King of Swords


Book 1
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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.

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.
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About the author

Featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Tribune, and The Times (UK), Russell Blake is the bestselling author of twenty-eight books, including the thriller novels Fatal Exchange, The Geronimo Breach, Zero Sum, King of Swords, Night of the Assassin, Revenge of the Assassin, Return of the Assassin, Blood of the Assassin, The Delphi Chronicle trilogy, The Voynich Cypher, Silver Justice, JET, JET II - Betrayal, JET III - Vengeance, JET IV - Reckoning, JET V - Legacy, JET VI - Justice, JET VII - Sanctuary, JET - Ops Files (prequel), Upon A Pale Horse, BLACK, BLACK Is Back, BLACK Is The New Black, and BLACK To Reality.

Non-fiction include the international bestseller An Angel With Fur (animal biography) and How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time (even if drunk, high or incarcerated), a parody of all things writing-related.

Blake's co-authored novel with legendary author Clive Cussler, titled The Eye of Heaven, will be released by Penguin in September, 2014.

Blake lives in Mexico and enjoys his dogs, fishing, boating, tequila and writing, while battling world domination by clowns. His blog can be found at where he publishes his periodic thoughts, such as they are.

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Additional Information

Janda Management
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Published on
Mar 26, 2014
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Fiction / Action & Adventure
Fiction / Thrillers / General
Fiction / Thrillers / Military
Fiction / Thrillers / Suspense
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Book 2 in the Assassin series, Revenge of the Assassin is the breakneck-paced sequel to the bestselling international thriller King of Swords. When El Rey, the super assassin responsible for Latin America's most spectacular hits, returns to Mexico for one final sanction, the race is on for Captain Romero Cruz of the Federales to stop him before he can fulfill his contract to kill the president. Revenge will delight fans of King of Swords, and offers the same gritty, unpredictable ride of thrills, twists and surprises before arriving at a conclusion that is sure to leave readers gasping.


Question and Answer with Russell Blake

Q: Revenge of the Assassin chronicles another El Rey adventure. Why the fixation with this contract killer?

RB: El Rey is one of those characters you hate, but you are fascinated by. Rather like Hannibal Lector. He's a cold blooded sociopath who kills without remorse, but he's really, really interesting. The more I wrote about him in King of Swords, and then the prequel to that book, Night of the Assassin, the more the character grew on me, and the more I wanted to see him in action. That, and the natural adversarial tension that had developed in King between Captain Cruz and El Rey seemed like it wasn't over yet. Revenge is the answer to the question, "What happens next?"

Q: Your portrayal of cartel violence in Mexico is disturbing. Is it really that bad?

RB: My depiction is accurate, and if anything, is the tame version. Something like 15,000 people died in 2011 alone due to cartel violence. Those kinds of numbers are usually associated with civil wars or armed insurgency. The cartels are de facto governors of some regions of Mexico, and the government, like that of Colombia, simply shrugs its shoulders and won't go into those areas - or if it does, it goes in like the U.S. does in Iraq, cocked and loaded in an invasion mode. That's alarming when it's within its own borders. The situation is out of control in many areas, and is a direct function of the money being made trafficking drugs to the largest market in the world: the U.S. I wish I could see it getting better anytime soon, because I love living here in Mexico, but I'd be lying.

Q: I saw recently that your sales have gone parabolic since 2012 began. What do you attribute that to?

RB: I saw over 100K downloads Jan-March, many of which were King and Night of the Assassin, which continues to see tens of thousands of downloads every month. Also, I released The Voynich Cypher, a Dan Brown style thriller, and it launched with tremendous strength. But oddly, popularity of the titles ebbs and flows, and what was popular in January isn't what was most popular in March, and I can predict that whatever is big in June won't be my top seller in November. It seems like more fans are discovering the whole catalog of thrillers I've released, and word of mouth is building and creating greater visibility. I've been very fortunate so far, and I pray that continues.

Q: What's next for El Rey? Is this it for him?

RB: No. There are more adventures coming. I'm currently working on the next installment, Return of the Assassin, which will be out by summer, 2012. And I expect at least two more in the series by year's end. These are just really interesting characters to me, so I feel compelled to write about them. While my head is in that place, I want to get the stories out, before the muse goes dark or moves to something else.

Q: What books would you advise readers who have never read your work to check out?

RB: If they are into Raiders of the Lost Ark/Da Vinci Code adventure thrillers, The Voynich Cypher. If they like Day of the Jackal, get King of Swords. And if they want something altogether different, I'd say try The Geronimo Breach, Fatal Exchange. Can't go wrong with any of those, and they are all very different approaches to the suspense thriller genre.
A German hit man has targeted a world leader for execution. In a high octane race against the clock, an unlikely alliance must track and stop the assassin before he can carry out his unthinkable scheme. The fifth of the bestselling Assassin novels, Blood of the Assassin can be read as a stand-alone novel or as the continuation of the series.


Q&A with bestselling author Russell Blake

Q: How is Blood of the Assassin different than the other Assassin books?

RB: I wrote it so that it could be read by a someone who is new to my work, and unfamiliar with the prior books. In much the same way Da Vinci Code was the second in that series but was a satisfying read on its own, I wanted to try the same thing with Blood - a sequel that someone could start with knowing little or nothing about its predecessors. Having said that, it's also consistent with the prior Assassin novels, so those who have read the series will find that it fits snugly in place.

Q: So would you suggest new readers start here?

RB: Sure. That's the whole idea. I think that this book is a perfect example of my storytelling, pacing, character development, and plotting, and I'm confident that new readers will find it engaging and satisfying.

Q: This volume features a lot more of Captain Cruz than the last ones.

RB: Yes, I wanted him to have a central role, and explore his character more. Just as I wanted to flesh out El Rey in greater detail, and create a more nuanced story. It's also by far the longest of the Assassin books, even after rigorous and ruthless editing.

Q: So El Rey, the Mexican super-assassin, also features prominently.

RB: For the same reason. I wanted to let him grow - give him a broader range. I'm particularly satisfied with how this effort turned out. El Rey fans will find everything they've grown to love or hate about him here, but with an evolving perspective on life. And I thought it would be fascinating to have one super-assassin hunting another. I think it wound up working well. But readers will be the ultimate judges...
Book 3 in the Assassin Series, Return of the Assassin is the shocking continuation of the saga of El Rey, the notorious Mexican cartel super-assassin whose legacy of impossible kills has earned him the reputation as the most lethally effective hit man in the world. Faced with impossible choices as he races against time, El Rey must return to a cartel underworld where the smallest slip means instant death, on a suicide mission to save the life of a young woman whose escape and survival is inexorably linked to his own.

Q&A with Russell Blake

Q: Return of the Assassin is the third installment in the "assassin series." Why the fascination with this story?

RB: El Rey is such a powerful character - at once reprehensible and without any redeeming qualities, and yet intensely interesting. He's despicable, a sociopath, a killer forged in a world of ugly brutality, and yet there's a sort of tranquility to him, a Zen that's paradoxical. Perhaps it's because he has no fear of death, or because he's judge and executioner and thus is his own ultimate authority, or maybe it's just the way he's wired. For whatever reason, I keep going back to him, imagining further adventures and scenarios. Can't help it. But I think it's safe neither Tom Hanks nor Tom Cruz will ever play him in a movie...

Q: It would seem that Captain Cruz takes a back seat in this novel. By design?

RB: Not really. I just write the story, and in this one Cruz wasn't central. The next one, he will be integral, but here he's more peripheral. Each book in the series has its own vibe and pace - Night is the making of a monster, King is the ultimate assassination story, Revenge is a mad adrenaline rush, and Return is a quest. They're all paced slightly differently with a focus on divergent aspects of the central characters. Not intentionally - that's just how they wound up.

Q: Why don't you end your books in a usual manner? Bad guy gets it, good guy triumphs, love fills the air, closure is found by the final pages?

RB: I read a lot and bore easily. When I read a book and the final scenes involve the protagonist duking it out with the villain, who almost wins save for a nearly miraculous twist, and in the last 25 pages everything falls into tidy place, I feel a cheated and taken for a fool. I know some readers want a reassuring, familiar read where their beliefs are uncritically validated and everything is neat, but that's not how the world works, and there's a part of me that despises that sort of denouement. I feel like I'm cheating the reader if I let them off light and deliver the predicable. I don't write to churn out familiar universal stories of hope and redemption. I write thrillers that surprise and shock. They can't be very thrilling if you know how it's going to end a third of the way through the book. That's not my deal.

Q: You've been cited as one of the top 50 indie authors. To what do you attribute that flicker of notoriety?

RB: I think there's an audience out there that shares a sensibility with me. Thanks to those readers, my books have enjoyed some small popularity. I can only hope to continue to contrive interesting stories that folks like, and that I'd read if they were written by someone else. It's impossible to second guess what readers will enjoy, so in the end, I write what I'd read. But at the end of the day, whether the top 50, 1000, or 10, readers get to vote with their wallets every day. For me, ranking isn't nearly as important as customer feedback and hearing from my readers that they like what I'm writing. As long as they keep enjoying them and buying them, I'll keep writing them.
In Requiem for the Assassin, El Rey, the world's deadliest assassin, is called into the field to terminate a list of seemingly unrelated targets on behalf of CISEN, the Mexican Intelligence Agency. But things are never as they seem in the murky world of intrigue, and he quickly goes from being the hunter to the prey.

Q&A with Russell Blake

Q: This is the sixth book in the Assassin series?

RB: Depends on how you count them. If you include the prequel, Night of the Assassin, it's #6. If you start at the first book in the series and look at the prequel as sort of 1a, it's #5.

Q: How is this different than the others in the series?

RB: I take a little more time to set the stage, but the main thing is the approach to the story. I wanted to craft something where the reader wasn't sure what the story was really about, to mirror the characters not knowing what's actually going on even as events play out around them. That sense of disequilibrium was key to the concept - the reader discovers how everything is connected and makes sense just as the characters do. It's different than any of the prior books in the sense that we aren't really sure who the bad guys are until the denouement, whereas in the prior books it was pretty obvious up front who was good and who was bad.

Q: Is there much more road for El Rey and Captain Cruz?

RB: I see at least one more episode, maybe two. Depends on how the next one finishes. I do love both characters, so I'm reluctant to write the last book, but I've got no interest in dragging it out and inventing story just to pad a series. My sense is we're nearing the end, but how or when it ends, I'm not sure yet. 
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