I was fortunate to come across this interview with Brian Parker from the Wauwatosa East High School student newspaper. The article ran in the paper’s final issue of the school year, about a month prior to his trip to Europe, and it reveals Brian’s mindset before his adventures in The Boy Who Knew Too Much.
Q. You’re one of the lucky students going on the World Language Club’s European trip this summer. Are you excited about it?
A. Very excited. I sold a lot of candy bars to help pay for this trip.
Q. Rumor has it you and Tim Gifford were literally eating into your profits.
A. (Laughs). Yeah, Tim can be a bad influence where chocolate is involved. But that was only the first few days. Once my dad saw I was, uh, sampling my inventory, he straightened me out. He’s an accountant, you know.
Q. I thought he was a lawyer.
A. He’s an accountant for a law firm, on Wisconsin Avenue right by the river.
Q. What’s the itinerary for your trip?
A. The first part of the trip is in the Alps. We start in Salzburg, Austria, then go to Innsbruck. After that we cross through this tiny country called Liechtenstein on the way to Switzerland. The big place we’re visiting in Switzerland is Lucerne – we’ll be there a couple of days – then we head to Germany, staying overnight in Stuttgart and Frankfurt. From there we go to another small country, Luxembourg, to look at castles, I guess. And then we cross into France and end up in Paris.
Q. What city are you most looking forward to seeing?
A. Oh, Paris, definitely. I can’t wait to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. It’s probably a good thing Paris is the last stop, because if we started there everything after it might be a letdown. But I’m looking forward to Salzburg and Lucerne and Frankfurt, too. I just want to see Europe, you know, to visit these places I’ve read about in books.
Q. Foster Blake books?
A. Not just Foster Blake books, but yeah, that’s the big thrill for me. A Whisper of Death takes place in the Swiss and Austrian Alps, and Hotel Noir takes place in Paris. And the short story “Clandestinely Yours” takes place in Germany’s Black Forest. We’re supposed to drive through there.
Q. Too bad you have to go to Europe to visit locations from Foster Blake books.
A. Not really. I’ve been to St. Louis.
Q. Oh, come on! Foster Blake in St. Louis?
A. Yeah, in To the Point of Insanity. The climax takes place on the Gateway Arch.
Q. That wasn’t in the movie.
A. No, they changed the ending to the London Eye. The book was written in 1979, so I guess the movie producers wanted something more contemporary. The movie came out a year after the London Eye opened, so it was a big deal then. Well, I suppose it’s still a big deal. I’d go on it if I went to London.
Q. Sure, because it’s in a Foster Blake movie.
A. Yeah, I guess you’re right about that. (Laughs)
Q. So how did you get to be such a big Foster Blake fan? Everyone says you’re probably Wisconsin’s biggest Foster Blake fanatic.
A. I don’t know. There could be a bigger Blake Head in Baraboo. Anyway, I became a Foster Blake fan about four years ago when I was flipping through channels one Sunday afternoon and saw that Clandestinely Yours was about to come on HBO. So I watched it. And the moment Foster Blake drove his Jaguar into the Rhine River and it turned into a hovercraft, I was hooked. I swear that was the coolest thing I had ever seen. And back then they had to do all that without CGI.
Q. I forget they still show movies on HBO. I thought they just had shows like The Sopranos and Deadwood anymore.
A. My dad tells me that when he was a kid, HBO was a big deal because you could watch movies about a year after they were in theaters. They didn’t have DVDs or even videotapes back then. Can you imagine, waiting an entire year until you could see a movie at home?
Q. Pretty soon they’ll be releasing movies in theaters after you can watch them on cable or satellite – or your laptop.
A. But it wouldn’t be much fun to watch a Foster Blake movie on a small screen for the first time. Some movies should be seen in theaters.
Q. Who’s your favorite Foster Blake?
A. Brett Simmons.
Q. Swimming against the tide there, hey?
A. I think I connected with Brett Simmons because the first Foster Blake movie I saw was Clandestinely Yours, and it’s still my favorite. He’s just so suave, yet so deadly. And it’s not that I dislike the earlier films with Owen Taggart, but I just get so sick of the older fans who think Owen Taggart is God, you know? He may be more menacing, but Blake could be smooth in the books, too.
Q. What do you think of the new guy, Anthony Wren?
A. I like him a lot. Lightningrod is right up there with my favorite Blake movies. He plays it tougher than Brett Simmons, but I think that was a necessary switch. We’ll see how he does with his second movie.
Q. What’s the title of the next movie?
A. Who Will Find My Yesterdays? It’ll be released next summer, and they start filming it in July, right around the time I’ll be in Europe.
Q. Will you be able to see them film any of it?
A. No, they’re going to be filming most of it in Hawaii and Australia.
Q. So you’re heading in the wrong direction.
A. I guess so.
Q. Are there any Foster Blake movies you hate?
A. Well, hate is a strong word, but easily the worst one in the series is Silver Mind – an Owen Taggart movie, I must point out. Everything that could go wrong with a movie in the 1980s went wrong with that one. I don’t know what they were thinking when they hired John Landis to direct, and to top it all off they got A Flock of Seagulls to perform the theme song. I can’t listen to that one. I mean, it’s on my Foster Blake iPod playlist, but I usually skip over that song at the first synthesized note.
Q. What is your favorite theme song?
A. “Dying on Borrowed Time” by Roberta Flack. And Gwen Stefani’s cover version from a few years ago really rocks!
Q. I understand you and Tim Gifford will be looking for spies while you’re in Europe.
A. He told you about that, did he? Yeah, we came up with a game called “Spot the Spy.” We’re going to see if we can spot anyone who looks like a spy while we’re in foreign cities.
Q. What do spies look like?
A. Well, that’s tricky. Lately I’ve been reading up on real-world espionage and watching shows about the CIA on the Military Channel. Real spies are supposed to look as ordinary as possible because they want to blend into a crowd, you know, not stand out.
Q. Like Foster Blake.
A. Yeah, like Foster Blake. So I know he’s not realistic. But I suspect when we’re playing our game Tim is going to be looking for Brett Simmons or Owen Taggart while I’m going to look for George Smiley.
Q. Who’s that?
A. He’s the hero in John Le Carré’s spy novels. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and all that. He’s just an ordinary-looking little man in glasses. Someone you wouldn’t look at twice if you saw him in a café or bus.
Q. So you don’t think you’re going to spot a spy in Europe?
A. If I did I probably wouldn’t know it. But don’t tell Tim or he’ll automatically proclaim himself the winner.
Q. No excitement for you in Europe, then, hey?
A. Oh, I’m sure it’ll be exciting. Simply walking around Salzburg or Paris will be exciting. I just don’t expect anyone will try to kill me.
Q. Let’s hope not!