John Solomon is a freelance spymaster.
Freelance because he works for himself, often at the behest of this person or that, this country or that, but always with himself as the chooser of assignments.
Spymaster because while he will at times get physically involved in a mission, he is more prone to having his subordinates do the 'heavy lifting' while he takes care of the more cerebral aspects of things.
Solomon's area of expertise is the Middle East and the Eastern side of Africa from the northern side of the Suez Canal to as far south as Mombasa, Kenya, and it is there that he is at home despite being very much still using a Cockney accent. As one man very much in the know puts it early on, "if the Intelligence Department knew as much about this part o' the world as he does, the Foreign Office 'd go crazy."
While Solomon will move from time to time during the lengthy period of our following his adventures, the first time we meet him is in Port Said, Egypt. To do so, take a taxi to the Rue de Cimetieres, walk into the maze of Arab shops you will find there, past small stores and kiosks selling "everything from Turkish coffee to indecent postcards" and finally coming to "a dingy little store with unwashed windows which bore the sign 'John Solomon, Ship's Stores'".
The mention of the apparent poor condition of the store is important because the men we follow entering the establishment, one of whom was less than impressed with the decor, were shocked when moving into the inner region of the place. "The room was large, but walls and floor were covered with rugs- Senna Kilims, deep Kazaks, Sumacs, and old Feraghans in a gorgeous riot of colouring. Small smoking-tables stood about, divans lined the walls, and two immense hookahs stood ready for use." The description goes on to detail a beautiful and fascinating look into the eclectic tastes of its owner.
The first description we have of Solomon himself talks of "a little plump man who wore a tarboosh jauntily cocked over one ear". It tells of "a wisp of grey hair [that] protruded from the edges of the tarboosh" and "a pair of very wide, and very innocent blue eyes, the only salient feature of a featureless face". More telling is another mention of those eyes saying, "they spook large of hidden secrets and unwritten lore" though incongruous on the face of a "fat little man [who] was ridiculous enough."
Another later description of Solomon says "pudgy would be a better word than the flat and misleading 'fat'" for it indicates someone "filled to a comfortable completeness" and "that he is not too fat to move about but just enough so to be dignified on occasion". Interestingly, a comment on Solomon said that "while his face was cheerful enough, it was as totally devoid of expression as a face can be and still remain a face". It concluded its appraisal by saying Solomon was "a short, little man, not more than five feet six" contentedly smoking a short clay pipe.
Solomon is the star of this series without a doubt but strangely he is usually not the star of any particular adventure. He is normally the man who is appealed to for help when things have gone wrong or he is the man coming up with the plan and leaving it to a younger, fitter man to carry out the instructions. Whichever the case, he is a vital force somewhere along the line.
- When interrupted with a question, Solomon chides, "Questions, sir? A man as asks too much gets less'n 'e asks, I says; it ain't in 'uman nature."
- When asked whether something was one way or another, he replies, "I don't say nothing whatsoever, which is the secret of success, says I."