Hallock: First off George can you tell TheRaider.net
readers a little bit about yourself? From your
bio in the book you seem to be a "man of many
talents" like Indiana Jones. How you did
you get into writing?
George Beahm: I’m an ink-stained
wretch. Or, as fellow writer so aptly put it,
"A writer is a person who sits in a small room
and types all day." I’ve published nearly
30 books, but that’s not being prolific:
it’s simply working steadily, on a regular
schedule, and watching the books pile up. I majored
in English Language and Literature in college,
but realized I had to make a living first, so
I was in ROTC in college and was commissioned
as an officer, leaving the military with the rank
of major. All of my real adventures were in the
military: commanding troops during a riot in Virginia
Beach, nearly getting shot out of the sky by a
howitzer battery during a tactical training mission,
and working with incredibly talented and modest
pilots in an Air Force fighter wing in the southwest.
But those are just old war stories.
Now, I like to light a fire, put on a good movie,
pull out the laptop, surf the Internet, and write.
It’s a good life. When I think of a man
of "many talents," I’d nominate people like
Tim Kirk or Dr. Eric Cline (contributors to Off
the Beaten Path), both of who are multi-talented
and, as is always the case with truly good folk,
exceptionally modest and consummate pros, to boot.
Me? As I said, I’m just a writer.
"Shot out of the sky
by a howitzer"? That sounds a little Indy-esque!
Speaking of Indiana Jones; when was it that you
first encountered the subject of your latest book,
Off the Beaten Path?
Like other fans who are (cough,
cough) of a certain age, I saw Indy at the movie
theatre in 1981, which was then, and now, the
best way to see it, in a darkened room with larger-than-life
images and a sound system to match. --- Home systems
are in comparison a poor substitute! Part of the
fun of seeing an Indiana Jones movie is the experience
of sharing it in a group setting in which people
can moan, groan, gasp, and clap wildly as Indy
puts the classroom behind to go off the path and
become an adventurer.
Twenty-seven years after its initial appearance,
Raiders of the Lost Ark
holds up very well indeed—in fact, I can’t
imagine how it could be improved. It was, frame
for frame, cinematic perfection.
Ahem, I am also of a "certain
age" but we won’t be getting senior discounts
on our movie tickets, yet! What was your immediate
reaction to Raiders?
My experience of seeing Raiders
of the Lost Ark was similar to seeing Star
Wars in 1977, which I saw in the company
of artist Tim Kirk, my collaborator on my Indy
What struck me most forcefully was the element
of pure fun, pure excitement that is the trademark
of an Indiana Jones film: the kind of movie that
depends on visual storytelling and characterization,
not special effects--a weak substitute when all
People go to the movies because they want to be
transported, taken away to another place, and
Raiders of the Lost Ark
certainly did that. The opening sequence, with
Indy making his way into, and out of, the cave
to retrieve the gold fertility statue is simply
unsurpassed in terms of its ability to transport
the reader to 1936, the time-frame of the movie.
Most impressive of all, for its run time of 115
minutes, I was glued to my seat: the movie riveted
my attention from start to finish. As a movie,
it’s the perfect template for how action-adventure
films ought to be made.
In short: I was blown away.
In your book you said you pull
no punches, and are honest about the subject matter.
So, with that in mind how about the later films,
Temple of Doom
and Last Crusade
and what did you like or not like? Let's talk
Art © 2008 by Tim Kirk
In my book, I make it clear that,
in my opinion, Lucas and Spielberg strayed, and
stayed, off the beaten path with Temple
of Doom, which was needlessly dark in every
The biggest challenge is to produce a sequel that
has the dynamics of the first film and takes risks
by exploring new themes; unfortunately, Temple
of Doom was over the top and, while I wasn’t
looking for a repeat of Raiders,
I also wasn’t looking for the doom/gloom/death/gross-out
factor that, to me, characterized Temple
The feedback from the second film
forced Lucas and Spielberg to re-think the approach
to the third film, which they felt had to go back
to Indy’s roots. Though Temple
of Doom did well at the box office, it
was clear that fans did not want a repeat of the
unremitting darkness that characterized that movie.
If Last Crusade
had simply been Indy’s search for the Holy
Grail, the cup of Christ, it would have been a
great adventure film. But Spielberg’s notion
of adding an emotional element--one of his filmic
trademarks--is what takes the movie to a higher
level: estranged from his father, Indiana Jones’s
search for the Holy Grail parallels his search
for the elusive relationship he’s never
had with his father, who by the end of the movie
reaches out--figuratively and literally--to symbolically
rescue his son. It’s closure for both Jones
Sr and Jr., and its renewal. Father and son are
Sadly, Sean Connery, who played Jones Sr., declined
to come back for Crystal
Skull to reprise his role, which would
have been welcomed by Indy fans. Connery, now
retired from acting, is sorely missed, as is the
late Denholm Elliott, who portrayed Dr. Marcus
Well, who knows who will turn
up in Indy 4?
Moving away from the films, let's talk about what
set you down or rather "off the beaten path"
and what was the dynamic to make you want to write
a book about Indiana Jones? Was it "fortune
I’ve published nearly 30 books
and the first thing that comes to mind is whether
or not I want to spend a half year (or more) exploring
in detail a specific subject.
With Indy, what struck me most was that, given
the long interval between Last
Crusade and the release of Crystal
Skull -- an interval of 19 years, a book
like mine would serve two purposes: to take long-time
fans back down memory lane, and to bring new fans
up to date.
When I began research on what was available and
what was announced, it was clear that nobody was
planning on writing about Indy the way I had planned
to cover him, the movies, and the fandom that
surrounds the Indy universe. So I pitched the
idea to my publisher, Hampton Roads Publishing,
and they agreed it was a viable idea, which gave
me the opportunity to go off on my own--with the
help of artist Tim Kirk and professor/archaeologist
Eric Cline--and explore Indy’s world.
As for "fortune and glory," I wouldn’t recommend
full-time, freelance writing to anyone who is
seeking either: There are easier ways to make
a living, but the creative arts (as a rule) is
a tough row to hoe.
If you want to make a fortune, bet on the lottery:
the odds are better.
I should also point out that the late writer L.
Sprague de Camp, who was something of an adventurer
himself, observed that writers tend NOT to be
adventurers--they prefer to go exploring in their
imaginative worlds, and not out there where you
might step on a hairy tarantula or sinuous snake.
I think de Camp is right.
I should point out that de Camp spoke "several
languages" and traveled "world-wide" and had his
share of adventures. "He has been chased by a
hippopotamus in Uganda and by sea lions in the
Galapagos Islands, seen tiger and rhinoceros from
elephant back in India, and been bitten by a lizard
in the jungles of Guatemala," according to an
online biography (www.lspraguedecamp.com).
Few writers are in de Camps class! And few have
his taste of adventure!
George in the book Off
the Beaten Path, you mention that you are
an "armchair adventurer", what exactly
does that mean?
It means that I like to go off on
adventures, but do so from the security of an
overstuffed chair in the living room.
It means I like to experience things vicariously,
instead of striking out in the real world for
I had fun with this notion by poking fun at myself
in the bio that’s in the book, in which
I deliberately explain what I haven’t done:
I’ve never jumped out of a plane at high
altitude, I’ve never scaled mountains, and
I’ve never scuba-dived in the undersea world
popularized by Jacques Cousteau.
I prefer to keep me feet on terra firma: the more
firma, the less terror. In other words, I like
to play it safe. This way, I don’t have
to worry about encountering asps. As Sallah would
say; "Asps. Very dangerous".
Like Indy, you have several
companions who were part of your "journey"
in making Off the
Beaten Path, can you tells us some more
about the man behind the illustrations in the
book, Tim Kirk;
Art © 2008 by Tim Kirk
First, Tim has been my steadfast
companion, friend, and illustrator on all of my
books for Hampton Roads Publishing, for which
I am eternally grateful.
Unlike many nonfiction books being published today,
I believe book illustration is essential in adding
a visual dimension that’s otherwise lacking
when there’s only page after page of small
By any barometer, Tim is probably one of the most
imaginative, and intelligent, creators on the
planet. His imagination is simply world class:
A veteran Disney Imagineer with 23 years of experience,
he preceded that long run with stints at Hallmark
Cards, and thousands of cartoons and illustrations
for fanzines, magazines, book covers and interiors.
My great admiration for Tim, as an artist and
person, led me to write Kirk’s Works, which
was an illustrated index of his published work
that book was published in 1980 (see www.flightsofimagination.com
In my opinion, Tim -- who has designed billion-dollar
theme parks worldwide -- is a one-of-a-kind creator:
he’s simply the best at what he does.
Tim has had the chance to
influence many of the Disney attractions, particularly
the Indiana Jones ones. In your research and in
the book you mention some tidbits; tourist might
want to know if they ever go to see the Indiana
Jones Stunt Spectacular at Disneyworld, where
folks are chosen from the crowd to be "extras"
in the show. Have you ever been fortunate enough
to be in one of the shows?
I haven’t--and that’s
by intent. I think its great fun for tourists
who want to participate, but I’d prefer
to watch. In fact, I make sure to blend in, disappear,
like Marcus Brody when he’s in a foreign
land, as Indy points out.
For those of you who want to be an "extra," I’d
recommend being upfront, with bright clothing,
and wearing a distinctive hat, and being very
loud and animated. You’ve got to get their
You also have fantastic
Indiana Jones prop replicas from Anthony
"Indy" Magnoli in the book; are you a huge
Indiana Jones memorabilia collector like many
I was a collector, but my book,
artwork, and action figures threatened to overtake
my house, so I was forced to draw the line. It
reminds me of what comedian George Carlin said:
a house is nothing but a place where you store
I have too much stuff.
That said, I did buy a candid color photo taken
by Steven Spielberg of Harrison Ford slouched
down in a movie director’s chair, a photo
published by Official
Pix. Because it shows the wear ‘n tear
Indy has gone through: Remember, folks, it’s
not the years... it’s the mileage.
Now, if I were to run across a replica of the
Holy Grail cup, I’d buy it just to put on
the fireplace mantle. And if someone saw it and
knew what it was, I’d know we are of like
Indy Magnoli began his line, not for profit but
for his own collection. There wasn’t much
available and what there was available, he couldn’t
afford (being an impoverished college student).
Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the
considerable talents Indy Magnoli possesses--he
can literally make anything!
You have a Dr. Eric Cline, professor
at The George Washington University, who provided
the foreword in your book, and you devote a section
of your book to "A Day in the Life of an
Archaeologist". Was Dr. Cline, or any of
the folks you met on your journey in writing Off
the Beaten Path armchair adventures or
are they maybe even the real Indiana Jones?
Dr. Eric Cline
Dr. Cline is quick to point out
that Indiana Jones is really more of an adventurer
than archaeologist, which is made clear in the
trailer for Crystal Skull
in which Shia LaBeouf asks Harrison Ford if he’s
a teacher, and Harrison replies, "Part-time."
The Indy character really is interested in getting
his hands dirty, going out in the real world and
finding artifacts. If you were to look for someone
who is a dedicated archaeology professor, you
couldn’t find anyone more qualified than
Dr. Cline, who is well regarded in his field.
He also wears a second hat, as a field archaeologist,
so he’s the Real McCoy.
I don’t get the impression that he’d
be interested in being run over by a boulder,
chased by natives, or fist-fighting with bad guys,
but he probably wouldn’t mind meeting a
long-legged blonde like Alison Doody, who played
Dr. Elsa Schneider, for a game of chess...
the Beaten Path is really a great traveler's
guide into the world of Indiana Jones, like one
of those tour guide books you take with you on
vacation if you were an adventurer. You also cover
lost treasures like Atlantis, Easter Island, and
King Tut's Tomb. If you were to "take up
the challenge" in real life, which one of
Indy's quest would you go after? The Ark? The
Grail? Crystal Skull? or something else?
Whew, what a question. I’d
probably like to tag along with Dr. Cline if he
happened to uncover Atlantis, because that’s
a lost world and one that holds many secrets to
past civilizations... if it exists. I don’t
think it does, and Dr. Cline probably doesn’t
think so, either, but isn’t it fun to think
Crystal skulls are intriguing, of course, and
what Lucas has done with them in the new movie
will be fun – the whole Roswell name on
the crate in the trailer, the alien looking skull
on the posters – real "Area 51" stuff!
Reality time: I was in the military for many years,
on active duty, in the National Guard, and in
the Reserves, and had a top secret clearance.
The last assignment I had was with an F-16 fighter
wing in the southwest. I spent a lot of time with
pilots, and during one of the sessions, I had
to ask (tongue in cheek, of course): "Just what
the hell are you guys HIDING out at Area 51? Aliens?"
It got a big laugh.
Folks, there ain’t NOTHING at Area 51 that
came from outer space. Trust me on this one.
A friend of mine, a film producer, speculated
that in Crystal Skull,
Area 51 is the site of the top secret Army facility
we saw in Raiders.
It’s an interesting notion, but since Area
51 is under Air Force control, and not the Army’s,
that wouldn’t make sense.
Which creepy crawlies would you
want to avoid? Snakes? Bugs? Rats? or Giant Ants?
Bugs. Oh, dear God. NOT BUGS! AHHH!!
Now for the hard question,
do you think you would be more like Indy, Henry,
Sallah or Marcus Brody?
Easy, question, actually. In my
imagination, don’t we all want to pretend
to be Indy, if only for a day? But I’m more
like Marcus Brody, a bit distracted, though I’m
usually pretty good about not getting lost because
map reading is a skill I picked up in the military.
Looking back what was your
favorite moment(s) in writing this book?
Off the Beaten Path:
An Unofficial Expedition
Working with Tim and meeting Dr.
Cline. I’m always amazed at what Tim comes
up with, but for this project he sent me clippings,
gave me suggestions on where to look for more
info, and was the silent partner doing research
behind the scenes. Meeting Dr. Cline was sheer
luck: I found an article of his on the web, in
which he debunked the credential-less poseurs
and encroachers who have glommed onto archaeology
as a way to defraud the masses and seek funding
for dubious projects. I thought it was worth reiterating
in my book, as he did, and so we started working
together on that basis. Happily, he became more
involved and, as a result, the book benefits greatly
from his presence: he is a real-world archaeologist
and knows whereof he speaks. I’m just a
pop culture writer.
Did you come
across many "Indy fans" on or "off the
Not yet, but Tim and I hope to
meet as many Indy fans as possible at the Newport
Beach Film Festival at the end of April. We’ve
both been interviewed for Indyfans
and the Quest for Fortune and Glory (by
Brandon Kleyla of www.indyfansfilm.com
December 2007-MH). As for my book and the reaction
it’s gotten, Tim and I have been pleasantly
pleased. You never know what kind of reaction
you’re going to get. (In fact, we did send
an advance copy to a guy named George Lucas, but
we didn’t expect to hear from him.)
Most of all, I wanted to have fun with my Indy
book, and share my own enthusiasm and interest
in the character and his world with new and old
fans, and I think I accomplished that, if nothing
Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
comes out on May 22nd, do you plan on revisiting
this topic, perhaps coming out with a new Indiana
Realistically, I may update the
book at some point in the future, but I’m
not likely to do a second book on this topic,
since I think I’ve said everything I’ve
wanted to say about Indy. I’ve got other
books to write and other projects to work on,
and I need to get to work on them.
I have to ask, one of your other
books is Caribbean
Pirates, that takes a look at Disney's
Pirates of the Caribbean
being a big fan of Captain Jack Sparrow and Indiana
Jones, who would win a fight?
It’d be a toss-out, wouldn’t
you think? Jack’s lucky and Indiana’s
pretty good with his fists, so I think I’d
have to give Indiana Jones a slight edge.
But then, given Indiana’s good-hearted nature,
I think he’d be more likely to give Jack
a lop-sided grin, clap him on the shoulder, and
say, "Whiskey!" And they’d go off to find
the nearest tavern.
thank you for your time and giving us some insight
into the making of your latest book; Indiana
Jones--Off the Beaten Path: An Unofficial Expedition
available at bookstores on April 12th or get it
online at www.Amazon.com.
I have read the book and it is one of a kind!
A great look back at the nearly three decades
of Indy and all the thrills that have come along
with it. Whether it really is the mileage or years
– it has been one hell of a ride and your
book is a great tour guide into that world. I
am sure I speak for Indy fans around the world
in saying; our fedoras are off to you for having
the gumption for undertaking such a huge, but
fun, challenge of going down the road less traveled
and into the world of Indiana Jones. Is there
anything you would like to add in closing?
George Beahm: Thank you Mitchell
and thanks to me fellow Indy fans at TheRaider.net,
it is a fantastic site! One appeal, I think, of
the Indy films for me -- and others of my generation
-- is that they take me back to a time when life
was simpler and more idyllic: nostalgia, perhaps,
tinges everything, but the world seemed so fresh
and young back when Raiders
came out, and George Lucas didn't have the salt-and-pepper
in his beard, and Spielberg looked like a kid.
Indy, mostly, is timeless: He'll forever be the
action hero we all love and admire, precisely
because he's what we'd want to be if we could
be anyone else. I'm sure a lot of guys (and gals)
feel that way.
Ditto! Thanks again George!
For more information and to contact the author
Jones--Off the Beaten Path: An Unofficial Expedition
be sure to check out his site at www.georgebeahm.com.