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'Indy' was an adventure for the author, too

| Sunday, May 18, 2008

San Francisco-based adventure novelist James Rollins has a nice career going penning thrillers like "Map of Bones" and "The Black Order." But when the opportunity to write the novelization of the new Indiana Jones book came around, there was no hesitation.

"I probably would have written this book in my own blood if they asked me to," Rollins says. "Just the chance to be able to put on the Indiana Jones hat. ... For an adventure writer, what more can you ask for?"

Rollins will be in town for a Q&A session and book signing May 29 at the Oaks Theatre, the events will take place after a 7 p.m. screening of "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull."

Finally, he'll be allowed to talk about the story, to which he was sworn to secrecy. He can't talk just yet, though.

Rollins got the gig because his specialty happens to be very Indiana Jones-like mystery-thrillers.

"One of my recent books, 'Map of Bones,' Publisher's Weekly described it as a cross between Indiana Jones and 'The Da Vinci Code.' I'm not quite sure if they're being insulting, but I'll take it as a compliment."

It helps that he's a huge fan, of course.

"I'm a total movie geek. The first 100 people who saw 'Star Wars' for the first time (in 1977) got a 'May the Force Be With You' button," says Rollins. "I still have that. When 'Raiders' came out, I was determined to see it on the first night, also. I had booked a whitewater rafting trip the same day. ... I remember going to the movie, and my sneakers were still wet from the river water."

Rollins was given a 120-page screenplay with the job of turning it into a 400-page novel -- keeping in mind that what works on the big screen doesn't necessarily work in print.

"The only access I had to the script was to drive over to (Lucas Arts Studios in) San Francisco, and basically, be put in a locked room with the script," says Rollins. "I basically took a lot of notes on things to research. Eventually, security allowed me to have the script at home. Based upon that and the still shots posted on the web, I started building the story."

Luckily, he happened to be doing some research already that played right into the new Indiana Jones story.

"In an odd bit of serendipity, the book that's coming out this summer, 'Last Oracle' also deals with Russians and some of the experiments they were doing during the Cold War," says Rollins. "I could actually take some of that research and apply it to this book too."

He also can divulge some background on the Crystal Skull, which is based on an actual set of artifacts.

"Back in 1926, the Mitchell-Hedges skull was discovered in Belize, in a broken altar. It became known as 'The Skull of Doom' because of a curse put around it. Other skulls have been found, obviously faked, but some demonstrate this astounding crystal-sculpting technology in the Pre-Columbian time period. There's a mystery surrounding that iconic symbol -- a crystal skull that becomes the McGuffin/centerpiece for the story."

Additional Information:

Rollins at Oaks

James Rollins will be available for a Q&A and book signing following a 7 p.m. screening of 'Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull' on May 29 at the Oaks Theatre, Oakmont. Admission: $7; $5 for students and senior citizens. Details: 412-828-6322. Reservations suggested.

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