The Story behind the Story of Falcon Down

Spoiler Alert! Don’t read this until after reading Falcon Down!

There is a story behind Falcon Down that some readers might find of interest. Years ago I read and thoroughly enjoyed Louis L’Amour’s epic adventure novel, Last of the Breed. It is a classic L’Amour tale: a captivating outdoor-adventure story, exciting, well-researched, and with well-developed characters. It’s one of those stories you read where you’re really disappointed when it’s over. I did not want to leave Joe Makatozi on the north shore of the Chukchi Peninsula; I wanted to know what happened next.

So about eight years ago I wrote Makatozi’s Revenge (MR), a 200,000 word novel that moved the story forward. I developed a panoply of new characters and new adventures. When I was done writing, I contacted the L’Amour estate, naively thinking that I could obtain non-exclusive rights for a sequel to Last of the Breed (LOTB). In a series of email exchanges with Beau L’Amour, he made it clear that the estate would not permit a sequel to one of L’Amour’s works. Consequently, I abandoned the project even though the manuscript was complete.

I moved on to a new project (Outlander Chronicles: Phoenix), intending Phoenix to be the first of a series (the next one is due out in 2015). But I just could not turn loose of MR. I loved the story, the dialog, the characters I had created. It was a great tale, and it was a shame that it was just gathering dust in the basement.

So I decided to write my own prequel to the story, using my own characters and events. In order to preserve the essential elements of MR, I needed to use five major plot points contained in LOTB.

  • The downing of an Air Force F-16, and the capture of the pilot
  • The Soviet program of capturing scientists to get a leg up on research
  • The F-16 pilot escapes, and makes his way across the Soviet Far East
  • The F-16 pilot winters with an underground community, and falls in love with a girl who later escapes to China
  • The F-16 pilot boards a kayak on the north coast of the Chukchi Peninsula with the intention of paddling to Alaska.

That raised a question: can I do this, morally, ethically, legally, as a writer? I had no wish to dishonor L’Amour, nor to place myself in a position in which I might be accused of a copyright violation, or worse, plagiarism. I would not be using any of his characters nor any of his writing. The execution and ambiance of the two stories is completely different But I was clearly using the five plot points, and that creates its own similarities.

Wanting some clarity on the matter, I contacted a lawyer who specializes in entertainment, intellectual property, copyright law, and the arts, and retained her for a consultation. After examining the issue she explained to me that plot points cannot be copyrighted, and that it was her judgment that I was on solid ground, not only legally but ethically.

The plot points of a story are like the human skeleton. All people possess similarity of form, even though as persons they are very different, one from another. Such is the case with LOTB and Falcon Down. Similar structure, but a very different execution. I hope you enjoy the tale. Current plans for the Falcon Series include these stories:

  • Falcon Down: published in June, 2013.
  • Falcon Rising: published in  December, 2013
  • Falcon Strike: target date is December, 2014