatever society is alive in the United States at that time. They’ve been cold warriors, they’ve been battlers against racism, and more frequently fighters against left wing lunacy and I don’t think they’ll ever run out of balloons to bust. On a personal level, Remo has become more accepting of his fate and how he got shanghaied into being the avatar of an Eastern god and he just doesn’t give a damn anymore; he just keeps being the Destroyer because that’s who he is. (But he’s never lost his youthful ability to get real ticked off at bad things and bad people and now he has the capacity to go deal with them.) Chiun meanwhile doesn’t care about anything at all except his personal grandeur. To him, the United States is just a blip on the screen, and if it goes, so what? He’s more interested in getting into show business and not long ago in a novella called Savage Song, he wound up playing drums for a Gagaesque musician.
Remo and Chiun were battling terrorism even before the U.S. government had a name for terrorism— (a name, by the way, that the current government no longer chooses to use.) But to Remo and Chiun, the real name for terrorism is stupid, because scratch a terrorist group and you find underneath the ignorant unwashed would-be warriors…you know, those brave ones who like to kill children, as long as the children are unarmed. Remember, we were writing about terrorists back in the early 70’s, Destroyer book, number 10, i think it is, Terror Squad. Remo and Chiun’s — and the authors — haven’t changed since that time. People who’d rather screw goats than humans should not be taken seriously. The idiots used to, long ago, kind of pretend that Hitler was just a fun-loving Bavarian as long as he wasn’t attacking Communist Russia. The idiots recently have tried to pretend that radical Islam is a religion of peace and luuuuuv, no matter that they behead cartoonists and that women are subjugated and treated as pieces of meat, and that there hasn’t been an idea approved in the Muslim world since the eighth century….they are beneath contempt and we fit right in, us against the morons. (You know this is maybe the longest interview of my life?)
Janson: When the Destroyer was first created, the series had a very different tone in the first two books and dramatically changed in the third book, Chinese Puzzle. What changed between the second and third books to develop Remo into the character we know today?
Murphy: You’re right, but remember our timetable. We set off in 1962 to write a more or less typical adventure story. We even cast Chiun in a walk-on as a karate instructor because this was back in the days before anyone had ever heard of karate. (Except me.) But it took us eight years to get published and then when the publisher wanted another book, Dick and I found out we didn’t really know what we were doing. We turned it out and it was okay but nothing special, so Dick and I conferred and figured out if the publisher ever asked for another copy, we had to do something different from the adventure books that were flooding the marketplace at the time. And thus came the mysticism, the myth, the history, the magic, in short the total brilliant lunatic package that the Destroyer grew into, and when the publisher said I want book three, we gave him Chinese Puzzle and we were off and running. Funny thing is the publisher hated Chinese Puzzle and wanted us to do Executioner ripoffs; we refused and almost quit, but fortunately cooler heads prevailed and we kept going and we’re still here.
Janson: I’ve always felt that one of the great strengths of the Destroyer series is its colorful villains. There were androids, super-soldiers, intelligent computer programs, mad scientists, and of course the Anti-Chiun, Nuihc, to name just a few. As a longtime comic book fan I’ve always felt Remo and Chiun’s villains were “comic book-esque” in their appeal. Did comics have any influence on the creation of these villains?
Murphy: Dick and I weren’t really comic book fans, but let’s face it Remo and Chiun are bigger than life. Chiun’s the most dangerous man in the world and he weighs 85 pounds. But he can climb the side of a building and crush a golf ball into powder. So can Remo. We couldn’t have them fighting some guy who’s really good with a target pistol. That would close on Saturday night. So we had to invent great characters, great villains….and we did…and some of them wound up as big stars in other people’s movies and we didn’t get paid…but am I complaining? Naaaah. Hell, it got the Titanic found, didn’t it?
Janson: HA! It did at that I guess! (Laughter)