Friday, 27 February 2015

Scribble Creatures Spotlight: Lucifer Box

Kicking off last month with Return to Oz, a new regular feature on this blog will look at personal favourites - books, fictional characters, films ETC - which I think go unfortunately under-appreciated in the big wide world. This month, we turn to the exploits of a rather fiendish fellow...

Secret agents are going through something of a renaissance at the moment. On TV, there are shows like Marvel's Agent Carter and Toby Whithouse's The Game and the cinema is chock-a-block with retro, cool spies, such as those in Kingsman and The Man from UNCLE. Something tells me, however, that one retro secret agent you won't be seeing on screen any time soon is Mark Gatiss' debonair, if decadent, Lucifer Box.

Appearing in three novels by the Doctor Who and Sherlock writer, Lucifer Box is apparently a dandified artist - an early 20th century playboy who resides in No 9 Downing Street ('someone's got to live there'). In fact, Lucifer is the top agent of the Royal Academy, the front for Britain's Secret Service.
On the face of it, what with Gatiss being a big name on telly, Lucifer Box's stories seem perfect for an adaptation for a mainstream audience. However, his adventures are far wackier and more eccentric than the average spy thriller. And, even in 2015, possibly too risqué. Lucifer himself, as he carefully puts it, 'travels' on both 'the number 38 bus and the 19.' If you can imagine Captain Jack Harkness crossed with Oscar Wilde you have Lucifer in a nutshell.

Filled to the brim with wit and Gatiss' rich, descriptive writing style, the Box books are, as you would expect, something of a Bond pastiche but only to a certain degree. Unlike many perennial heroes, Lucifer Box ages, with each instalment moving the story forward several decades. The first sees a young Box in Edwardian times, the second a middle-aged Box in the 20s and the finale of the trilogy has Box, now an elder statesman, investigating one final case in the 50s. As such, Gatiss is allowed to unleash a tirade of pastiches, going from Edwardian garden party stories to the pulpy horrors of the 20s and 30s to the spy novels of John Le Carre and Ian Fleming. The books may be, as Gatiss puts it, 'bits of fluff' but that doesn't stop them from being an incredibly quotable, memorable and just genuinely enjoyable novel series.

So while Lucifer Box may deserve to rub shoulders (and probably more, knowing him) with the likes of James Bond and Sherlock Holmes in the Hall of Famous Heroes, I can't see it happening. Still, with a fine trilogy of novels out there as it is, perhaps it is better that way. After all, some Boxes are best left unopened.

The Books

The Vesuvius Club

Lucifer is sent to investigate the disappearance of a number of eminent scientists in Naples - just when he has started courting the lovely Bella Pok. However, aided by his new valet Charlie Jackpot, Lucifer realises he has bigger problems on his finely-manicured hands when he uncovers the sinister machinations of the Vesuvius Club. Can Lucifer use his artistic license to kill to save the planet from a calamity of volcanic proportions?

The Devil in Amber

Lucifer, now feeling his age, is sent to New York to observe the suspicious activities of fascist leader Olympus Mons - but is framed for murder in the process. As resilient as ever, Lucifer escapes to Norfolk where he uncovers a plot to rule the world more diabolical than any he has faced. Is it possible for Lucifer, saviour of the world, to beat Lucifer, prince of darkness?
 Black Butterfly

An elderly Lucifer finds himself on his final case when pillars of the establishment keep dying bizarre deaths. The mystery takes him from Soho to Istanbul to Jamaica and back into battle with an old enemy - and into the path of the deadly assassin, Kingdom Kum. Will Lucifer, now well past his prime, survive an embrace by the lethal wings of the Black Butterfly?

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