A look back at Don Pendleton's psychic detective character Ashton Ford
Many people remember the late Don Pendleton as the creator of the 'Executioner' series, which chronicled the adventures of vigilante Mack Bolan (a sort of prototype for the Punisher, although he later evolves into more of a blue collar James Bond-type). He also created other characters such as psychic investigator Ashton Ford. We spoke with Pendleton's widow Linda about the character and his current status.
Ashton Ford seems in many respects like a departure from Mack Bolan. What compelled Don Pendleton to create the character?
Linda: Yes, the Ashton Ford Series is a departure from Don Pendleton's Executioner, Mack Bolan Series as well as from his Joe Copp Private Eye Series. Don had a life-long interest in metaphysics, science, and the paranormal. The Ashton Ford character gave him the opportunity to explore his interests and share those ideas with readers. At the time, there were not too many novels that dealt with the paranormal. You had Stephen King and the horror genre, and Sci-Fi, but that was about it.
In an Author's Note to readers of the Ashton Ford Series, Don wrote: "Through this character I attempt to understand more fully and to give better meaning to my perceptions of what is going on here on Planet Earth, and the greatest mystery of all the mysteries: the why of existence itself. Through Ford I use everything I can reach in the total knowledge of mankind to elaborate this mystery and to arm my characters for the quest. I try to entertain myself with their adventures, hoping that what entertains me may also entertain others—so these books, like life itself, are not all grim purpose and trembling truths. They are fun to write; for some they will be fun to read. To each of those I dedicate the work."
Could you tell us about the character's publication history and current status?
Linda: Don was contracted to do six books in the Ashton Ford Series and the first one, Ashes to Ashes, was published by Warner Books' Popular Library Imprint in 1986. The second one, Eye to Eye, was published the same year, followed by Mind to Mind, Life to Life, Heart to Heart, ending with Time to Time in 1988. After the rights reverted, I put them again in print (Trade Paper), Kindle, and now all six are in Audio, the first four through Books in Motion Audio, narrated by Gregory Papst, Gene Engene, and the last two through Audible, and narrated by James Foster. All are available at Amazon and Audible.com.
Just recently, I published two Boxed Sets of Ashton Ford Kindle ebooks, 3 books each of the series.
Is there a possibility that the series may continue?
Linda: There are no plans to continue the series. Without Don writing the complex metaphysical thought, I'm afraid no one could do the Ashton Ford character justice.
Has anyone expressed interest in a film based on the series?
Linda: Yes, for a TV series. Actually, twice. We had a meeting with a TV production
company once, but couldn't come to terms. And Don turned down the option on the other interest. Sadly, at times Hollywood wants something for nothing or nearly nothing, and it is hard to tie up your work when the interest does not seem solid enough.
The series seemed rooted in the interest surrounding the New Age movement. In your estimation is there still an interest?
Linda: I believe there is. Of course, New Age, never has been "new." It got that label back in the 1980s or so, but the interest in the paranormal (something that is actually a normal part of life and death) has always been with us. In fact, spirit communication was popular in the mid-19th century into the early 20th century. And UFOs, well, maybe the government can tell us more about that one.
I personally don't watch the popular TV action series that seem to be dealing with the paranormal, but I suppose they could be classified as a New Age genre. A little bit of SciFi, paranormal, and Hollywood.
Ashton Ford is a former naval intelligence officer, highly knowledgeable in cryptology and philosophy, a natural psychic, and a true Renaissance man, and that gave Don the freedom to write a great character. The women, especially, were fans of those books. A lot of fan mail came in when the books were first published. The books found a new readership for Don, and some Bolan fans were looking for more action than they thought they could find in the Ashton Ford Series.
Don wrote this for his character, Ashton Ford in Eye to Eye: "I do not believe that the goal of life is death, not unless we find a new definition for death. The goal of life, as it has been evidenced in the play upon this planet, has been toward an ever-expanding expression of existence, the search for unfoldment, the sheer joy of experience. What we commonly perceive as death need not draw a curtain upon that play–except perhaps to set the stage for a new act and the progressive unfoldment of a brilliantly beautiful story."
As Don Pendleton was known to say: "Every writer is working from his own individual world view, and that can become as characteristic as a fingerprint."
A lot of Don's personal philosophy and awareness comes through in these books.