Sunday, March 4, 2012

Guest Blogger: Jonathan Maberry

ASSASSIN’S CODE is the latest Joe Ledger thriller and it’s his wildest and scariest mission.

The book opens with Joe undercover in Iran. He and Echo Team have just freed a trio of American college kids illegally detained in that country, but before Joe can slip away he’s contacted by a senior Iranian official. Not in an attempt to arrest Joe, but to covertly enlist his help in finding seven nuclear bombs that have been planted at oil fields. Six in the Middle East, one in the United States.

As Joe dives into the hunt for the nukes, he is himself hunted by several groups of killers, including the Red Knights –an ancient order of assassin’s who have a very real thirst for human blood.

Joe’s ally in his hunt is the mysterious and beautiful sniper, Violin, a woman with a very dark past and strange ties to the Red Knights.

Soon Joe is being forced into one deadly fight after another. The body count rises and so do the stakes. At the heart of this mystery are two ancient manuscripts: The Saladin Codex and the Book of Shadows. Each contains parts of a secret that could plunge the whole world into the most destructive war in history.

ASSASSIN’S CODE spins a deadly web of mysteries, deception, wholesale murder, hate crimes, and supernatural evil. It is Joe’s darkest case. When he and Echo Team go to war with the Red Knights, not everyone gets out alive…


ASSASSIN’S CODE was a special book to write. In a way it brings me full-circle to the point where my career as a novelist began. My first three novels were the Pine Deep Trilogy, which involved a war between a vampire army and the world of the living. That war begins brewing in GHOST ROAD BLUES, we learn the twisted back story in DEAD MAN’S SONG, and the war itself explodes in BAD MOON RISING.

Or, maybe the real origin of ASSASSIN’S CODE is in my non-fiction work. In 2000 I wrote a book called THE VAMPIRE SLAYER’S FIELD GUIDE TO THE UNDEAD, which was written under the pen-name of Shane MacDougall and published by a small press. That book was an exploration of the myths and legends of vampires and other predatory monsters around the world and throughout history. Though long out of print, the book is significant in that it completely shifted the focus of my career. Before it came out, all of my other books and a large portion of my magazine writing was devoted to martial arts and self-defense. I am a lifelong practitioner of jujutsu and kenjutsu (with over 45 years in the martial arts), and I currently hold an 8th degree black belt. I was also inducted into the Martial Arts Hall of Fame. So…writing about vampires was a bit of a shift –hence the use of a pen name.

However the FIELD GUIDE was very popular. Much more so, in fact, than my martial arts books. And it gave me a taste for a new genre: horror. However I was frustrated by not being able to find many novels that used folkloric versions of vampires and werewolves. Instead they all seemed to retread the Hollywood versions –and those bear little or no resemblance to the monsters of world myth. So, after bitching about it for a while, my wife told me to ‘write the damn thing’. So…I wrote the damn thing, and that was GHOST ROAD BLUES.

That was my first novel, and I was able to land an agent very quickly, and she was able to place the book and its two sequels even more quickly. What really astounded me was the reception: GHOST ROAD BLUES was nominated for two Bram Stoker Awards –Best First Novel and Novel of the Year. Stephen King won for Best Novel (and I can’t exactly feel cheated there!), but GHOST ROAD BLUES won for Best First Novel. That was incredible validation.

My fourth novel was PATIENT ZERO. It was a zombie novel but it was written as a science thriller. A techno-thriller for 21st century readers. It’s been described as NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD meets Michael Crichton. That book introduced Joe Ledger, a Baltimore cop who joins a secret government agency, the DMS (Department of Military Sciences), which was created by the mysterious Mr. Church to stop terrorists who have radical scientific weapons. Bioweapons, transgenic soldiers, and more.

PATIENT ZERO was a big hit and it pulled in readers from the horror crowd, the zombie crowd (which does not entirely overlap with the horror crowd, by the way), the mystery crowd, the thriller crowd and a bunch of other folks. It is written for anyone, not targeted to a niche audience.

Joe Ledger is an emotionally damaged person who suffered terrible trauma as a teenager and has used his scars and his rage to turn himself into a very dangerous and unpredictable person. He’s also a world-class smartass, and as such is a lot of fun to write.

In the second Ledger novel, THE DRAGON FACTORY, Joe goes up against a cabal of scientists who are using cutting-edge transgenics to restart the Nazi master race program. The science in the book is weird and some of it is not yet possible…but all of it will be possible. That’s the scariest part of these novels. All of the science is built on what could happen. That plausibility scares the living hell out of me, and I channel my own jitters into the stories.

The third in the series, THE KING OF PLAGUES, pits Joe and his team of top shooters –Echo Team—against a secret society called the Seven Kings who are using weaponized versions of the Ten Plagues of Egypt. That story introduces the master terrorist Hugo Vox, who returns in ASSASSIN’S CODE.

I’m currently writing the fifth Ledger novel, EXTINCTION MACHINE, which deals with a new kind of arms race based on technologies that may have been salvaged from crashed UFOs.

I’ve got a lot of Joe Ledger stories that I want to tell, so we’ll see what happens. There are also several Joe Ledger short stories that are available as e-stories and audio stories. Here’s a link to the whole series so far:

ASSASSIN’S CODE is a little different from the rest of the series in that there is less science and more of a clash of cultures, religions, ideologies and even species. Not all of the villains in this book can be properly classified as ‘human’. There may even be a touch of the supernatural, but I’ll leave that up to the reader to decide.

Read the opening chapters of ASSASSIN’S CODE here:

And here’s a link to a blog that lists the entire Joe Ledger series:

--Jonathan Maberry
(THE BLACK GLOVE expresses our deepest appreciation to Mr. Maberry for his guest blog.)