Greetings! My name is Randall Masteller.
First and foremost, I am a fan!
Before I became that fan, I was born on a farm in central South Dakota outside a tiny town called Draper, in 1952. I lived there for the first eight years before moving (well, my parents moved and said I should come with them) to the huge metropolis of Rapid City where I reached adulthood. I would say "grew up" but my wife would have a good case against that statement.
It was in the Rapid days that I became a fan!
I have loved spy adventures since my friend John Moritz and I snuck into the 'm' rated movie "Thunderball" back in 1966. Yes, I know the movie came out in 1965 but we lived in South Dakota and it took a while for major motion pictures to make it there back in the day.
I was 14 at the time and this movie had it all! Action, women, drama, ladies, fighting, girls, nuclear weapons, women, ... I guess I'm repeating myself.
Sean Connery was awesome. The mysterious man petting the white cat while pushing the button to eliminate a cheat. Luscious ladies throwing themselves at the hero. I wanted to be a spy!!!
Three years later, at 17, I joined the Navy to get the adventure I craved. In boot camp, I was told that my aptitude tests clearly showed a tremendous talent with languages. I was to be a Cryptologic Technician, specializing in foreign languages, with a Top Secret clearance. Boy, I was on my way.
Then a year of intensive language training came, followed by months of learning to operate classified equipment. But no training in car chases. No judo or karate. No cyanide pill to swallow in case of capture (well, okay, that I didn't mind skipping). And no beautiful woman even once tried to pry secrets I didn't yet have out of me. As I once joked in a security briefing that I'd not only tell all I knew, I'd make stuff up to keep her happy. Note to others: security people have NO sense of humor.
The next 12 years working for the Naval Security Group, attached to the National Security Agency, were great. I traveled to exotic places, toured wonderful sites, met and became friends for a lifetime with people from all over.
But still no chases, gun fights, knife attacks, bomb defusing, torture (given or taken). And no female foreign agents wanting my body.
Except in the pages of Ian Fleming, Donald Hamilton, Adam Hall, Alistair MacLean, John LeCarre, Graham Greene, Eric Ambler, and scores more. In these priceless pages, I went everywhere and did everything and saved the world a hundred times over and made love to more women than I could count.
When civilian life, and the chance to make a decent salary, called, I answered. The challenges were different and the travel not as much but the love of a good spy novel didn't dimish one bit. I learned of those who had come before my heroes. Authors like Geoffrey Household, Manning Coles, John Creasey, John Buchan, John Sherwood, Mark Corrigan, and others.
As a man in his early 60's now, I find I have few regrets and one heckuva lot to be thankful for. A great wife, three great children, now grown and on their own. And a special room filled to the brim with the thousands of friends I have met over the years.
These friends are not all spies. Many are private investigators or amateur sleuths. Many travel to distant planets or live far in the future or past. A few shoot from the hip and smile when you say that, pardner. They are all good friends.
But my favorites will always be the ones who go behind enemy lines, risking their lives in thankless pursuit of peace or revenge.
I truly don't know if such people really exist. They probably don't. It is fiction, of course. But I know from sad experience that men and women really do risk their lives every day for the security I and my family enjoy.
So maybe somewhere in the midst of the tens of thousands of service men and women, government agents, policemen and firemen, and all the others I forgot to mention ... maybe there are a few who want their vodka martinis shaken, not stirred.