Book 1 of the Assassin series, King of Swords is an epic assassination thriller framed against a gritty backdrop of brutal drug cartel violence in modern Mexico.
The G-20 Financial Summit is planned for San Jose Del Cabo. The world's pre-eminent finance ministers will attend, along with the presidents of the U.S. and Mexico. Captain Romero Cruz of the Mexican Federal Police uncovers an assassination plot against the attendees. In a roller-coaster race against the clock, Cruz must track and stop El Rey, the "King of Swords" - a faceless super-assassin responsible for a string of the world's most spectacular killings, before he turns the G-20 into a slaughterhouse.
King of Swords is a rule-breaking rush that shatters convention to create a richly-drawn story that's sure to shock and delight even the most jaded intrigue/adventure thriller fans.
A Q & A for King of Swords with author Russell Blake
Question: King of Swords is a no-holds-barred suspense thriller set in present-day Mexico. What books influenced you in creating it & how did you come up with the idea?
Russell Blake: Day of the Jackal, The Bourne trilogy and Shibumi. I wanted to create something that would give a nod to those works, but kick it up a notch - modernize them; crank them on steroids, leave readers gasping & cringing, revitalize the genre. I saw the G-20 in Cabo San Lucas, and thought it would be an ideal event in which to frame the quintessential assassination thriller, but with a "24" style storytelling sensibility & an unflinching description of the cartel violence pervading Mexico.
Q: King of Swords blends fact & fiction. What was the inspiration for using the drug cartels as the framework for the story, & where does truth end & invention begin?
RB: Mexico is fighting a civil war; the government against the narco-trafficking cartels. Around 8,000 people die every year as a result of cartel violence, including cops, military, cartel members, family, and innocent bystanders. It's a brutal industry that throws over $50 billion a year into cartel hands - more than the GDP of many nations. I want readers to see the very real cost in human terms, so the truth/fiction line is deliberately fuzzy. Everything I write is based loosely in fact, & it's up to the reader to determine where it leaves off.
Q: King of Swords is not for the meek, & is controversial in its graphic depiction of cartel violence and government complicity. Aren't you afraid you'll offend with it?
RB: The trafficking business is a bloody, vicious industry perpetrating horrific crimes against humanity. I wanted to capture the casual savagery that typifies it, the willingness of ordinary men to engage in extraordinary brutality. I wanted to highlight the psychological making of the monster. Readers' sensibilities should be offended. I want them squirming, pulled out of their comfort zone. If they aren't, if they sleep peacefully after reading it, or can put it down, I didn't do my job.
Q: King of Swords is much faster-moving than many thrillers. How did you achieve that effect, & are your other books anything like that?
RB: It's a pacing thing. I wanted to create an experience, not a book - to hurtle the reader along and leave them shaking from the adrenaline rush. There are tricks I developed to create, sustain, & amplify that pace that I played with in some of my earlier work. King of Swords for me is the ultimate expression of that "high-velocity read" approach to fiction.
Q: What made you want to write?
RB: I grew up on a steady diet of Ludlum and Forsyth and Le Carre and Trevanian. That evolved into an interest in telling those sorts of stories.