“Hell’s Gate” by Bill Schutt with J. R. Finch is an eco-thriller. Combining geo-politics with zoology Schutt uses his knowledge to create this plot involving creatures during World War II. He is a university professor with a specialty in vertebrate zoology, and a research assistant to the American Museum of Natural History.
“I went to this place in Brazil and thought how it would be a good setting,” Schutt said. “Since I am a World War II buff I wanted to combine my profession, with my hobby, and this wonderful place. At the time of the plot this place was very isolated, where I imagined the possibility of Germany moving its rocket scientists here, a place that could never be found and would be hard to attack. The creatures are based on my studies of vampire bats that lived in this region. The creatures in the story actually existed.”
The plot has the U.S. military parachuting into the Brazilian jungle Captain R. J. MacCready. He enters into Hell’s Gate, a huge plateau that is one of the most remote regions in the world. Each character has a special skill to help solve the mysterious puzzle: MacCready is the expert on bats, a quick-witted, brilliant, scientific jack-of-all-trades zoologist, who is unexpectedly reunited with his friend and botanist, Bob Thorne, thought to be dead, and his wife, Yanni, who possesses cryptic skills. Together they learn of a diabolical Axis plot to destroy America and its allies, and a creepy dark force that attacks at night. The plot has the protagonists trying to save humanity from the Nazis who are attempting to launch a major rocket and a creature, Desmodus draculae, similar to the vampire bats, that has migrated there.
Since the setting is almost a secondary character Schutt used his own experiences of spending nights “in the rain forest and living in caves. I wanted to get across to the readers what it would be like to be there alone at night: what it would sound like, smell like, and able to crawl around the floor of a cave. I have been up all night in a tree with no one around.”
His next book will be about the natural history of cannibalism out on Valentine’s Day. The sequel to “Hell’s Gate,” out next year, will have MacCready wearing much warmer clothing and takes place two years later.
As with all of his books, Schutt wants to make sure he is able to include his zoologist background to enhance the plot. “Hell’s Gate” has vivid descriptions of the rain forest with the authors evoking the dangers of nature. Combining that with the dangers of Nazi science development the plot has a very adventurous tone.