James Rollins is the New York Times best-selling author of international thrillers. Here, he talks about the inspiration behind his latest novel, Bloodline.
For me, the inspiration for a book comes in many shapes and sizes. In the case of my latest novel, Bloodline, that inspiration arrived in the shape of a dog wearing a combat 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’d both graduated, and we were a long way from our old school. He was a member of the Army veterinary corps, and in addition to 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 and that became the drive to create Tucker Wayne, an army ranger, and his war dog, Kane—who are both featured in my e-novella Tracker and this summer’s big blockbuster, Bloodline.
But what I found the most enlightening and moving about this relationship between dog and handler is their unique and surprisingly deep bond. The pair work, train, eat, and often sleep together. As a result of this intimacy, handlers have developed a phrase to define their relationship with their dogs—It runs down the lead—describing how the emotions of the pair become shared over time, binding them together as firmly as any leash. And it’s that bond and ability for the twoto operate as onethat I wanted to try to capture with Tucker and Kane.
Also, as a veterinarian myself, 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.