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Behind the Scenes
Shadow Prey Behind the Scenes
by Roswell Camp
Naming the book
This was the last book to get distinctive names on the disk labels. After this book, the author just labeled the floppy disks with the number of the book, and not with any particular name. Eyes of Prey disks got a "3", Silent Prey got "4", and so on . This was also the final novel to be written on the Amiga. After this, the author switched to PC. More recently, he switched to Mac, but that's a discussion for a different page .
So do these disk labels give a better indication of a title than the disks for the previous novels? Let's take a look:
Well, they do mention "Crow", so maybe that could be worked in. It wasn't of course, but the potential was there .
The author talked to the editor, and the editor said that they wanted a title that shared a "theme" with Rules of Prey. Since that was the only other novel in the series, the title theme wasn't really established. There were two clear ways it could go: "Rules" or "Prey". The author chose the wrong one.
The initial draft of the novel (which I'll discuss in more detail below) was titled Rules of Winter, after the name of the main bad guy, Winter Love, and after the fact that it takes place in a brutally cold winter . When the book was revised, Winter Love got changed to Shadow Love, and the book's title went from Rules of Winter to Shadow Prey.
I don't believe the author had any say in the Winter / Shadow change. It's one of those publishing house decisions that just happens. I suspect it happens more than the general public knows.
The original story
Out of all of the novels, this one had the greatest number of revisions to it. Rules of Prey had the ending changed. The Fool's Run kept the same story even though many of the specifics were altered. This book didn't even keep its basic framework. It went from being a social commentary / social justice novel to an out-and-out revenge thriller. After the halfway point , the original and final versions look nothing alike.
Most of the setup remains the same: the Crows and their allies kill a progression of targets who have had negative effects on the various Indian tribes . The targets escalate in each case, with the final one being a raid on a temporary FBI operations center. In that raid, they kill everyone there. The secretaries, the analysts, and some higher-ups. Del, who happens to be there, is killed as well. The Crows and their allies all die in the firefight, with the exception of one of the Crow brothers, who escapes to meet his own end.
In this version, they're doing what they're doing as a way of calling attention to the problems the Indian nations are facing under the US goverment. They use terrorist tactics because they view the US as using the same on them. They are not doing it to get revenge on a particular person. They're doing it to get revenge on an entire institution, and to gain sympathy for their cause.
A big problem with this approach is that, while the Crows have valid points and grudges, terrorist actions of the sort they take are not the kind of thing that would get them sympathy. In the FBI office raid, a number of the people there are non-agent employees, staffers who have done absoutely nothing wrong. Del, who is only there to relay information, isn't in the FBI at all. He doesn't even shoot back, his last words being "Wait..."
And that leads to a discussion that really bogs down a thriller: when does someone cross the line from being activist to being terrorist? When they kill innocents? When they kill anybody? When they break a law? Where do you draw the line? For the modern reading public, the bad guys need to be bad. They can have texture, they can have depth, but for a thriller to work, you can't put forth any serious argument in their favor .
So the book changed. Shadow Love was added as a psychotic element: the one who was willing to do outright terrorist actions for their cause. Even the Crows don't think he's really a good sort. And the Crows mission went from being against anti-Indian institutions to being a revenge trip against the FBI director for personal reasons .
This version, the final one, still had many of the same problems. The Crows (renamed Sam and Aaron) weren't bad enough. They were too rational about what they were doing and why. As I mentioned before, you can't get away with that in a thriller. To this day, Shadow Prey is the fan-least-favorite of the series .
There were other, smaller changes as well.
In the original version, Sam and Aaron Crow were Spiritual and Practical Crow. The names were changed when someone said that Spiritual Crow and Practical Crow were too stereotypical. There's still a nod to the original names in Chapter 3 (page 30 of the US paperback).
Also changed: one of the Crow brothers was dying from a degenerative nerve disease . He had probably about a year or less left, and that gave what they were doing a deadline. That was removed, in favor of having the events evolve naturally.
Finally, the ending was odd, and feels like soemthing from Winter Prey, although that book came out three years after this one. After the FBI raid, one of the Crows gets away and flees north, attempting to get to Canada. He almost gets there, getting as far as Grand Portage, which is right at the Minnesota / Canada border. He doesn't manage to get away: He's lost his car, he's stuck in a hellish blizzard, he's got no survival gear.
When the morning comes, the cops find him frozen actually covered with a thin layer of ice to the Witch Tree, an important symbolic site for the Indians up there . What he's done is turn his death into the start of some kind of legend.
That had to be taken out, of course. No place for it in a crime thriller.
I've received email about the book from a large number of Indians, and their opinions generally fall into one of two camps.
The first, which make up probably about two thirds of the responses, are very much in favor of the book. They say that the author obviously has had experience with real Indian issues and problems, and that he describes their plight with unexpected sympathy and accuracy. One reader says:
The book demonizes Indian activism a bit, but overall the picture is the sort of balanced view that is likely to offend true believers on both sides. An excellent book, informed about its politics and the realities of urban Indian life, and with no axe to grind.
The remaining third of the emails are from what therefore must be offended "true believers". Typically they'll suggest that the author should join Aryan Nation or the KKK if he isn't a member already, since it's obvious that he's an Indian-hating racist of the worst sort, and one who has never bothered to study the culture he has portrayed as hopelessly evil. I usually don't respond to those emails.
Errors and oddities
1. He didn't always get the numbers right, however. Chosen Prey was labeled "13" despite it neither being the thirteenth Prey novel nor his thirteenth novel overall .
2. I just don't know at this point where I'll end up talking about it. It doesn't directly affect any of the books, although it may have been responsible for the iPod subplot in Broken Prey. But, as many people have pointed out, iPods are now distinct from Macs. For the most part, anyway.
3. Crows of Prey wouldn't be bad, but it strongly implies Birds of Prey, which is better. Unfortunately, that title has been used far too much .
4. Where the author preferred Rules of Winter, I was in favor of Winter Prey. While my title suggestion wasn't used for this book, it did eventually get used later .
5. Or, to be strictly accurate, after the 2/3 point. Or so.
6. I really dislike the term "Indian", since it's from a centuries-old mistake. Unfortunately, I also dislike "Native American" and more recently "North American Aborigine". The best way which isn't really the best, but whatever would be to refer to all of the tribes individually. Ojibwa is not Cree is not Seminole is not Apache, but they all get lumped into the category "Indian". Alas, doing so would be unweildy and in many cases impossible. So I'm falling back on the generic, if inaccurate, term "Indian" because it's most commonly recognized .
7. And it's not just thrillers. I'm going get political for a moment , and say that this is the exact mentality that has changed "Well, it's actually a very complex issue that has its roots in problems centuries old..." into "Terrorists hate us for our freedom."
8. Although they're still against the aforementioned institutions. It just got turned down a notch.
9. It actually is tied with Easy Prey for fan-least-favorite. But both books have very strong support from some fans, albeit for wildly different reasons.
10. It was Amyotropic Lateral Sclerosis, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. It's the same thing that Stephen Hawking has.
11. Important symbolic site and tourist attraction. Funny how that always seems to happen.
12. It's doubly odd when you consider that the author spent most of a year in South America , and spoke at least some Spanish. He's lost almost all of it, of course, but still...
13. A few of the Kidd novels have been translated into German, and include a note that they were originally published under the pseudonym "John Camp". Huh.
14. He's not the only person to make this mistake. Whenever a new Prey book comes out, some newspaper will say that it's such-and-such a number in the series, and be off by one. Usually it's one behind Broken Prey got called the fifteenth book in the series by a few sources but sometimes it'll actually be ahead, as if there's an extra book in there we don't know about .
15. Dead Watch was originally going to be called Night Watch. The only problem is that there are too many books with that name already, and it'd make the third by the author to have "Night" in the title. So it got changed.
17. It's hard to care about accuracy and fludity and sensitivity in language. At least, simultaneously. I still care about all three issues, but usually something's gotta give .
18. Usually doing so is a big mistake. I doubt this will be an exception.
19. No, I don't know when. I'll ask him sometime. It was before he was in the army though.
20. There's a possible explanation for the extra-book phenomenon. In the books that have a list-of-books in them, and in which the Kidd series has been segregated out, usually The Night Crew is still between Sudden Prey and Secret Prey. If you just counted the items in the list, and assumed they were all Prey-related, you'd end up with one more book than there really is.
22. For me, it's usually fluidity, followed by sensitivity. Accuracy is paramount. But for something like this, accuracy and sensitivty are giving way in favor of fluidity. If you go back and replace "Indian" with "North American Aborigine", it's substantially harder to read.
27 February 2020
The Prey series, the Virgil Flowers series, the Kidd series, The Singular Menace, The Night Crew, Dead Watch, The Eye and the Heart: The Watercolors of John Stuart Ingle, and Plastic Surgery: The Kindest Cut are copyrighted by John Sandford. All excerpts are used with permission.
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