|James Rollins collaborated with Rebecca
Cantrell in their newly released book, The Blood Gospel.
This book is the first in a trilogy about the Sanguines, an
order of good vampires. Readers who enjoy thrillers, mysteries,
or the Rollins’ Sigma series might be apprehensive about
reading this thriller-fantasy. However, give it a chance. The
story is fast-paced, captivating, and interesting.
The plot begins when an earthquake in Masada reveals a tomb
buried deep in the mountain. The three main characters: Sergeant
Jordan Stone, a military forensic expert, Father Rhun Korza,
a Vatican priest, and Dr. Erin Granger, a brilliant but disillusioned
archaeologist, are asked to investigate a newfound discovery,
a subterranean temple holding the mummified body of a crucified
girl. The three protagonists escape a brutal attack at Masada
and find themselves racing to find a book, The Blood Gospel,
rumored to have been written in Christ’s own hand, before
it falls into the hands of a horrific enemy.
Rollins came up with the plot at the Los Angeles Museum of Art
while viewing Rembrandt’s painting of “The Raising
of Lazarus." It struck him “how scared everyone looked,
and this started me down a road of reflection about early Catholicism,
vampirism, and a story began to unfold. I knew this could be
a huge, groundbreaking new mythology, a story so epic in scope
that I knew I didn’t want to tackle this alone. Surprisingly
writing with Rebecca was fun and refreshing. It was nice to
have someone else to lean on. Oddly enough we did not get into
arguments because we let the story dictate.”
Rebecca Cantrell, who has written a historical series set in
1930s Berlin featuring the main character Hannah Vogel, was
elicited by Rollins. They stated that they met in Hawaii at
a Writer’s Retreat. Intrigued by the premise, Cantrell
jumped on board. Since each had certain strengths and unique
skills they were able to create an enriched story. Rollins wrote
the action scenes and brought a thematic approach to find the
common ground between science/religion, faith/logic, and the
believers versus those disillusioned with their faith. Cantrell
wrote the great characterizations and historical descriptions
in the book.
This plot has the reader wondering about certain traditions
of Catholicism: Why do Catholic priests wear pectoral crosses?
Why are they sworn to celibacy? Why do the Monks hide their
countenances under hoods? And why does Catholicism insist the
consecration of wine during Mass results in its transformation
to Christ's own blood? Rollins decided to answer some of these
questions by having a vampire sect within the Vatican, called
the Sanguines, become the protectors of the Church after they
pledged not to drink human blood.
Rollins wanted to explore the “what if” regarding
how Christ would have dealt with these vampires, “What
would he have done to save these people. I used the actual traditions,
for example, Sanguines can be out in the day as long as they
wear hoods and thought maybe that this is the origin of the
Monk hoods. I was able to pair these things up by playing with
the trappings of the Catholic faith and the mythology.”
Not only did they draw on mythology, they also used past influences.
Cantrell shyly admitted she watches Saturday cartoons, but now
has an excuse because of her young child. She believes these
viewings probably had an influence on her subconscious. In the
book there was the “silver bullet” used for protection
and a scene where Erin was taken prisoner and had a spiked dog
collar put on her. What comes to mind is Superman, the Lone
Ranger, and a Star Wars scene between Jabba the Hut and Princess
This novel uses a lot of different settings and historical situations.
The characters travel to Jerusalem, Europe, St. Petersburg,
and the Vatican City getting clues from Nazi plans, Masada’s
history, and the Rasputin character. Cantrell wants her readers
to think about the fact that Rasputin, who was killed four times
over, could be a vampire. “I wanted to think how vampires
could exist in these scenarios.” In the next book she
and Rollins will continue to bring into focus historical characters
and eras. “A character will be introduced that is more
modern because he was turned into a Sanguine during the sixties.”
The Blood Gospel has something for everyone: conspiracy,
ancient mystery, action-adventure, and a touch of the Bible.
Just as the Rollins’ Sigma series is a thriller with a
tinge of science fiction, this novel is also a thriller, but
one with a lot of fantasy. Once again, Rollins, along with Cantrell,
has shown it is possible to write an intriguing story that can
leap over different genres.