What if Pandora’s box was real. That’s the question facing Former Special Forces commando and rogue agent Blaine McCracken who returns from a 15-year absence from the page in his tenth adventure.
McCracken has never been shy about answering the call, and this time it comes in the aftermath of deepwater oilrig disaster that claims the life of a one-time mem-ber of his commando unit. The remnants of the rig and its missing crew lead him to the inescapable conclusion that one of the most mysterious and deadly forces in the Universe is to blame—dark matter, both a limitless source of potential energy and a weapon with unimaginable destructive capabilities.
Joining forces again with his trusty sidekick Johnny Wareagle, McCracken races to stop both an all-powerful energy magnate and the leader of a Japanese dooms-day cult from finding the dark matter they seek for entirely different, yet equally dangerous, reasons. Ultimately, that race will take him not only across the world, but also across time and history to the birth of an ancient legend that may not have been a legend at all. The truth lies 4,000 years in the past and the construction of the greatest structure known to man at the time:
Pandora’s Temple, built to safeguard the most powerful weapon man would ever know.
Now, with that very weapon having resurfaced, McCracken’s only hope to save the world is to find the temple, the very existence of which is shrouded in mystery and long lost to myth. Along the way, he and Johnny Wareagle find themselves up against Mexican drug gangs, killer robots, an army of professional assassins, and a legendary sea monster before reaching a mountaintop fortress where the fi-nal battle to preserve mankind will be fought.
The hero of nine previous bestselling thrillers, McCracken is used to the odds be-ing stacked against him, but this time the stakes have never been higher.
The Mediterranean Sea, 2008
“It would help, sir, if I knew what we were looking for,” Captain John J. Hightower of the Aurora said to the stranger he’d picked up on the island of Crete.
The stranger remained poised by the research ship’s deck rail, gazing out into the turbulent seas beyond. His long gray hair, dangling well past his shoulders in tangles and ringlets, was damp with sea spray, left to the whims of the wind.
“Sir?” Hightower prodded again.
The stranger finally turned, chuckling. “You called me sir. That’s funny.”
“I was told you were a captain,” said Hightower
“In name only, my friend.”
“If I’m your friend,” Hightower said, “you should be able to tell me what’s so important that our current mission was scrapped to pick you up.”
Beyond them, the residue of a storm from the previous night kept the seas choppy with occasional frothy swells that rocked the Aurora even as she battled the stiff winds to keep her speed steady. Gray-black clouds swept across the sky, colored silver at the tips where the sun pushed itself forward enough to break through the thinner patches. Before long, Hightower could tell, those rays would win the battle to leave the day clear and bright with the seas growing calm. But that was hardly the case now.
“I like your name,” came the stranger’s airy response. Beneath the orange life jacket, he wore a Grateful Dead tie dye t-shirt and old leather vest that was fraying at the edges and missing all three of its buttons. So faded that the sun made it look gray in some patches and white in others. His eyes, a bit sleepy and almost drunken, had a playful glint about them. “I like anything with the word ‘high.’ You should rethink your policy about no smoking aboard the ship, if it’s for medicinal purposes only.”
“I will, if you explain what we’re looking for out here.”
“Out here” was the Mediterranean Sea where it looped around Greece’s ancient, rocky southern coastline. For four straight days now, the Aurora had been mapping the sea floor in detailed grids in search of something of unknown size, composition and origin; or, at least, known only by the man Hightower had mistakenly thought was a captain by rank. Hightower’s ship was a hydrographic survey vessel. At nearly thirty meters in length with a top speed of just under twenty-five knots, the Aurora had been commissioned just the previous year to fashion nautical charts to ensure safe navigation by military and civilian shipping, tasked with conducting seismic surveys of the seabed and underlying geology. A few times since her commission, the Aurora and her eight-person crew had been re-tasked for other forms of oceanographic research, but her high tech air cannons, capable of generating high-pressure shock waves to map the strata of the seabed, made her much more fit for more traditional assignments.
“How about I give you a hint?” the stranger said to Hightower. “It’s big.”
“How about I venture a guess?”
“Take your best shot, dude.”
“I know a military mission when I see one. I think you’re looking for a weapon.”
“Something stuck in a ship or submarine. Maybe even a sunken wreck from years, even centuries ago.”
“Cold,” the man Hightower knew only as “Captain” told him. “Well, except for the centuries ago part. That’s blazing hot.”
Hightower pursed his lips, frustration getting the better of him. “So are we looking for a weapon or not?”
“Another hint, Captain High: only the most powerful ever known to man,” the stranger said with a wink. “A game changer of epic proportions for whoever finds it. Gotta make sure the bad guys don’t manage that before we do. Hey, did you know marijuana’s been approved to treat motion sickness?”
Hightower could only shake his head. “Look, I might not know exactly you’re looking for, but whatever it is, it’s not here. You’ve got us retracing our own steps, running hydrographs in areas we’ve already covered. Nothing ‘big,’ as you describe it, is down there.”
“I beg to differ, el Capitan.”
“Our depth sounders have picked up nothing, the underwater cameras we launched have picked up nothing, the ROVS have picked up nothing.”
“It’s there,” the stranger said with strange assurance, holding his thumb and index finger together against his lips as if smoking an imaginary joint.
“We’re missing something, el Capitan. When I figure out what it is, I’ll let you know.”
Before Hightower could respond, the seas shook violently. On deck it felt as if something had tried to suck the ship underwater, only to spit it up again. Then a rumbling continued, thrashing the Aurora from side to side like a toy boat in a bathtub. Hightower finally recovered his breath just as the rumbling ceased, leaving an eerie calm over the sea suddenly devoid of waves and wind for the first time that morning.
“This can’t be good,” said the stranger, tightening the straps on his life vest.
* * *
The ship’s pilot, a young, thick-haired Greek named Papadopoulos, looked up from the nest of LED readouts and computer-operated controls on the panel before him, as Hightower entered the bridge.
“Captain,” he said wide-eyed, his voice high and almost screeching, “seismic centers in Ankara, Cairo and Athens are all reporting a sub-sea earthquake measuring just over six on the scale.”
“What’s the epi?”
“Forty miles northeast of Crete and thirty from our current position,” Papadopoulos said anxiously, a patch of hair dropping over his forehead.
“Jesus Christ,” muttered Hightower.
“Tsunami warning is high,” Papadopoulos continued, even as Hightower formed the thought himself.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, we are in for the ride of our lives!” blared the stranger, pulling on the tabs that inflated his life vest with a soft popping sound. “If I sound excited it’s ‘cause I’m terrified, dudes!”
“Bring us about,” the captain ordered. “Hard back to the Port of Piraeus at all the speed you can muster.”
Suddenly the bank of screens depicting the seafloor in a quarter mile radius directly beneath them sprang to life. Readings flew across accompanying monitors, orientations and graphic depictions of whatever the Aurora’s hydrographic equipment and underwater cameras had located appearing in real time before Hightower’s already wide eyes.
“What the hell is—“
“Found it!” said the stranger before the ship’s captain could finish.
“Found what?” followed Hightower immediately. “This is impossible. We’ve already been over this area. There was nothing down there.”
“Earthquake must’ve changed that in a big way, el Capitan. I hope you’re recording all this.”
“There’s nothing to record. It’s a blip, an echo, a mistake.”
“Or exactly what I came out here to find. Big as life to prove all the doubters wrong.”
“Of the impossible.”
“That’s what you brought us out here for, a fool’s errand?”
The stranger watched as a central screen mounted beneath the others continued to form a shape massive in scale, an animated depiction extrapolated from all the data being processed in real time.
“Wait a minute, is that a . . . It looks like— My God, it’s some kind of structure!“
“Intact at that depth? Impossible! No, this is all wrong.”
“Hardly, el Capitan.”
“Check the readouts, sir. According to the depth gauge, your structure’s located five hundred feet beneath the seafloor. Where I come from, they call that impos—“
Hightower’s thought ended when the Aurora seemed to buckle, as if it had hit a roller coaster-like dip in the sea. The sensation was eerily akin to floating, the entire ship in the midst of an out-of-body experience, leaving Hightower feeling weightless and light-headed.
“Better fasten your seatbelts, dudes,” said the stranger, eyes fastened through the bridge windows at something that looked like a waterfall pluming on the ship’s aft side.
Hightower had been at sea often and long enough to know this to be a gentle illusion belying something much more vast and terrible: in this case, a giant wave of froth that gained height as it crystallized in shape. It was accompanied by a thrashing sound that shook the Aurora as it built in volume and pitch, felt by the bridge’s occupants at their very cores like needles digging into their spines.
“Hard about!” Hightower ordered Papadopoulos. “Steer us into it!”
It was, he knew, the ship’s only chance for survival, or would have been, had the next moments not shown the great wave turning the world dark as it reared up before them. The Aurora suddenly seemed to lift into the air, climbing halfway up the height of the monster wave from a calm sea that had begun to churn mercilessly in an instant. A vast black shadow enveloped the ship in the same moment intense pressure pinned the occupants of the bridge to their chairs or left them feeling as if their feet were glued to the floor. Then there was nothing but an airless abyss dragging darkness behind it.
“Far out, man!” Hightower heard the stranger blare in the last moment before the void claimed him.
Tell us about Jon Land. Who are you when you’re not
Hey, that might be the toughest question to answer of any,
because I probably know my characters better than myself.
When I’m not writing, I might be at the gym since, like
a lot creative people, getting old(er) is to be avoided
at all costs. Or I might be reading, watching a film or
something really good on TV. It’s entertainment, but it’s
also inspiring. See, there’s an even simpler answer to
your question that is, I’m always writing, even when I’m
not behind the computer or consciously plotting. It’s a
process you can’t turn on and off. It’s always on, all the
Do you have a day job as well?
Nope, never have.
Why the paranormal genre and where do your ideas come from?
I’m actually a thriller writer, although there’s a lot
of spillover these days from the paranormal and I pushed
the envelope more into the mythical and speculative for
PANDORA’S TEMPLE. My ideas come from anywhere at anytime
because, like I said above, the process never shuts off.
I might be reading an article in the New York Times, or
somebody might send me a news item they know will interest
me. For PANDORA’S TEMPLE the idea came by me asking
myself what great legendary artifacts, like the Arc of the
Covenant or the Holy Grail, have never become fodder for a
thriller and I quickly settled on Pandora’s box (which was
actually a jar). Something nobody’s ever done before.
Who is your favorite character to write about in your
Now that’s a real tough one, because my characters are
like my children—I love them all! I’d love to say my
original series hero Blaine McCracken who makes his return
to the page after 15 years in PANDORA’S TEMPLE. But I’ve
also written five books now featuring female Texas Ranger
Caitlin Strong. I feel she and the other characters in the
Strong series represent much more of the writer I am today.
Rediscovering McCracken was kind of a retro experience
for me that was fun but also challenging, since a book of
PANDORA’S scale requires so much suspension of disbelief
that I couldn’t do a lot of the things that I enjoy most
about my Caitlin Strong books. I guess what I’m saying is
it’s half a dozen of one, six of the other. Caitlin and
Blaine are both great—it’s up to the reader to decide which
is for them. Hopefully both!
Do you foresee taking one of your lesser seen characters
and creating a series about them?
You know that’s a great question and I’ve never actually
been asked it before. And I’d say, no, because I don’t
believe it would work. Everyone has a role in a book,
especially a series. They’re defined by that role because
it determines how they play off the hero or heroine who
are actually completed by their interaction with the other
recurring characters. They weren’t conceived to be capable
of driving their own stories. All these characters are
parts of a greater whole.
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first
Oh, man, it was hard even back then and we’re talking 1980
when I wrote it, 1981 when I finally found an agent and
another year-plus before she was able to find a publisher
for it. I actually wrote my first novel as a senior thesis
at Brown. It was around 600 pages typed on a Smith-Corona
typewriter—think I must have gone through about 20 ribbons!
The book was god-awful, but I finished it and before me or
anyone else can publish a book, we have to finish it and
that stops more would-be writers in their tracks than I
can count. My second book was the first to get published.
But, to get back to your question, the biggest challenge
is and was to find a publisher who believes in you. See,
nobody buys a book to sell a few copies. Publishers buy
new authors because they believe they can make them into
something. The challenge is to keep believing in yourself
when you’ve got enough rejection letters to paper the
walls. Everybody has the same story but the one thing
those of us who’ve made a career of it have learned is that
you can never give up. The day you start submitting your
first book is the day you should start writing your second
because, like mine, it will be much better and provide
solace while your taping those letters to the walls.
If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any
aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would
Not a thing, except for maybe doing some more exhaustive
research into the little known field of dark matter which
plays a huge role in PANDORA.
Have you written a book you love that you have not been
able to get published?
Love? No. At this stage in my career, getting published
has been eclipsed by other challenges like distribution,
placement, and finding a way to reach the New York Times
bestseller list. In some ways those challenges are just as
great as being published in the first place.
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to
work best for your genre?
I’ve always been published by major publishers, so my job
is to be a team player and work within the system while
acknowledging its limitations. The simple fact of the
matter is I take on so much work, I don’t have the kind of
time required to do all the social and new media stuff.
But, hey, I found time for you and am having a blast
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
You’re on a roll today! Another great question! I
think my favorite part of PANDORA’S TEMPLE to write was
McCracken’s dialogue in general. That’s because the more
he talked, the more he came back to life for me. I’d never
gone back to writing a character I’d previously abandoned,
and that’s a lot more challenging than it sounds. You can
plan and lay it out as much as you want, but until the
character’s own words start popping off the page you’re not
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an
author? What has been the best compliment?
Let me answer that question a different way. I’m most
proud of the fact that I’ve published 32 books now, but
that they run the gamut of so many different approaches to
storytelling. I did my first nonfiction book last year,
BETRAYAL, which was quite an experience. I’ve done two
uplifting inspirational tales (Hope Mountain and Dolphin
Key) and I’m now penning my third major series with female
Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong in the lead. Of course, I’m
also extremely proud of bringing Blaine McCracken back
after so many years. In that sense, more than anything
I’m probably more proud of the fact that I’ve never given
up in this crazy business of ours and have continually
looked for ways to grow and redefine myself. That said,
I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was frustrated over being
on this treadmill where, like for Alice in Wonderland, I
have to keep running faster just to stay in the same place.
I’ve had a lot of success, a great deal really, but I’ve
never been a New York Times bestselling author. That’s the
Holy Grail and, damn, it just keeps eluding me. I know
my books are good enough, I know all the pieces are there
but they’ve just never fallen together the right away.
That’s one of the truly exciting things about publishing
PANDORA with the great folks from Open Road. Hey, it gives
me something to look forward to and work even harder to
attain, so I guess it’s not all bad!
Here’s a couple of quirky questions for Jon Land
What’s your favorite movie? JAWS but THE GODFATHER is the
greatest film ever made.
Cake with or without ice cream? Without.
Date night out, or date night in? Depends.
Thanksgiving or Christmas? Both.
Physical copy of a book or eReader?? Physical copy for
Is there anything that you would like to say to your
readers and fans? Nope. I think they’re probably sick of
me by now!
Thanks for stopping by!
About The Author:
Jon Land is the critically acclaimed author of 32 books, including the bestselling series featuring Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong that includes STRONG ENOUGH TO DIE, STRONG JUSTICE, STRONG AT THE BREAK, STRONG VENGEANCE (July 2012) and STRONG RAIN FALLING (August 2013). He has more recently brought his long-time series hero Blaine McCracken back to the page in PANDORA’S TEMPLE (November 2012). He lives in Providence, Rhode Island.