Joe Ledger: Unstoppable

Jonathan Maberry and Bryan Thomas Schmidt (Editors)

Joe Ledger: Unstoppable

DEDICATION

Jonathan:

This one is for Ray Porter, friend, audiobook reader,

and the inarguable voice of Joe Ledger and everyone at the DMS.

Thanks for everything, my brother.

And, as always, to Sara Jo.

Bryan:

For KCPD Patrol and Training Officer Gil Carter, who has shown me the real inside of law enforcement and become a good friend in the process.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The Joe Ledger series has always benefitted from input, advice, information, and suggestions by a host of “friends in the industry.” Each volume in the novel series includes special thanks to experts in various fields of science, medicine, technology, the military, law enforcement, and politics. Thanks to all of them (check the novels for names and impressive credentials!) and to other allies, including my coeditor for this project, Bryan Thomas Schmidt; Dana Fredsti; Ray Porter; Robert Allen and his team at Macmillan Audio; my editor (and Joe’s favorite uncle), Michael Homler; my film agents, Jon Cassir of CAA and Dana Spector of Paradigm; and the unstoppable force that is my literary agent, Sara Crowe of Pippin Properties. Hooah!

Bryan thanks Jonathan Maberry for letting him play along as not just an editor but an author and for always having his back; the authors for writing great stories and agreeing to be part of it; G. P. Charles for co-writing and sharing dog knowledge; Louie and Amelie for being their silly, charming canine selves; Sara Crowe for setting it up; Michael Homler, Lauren Jablonski, Kevin Sweeney, and Sona, the politest copy editor I ever encountered, and all at St. Martin’s for making it look good, and all my fellow fans because this is for you!

FOREWORD

As a movie producer I see a lot of material. I’m sent novels, screenplays, short stories, comic books, graphic novels, fiction, and nonfiction; I speak at writers’ conferences all over the country and feel blessed that I’m able to call many bestselling authors my friends.

I love writers and truly admire the courage and discipline it takes to face the blank page day after day and pour one’s soul into the abyss, never knowing if those words will see the light of day, let alone find their way to a bookshelf at Barnes & Noble. It’s a step-by-step process with its own structural rules. Not unlike the movie business.

Every stage of making a movie is like successfully doing a Rubik’s Cube. The development, production, and marketing depend on lining up all the sides in the right colors. It took me eight years to get The Equalizer movie made. There were many false starts, big-name actors came and went, as did the directors, screenwriters, studios, and financiers. So close, so many times, but five sides just won’t do, because you need all six to make it work. It may look simple, but it takes a special mix of elements to make a movie work.

With The Equalizer, it all started with a great character. At one time or another, everybody has wished they had a Robert McCall to help them when no one else would. “Got a problem? Odds against you? Call the Equalizer.” The television show ran for five years and resonated with the audience to the extent that many times Edward Woodward the actor was approached by strangers on the street begging for his help. That’s why I knew the movie would work. I knew that character would appeal to an actor, but it took years to find the right mix of story and director to fall into place.

I met Jonathan Maberry at a writers’ conference in New Orleans. He gave me several of his books and went over the characters and plot points of each. When he told me about the Joe Ledger series I got really excited and could see many of the elements were already there. He gave me a few books and I promised I’d get to them as soon as I was back in L.A. I lied, I actually started reading one on the plane, and by the time I landed at LAX, I was hooked.

I am gleefully grateful to have the chance to bring Joe Ledger to the screen.

He’s no martini-sippin’ James Bond looking for the baccarat table, and he’s no rooftop-jumping Jason Bourne looking to find himself. And if you live your entire life never having run into him, consider yourself very lucky, because if you’re in Joe Ledger’s path, chances are you’re already in deep mind-bending shit of epic proportion.

Drop John McClane from Die Hard into an episode of Fringe and you’ve entered the world of Joe Ledger. Ex — Baltimore cop, the enforcer, investigator, facilitator, agitator, expediter, fix-it man, and cleanup guy for the shadowy Department of Military Sciences (DMS) as they defend America from all enemies — foreign, domestic, otherworldly, and unimaginable. Bring on the zombies, aliens, UFOs, cyborgs, robots, replicants, mutants, megalomaniacs wielding weapons of mass destruction, and all manner of evildoers hell-bent on attacking not just America but sometimes the whole human race — Joe Ledger’s ready. He’s the tip of the spear — Thor’s hammer. DMS may be the brains, but Joe is the muscle. Unlike Bourne, Joe knows exactly who he is.

Well, that’s not quite true, he knows he’s really three people in one body.

Three personalities in constant warfare for control of his mind, heart, and body: the tough ex-Cop, the Civilized Man, and the Warrior. Effective? Oh yeah. Loyal? To a fault. Dangerous? Like cooking nitroglycerin in your kitchen. In other words, the perfect man for the job. Fox Mulder tells us the truth is out there. Joe Ledger knows the truth and it’s not out there, it’s right here, right now. And it’s scary as hell.

I think we all get the feeling there is way more going on in the world than the things we read about in the news. When Edward Snowden lifted the corner of the rug and government secrets skittered out like cockroaches, I doubt many of us were all that surprised. Lift that rug a little more and the world of Joe Ledger is suddenly not only plausible but inevitable. Fiction rooted in reality.

I eagerly await these new Joe Ledger tales as they transport me deeper and deeper into that amazing world of “what if” and…

— TONY ELDRIDGE

Producer of The Equalizer

INTRODUCTION: THE WORLD OF JOE LEDGER

Joe Ledger was born in a diner.

That seems somehow very appropriate.

I was sitting at the Red Lion Diner north of Philadelphia having an omelet and (I think) my twentieth cup of coffee while going over notes for a nonfiction book I was writing, Zombie CSU: The Forensics of the Living Dead. That book asked the question “What would happen if Night of the Living Dead were real?” How would people in various fields — science, medicine, law enforcement, the military, the clergy, the press, etc. — react, research, and respond? While I was editing, a couple of people started talking in my head.

Understand, if you’re not a writer, then this is a serious cry for help. You put your shrink on danger pay and get lots of help.

If, however, you are a writer, this is another day on the job. You see, for guys like me, there are always conversations going on. There are scenes playing out. It’s like standing in the TV showroom at Best Buy when every screen is playing a different channel. That’s what a writer’s head is like pretty much all the time. The imagination is a multitrack mixing board and sometimes you don’t know what random elements are suddenly going to coalesce into a scene, a character, or a story.

Inexperienced writers often try to shut out those voices.

Writers who understand the somewhat eccentric nature of the craft listen for a bit, eavesdropping on the conversation. If it’s just background noise — what I often consider “airport waiting room chatter”—then you close it out and go back to work on whatever has a deadline catching fire. If, on the other hand, it has the flavor of importance, then you absolutely must stop and listen closely.

The conversation going on in my head that day was like that. My gut told me that I needed to lean in and pay attention.

I had no idea who these two people were. Not until I started paying attention. It became apparent, though, that it was a cop being interviewed for a job with a covert Special Ops group.

The cop was a smart-ass.

The guy interviewing him was smarter, older, and a little scary.

They were talking about saving the world.

So, I took control of the conversation, as a practiced writer will, and I wrote down everything I could remember of what they said, and then I roughed out the rest of that chat. And I wrote a short follow-up scene, quick and dirty, where the cop is put in a room with a terrorist he killed during a joint police/Homeland raid. The dead guy attacks him.

And that’s when I backed up and wrote something that I realized was the opening chapter of a new novel. What I wrote was:

When you have to kill the same terrorist twice in one week, then there’s either something wrong with your skills or something wrong with your world.

And there’s ...

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