[Editor’s note: I don’t hear from Gabriel Hunt frequently—maybe once or twice a year, and always for just a few minutes at a time. He always sounds like he’s out of breath when he calls, and I can usually hear sounds of shouting in the background, usually in a language I don’t speak. But one day earlier this year, when I got into the office, I found a letter waiting for me in my mailbox. An old-fashioned blue-and-white airmail envelope with postage from New Zealand; and inside, a two-page, handwritten missive from the man himself. I pass it along to you unedited.—CHARLES ARDAI]
Dear Charles –
Apologies for the long silence! I didn’t mean to worry you. Thank you for the advance copies of CRADLE OF FEAR, which just made it to me here. You did a nice job with that one, and Orbik’s cover is spectacular. (Next time, though, could he make my jaw just a bit smaller? I don’t look quite that much like Bruce Campbell, do I?)
You asked where I’ve been. Always a difficult question to answer, but this time more even that usual. You see, I’ve spent the last little while in Antarctica. Yes: Antarctica. Yes, it was cold. And windy as hell. What was I doing there, you ask. Well.
Have you ever heard of Dr. Lawrence Silver? Don’t feel bad if you haven’t; I hadn’t either. But Michael had. (Michael has heard of every academic there is. When we were kids, he used to memorize the publication orders in Nature and Science the way some kids teach themselves baseball statistics.) Anyway: Dr. Silver. Apparently one of the leading climatologists of the last fifty years, with a specialty in ice formations and their impact on global climate change. Which explains what he was doing conducting research at the South Pole. What it doesn’t explain is how and why he went missing. This was a careful man, and careful men don’t just radio in cryptic messages and then vanish out on the ice.
But this one did, according to his daughter, Velda, who came to the Foundation’s offices looking for help. Michael didn’t want me to go with her, but Charles…you would have gone, too. Well, maybe not you. You’re like Michael, you catch a cold just stepping outside your office. But what did he expect me to do? A woman tells me about an expedition to the South Pole to find and rescue her missing father…what was I supposed to tell her? No? You go find him yourself, honey—pack warm? Not a chance.
She brought a copy of his last transmission, for heaven’s sake. She played it for us in Michael’s office. And the man claimed to have found trees. Trees! In Antarctica! Where nothing grows, Charles—nothing. And Dr. Silver was not the sort to just make things up. Now, he might have been hallucinating—that was Michael’s theory. But…I had to find out.
And I did find out.
And I have to tell you…trees in Antarctica were the least of what we found.
I got Rue Aparecido to come with me—you remember her, right? Brazilian, I introduced the two of you at that party downtown. She kept hitting on you till she found out you were married (and maybe after; she generally doesn’t let little things like that stop her). She’d been on the ice before, and she can pilot anything that’s got the power of locomotion. If it’s got wings, she can fly it; if it’s got wheels she can drive it. And Millie—you haven’t met him, full name’s Maximillian Ventrose, Jr., but it’s ‘Millie’ to his friends, and if you’d ever seen him you’d know you very much want to be his friend rather than his enemy. Let’s just put it this way: each of his fists is roughly the size of Rue’s head. Good man to have around when you’re going into an unknown area. (But Gabriel, you’re wondering: What is there to punch down at the South Pole? Penguins? It’s a fair question. But I had a feeling we might run into something a bit more dangerous than penguins. And we did. Good lord, did we ever.)
I wish I could tell you more, Charles—but right now I have to run. I’ve already stayed here a bit longer than I should have and there are some men coming who don’t exactly have my best interests at heart. I’ve booked transport on a freighter leaving Onehunga in an hour and I’d better get over there before they show up. But I’ll post this now and you’ll be getting a full manuscript in the mail in a few days from Christa Faust—she was kind enough to fly down here and spend a few days listening to the whole story. She’s written it up in book form and given it the title HUNT BEYOND THE FROZEN FIRE—a bit lurid, I admit, but I trust Christa, she knows what readers want. We were both wondering if you might arrange to have it published, in the same line as CRADLE OF FEAR and WELL OF ETERNITY, etc. (I just realized: all the titles are a bit lurid. How does that happen? My travels may not be quite as dry and uneventful as Michael’s lecture tours, but it’s not like I spend all my time being chased through torchlit caverns and dodging swords. Yes, some of the time. But who doesn’t?)
Anyway: do read HUNT BEYOND THE FROZEN FIRE and let me know what you think. I swear, Charles, every word of it is true. Though I’m afraid that Christa may have gotten a bit carried away on page 149.
Off I go,
[Editor’s note: HUNT BEYOND THE FROZEN FIRE will be in bookstores on March 30. You can judge for yourself whether you believe every word of it is true. I admit I’m skeptical. But I’ve been wrong before.]
A world-renowned traveler, explorer, and finder of lost artifacts, GABRIEL HUNT is co-chairman (with his brother, Michael) of the New York-based Hunt Foundation, backers of numerous scientific and research expeditions across the globe. He has authored or co-authored more than a dozen books and has been nominated twice for the Peaburg Prize for photography.
CHARLES ARDAI is the Edgar and Shamus Award winning author of novels such as Fifty-To-One, Little Girl Lost, and Songs of Innocence as well as founder and editor of Hard Case Crime and its companion series, The Adventures of Gabriel Hunt. In a previous life, he created the Internet service Juno.