DEBORAH CROMBIE: James Rollins needs no introduction from me, so I'll just say how thrilled I am to have him joining us on Jungle Red for THRILLER FORTNIGHT. And that if there is anything I like better than suspense, it's suspense and DOGS! Here's James to tell you all about his new book, BLOODLINE!
Gone to the Dogs
By James Rollins
If you ever want to truly make an author cringe, ask him this question: “Where do you get your ideas from?” It is the inevitable query at any book signing. I think most of us dance around trying to answer that because ultimately we don’t know—and we fear any attempt to look inward risks chasing off that Muse of New Story Ideas. However, there is probably one commonality among authors: we always have our antenna up, waiting to receive that next big idea or exciting new character from our muse.
For my latest book (Bloodline) that muse arrived in the shape of a dog wearing a vest, attached by a leash to a man wearing body armor.
In the winter of 2010, I participated in a USO tour of authors to bases in Iraq and Kuwait. It was a great opportunity to give back and thank the warriors out there in harm’s way. But as a veterinarian myself, I was drawn to those four-legged warriors and the men and women who “handled” them. I was lucky enough to see these pairs working and training, but also playing. It was abundantly clear that there was a strikingly unique bond between handler and war dog, and I wanted to learn more.
At a base in Mosul, I ran into a veterinary school classmate of mine from the University of Missouri. We were both equally surprised to have this mini-reunion in the deserts of Iraq. Twenty-five years had passed since we both graduated, and we were a long way from our old school. He was a member of the Army veterinary corps, and beyond catching up, I learned about his role working with these war dogs, along with what it’s like to be a veterinarian in the military.
After that talk, after seeing those dogs in the field, I knew I wanted to try to bring these unique heroes to the page. The first recorded use of war dogs goes back to 4000 B.C., to ancient Egypt, where dogs were used in battle. The more modern use of military working dogs by the U.S. military truly started in World War II, where family dogs were volunteered into service. Since then, dogs have become an integral part of the U.S. military—including the dog, Cairo, who was involved with the takedown of Osama Bin Laden.
But what I found the most enlightening and moving was the deep and lasting bond between dog and handler. The pair work, train, eat, and often sleep together. As a result of this intimacy, handlers have developed a phrase to describe their relationship with their dogs—It runs down the lead—describing how the emotions of the pair became shared over time, binding them together as firmly as any leash. Some claim that their dogs understand them better than their own spouses. And it’s that bond and ability for the two to operate as one that I wanted to try to capture in this new book.
I also sought one other goal in this novel. As a veterinarian, with three decades of working with dogs, I wanted to portray these stalwart war heroes as they really are—not just as soldiers with four legs, but as real dogs. In this book, I wrote several scenes from a dog’s perspective. I wanted readers to experience what it’s like to be a war dog--to be in their paws--to paint an accurate portrayal of how a dog perceives the world, of how he functions in combat with his unique talents and senses. It was my small way of giving back, of honoring these exceptional American heroes. I hope I did them justice—because they deserve it.
JAMES ROLLINS is the New York Times bestselling author of international thrillers, translated into more than forty languages. His Sigma series has been lauded as one of the “top crowd pleasers” (New York Times) and one of the “hottest summer reads” (People Magazine). In each novel, acclaimed for its originality, Rollins unveils unseen worlds, scientific breakthroughs, and historical secrets--and he does it all at breakneck speed and with stunning insight.
DEBS: As an owner of German shepherds, so often used as military working dogs, and having written a novel that revolves around search and rescue dogs and the unique bond that develops between working dogs and their handlers, I am absolutely fascinated by the premise for this book. Jim will be checking in today to chat and answer questions, so please stop by, say "hi," and find out more about BLOODLINE.