30 December 2013 ~ 0 Comments

Guest Post by Kim “Howard” Johnson, author The Last of the Time Police (The Time Authority, Book One)

Can you tell us about yourself?

When I was young, I ran away to join the circus…but this was a flying circus, and it was run by Monty Python. My life has never been the same.

Kim-Howard-JohnsonI grew up in small-town Illinois, and I seemed to have my life laid out for me—working as a radio journalist in a succession of Midwestern radio stations and newspapers—but life, and Monty Python, had other plans. I ran off to Tunisia when they were filming Monty Python’s Life of Brian, and I lived and worked with them during the shooting. Of course today it would be called stalking, but back then, I was simply an uber-fan who crossed over. And as a result, I eventually wrote several books on the subject. After that, I ended up moving to Chicago and lived there for a dozen years. I studied with improvisation legend Del Close during the time when the Improv Olympic (now the iO) was getting under way. And as a result, I eventually wrote a couple of books on that subject. Apparently, someone once told me to write about what I knew, and I believed them.

How long have you been writing?

I never enjoyed writing in school because it always seemed too much like work. Little did I know. The first thing I ever got paid for writing was an interview that I did with “Curly Joe” DeRita, the last member of The Three Stooges. Eventually, I became a part-time film journalist, largely for Starlog and Fangoria magazines. I did dozens and dozens of interviews and set visits with SF, fantasy, and horror stars. My first set visit was for Ron Howard’s Cocoon, interviewing the cast and crew. I took an extended trip to Europe and visited the sets of a James Bond film (Octopussy), a Superman film (Superman IV), and a horror film (House of the Long Shadows). Sometimes the films were great, sometimes not-so-good, but the experiences will last a lifetime. Walking through a soundstage of an Indian castle filled with elephants and scantily-clad Bond girls, chatting with Chris Reeve and lunching at an English country pub with Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, and Vincent Price—well, my wife still envies me for the latter. It was a little surreal being on the set of Superman Returns in Sydney, interviewing Brandon Routh (in full Superman costume!), and being questioned by nearly everyone about being on the set of a Chris Reeve Superman film!

By the way, I just re-read the previous paragraph, and am completely embarrassed by all of the name-dropping (and I haven’t even mentioned my new book yet). I hope no one is allergic. Spoiler warning—there is still a little more to come.

Tell us about your latest book.

The Last of the Time Police (The Time Authority Book One) and the second part of the story, The Return of the Time Police (The Time Authority Book Two), is my first solo fiction. It’s a Pythonesque adventure about the two least competent members of the Time Authority, which is charged with correcting disruptions to the established Time Line. Stan and Jack are sent to the past to pick up a candy bar wrapper, but in the process, they accidentally transport Leonardo DaVinci to Victorian England, where the government puts him to work. The result is a Chronological Anomaly that threatens to wipe out all reality.

Where did you come up with the idea for your latest book?

When I was mulling ideas for The Last of the Time Police, I recalled that back in the 1970s, Terry Gilliam had showed me some pictures of an alternative vision of Victorian London—it was steampunk before anyone had ever heard of the word. That certainly informed my story.

I was also inspired, in part, by Douglas Adams and The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. I knew Douglas—we never became close friends, but I knew him through the Pythons. My wife Laurie and I went to see my Python pal Terry Jones, who was doing a book signing in Chicago many years ago with Douglas. The four of us went out for dinner and drinks afterward, and had to be scolded by the management more than once because we were getting too loud and boisterous.

Then, several years later, we were living in Santa Barbara when I was working for John Cleese. Douglas had likewise moved out to Santa Barbara, and we re-connected. I had only been there a few months, when I got the news that Douglas had passed away, much too young. Very sad. But Douglas and Hitchhikers Guide certainly had a lot to do with the tone of The Last of the Time Police.

Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from the real world?

The Last of the Time Police (and The Return of the Time Police) mixes fictional characters with real-life historical personages. Leonardo DaVinci and Benjamin Franklin have just as big a role in the story as Sam and Jack, and I loved being able to write them.

The most interesting real-life character, one that almost no one has heard of, is undoubtedly Samuel Warner. He invented the torpedo, but the mystery of his death inspired my story and several of my characters. In London’s Brompton Cemetery, there is a mysterious mausoleum that some people believe is actually a time machine. Google it. Go ahead, I’ll wait. It’s an odd structure built by Warner and Egyptologist Joseph Bonomi for a Victorian spinster and her daughters. I discovered their story early on in the writing, and they all became characters in my book.

What else have you written?

I’ve written dozens, possibly hundreds of magazine articles. I’ve written non-fiction (The First 280 Years of Monty Python), I’ve written biography (The Funniest One in the Room), I’ve written memoirs (Monty Python’s Tunisian Holiday, about my life on the set of Monty Python’s Life of Brian in Tunisia), co-written an improvisational manual (Truth in Comedy), a graphic novel (Superman: True Brit) and other comic books.

I’ve also co-written a YA novel (The Dare Club: Nita) with my wife, Laurie Bradach, which was great fun. We had to create a whole new world of characters and put them in as much danger as possible. We’ve had so much fun doing it that we’ve decided to turn it into a series.

What are you currently working on?

I’m researching a history of The Committee, the legendary West Coast improvisational group, which is slowly turning into a history of the ‘60s. As one of them told me, “The Sixties walked through our door”—and he was absolutely right. Just about every well-known music and counter-cultural figure from that era crossed paths with The Committee.

And as soon as I finish that, I’ll be starting on the third Time Authority book. I have to figure out an impossible situation for them, a problem with no solution. Once I can do that, I’ll throw them in up to their necks and see where we go from there!

Description:
The Last of the Time Police: The Time Authority Book OneThe-Last-of-the-Time-PoliceIt’s “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” meets “Time Bandits” in this action-packed science fiction adventure.Stan and Jack are the last remaining members of the Time Authority, a government unit formed to correct disruptions to the established Time Line. Although time travel has been officially outlawed, Stan and Jack must make a quick time hop to 16th Century France to clean up some of their careless littering.

Unbeknownst to them, however, Leonardo DaVinci stows away and tumbles out (along with the operating manual for the time machine) in 18th Century England. This disruption is discovered by the Time Authority, as it creates a Chronological Anomaly that begins advancing toward the future and threatens to wipe out all reality. The military and civilian leaders clash before agreeing on a scheme to build one final time machine and send Corporal Spumoni back to correct the Time Line, even though it may ruin any chance of Stan and Jack returning home.

Stan and Jack must crash-land their time machine in 1848, where they discover, due to DaVinci’s influence, a futuristic Victorian England. After nearly colliding with Maggie Wells on her flying machine, she helps them hide their broken Time Hopper. Stan and Jack realize their only hope to fix their machine is to recover the operating manual, if it still even exists. But Special Services agents, led by Maggie’s former boyfriend James Burton, are constantly searching for them. And Jack’s growing attraction for Maggie is tempered by the thought that she could be his great-great-great-great-grandmother.

Meanwhile, in 1768, DaVinci has become a favorite of King George III of England. His only rival is Benjamin Franklin. Jealous, with the help of Lord Frederick North, DaVinci frames Franklin for the theft of his own notebooks. But when DaVinci learns Britain’s plans for his own war machines, he realizes he must work with Franklin to stop Britain’s domination of the globe.

The Return of The Time Police: The Time Authority Book Two

The-Return-of-the-Time-PoliceIn this action-packed sequel to “The Last of the Time Police,” Stan and Jack must make a quick time hop to 16th Century France to clean up some of their careless littering.

But stowaway Leonardo DaVinci tumbles out (along with the operating manual for the time machine) in 18th Century England, setting off a Chronological Anomaly that threatens to wipe out all reality.

Stan and Jack crash-land their time machine in 1848, where they discover, due to DaVinci’s influence, a futuristic Victorian England. After nearly colliding with Maggie Wells on her flying machine, she helps them hide their broken Time Hopper.

But Stan and Jack realize their only hope to fix their machine is to recover the operating manual, and Special Services agents, led by Maggie’s former boyfriend James Burton, are constantly searching for them. And Jack’s growing attraction for Maggie is tempered by the thought that she could be his great-great-great-great-grandmother.

Meanwhile, inventor Sam Warner and his wife Sarah have discovered the operating manual for the time machine in a trunk of his grandfather’s things. When Sam coincidentally ends up with the power crystal from Stan and Jack’s machine, and sets about converting an old carriage into his own time machine, they agree to pool their resources.

The unlikely partners must find a way to rescue DaVinci and Benjamin Franklin in the previous century, but when they are captured while trying to recover the Time Carriage, they face execution at the Tower of London. Can the group escape in time to find DaVinci, prevent the destruction of our Timeline, and help Franklin invent the game of golf?

And if they succeed, will they be wiped out of existence?

It’s “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” meets “Time Bandits” in this action-packed science fiction adventure.

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