James Rollins and James Clemens are two of the pen names of American veterinarian Jim Czajkowski (born 1961), author of bestselling fantasy and action-packed adventure-thrillers. He sold his veterinary practice in Sacramento, California, to concentrate full-time on writing.
James is an amateur spelunker and a certified scuba diver. These pastimes provide much fodder for his novels, which are often set in underground or underwater locations.
Among those who have inspired him, James cites the authors of the Doc Savage series. As a youth, James had acquired an extensive collection of Doc Savage novels, but, he says, he remained oblivious to their influence on him as a novelist until one of his fans brought this matter to his attention.
Under the pen name James Clemens, James also writes fantasy novels including Wit'ch Fire, Wit'ch Storm, Wit'ch War, Wit'ch Gate, Wit'ch Star, Shadowfall (2005), and Hinterland (2006) .
In 2007, he was hired to write the novelization of the script for the movie Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, James graduated from the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri in 1985 with a doctorate (D.V.M) in veterinary medicine. His undergraduate work focused on evolutionary biology. Thereafter, he moved to Sacramento, CA, where he established his veterinary practice.
As a boy, James was fascinated by stories of the exploits of Howard Carter and his discovery of the tomb of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh, King Tutankhamun (King Tut). This true-life tale later inspired James' novel, Excavation, in which the main character, archaeologist Henry Conklin, and his nephew Sam discover a lost Inca city in the mountains of the Andean jungle that contains a treasure...and a curse.
As a youth, James also enjoyed Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan novels, L. Frank Baum's Oz series, and C. S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia. In general, James was also inspired by such authors as Jules Verne and H. G. Wells, whose works he used as a springboard for creating similar contemporary novels filled with what he refers to as "the three M's of fiction: magic, mayhem, and monsters."
Czajkowski sold his first novel, Witch Fire (1999), under the pen name of James Clemens through Terry Brooks' publisher. Brooks had been one of the judges of the Maui Writers' Conference contest, in which James had entered a manuscript he had recently completed.
Beneath the ice at the bottom of the Earth is a magnificent subterranean labyrinth, a place of breathtaking wonders — and terrors beyond imagining. A team of specialists led by archaeologist Ashley Carter has been hand-picked to explore this secret place and to uncover the riches it holds. But they are not the first to venture here — and those they follow did not return. There are mysteries here older than humanity, and revelations that could change the world. But there are also things that should not be disturbed — and a devastating truth that could doom Ashley and the expedition: they are not alone. For the caverns are inhabited by an entire subterranean ecosystem of primitive mammals - some intelligent, others savage, all beyond the reach of today's knowledge.
High in the Andes, Dr. Henry Conklin discovers a 500-year-old mummy that should not be there. While deep in the South American jungle, Conklin’s nephew, Sam, stumbles upon a remarkable site nestled between two towering peaks, a place hidden from human eyes for thousands of years. Ingenious traps have been laid to ensnare the careless and unsuspecting, and wealth beyond imagining could be the reward for those with the courage to face the terrible unknown. But where does this perilous journey end — in the cold, shrouded heart of a breathtaking necropolis — something else is waiting for Sam Conklin and his exploratory party. A thing created by Man, yet not humanly possible. Something wondrous...something terrifying...a mysterious metal known only as el Sangre del Diablo (or Devil's Blood), known only to the most ancient of Incas and a secret sect of Dominican friars who have already killed and died to protect its secrets.
Ex-Navy SEAL Jack Kirkland surfaces from an aborted underwater salvage mission to find the Earth burning. Solar flares have triggered a series of gargantuan natural disasters. Earthquakes and hellfire rock the globe. Air Force One has vanished from the skies with America’s president on board. Now, with the U.S. on the narrow brink of a nuclear apocalypse, Kirkland must pilot his oceangoing exploration ship, Deep Fathom, on a desperate mission miles below the ocean’s surface. There devastating secrets await him — and a power an ancient civilization could not contain has been cast out into modern day. And it will forever alter a world that’s already racing toward its own destruction.
The Rand scientific expedition entered the lush wilderness of the Amazon and never returned. Years later, one of its members has stumbled out of the world’s most inhospitable rainforest: a former Special Forces soldier - scarred, mutilated, terrified, and mere hours from death - who went in with one arm missing...and came out with both intact. Unable to comprehend this inexplicable event, the government sends Nathan Rand into this impenetrable secret world of undreamed-of perils to follow the trail of his vanished father...toward mysteries that must be solved at any cost. But the nightmare that is awaiting Nate and his team of scientists and seasoned U.S. Army Rangers dwarfs any danger they anticipated...an ancient, unspoken terror — a power beyond human imagining — that can forever alter the world beyond the dark, lethal confines of the Amazon rainforest for better... and for worse.
Carved into a moving island of ice twice the size of the United States, Ice Station Grendel has been abandoned for more than seventy years. The twisted brainchild of the finest minds of the former Soviet Union, it was designed to be inaccessible and virtually invisible. But an American undersea research vessel has inadvertently pulled too close - and something has been sighted moving inside the allegedly deserted facility, something whose survival defies every natural law. And now, as scientists, soldiers, intelligence operatives, and unsuspecting civilians are drawn into Grendel's lethal vortex, the most extreme measures possible will be undertaken to protect its dark mysteries - because the terrible truths locked behind submerged walls of ice and steel could end human life on Earth.
Altar of Eden
Following the fall of Baghdad, two Iraqi boys stumble upon armed men looting the city zoo. The floodgates have been opened for the smuggling of hundreds of exotic birds, mammals, and reptiles to Western nations, but this crime hides a deeper secret. Amid a hail of bullets, an underground secret weapons lab is ransacked--and something even more horrific is set free. Seven years later, Louisiana state veterinarian Lorna Polk stumbles upon a fishing trawler shipwrecked on a barrier island. The crew is missing or dead, but the boat holds a frightening cargo: a caged group of exotic animals, clearly part of a black market smuggling ring. Yet, something is wrong with these beasts, disturbing deformities that make no sense: a parrot with no feathers, a pair of Capuchin monkeys conjoined at the hip, a jaguar cub with the dentition of a saber-tooth tiger. They also all share one uncanny trait--a disturbingly heightened intelligence. To uncover the truth about the origin of this strange cargo and the terrorist threat it poses, Lorna must team up with a man who shares a dark and bloody past with her, now an agent of the U.S. Border Patrol, Jack Menard. Together, the two must hunt for a beast that escaped the shipwreck while uncovering a mystery tied to fractal science and genetic engineering, all to expose a horrifying secret that traces back to mankinds earliest roots. But can Lorna stop what is about to be born upon the altar of Eden before it threatens not only the world, but also the very foundation of what it means to be human?
SIGMA Force Novels
The SIGMA Force is a fictional division of the U.S. DARPA program. Rollins, and subsequently his characters, refer to Sigma Force as "killer scientists." It combines highly-skilled military operatives with expert scientists. The Force's purpose is to investigate and secure sensitive scientific information that could be a threat to the United States. It is a combination of Counter-terrorism, research, and covert operations. The SIGMA Force headquarters is in a subbasement of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.. Rollins keenly mixes science, religion, and theory throughout the Sigma Force series. From finding the tombs of Alexander the Great and Marco Polo to discovering lost Nazi war secrets contained in the Family Bible of Charles Darwin, Rollins has created a smart, well-equipped group of Indiana Jones-like scientist/warriors.
The first book of the series, Sandstorm, published in 2004, starts with a bang, as a private museum is destroyed, leading its owners to seek answers as to what motivated the attack. Their quest takes them into the Arabian desert, through a nightmarish world of mysticism and legend, to a long-buried threat that may bring about the world's last night. The novel introduces SIGMA Force and their opposing group, The Guild, which appear in Rollins' following novels. One of the main characters, Painter Crowe is relegated to more of a supporting character in the later novels, his role filled by Commander Grayson Pierce. In this story, Crowe battles the Guild in the form of his former partner and love interest Cassandra Sanchez who was really a Guild operative who infiltrated SIGMA until Crowe figured it out. Cassandra is acting under the orders of a Guild leader high up in DARPA who is manipulating things. The team Crowe is part of locate the lost city of Ubar with two of the team, Lady Kara Kensington and Safia Al-Mazz revealed to have been sisters unknown to them. At Ubar, the team, chased by Cassandra, find a lake of antimatter which a megastorm is turning into a bomb that could destroy the Arabian Peninsula. Forced to cooperate with Cassandra who uses a small charge implanted in Safia's neck and a deadman's switch to hold her hostage, the team manages to difuse the situation, but Cassandra is killed by the storm. Cassandra, who still cares about Crowe in some way, spares Safia's life, giving the deadman's switch to Crowe before dying, allowing him to disarm the bomb. Ubar collapses into a massive lake that is named Lake Eden. Later, using a clue he got from Cassandra and information from her laptop's harddrive, salvaged by Crowe, SIGMA force learns that DARPA director Admiral Tony "The Tiger" Rector is the Guild agent behind Cassandra's actions and was attempting to corrupt SIGMA to his own ends. Rector commits suicide before he can be arrested and Doctor Sean McKnight, SIGMA commander is promoted to replace him. To replace McKnight, Crowe is promoted into the position of SIGMA director himself.
The magi brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the Christ child; their bones may bring destruction to the world, if they are allowed to remain in the hands of the thieves who stole them, for these bones may not be bones at all. They may be something much more terrible and deadly, as Map of Bones, his second SIGMA Force novel published in 2005, suggests.
In Black Order, which came out in June 2006, SIGMA Force team members risk their lives to get to the heart of one of humankind's greatest mysteries: the origins of life itself.
James' next novel was The Judas Strain, which came out in July 2007. The members of SIGMA Force seek to prevent an outbreak that could threaten the entire planet. It is based on the Hindu temple complex of Angkor Wat. The novel has been compared to those by Dan Brown. The book also marks the apparent death of Dr. Monk Kokalis and the introduction of new character Kowalski who acts as Gray Pierce's sidekick in this and later books. Among the things that happen are Gray's parents are captured and held hostage by one of the book's villains, sadistic Guild operative Annishen and are used as leverage by the Butcher of Calcutta, Amen Nasser to force Gray to cooperate. Thanks to his parents initiative and brilliance, they get away long enough for SIGMA to find and rescue them and Annishen is killed by Gray's father. This allows Gray to kill Nasser thanks to a trick taken from the Godfather, allowing SIGMA to win, getting the needed cure and defeating the Guild's plans, preventing a worldwide pandemic and preventing the Guild from gaining many new bio-weapons as a result of the Judas Strain. It's also revealed that Guild operative and assasian Seichan, who is sometimes an ally of Sigma, is actually a double-agent and good guy, being a member of an unknown organization that somehow infiltrated the Guild.
The fifth SIGMA Force novel is The Last Oracle. It involves a high-level Russian politician's desire to use autistic savant children to develop a new world order. James weaves an exquisite plot linking the Greek Oracle of Delphi, the toxic ruins of Russia, the Roma people (gypsies who fled India in the 11th century), and the ancient Harappan culture of India into a tense, modern-day thriller. This novel is the only one of Rollins so far to lack the Guild. It also reveals that Monk did not die as expected in the Judas Strain, but was picked up by a Russian sub and ended up in the hands of the bad guys with amnesia due to experiments done on him. He is rescued by three of the children and spends the book trying to thwart the plot with them, despite his amnesia. With help from Gray and Gypsies, he and the children succeed although he still has possibly permanent amnesia at the end due to brain damage as a result of experiments. If the plans hadn't been stopped, many world-leaders would have been killed due to radiation exposure at Chernobyl and millions of people would have died worldwide due to radiation being flooded into the world from the highly-radioactive Lake Karachay.
The next book in the Sigma Force series, The Doomsday Key, which Rollins published in June 2009, follows the SIGMA team as they investigate three murders on three different continents with similar circumstances. The culprit is a Norwegian corporation with ties to the Club of Rome. The leader of this corporation is trying to stop overpopulation and loss of food by any means necessary. Like the other novels in the SIGMA series, there is a fantastical element to this story. The team travels to the Coliseum in Rome, the Lake District of England, Bardsey Island, and a prison in France. It's ultimately revealed that what the characters are dealing with is an ancient fungal parasite that was discovered by the Egyptians and used by them and the Druids as a bioweapon. Mummies found in a peat bog contained the fungus and it was used to try to sterilize crops to help stop overpopulation, but it mutated back to its deadly form. Ultimately an ancient embalming compound is revealed to be the cure. A surprise twist at the end indicates that perhaps the SIGMA team had been traveling with one of the Guild's mysterious leaders before his death at the end of the novel, a fact that not even the Guild members hunting them knew.
A seventh book, The Devil Colony, is set to be published in July of 2011.
The Banned and the Banished series is about a girl named Elena "who ripens into the heritage of lost power." She goes on a journey to defeat the Dark Lord and to find herself.
The Godslayer series is James Clemens' newest series.
Book One: Shadowfall
For 4,000 years, the people of the Nine Lands have lived peacefully under the guidance of their hundred gods. When the goddess Meeryn is murdered, the peace is shattered, and Tylar de Noche, a defrocked knight who, as sole witness, is now sole suspect, must find the killer and prove himself innocent. Tylar turns to Delia, a priestess and love interest, and to Rogger, a thief wise to the ways of the criminal underworld. Slogging hither and yon for scraps of clues, the three begin to suspect that the supposedly pacific gods are in fact engaged in an ongoing struggle for power and control. The self-absorption of the gods and the apathetic ignorance of the people form stumbling blocks on Tylar's quest.
Book Two: Hinterland
Failed Shadowknight Tylar witnessed the death of a god, whose blood healed his deformities but branded him a Godslayer and a hunted criminal. In this second volume, Tylar's struggle for the truth is vindicated when he is officially reinstated as a Shadowknight. Yet this is a trap, revealed as Sithryn forces flow from the Ice Eyrie to wage a deadly siege, trapping Tylar and his friends. But even Tylar's skill and magic cannot save the Citadel of Tashijan, ancient Shadowknight headquarters, for something foul lies at the heart of their Order. The Cabal has infiltrated the inner council and Tylar and his allies must flee for now there can be no refuge from evil.