Thursday, July 5, 2012


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.




  1. Wow. It's been a long time since an author's pitch made me order his/her book this quickly. I can't wait to read from the dog's POV. :-)

    I spent a few days once listening to a Sheriff's deputy explain how he found, trained, and worked his drug-sniffing dogs. I was fascinated to hear that the most important trait in finding a good animal was that "the puppy loves to play." It's all a game to them, he said.

  2. Welcome James! Like Jack, I'm hooked. I can't wait to read Bloodline.

    I'm curious. What happens to a military dog when it's injured or too old to do its job?

  3. Hey JAmes!'s a challenging enough task to write from different points of view--but how did you get into the head of a dog?

    I'm thinking about it now--perspective, language, line of sight...emotions?

    DO you look at the world differently now?

  4. Hi Jim! The working dog aspect is fascinating, especially using the dog's POV. But could you tell us a little more about the book?

  5. Sharing this on FB... Dee

  6. Hi, James! I'd already seen your fantastic trailer for this book, so I'm already sold. Can't wait to read it. I imagine it will be like Debs' NO MARK UPON HER, which kept me enthralled.

    My husband and I have been following the canine warriors in Iraq and Afghanistan for some time through news stories and websites on the internet. I'm SO pleased such a highly regarded writer is shining a light on them!

    Thanks from the heart of Missouri, Linda

  7. This looks wonderful Jim--thanks for sharing the story. (Though i actually don't mind the "where do you get your ideas?" question, because it's fun to tell the wacky stories.)

    I can only imagine the bonds between dogs and people in a war zone. We have a partially-trained Australian shepherd so I utterly admire folks who can really train a dog:)

    trotting off to put this right on my TBR pile!

  8. A few years ago we saw a demonstration of a sheepdog herding, uh, sheep. Watching dog and trainer work together was pretty amazing. They both seemed to be having a ball.

    The book sounds fascinating, James.

  9. Wow. War dogs. Makes sense actually, now that I'm remembering the old World War II movies.

    My family had a German shepherd that was so gentle, it was ridiculous, but I'm still wary of every shepherd that approaches me when I'm out walking my dog.

    Sounds like a terrific book.

  10. Thanks, Deborah, and everyone at Jungle Red for letting me share a little about the latest book! You all rock.

    Darlene, you asked about injured or old war dogs. They get retired like any soldier, and almost always end up at the home of one of their handlers. That bond seldom dies at the end of service.

    Hank, you asked about getting into the head of the dogs. Dogs DO have a rich emotional world and I tried to capture that along with their unique sensory experience of the world. Those details came from reading, interviewing dog psychologists, and my own background as a vet. As to changing when I wrote about Kane, the military dog, the biggest effect was that I fell in love with Kane. I test wrote the pair (dog and handler) in a short story, and loved them so much I recruited them into the main series.

    Someone asked the general question regarding what's the book about. I always forget to mention stuff like that. I'm the worst marketer of my own books . This novel starts with the kidnapping of the president's daughter off a yacht in the Indian Ocean. A covert team, led by the sharp nose of that military working dog (Kane), must hunt for her among the jungles of Africa, but they discover the true target of this abduction is not the daughter but her unborn child, who may or may not hold the genetic key to immortality.

    Linda, I'll be in Kansas City and St. Louis during the tour in the next couple weeks. Back to my home state. I hope to see you there.

    Again, thanks you all, for letting me share!

  11. I, too, have always been fascinated by working dogs. I own a little, one-eyed rescue dog, and we have tight bond. I think about how much that bond must be magnified for working dogs and their handlers, especially war dogs. Amazing.

    And, whoa--the dog POV plus the central premise you just wrote up in a comment -- wow! Great concept. TBR pile here it comes!

    By the way, Deb, I read NO MARK UPON HER and enjoyed it tremendously. I loved the dog handler details.

  12. Welcome to Jungle Red, Jim.
    I'm a sucker for anything with brave dogs, starting with Lassie.

    But I love the way you forget to mention that the punch line of the book is the key to immortality--wow!

    I know what I'm going to be reading on my flight to Europe!

  13. The concept of writing from the dog's POV fascinates me. Like others,I have followed stories of war dogs and their handler, and have also read about police officers keeping their K9 partners when the dogs retire. I am looking forward to reading your book, both the main part of the story and the dog part of the story!

  14. Congrats, Jim, on Bloodline debuting at #3 on the New York Times Bestseller List!

    (That was me, earlier, accidentally still signed in as Jungle Red.)

    And the secret to immortality is kind of a big plot hook! :-)

  15. James, I imagine you'll be at Rainy Day Books in KC. If I'm in town, you can count on seeing me.

  16. I'm constantly amazed at the number and variety of breeds that can be trained as service dogs. In New Zealand, beagles sniffed incoming passengers' bags and backpacks looking for contraband food and produce!

    James, your book sounds terrific. Dogs AND the secret to immortality? What's not to like?

  17. Hi Jim! I'm a Lab person, so I'm definitely hooked - can't wait to read your book!



  18. Thanks for posting this - I need a new book/author as I'm all caught up with my regulars, and you had me at "dog!" This sounds really intriguing - I'm off to Amazon to put it on my wish list!

  19. I'm okay with anything in a book as long as the writing is good - that's what art is for, after all.

    Still, into most Germans of today the absolute wish for peace is so ingrained that I shudder to think of those dogs who are trained as soldiers even though they have no possibility to back out if they feel they are not up to it. I have the very uneasy feeling that these dogs are used, even abused for doing military service. It's different with SAR-dogs and sniffer dogs used by police, fire brigades and customs, as they do a service for society which is unbiased, not like a war dog. There is no such thing as a just war, IMHO, but at least soldiers nowadays have a choice to become soldiers or not.

    Sorry to sound lie a defeatist (which was once a cuss word in German, but fortunately today it's taken as a sign of common sense). But the idea that an author creates tension out of danger to an animal into which said animal is brought by purpose does repell me. It's IMHO different if something happens by chance to the dog like it happened to Finn in Debroah's latest novel. For me, it's the same thing as using a dog as a guarddog at a gangster's compound. Bot animals are potentially loved, but their ability is used for aims they have no way of judging if it's good or bad. So why is the one dog a hero and the other shot down by police?

    I hope I didn't insult anyone here and hope I didn't alienate your hospitality on this blog.

    Greetings from Germany, Bibiana