I'm currently working on the sequel to my book FLYPAPER, which is a thriller about a world pandemic. Friends keep asking me how I can write a sequel to a book in which everyone in the world dies. I understand this might give one pause. However, there were a handful of survivors left after the pandemic ran its course. And no one ever understood what caused the terrible disease. Was it the result of strange genetic anomalies found in human DNA? Was it caused by some extra-terrestrial life form? Or was it the result of the mysterious actions of Buddhist monks thousands of years in the past? To the mind of a thriller writer, these questions leave a vast area of possibility for a sequel.
The new book, as yet untitled, is, like FLYPAPER, set globally, from the United States to Europe to Asia. But the center of the story is focused in the vast, poisoned landscape surrounding the Aral Sea, located on the border between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Here, on an island in the center of the Aral Sea called Renaissance Island, the Soviets operated a test site for bacteriological weapons for more than sixty years, beginning in 1948 and lasting beyond the fall of the Soviet Union. The variety of lethal agents tested here included smallpox, tularemia, brucellosis, anthrax and plague, among many others. After the bioweapons program ended in 1991, the site was abandoned and a good deal of the infrastructure of the island was dismantled. However, many of the containers holding the spores of anthrax, plague and other bacilli were never properly stored or destroyed.
For fifty years the Aral Sea has been receding as irrigation canals built to develop cotton plantations in the desert diverted water from the Amu-Darya River. Where there was once a vast inland sea, there is now a desert filled with landlocked freighters and fishing boats. Once the island ceased to be separated from the mainland, animals could leave and transport their diseases with them. The drying up of the landscape allowed leftover pathogens to be blown on the winds. Nearby residents began to experience eye diseases, TB, digestive, kidney and neurological disorders and skin illnesses. It has become one of the world's nightmare places to live.
What better setting could a writer of history-based thrillers ask for? In the new book, we get a look at the world ten years after the pandemic struck. A handful of survivors are spread across the globe. The flora and fauna of this new world, now freed from the impact of humans, has begun to flourish once again, and our survivors have begun to look for ways to reconnect the isolated pockets of humanity. A strange radio signal emanating from the Aral Sea attracts the attentions of survivors from as far away as England, the Americas and central Asia.
Hidden beneath the biological laboratories of Stalin's Russia, lies something more, something inexplicable. It has been studied by an international coalition of scientists for fifteen years and still, they have no idea what it is they are studying. These scientists, present at the Aral Sea since before the pandemic of FLYPAPER, once again face the threat of being overwhelmed by mysterious disease. How and whether they will escape impacts our present day survivors now being slowly drawn into the web of mysterious signals emanating from beneath the poisoned soils of Mother Russia.
And it will also affect the lives of a mysterious and previously unknown species of unrelated but very human-like people who have somehow managed to survive in the shadows of humanity for millions of years. Are these strange new people destined to replace even the last vestiges of man on Earth?
And so, the thriller takes hold of the author.