Hell’s Gate by Bill Schutt with J. R. Finch is an eco-thriller.
Combining geo-politics with zoology Schutt uses his knowledge
to create this plot involving creatures during World War II.
He is a University professor with a specialty in vertebrate
zoology, and a research assistant to the American Museum of
Schutt commented to blackfive.net, “I went to this place
in Brazil and thought how it would be a good setting. Since
I am a World War II buff I wanted to combine my profession,
with my hobby, and this wonderful place. At the time of the
plot this place was very isolated, where I imagined the possibility
of Germany moving its rocket scientists here, a place that
could never be found and would be hard to attack. The creatures
are based on my studies of vampire bats that lived in this
region. The creatures in the story actually existed.”
The plot has the US military parachuting into the Brazilian
jungle Captain R. J. MacCready. He enters into Hell’s
Gate, a huge plateau that is one of the most remote regions
in the world. Each character has a special skill to help solve
the mysterious puzzle: MacCready is the expert on bats, a
quick-witted, brilliant, scientific jack-of-all-trades zoologist,
who is unexpectedly reunited with his friend and botanist,
Bob Thorne, thought to be dead, and his wife, Yanni, who possesses
cryptic skills. Together they learn of a diabolical Axis plot
to destroy America and its allies, and a creepy dark force
that attacks at night. The plot has the protagonists trying
to save humanity from the Nazis who are attempting to launch
a major rocket and a creature, Desmodus draculae, similar
to the vampire bats, that has migrated there.
Since the setting is almost a secondary character Schutt used
his own experiences of spending nights “in the rain
forest and living in caves. I wanted to get across to the
readers what it would be like to be there alone at night:
what it would sound like, smell like, and able to crawl around
the floor of a cave. I have been up all night in a tree with
no one around.”
His next book will be about the natural history of cannibalism
out on Valentine’s Day. The sequel to Hell’s
Gate, out next year, will have MacCready wearing much
warmer clothing and takes place two years later.
As with all of his books, Schutt wants to make sure he is
able to include his zoologist background to enhance the plot.
Hell’s Gate has vivid descriptions of the rain
forest with the authors evoking the dangers of nature. Combining
that with the dangers of Nazi science development the plot
has a very adventurous tone.