Thursday, December 15, 2016

James Rollins--Trump, Tesla, and a Secret Source of Energy

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Nobody is as inventive as James Rollins

No one can take parts of current science, parts of current news, and parts of history and weave them into a compelling and terrifying narrative like James Rollins. And he's done it again in THE SEVENTH PLAGUE, his twelfth SIGMA FORCE novel. Tesla? Egyptian mummies? Zika? Biblical plagues? How does this all fit together? It does, in a grippingly addictive story! Here's James to tell you more.

JAMES ROLLINS: In my stories, I love to blend historical mysteries and scientific intrigue, but seldom do those two aspects of a story come ready-wrapped together for me.  While researching the life of the inventor, genius, and polymath Nicola Tesla for my novel The Seventh Plague, I came across a mystery surrounding the enigmatic scientist, one that bears relevance even today, as his story dovetails into the life and work of the president-elect’s uncle, John G. Trump.

Early in his career, Tesla was already a visionary genius. He was the man who gave us our current electrical grid through his development of the alternating current, but later in life, he doggedly pursued the Holy Grail of energy:  a source of limitless wireless energy.  It was a noble pursuit, but one that seemed to go nowhere—though the search did lead to other patents and discoveries along the way. 

Then on July 11, 1934, the New York Times carried the headline:  Tesla, at 78, Bares New Death Beam. The article described Tesla’s invention of a particle-beam weapon that could bring down ten thousand planes from hundreds of miles away. But rather than a weapon of war, Tesla believed his invention could bring about world peace, declaring that when all countries possessed this beam, all fighting would stop. Similarly, three years prior, the inventor claimed to have stumbled upon a new, never-before-seen energy source, one that would change the world.

The U.S. government grew so concerned about these claims that upon Tesla’s death in 1941, agents raided his rooms at the New Yorker Hotel, removed his body, and ransacked the place, seizing all written material, including a notebook that Tesla warned his nephew to secure immediately upon his death. When his nephew arrived at the hotel, the notebook was already gone. 

Concerned about what might be hidden in those stolen papers, the National Defense Research Committee was summoned to review Tesla’s work. The group was led by a well-respected electrical engineer, inventor, and physicist at the time:  John G. Trump, the uncle of Donald J. Trump. The committee eventually declared that their review uncovered no verification of Tesla’s wild claims, and the matter was shelved.

Still, the government refused to return those pilfered books, notes, and papers to the inventor’s relatives. It would take years and millions of dollars for Tesla’s nephew to finally wrest his uncle’s papers from the government, but one item was forever missing:  the mysterious notebook.

What became of this final tome? Who still possesses it? What might have John G. Trump discovered in those pages that warranted the book be forever lost?  

I have my own theory about what truly happened, one based on science, history, and not a small measure of imagination. Perhaps it will take a certain president—one with a family connection to this story—to finally reveal the truth. I’ve got my fingers crossed that I can get a cabinet position with the new administration and learn how this story ends. 

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy what I’ve discovered in The Seventh Plague.

DEBS: I can't wait to see what those papers might have contained.  Jim will be dropping in to say hi and answer questions. In the meantime, do you have any favorite "what if" theories?

And, Jim, we wish you good luck with the cabinet position:-) 

Here's more about THE SEVENTH PLAGUE:

In a breathtaking blend of scientific intrigue and historical mystery, #1 New York Times bestselling mastermind, James Rollins, reveals an ancient threat hidden within the pages of the Bible, one that threatens the modern world in The Seventh Plague.

If the biblical plagues of Egypt truly happened—could they happen again—on a global scale?
Two years after vanishing into the Sudanese desert, the leader of a British archeological expedition, Professor Harold McCabe, comes stumbling out of the sands, frantic and delirious, but he dies before he can tell his story. The mystery deepens when an autopsy uncovers a bizarre corruption: someone had begun to mummify the professor’s body—while he was still alive.

His strange remains are returned to London for further study, when alarming news arrives from Egypt. The medical team who had performed the man’s autopsy has fallen ill with an unknown disease, one that is quickly spreading throughout Cairo. Fearing the worst, a colleague of the professor reaches out to a longtime friend: Painter Crowe, the director of Sigma Force. The call is urgent, for Professor McCabe had vanished into the desert while searching for proof of the ten plagues of Moses. As the pandemic grows, a disturbing question arises.

Are those plagues starting again?

Before Director Crowe can investigate, a mysterious group of assassins leaves behind a fiery wake of destruction and death, erasing all evidence. With the professor’s body incinerated, his home firebombed, Sigma Force must turn to the archaeologist’s only daughter, Jane McCabe, for help. While sifting through what’s left of her father’s work, she discovers a puzzling connection, tying the current threat to a shocking historical mystery, one involving the travels of Mark Twain, the genius of Nikola Tesla, and the adventures of famous explorer, Henry Morgan Stanley.

To unravel a secret going back millennia, Director Crowe and Commander Grayson Pierce will be thrust to opposite sides of the globe. One will search for the truth, traveling from the plague-ridden streets of Cairo to a vast ancient tomb buried under the burning sands of the Sudan; the other will struggle to stop a mad genius locked within a remote Arctic engineering complex, risking the lives of all those he holds dear.

As the global crisis grows ever larger, Sigma Force will confront a threat born of the ancient past and made real by the latest science—a danger that will unleash a cascading series of plagues, culminating in a scourge that could kill all of the world’s children . . . decimating mankind forever.

And here's more about Jim:

James Rollins is a #1 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.

As a boy immersed in the scientific adventures of Doc Savage, the wonders of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, and pulps such as The Shadow, The Spider, and The Avenger, James Rollins decided he wanted to be a writer. He honed his storytelling skills early, spinning elaborate tales that were often at the heart of pranks played on his brothers and sisters.

Before he would set heroes and villains on harrowing adventures, Rollins embarked on a career in veterinary medicine, graduating from the University of Missouri and establishing a successful veterinary practice. He continues to volunteer his time and veterinary skills in support of the local SPCA. His hands-on knowledge of medicine and science helps shape the research and scientific speculation that set James Rollins books apart.


  1. I can’t honestly say I have any favorite “what if” theories, but now I am really wondering about the secrets that might fill the pages of Tesla’s missing notebook.
    Meanwhile, I really enjoy the Sigma Force novels and I’m looking forward to reading “The Seventh Plague” . . . .

  2. Regarding Tesla, I once read a story with a plot revolving around a race to find the missing pieces to assemble and activate Tesla's unlimited energy device ... for evil purposes, of course. And I like several "what if" scenarios regarding aliens (extraterrestrials) living amongst us. Thanks for stopping by...have to check out the Sigma Force novels.

  3. What a fabulous story! But James are you sure you want to be in the cabinet? Maybe an undersecretary role that would let you move around more easily:)

  4. Sounds so terrific! This is my favorite kind of book… Taking A real story and asking what really happened… But the real life characters. I just read the last days of night, about the battle between Edison and Westinghouse, and it is terrific. Cannot wait to read this one!

    But James, tell us about having a good idea. Do you know it when it hits you?

    Also, talk a little bit about suspense. When there is an incredibly high stakes apocalyptic danger looming in a novel, the reader knows it is not going to happen, right? How does an author keep suspense with the reader knows "everyone dies" is not going to be the end of the book?

  5. Cross your fingers but don't hold your breath...

    I love novels that take a historical mystery and weave it into a novel. And Tesla is a really cool, tortured and tragic guy... basically invented wireless technology. If anyone could have invented Star Trek's transporter, he's the one. Is he a character in the book?

  6. Wow, James! This sounds amazing. Like Hallie I love books that take real historical events or people and fly with what if. Brilliant.

  7. Hi James, I second Hank's question about your ideas. Does your research spark a story idea or is your research a result of the idea? How much license can you take when working with real (albeit deceased) people as characters?

    I feel like a lot of scary "what ifs" are coming true these days. I think it's interesting to contemplate what if certain historical figures like JFK and MLK hadn't been assassinated when they were. What impact might they have had had their lives not been cut short?

  8. Hi Jim! I love Hank's question. Is it more "how are they going to do it? And at what cost?"

    And I want to know if you always have ideas simmering and the back of your brain that come together in a book, or do you come up with a main concept and then cherry-pick things that will work with it?

  9. Oh wow, what a premise! I love this kind of thing - a real historical event and "what if?" Clive Cussler does (did?) this all the time with his Dirk Pitt novels. They start with a real event (such as the sinking of the USS Maine) and he spins a story from that.

    This sounds fantastic. I will definitely have to look into the Sigma Force novels.

  10. Dog lovers, check out Jim's Tucker and Kane books, featuring former Army Ranger Tucker Wayne and his military dog partner, Tucker.

  11. I love stories that are spun like this! I think Tesla got the short end of the stick. Edison was such a jerk and yet he was portrayed so nobly in our history books in school. But that was the 50s and 60s so history was sugar-coated. I can't wait to read your book Jim. Go Tesla!

  12. I was out of town, and I missed my Jungle Red reading. I came back to a fascinating post. James, you had me at Tesla. I've always looked at him as the underdog, and I love stories about such people. Part of the description about The Seventh Plague has enough to interest almost anyone--"While sifting through what’s left of her father’s work, she discovers a puzzling connection, tying the current threat to a shocking historical mystery, one involving the travels of Mark Twain, the genius of Nikola Tesla, and the adventures of famous explorer, Henry Morgan Stanley." I'm off to Amazon to put it on my wish list!

  13. Okay, I'm on a flight from Denver to San Diego. Let's see if I can't knock off a few of these questions:

    Hank: Hmm, I collect a lot of disparate breadcrumbs to build a story. Often it's not so much the "ah-hah" moment with a detail but more if I can find a way to fit that one piece into the jigsaw puzzle that's the plot/story. As to suspense with "end of the world" scenarios, it's all about making the jeopardy personal. Yes, the reader might suspect the world might not truly end, but hopefully the reader is invested in the more personal level of the threat (a child in danger, a dog at risk, a romantic interest hanging from a cliff). It's that level of jeopardy that actually has a stronger impact on the readers.

    Hallie: Yes, Nikola appears both on stage in a prologue and his words and actions are recounted later in the present-day story.

    Ingrid: Those ideas come from both avenues: certainly from the research, but often new ideas, divergent ideas arise during the research process (something I discover along the way).

    Deborah: I usually have most of the BIG elements or puzzle worked out before I start writing, but often I will discover new pieces or replace old pieces with more intriguing ones that I discover along the way. And THANKS for mentioning Tucker and Kane, that dynamic duo are a pair of my personal favorite characters. Even the books I co-wrote with Grant Blackwood. While I shared writing Tucker's POV scenes in those two books, I selfishly kept all of Kane's POV scenes for me.

    Pat and Kathy: Yes, Nikola definitely got treated poorly both by Edison and by Westinghouse who conned Nicola into releasing his patents on the alternating current to the company for a pittance, plying on the man's concern about Westinghouse going bankrupt and employees losing their job as a result. To save those jobs, he gave his patents away.

    Okay, I'm about to be ordered to close up my laptop and prepare for landing. Til next time! Jim

  14. Debs,

    Thank you for inviting James Rollins to JRW. After reading this post, I found his books at my library!