A while back I undertook to write The Holy Lance, a thriller about Russia. My four Nick Temple Files are all set during the Cold War, but this new book had to be set in the 21st century. The story at the heart of my The Holy Lance revolves around a number of post-Cold War events, such as the discovery of the remains of Nicholas II and his family. So, I needed a new spy.
Nick Temple was born in 1917, or so it states in one of the early Nick Temple Files. It is unlikely that he would have lived into the 21st century. At a minimum, since he would have been 83 in 2000, he certainly would not have been traversing the globe, chasing down clues leading to a Tsarist plot to take over post-Soviet Russia. And I wasn't willing to go the route of the Bond movie franchise of simply ignoring the established age of my lead character and expecting the audience to do the same (even though the movie version of that franchise has obviously had phenomenal, continued success doing just that). Thus, bringing Chet Brinker to life for a 21st century thriller was abundantly necessary.
As I developed Brinker's character, I tried to be conscious of creating someone who wasn't simply a 21st century version of Nick Temple. Both Brinker and Temple tend to be outsiders willing to buck the system, so to speak. Okay, with that cliche out of the way, their characters begin to diverge. I chose 1917 as Nick Temple's birth year because that's the year John F. Kennedy was born. And in a sense, Temple is cut from the same cloth as men like Kennedy, at least emotionally and ideologically. That birth year also means he was 22 when World War II started in Europe and 24 when Pearl Harbor was bombed. So when the war started, his persona was already well-formed. He wasn't some 18-year old kid joining the military because it was the right thing to do. He was a young man who'd come of age during the Great Depression, and whose mettle was about to be tested in the worst conflagration the world has ever known. He survived, and even thrived. Nick's views on the world, women, and booze were all formed at a time when being anything other than ramrod straight was at least unorthodox, and at worst personally dangerous. The country's confidence at the end of World War II was shaken by the global challenge of Communism in the late 1940s and into the 1950s. And Nick Temple, a hardened realist, understood the Cold War conflict on both the micro and macro levels.
Brinker's backstory is still emerging, and may be further fleshed out in a prequel. The basics of that story reveal he came of age in an era that saw sharp questions about the power and ability of the U.S. to have its way in the world. But old habits, individual and institutional, die hard, and a deep cover clandestine operation gone bad is the most recent formative event in Brinker's career and life. He, like Nick Temple, is a lifer. Unlike Temple, Chet Brinker has virtually no interests, no life, and no social connections outside of the CIA and the world of espionage. There's more than a bit of the nerd about him. And when we meet him in The Holy Lance, his recent long-term downgrade to a document analyst has him a step behind, his timing a bit off, and his skills more than a little rusty. In spite of the hit his career has taken, he never loses his self-deprecating sense of humor, and even comes off at times as less than serious, another point of divergence between Brinker and Temple. That being said, there can be no question about Brinker's courage under fire, a trait that gets tested more than once in The Holy Lance, nor can there be any doubt about his determination to do what it takes when the future of his country, and even the world, may be at stake. Both of those are characteristics that he shares with his fictional predecessor, Nick Temple.
It probably goes without saying that I am exceedingly fond of both of these spies. It's a wonderful thing to be an author and have the freedom to create the sort of characters you'd like to believe are, in reality, tackling with grace, good humor, and great skill some of the toughest assignments of this or any age.