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Glossary and Character Taxonomy Breakdown by Country of Origin Bibliography Table of Contents The Best of the Encyclopedia
Gray, Colin. Colin Gray was created by Mark Channing and appeared in four novels from 1933 to 1937, beginning with King Cobra.
Colin Gray is an Afghani Fighter. He is a tough, cunning Brevet-Major in the British Secret Service and the winner of the Victoria's Cross. He is active in India, Tibet, and Afghanistan, fighting the enemies of the Empire. He is a hard piece of work, having worked for Crown and Country in the Congo as well as Central Asia. He was given the nickname "Zero" by the North-West Frontier Army for his lack of external emotion and the cool and masterful way with which he deals with all crises. In his first novel he takes on the "Veiled Man," who is controlling a group of "Yanistani" warriors (Yanistan being "far beyond the north-west Frontiers of India") and using them, and the dreaded local bandit-hero Alam Khan (a.k.a. "King Cobra"), to plot a war against the British. The Veiled Man plans to declare a jihad and slaughter the Hindus of India. In this he will be aided by a million Mongols, led by Khoon, the descendant of Genghis Khan, and the descendants of Prester John who are holed up in an underground stronghold beneath the Himalayas. Luckily for the Empire, Gray is on the case, and after the requisite number of adventures, captures, and fights he succeeds in stopping the Veiled Man and Alam Khan.
In his second novel Gray is sent to Tibet to stop an outlaw who plans to overthrow the Dalai Lama and take over Tibet. Gray succeeds, but not until speaking with a resurrected corpse and dealing with a race of sightless troglodytes who have lived for generations inside a huge, hollow mountain and who worship a huge white python who is in turn commanded by the gorgeous priestess Gynia. In the third novel Gray investigates a previously-unscalable Himalayan mountain inhabited by ape-men and a Mad Scientist creating a poison gas. And in the fourth novel Gray again battles Khoon, now the leader of a global crime syndicate, the Servants of Genghis Khan.
Gray is assisted by his love interest, Piers Bryan, a crack pilot–she is the "World's Most Famous Air-Girl.” He is also helped by Samdad Chiemba, an exiled lama whose occult powers enable him to grant Colin visions. Samdad is a "Follower of the Way" and the "spiritual head of a hundred million Hindus," and his precognition and "power of projecting his image and his voice across space," among other powers, are of great help to Gray in his cases. Samdad is also a sadhu, a "thrice-born" hermit. Gray's right-hand man is Limbu, a "squat" and "muscular" Gurkha whose life Gray saved and who is devoted to Gray.
* I'm including the Colin Gray novels in the Best of the Encyclopedia category because they are, in their way, archetypal. The character type of the Afghani Fighter is a 19th century creation in reality. In fiction as well. So Colin Gray and the Mark Channing novels about him are a long way from the first Afghani Fighter works of fiction. But the Colin Gray novels are arguably the most archetypal of the Afghani Fighter fictional narratives, matched only by the Wolf of Kabul stories. The Colin Gray novels have everything: surface erudition about Afghanistan, India, and the North-West Frontier; the tough British Afghani Fighter protagonist; the ruthless and relentless native foes, many of whom are backed/controlled/manipulated by outside forces; the racism toward Central Asians; the faithful Asian sidekick for the protagonist; the classically pulpy adventure plots and tropes; the competence of the writing and characterization; and a near-mythic feel to events. The Colin Gray novels aren't exceptional in any way--Channing was a skilled entertainer as a writer but no more--but they check enough of those boxes and have enough of those Afghani Fighter fiction tropes and plot devices to become archetypal.
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