After Prince of Wolves, Pathfinder Tales editor James Sutter asked me to pitch another novel. At first I was torn between writing a novel featuring Azra from Prince of Wolves or continuing the story of Radovan & the Count. At that time, James was game for pitches featuring either. Ultimately, I decided it was better to build on the established duo and came up with a few ideas.
I’ll write about Master of Devils next time, but because I love not only Chinese but also Japanese films, I also pitched a story for the Jade Regent Adventure Path. Because novels are due much earlier than the fiction for Adventure Paths, I began “Husks” soon after finishing Master of Devils, but the novella takes place before the novel.
While the novel is set in Golarion’s version of China, or a small part of it, “Husks” is set in Minkai, a fantasy version of Japan. And whereas “every Kung Fu movie I ever saw” was the inspiration for the novel, “Husks” draws more from samurai and Yakuza movies and TV shows.
While I love the films of Akira Kurosawa, his samurai epics were not actually a principal inspiration for the story. However, the last film produced from one of his screenplays, The Sea is Watching, certainly influenced my vision of the Oda and its prositutes. Even more, the films of Yôji Yamada influenced my idea of a samurai with a certain grubby romance about him. For some of the more horrific moments in the story, images from contemporary Japanese horror and crime films were definitely in mind.
One scene inspired by a Chinese movie did slip into the gambling house scene, but since it was so close to scenes I’d seen in Zatoichi films, I didn’t think it’d feel out of place. Speaking of Zatoichi films, if you’ve never seen one, do something about that right away. The remake with Beat Takeshi is fun, but you want to go back to the originals starting with The Tale of Zatoichi.
After the alternating points-of-view of Prince of Wolves, and knowing I’d used the same device in Master of Devils, I decided to make Radovan the sole narrator again, as I had in “Hell’s Pawns.” His voice had evolved in Prince of Wolves and “The Lost Pathfinder,” as I intentionally limited his vocabulary and made him a little coarser for stronger contrast with Varian’s narration. But his voice in “Husks” is pretty much what it remains afterward.
Another reason I stuck to Radovan was because it was another mystery, and since I’m not a genius, I wanted to portray Varian’s deductions through the eyes of his less brilliant assistant. Also, since Varian is a worldly fellow but Radovan a newcomer to Mikai and its foreign customs, sticking to his POV gave me the opportunity to show him as a fish out of water.
Because “Husks” is a murder mystery, it’s tough to talk too much about the supporting cast without giving away the ending. Suffice to say that “Husks” is entirely independent of Master of Devils; you don’t need to read one to appreciate the other, but if you do read them both, you can see how they fit together chronologically. By the end, it’s no shock that Radovan & the Count continue their journey to mainland Tian Xia.