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  • The Devil's Breath
  • Written by David Gilman
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  • The Devil's Breath
  • Written by David Gilman
    Read by David Thorn
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Written by David GilmanAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by David Gilman


List Price: $9.99


On Sale: September 23, 2008
Pages: 400 | ISBN: 978-0-375-89133-5
Published by : Delacorte Books for Young Readers RH Childrens Books

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Read by David Thorn
On Sale: September 23, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-7393-7271-5
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WHEN AN ASSASSIN bursts from the shadows to try to kill him on the dark, windswept grounds of his boarding school in England, Max Gordon realizes his life is about to change forever.

After learning that his explorer father is missing, Max is determined to find him, no matter what dangers may lay in his path. A secret clue his father left behind leads Max to the inhospitable wilderness of Namibia, where he soon discovers a potentially massive ecological disaster masterminded by Shaka Chang, a very powerful and completely ruthless man—a man Max fears may have put his father in mortal danger. Max needs all the help he can get. Because whoever is behind his father’s disappearance is determined to get rid of Max, too. For good.

From the Hardcover edition.



The killer, like many assassins, came in the night.

The distant, echoing boom of gunfire and the lazy but deadly arc of machine guns’ tracer rounds seeking out their target across the windswept countryside would help hide his presence. And tonight would be one of his easiest assignments. His victim was a fifteen-year-old boy.

He checked his watch. His timing was good. He was in position. First choice: make it look like an accident—a broken neck. Second choice: a shot to the head and dispose of the body. It made no difference to him. The wind had veered from the east to the north—there was a colder bite to it and he thought of the soldiers lying out there on the waterlogged ground. They would not have slept for days and, with almost constant gunfire and the demands of patrolling, exhaustion and the cold would have eaten into them.

The steady chattering of the soldiers’ machine guns, a couple of kilometers away, was a comfort to him, the staccato rhythm like music to his ears. The ground-sucking crump of mortar fire and the thud of distant artillery blended in his senses. Some of his happiest days as a soldier had been spent killing, but now he offered a more personal service in his lucrative trade of murder. He was being paid impressive money for this job—so, whoever this kid was, someone badly wanted him dead. He checked his watch again, and then eased a 9mm semiautomatic pistol from his waistband—better to have it ready.

Out in the darkness, a few minutes away from where the killer waited, fifteen-year-old Max Gordon jogged along the thin strip of tarmac. His dad had been right in sending him to school here; these past three years had built up his strength and agility, and he’d decided to enter one of the junior triathlon contests: extreme sports were the real test of nerve and skill. Next year there would be a Junior X-treme Competition in the French Pyrenees and Max wanted to compete in the downhill mountain-bike race, snowboarding and wildwater kayaking—every one a big adrenaline rush. He knew it was ambitious, but he had the stamina and physical strength now. These extra late-night training runs were paying off. Although it was nearly pitch black, especially when the North Atlantic weather fronts roared in from the coast, there was always enough ambient light to see the tarmac ribbon guiding him around the dinosaur-like boulders.

His breathing settled as he locked into a perfect pace. Across the landscape firepower crisscrossed the night. Explosions were much further away and parachute flares jigged ineffectively in the sky as the buffeting wind swept them away. But he was safe where he was. The commandos and paratroopers were in a designated training area and were no threat to him here. Another four kilometers on the loop back and he’d turn for home, have a hot shower and then bed.

Then he heard a sound that didn’t belong. Instincts focused his senses. A soft metallic click—about twenty meters ahead. There was a curved bowl worn away into the hillside, probably made by animals seeking shelter over the years, and that was where the noise had come from. Max knew there shouldn’t be any soldiers about here and caution slowed his pace. The wind had shifted slightly, to dead ahead, and that was why he had heard the noise. Like a car door being pressed gently closed. Or an automatic pistol being cocked.

In less time than it took to think, he veered off the road and into the gorse, putting on a turn of speed and feeling the needle-sharp foliage scratching his legs. Just as he glanced back, a shadow moved from behind a sheltering boulder and then disappeared again. Whoever was out there knew what he was doing, and there was no doubt in Max’s mind that the shadow was after him.

He pounded across the dangerously uneven ground, risking a twisted ankle. A fall would put him at the mercy of whoever was chasing him, but he had no choice—he needed to put distance between himself and his pursuer. Arms pumping, eyes streaming with tears from the cold, he glanced around and saw the blurred shadow coming at an angle towards him. Max was heading straight into the military danger zone—the terrifying crackle of gunfire ahead of him was louder than he’d ever heard it before and the lethal stream of bullets scythed across the sky; he ducked instinctively from the ripped air above his head.

Another quick look over his shoulder told him that the shadow had gone, but then Max lost his footing. Stumbling, he fell; his arm scraped granite and flint, and the raw pain made him yelp. He rolled and scrambled to his feet again—but now in almost complete darkness. The machine-gun firing had stopped; the artillery and mortars had fallen silent. He was running into a black void where the low, ground-hugging fug of smoke stung his eyes and the acrid taste of cordite burned the back of his throat. It was like the aftermath of a massive fireworks display—except these fireworks could rip you apart. He realized, too late, that he’d under- estimated the shadow pursuing him. He thought he could outrun him but the man had cut behind him, keeping himself out of sight, and Max could still hear the thump of his feet, getting closer now. Desperation powered him on, his feet came free of the gorse and found a scratch of track through the bracken. Sucking in as much air as his lungs could bear, he ran blindly onwards. The whiplash of a bullet cracked past his ear, followed almost immediately by the sound of the gunshot from behind him. No doubt now—his pursuer was out to kill. Max felt his legs give a little, but that was the ground falling away into a dip. And the man behind him was getting closer, homing right in on his target like a heat-seeking missile.

From the Hardcover edition.
David Gilman

About David Gilman

David Gilman - The Devil's Breath

Photo © Charles Shearn

I had so many flights of fancy while I was growing up, I should have enough air miles for life.

Stop daydreaming! Concentrate! Words that still echo from my childhood. “Leave me alone– I like watching clouds,” I wanted to shout back. I began telling stories when I was very young, mostly to get myself out of trouble. I had an ability both to amuse and to get my own way. It was probably a serious character flaw, which insisted that I be the centre of attention while believing that I was so amusing and imaginative that no one could possibly think of punishing me for my misdeeds. It did not always work. It took many years to morph such whoppers into more serious attempts at storytelling.

But where is this mysterious place that stories come from? And why do writers want to share their stories? My early years were without television, so comics and radio were my first love. Exciting plays and drama serials–of all genres– created wonderful pictures in my mind. It was all edge-of-the-seat stuff. I think those very early cliffhanging stories threw me into wild imaginings. They were my escape, letting me experience other worlds. That’s what I want to create for my readers, to drag them right into the story and let them see the images and feel the emotions as they unfold.

But it took a long time to get there. I was impatient. My attention span was about five seconds on a good day, so sitting down in a chair for however long it took to write something was not for me. I wanted to experience life and I wanted it to be as rich and full and exciting as I could make it. The places I went and the things I did gave me a profound reality check, but all those experiences and stories were gathering momentum, and eventually their colliding energy could not be restrained. Quantum physics might be able to explain it, but I can’t.

So I was quite old when I eventually taught myself the craft of writing. It was difficult (and at times it still is) and, no matter how good I thought a story was, back then I did not have the skills to tell it on the page. I began writing plays and serials for radio, and that was my apprenticeship. I devoted every night and weekend to writing, and the work was getting broadcast. I wrote for every genre– crime, horror, supernatural, adventure, and comedy. Ideas never stopped bubbling, but finding the ones that had a resonance to carry the story through satisfactorily was the tricky bit. Then I learned another discipline– that of writing for television– which brought me, finally, to the big jump: writing a book.

I had to step into the harsh reality of the world when I was fourteen to help support my family, so I found in my young hero, Max Gordon, the spirit of adventure that I think lies within everyone, and because I had been scared on many occasions in my life, I tempered his resourcefulness with vulnerability and fear. This teenager has physical and emotional challenges to face, not least the exploration of a son’s love for his father–and that started his first adventure: The Devil’s Breath.

So how to bring words onto the page? There’s magic in the air if you look for it. Inspiration is a wonderful, firework-moment. Slack-jawed, eyes glazed, you stare into space as it flares in the darkness of your mind. But the Fourth of July comes around only once a year, so if you want to write, inspiration plays only a small part in the process. I read as much as I can– lots of different things that interest me.I research and I travel. But you don’t have to be a globetrotter to tell stories– there’s a treasure chest called imagination, and when you look inside there is everything you could ever want in this or any other universe.

Writing this has made me look back on my life. There are times I feel sorry for that floundering boy who didn’t know where he would end up in the world, who seized every chance to do something different and interesting. Did he learn anything? Not a lot, though he did it with a free spirit and the one thing his father taught him– never to give up– has been a constant companion. This is especially valuable if you want to become a writer. And for me the thrill of it all is undiminished. When every new writing adventure starts, excitement gnaws at me, like doing a parachute jump at night. It’s a roller-coaster ride in the slipstream, but you can’t see when you will hit the ground.

I’m sitting looking out of my window at the changing season. There’s a river and wild geese honking their way home. Clouds wrestle each other across the low hills.
And there is no teacher telling me to stop daydreaming.

Air miles.

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