Stephen Edwards, gentleman author, returned to England for the first time in many years in the Fall of 1887. Having written, in addition to his pulp novels, a number of exciting travel logs, he was invited to give a series of lectures and became something of a minor celebrity. He has spent the last year moving in London Society circles, amiably recounting the sights and experiences he has found abroad. He tells his stories well, and is regarded as entertaining at parties. He is very much a gentleman, and holds staunchly Tory views, but his manner is occasionally perhaps a bit too relaxed, almost as if he doesn't understand the intensity of the struggle for status. Over the course of the last year he has begun courting Sarah Hamilton, daughter of Lord Hamilton, a match which seems to be above his station.
Whatever that station is. Stephen never seems to talk much about his life before he became a writer, beyond saying that he served the Crown in India. His first novel appeared roughly ten years ago, a spy thriller built around a Russian infiltration of the thuggee cult and the ensuing attempts to assassinate British officers. A ridiculous premise, marvelously detailed. The theme of local supersitions overcome by good British strength is a common one in his work. His subsequent novels were written in settings all over the world, mirroring, he admits, his travels. He speaks occasionally of his business dealings in African trading circles, but prefers to talk about the time he spent hunting big game and mountaineering. He is known to be a successful businessman, wealthy beyond the means obtainable by writing alone.
Stephen is a wiry man of 5'5", with straight brown hair and a weathered complexion. He has fine-boned good looks, undercut by a slightly crooked nose and a scar on his left cheek. In conversation he has a casual manner intended to put people at ease, though on those occasions when he becomes angry his eyes take on an intensity and his speech loses its refined tones. He smokes cigarettes, preferring a brand of cheap black Russian cigarette to the more refined brands, those his case contains some of the latter so that he can provide one if asked. When asked about this preference, he simply replies, "One acquires a taste for them in certain circles." If pressed, he will remark on the many places he has found such cheap cigarettes around the world.
He is often treated by the people he meets as one of his adventure novel heroes, though he pooh-poohs this, often with the result that the behavior is continued. He will tell stories about his past, such as hunting in Africa, but they will usually reveal more about the country than the traveller. There has been much speculation about his life; he is assumed to have been an officer in India, and he will admit to having served there. When asked his rank, he answers, 'I was never commissioned in India,' and the popular theory is that he was a spy of some sort. This, Stephen has always denied strongly.
His novels, particularly his early ones, tend to focus on the contrast between native superstition and British ideals, with emphasis on the superiority of the latter. He has an extensive knowledge of local folklore as well as some history.
His more recent writings have had a significantly more literary quality, focusing less on pulp action and more on deeper themes. Indeed, a few have seemed to subtly challenge some British ideals, such as the use of fancy dress in bush outposts. In one poem written after a visit to the recently re-discovered Masada, he ruminates on the presence of swimming pools and bathhouses in the arid climate, concluding that such things are valuable only because they are ``...made necessary/through the necessary arrogance of Empire.'' That one cannot rule without making the vanquished into a parody of one's homeland. While understated, and not necessarily an attack on the British system (which Stephen does truly support), it was an observation not taken well in some quarters.