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Behind the Scenes
Eyes of Prey
Eyes of Prey Behind the Scenes
by Roswell Camp
Naming the book
Early in the series, things were still fresh enough that it was (relatively) easy to come up with a title that was appropriate. This is much less the case with the later books, where the titles are all but interchangeable . Since Shadow Prey had settled the question of "Will the title theme be 'Rules' or 'Prey'?" all that remained was to figure out which word to put with 'Prey'.
In this case, that was easy. Bekker's obsession with eyes, while specifically engineered as a "gross out" element, was a perfect idea. The word itself, 'Eyes', is short, punchy, and (in the context of a thriller novel) altogether too visceral . It was perfect. It was, perhaps, the most perfect title in the series .
The original story
This novel had few revisions to it compared to some of the other books . The ending, however, changed dramatically. It didn't change so much in terms of what happened, but more in terms of how things happened. The result was much bleaker too bleak, the publisher said, for mass consumption .
For starters, the "ultraviolence" plotline, wherein Lucas is hounded by Internal Affairs for excessive violence, isn't in the the original draft. Randy Whitcomb isn't in there to get beat up. Lucas doesn't tear Bekker's face up at the end. There's no reason for Lucas to be forced out of the department.
But that's balanced by the lack of any redemption scene at the end. Jennifer and Sarah don't show up. After Lucas turns them away earlier in the book, they're just gone. And with Cassie dead, Lucas is in a very dark place indeed. The guns aren't pulling at him he still has his job but things aren't looking good.
Then Bekker escapes. It's the same method he uses in the opening of Silent Prey, but this time just a few days after the arrest. He escapes from a preliminary hearing, rather than a sensational trial. It makes sense in context.
Bekker's escape leads to the final scene of the book, where Lucas goes to see Daniel, and says that he's going to go after Bekker. It's the only thing driving him at this point. Daniel says that he can't authorize that, and refuses to let Lucas go. So in response, Lucas resigns, specifically to go after Bekker, on his own, sans police or authorization or jurisdiction . It was on that note that the book ended, setting things up for a Lucas-versus-Bekker showdown.
Generally speaking, the Prey series is timeless. Outside the bounds of being thrillers set in the late 20th / early 21st centuries, they do not contain references to specific real-world people or events.
There are exceptions. 9/11 was mentioned a few times (if obliquely) . Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama have been mentioned  and were contemporaneous to when the books were written. Computers get progressively more advanced as cellphones get smaller and more common . But all of those are general trends, and aside from some specific names dropped in the Kidd series, it's hard to pin down a story reliably.
This book has one of the big exceptions. It mentions a specific movie, Sam Raimi's Darkman, from 1990. The problem is that Darkman isn't iconic in the same way Batman is. You could insert a reference to "the latest Batman film" into any novel set in modern times, and it'd work. Darkman is too specific, too timely, and too obscure to really be anything other than the 1990 movie. While there were a few sequels , you couldn't say "the latest Darkman movie" and have people believe it, or even know what it meant.
Worse, it can't even be claimed that it's someone watching an "old" movie, since the fan was a teenager who'd seen it multiple times in theaters. That dates it solidly to 1990, the approximate the time the book was written.
Errors and oddities
1. Eyes of Prey has the pathologist who cuts out eyes. Easy to remember. Winter Prey is easily remembered as the one that takes place in a really harsh winter. Also easy to remember. But Easy? Or Chosen? Hidden? On occasion, the author will call, and ask which book a certain event happens in. When I give him the title, he'll ask which one that is, since even he can't keep track of them .
2. The concept of eyes getting cut with a scalpal is one of the more graphic things in the series. But for the follow-up novel, Silent prey, the Spanish translation has, as the front cover, a picture of it. An icky icky picture.
3. Not that there's any significant competition. You could make a case for Winter Prey, but beyond that the name associations are pretty thin.
4. On the other hand, it had more than others. Sudden Prey, in particular, was all but unchanged from initial to final forms.
5. This judgment too bleak has been given to the author twice, within a year or so of each other. The other too bleak book was his unpublished ghost novel . Both books were written in an especially depressing time of his life, shortly after his divorce. More evidence that real-life events affect what ends up on the pages.
6. The scene was almost generic-movie-stereotypical, with Lucas taking out his badge and dropping it on Daniel's desk. Now, I don't know what the proper procedure for resigning is, but I'm pretty sure that's not it. At least he didn't end up in The Village .
7. This caused a particular problem in Mortal Prey, since 9/11 occurred during the writing of that novel. There's a major scene that requires some rather lax airport security, and it just doesn't work in a post-9/11 world. The solution is that the majority of the book takes place before then . Easy.
8. Nobody has ever complained about the snarky references to Clinton, but I've received letters from people who said that they'd given up on the series forever due to a one-line joke about Bush. Huh.
9. There's a joke about The X-Files that you can tell what season it is based on the size of the cellphones Mulder and Scully use. The show itself included an in-joke to that effect in one of the later seasons, in a flashback episode that shows a younger Mulder using a cellphone the size of an old military radiophone.
10. They were direct-to-video sequels, if I recall. While in some countries, direct-to-video is considered a valid format , in the US it's pretty much the kiss of death .
11. My friends who have read the book get to that scene and ask, "Is that supposed to be you? Wow. It's nothing like you at all. Seriously, nothing."
12. The best titling scheme ever, in my opinion, was used by the sitcom Friends. When the author needs to know which book something happened in, I'll give him the title and then what the title would have been as a Friends episode. So Shadow Prey becomes "The One with the Indians." Hidden Prey becomes "The One with the Russian Spies." And so on.
13. No, the unpublished ghost novel is not on the website anywhere. It's not available for purchase, and can't be downloaded. Don't try searching the website for it, since it's not there .
15. But not all of the book. Most of it's in the summer, and the wedding is October. So 9/11 happens between chapters 25 and 26.
16. In Japan, for instance, direct-to-video is a popular and respected format.
17. Disney actually does pretty well in this area, by contrast, but they're also marketing to a different audience than typical movie studios.
18. No, seriously, it's not online. I do have copies, and I've read it and all that, but putting it on a website is one step too far. Maybe I'll get permission to do so from the author someday, but I can guarantee that it won't be any time soon.
19. "You won't get it!"
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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