The Fourth I Hunt Killers Book

I Hunt Killers Game lyga_bloodofmyblood_hc Blood of My BloodApologies for the potentially misleading title of this post. Let me state right up front: There is no fourth I Hunt Killers book.

But there could have been.

I figure now that Blood of My Blood has been out for a couple of weeks, I might as well go ahead and tell the story of what-might-have-been. If you’re interested in behind-the-scenes nitty-gritty, you may find this interesting.

Oh, and of course: Spoilers below for Blood of My Blood!

So, some background: I first proposed I Hunt Killers to my publisher way back in 2009. In the proposal, I wrote — towards the end — the following:

The book can end two ways. If it’s a standalone, then Jazz — with his intimate knowledge of his father’s secrets — catches him before he can get out of town and returns him to jail.

But I think the story is actually a trilogy.

It went on from there to explain how a trilogy would build on the first book.

Why did I propose two possibilities? Well, because here’s a secret for y’all: If you are the sort of author who lives on the bestseller lists and gets big, fat movie deals and has readers voluntarily sacrificing puppies in your honor, then a publisher would be thrilled to buy a trilogy from you on the basis of just a proposal.

I am not that sort of author. I am a run-of-the-mill dude who writes books. I didn’t want the publisher to see plans for a trilogy and think, Sounds good, but risky. What if the first book tanks? Then we’re on the hook for two more! So I gave them an out: Look, I want to do a trilogy, but trust me — I can do one book, if I have to.

One book or three books. Easy, right?

Well, the publisher came back and said… Two books.

Of course.

What was I going to do? Yes, if I had to, I could tell a truncated version of the story in one book, cross my fingers and hope that it did well enough to warrant returning to it someday. Or I could tell the whole thing in three.

But two?

I gambled; I wrote that first book as if I would have three, not two, hoping that when the publisher saw the final product, they would be thrilled enough to want more.

Time went by and they agreed to a third book just before I started writing Game. Whew!1

But then I had a thought: What if I did four books?

As I worked on Game, I started to see new possibilities. Sending Jazz to New York opened up whole new worlds to him, something I hadn’t considered originally. I started thinking about it and realized that going to four books could be really dramatic.

My publisher had just agreed to a third book…and the first one wasn’t even on sale yet! I knew it was risky (and borderline egomaniacal) to insist on a  fourth, but I did it anyway.

They said… “Let us think about it.” And then gave me a date by which they would give me their decision.

Fine. I finished Game. I Hunt Killers hit shelves. Things were moving along.

Except…

Except I couldn’t start on the third book because I didn’t know if it would be the last one!2 So I waited and I waited, and I kept thinking of how I would structure the two final books. And let me tell you something — if you hated the Game cliffhangers, you would have lost your mind over what I had planned for the ending of the third book!

Decision day loomed and something funny happened. I sat down and I looked at my plan for Books 3 and 4, and I thought to myself, “I don’t know if I want to do it this way after all. I think three books might be the way to go.”

My agent called me. “I’m pretty confident they’re going to let you do the fourth book,” she said, “but we’ll know tomorrow.”

I told my wife that night: “If they want a fourth book, I’ll do it, but I’m not sure it’s the right way to go any more. I feel like an idiot for even pushing for it.”

And the next day, my agent’s gut proved wrong. The publisher came back and said, “We really think this should be three books.”

I have never in my life been so relieved not to sell a book!3

If you’re curious, this is how Books 3 and 4 broke down in the alternate universe where I Hunt Killers is a tetralogy, not a trilogy:

Book 3 (The Crow King) would have picked up with the cliffhangers from Game and proceeded much the same…at first. But Billy doesn’t kill Hat. Instead, it turns out Hat is one step ahead of everyone. New York goes insane — there are at least two serial killers on the loose, one of whom just blew up an apartment building to cover his tracks. Jazz escapes from the hospital to track down Billy and find his mom, realizing that catching Hat is the shortest way to get to Billy. He’s hunted by Hughes while he hunts Hat. When he catches Hat, Hat explains — in a crazy babble — about the Crows and warns Jazz of the Crow King. He and Hat fight; Hughes barges in and kills Hat. Jazz manages to escape and, now aware of the Jack Dawes alias, tracks down Billy. Mom Skypes in. Jazz and Billy fight, Jazz stabs Billy in the back, turns to the iPad and says, “You’re next.”

Boom. End of Book 3. Commence a year of people screaming things like, “Is Billy actually dead? Is Jazz’s mom really Ugly J? How could you end another book on a cliffhanger?”

Book 4 (Killswitch) picks up ten seconds later. We learn that Jazz paralyzed Billy rather than killing him.4 Jazz begins the hunt for his mother, first digging up his grandfather to find Billy’s “memoir,” which spells out more of the Crows, leading him to the Crow King. There’s a nationwide manhunt for Jazz, who should turn himself in, but instead holes up in the Nod to immerse himself in Billy’s memoir. He breaks into G. William’s house — “You’re the only man who’s ever stopped one of them; tell me how.” — and G. William explains to him the events of Lucky Day. With his newfound knowledge of the Dawes identity, he starts hunting Crows, tracking them down one by one, interrogating them for information about the Crow King, then leaving them for the cops. Eventually, he tracks down Ugly J, and things proceed as they do in Blood of My Blood.

Whew! As you can see, the emotional arc of the story is the same, but the scope would have been much broader. I’m glad, though, to have only the three books. I think it’s a tighter, stronger story this way. And, quite honestly, I’m glad not to have another year of people complaining about cliffhangers. 🙂



  1. What would I have done if I’d had to wrap things up in two books? I honestly don’t know. I could have gotten to the ending in two books, but it would have felt emotionally truncated and I don’t think anyone would have been happy with it.
  2. This, in case you’re wondering, is why there were 18 months between Books 2 and 3. No one’s fault — we just didn’t think it through when that decision date was set.
  3. And by the way, this is the origin of Lucky Day. Originally, it was intended to be an extended flashback in Book 3 or Book 4, but now there was no room for it. At the same time, I wanted to offer something for cliffhanger-suffering readers to read while they waited for the final book, so it worked out nicely.
  4. My one regret in the three-book solution is that you guys found out Jazz wasn’t a murderer after just a few pages.

Comments

  1. Hey, Barry –

    Just wanted to let you know that I just read your post about the could-have been 4th IHK book. And while I admit I’m a bit sad, (I feel like I missed out on something -especially the idea of Jasper BREAKING INTO G. William’s house -that would have been amazing!) I completely get your choice, and even applaud you on it. You decided not to drag out your series, and you chose to end it smoothly, and write fini on it in a way that was deeply satisfying. Blood of my blood was a masterful piece of art, so, yeah, you did really well there.

    Though I do have a question for you, hopefully you’ll see this comment and you’ll answer!

    Ready?

    Ahem.

    Will there be any more Jazz Dent sorta stuff, at all? Like a prequel, more short stories, even outtakes?

    (Outtakes would be REALLY COOL, btw)

    I get that you may feel done with the series, and want to take a break (which I understand, and respect) but it’s like, as a massive fan of the series, it’s really hard to just end the series like that. To just say goodbye to the cherished characters that quickly, and that abruptly. I’m crossing my fingers and toes that you are gonna give us a little more Jazz Dent in
    the future.

    Otherwise,
    thanks….

    -Jazzdentfan2

  2. Tough to answer some of these questions without possibly making promises I can’t keep…

    I do have plans for another short story, but I can’t say when it would happen. It just has to do with scheduling. So it will probably be a while.

    As to outtakes… Well, maybe. I don’t know. There’s not a huge amount of outtake material, honestly, and what little of it there is would take a bit of time to pull together and put out there. I’m just not sure it’s the best use of my time. But we’ll see.

  3. The I Hunt Killers series has been my favorite ever since I read the first book. They are unique and have the perfect amount of gore, emptional/psychological/physical struggle, and Howie, someone who makes almost every situation that little bit less serious. They are all books that once picked up, they are near impossible to put down.

    Four books would have been cool, with Jazz tracking down his mother, using Crows to find her, and breaking into G. William’s house, but the way the third book proceeded and ended, it was magnificent. Amazing job.

    But as fantastic as finishing the trilogy and knowing how it ends is, it’s also depressing to let Jazz, Howie, Connie, G. William, and even Billy, and Hughes go. They are excellent characters that I’m sad are going to be put to rest.

    Anyways, beautiful (in its own morbid way) book; beautiful trilogy.

  4. Hey Barry-

    Just wanted to let you know how amazing I thought all three books were. And you are right- if you had have turned it into four, I would have lost my mind. Ever since I read the second book I couldn’t wait until the third came out, more than a year later!

    It was an amazing story- so many cliff hangers and twists and turns, I loved every minute of it! I wouldn’t have minded another book to read though. Now I’ll just have to read them again!

  5. Hi Mr Lyga. I am in love with the “I Hunt Killers” series. I had placed the Blood of Blood’ book on hold at the library and it had nine people waiting on it. So, I went to the Barnes and Noble site to see if they had it and they did. The next day I went to the store with my dad to get it and to my disappointment it was a little pricey. I am not a person who like to spend to much on books so I went in search for something else. When we went home my father said he had a surprise for me. It was your book. I was so excited. I wanted to save it for the beginning of October to read it to get into the Halloween spirit but i just couldn’t wait. I am almost done with it. I am kind of sad that the series is over.

    I have a few questions if you don’t mind answering? Now that the series is over what are you going to do next? How about doing more videos on YouTube ( I found your channel while I was looking for reviews about your book) Hope this wasn’t to long of a read.

  6. I have started reading your books and I really want to know of there will be a movie on these books

  7. Kara Calhoun says:

    First off, I want to say I am a huge fan of the series. I don’t know what it is but I lvoe it. Second off, I feel like you should put out a fourth book, but not as part of the actual trilogy. Have Jazz helping catch the crows left over after he took down his mother and father, maybe set it a few years after the fact. Then show him breaking into G William’s house, cathcing the crows, that sort of thing.
    Then again that is just my opinion. I will always love your books, and am practially dieing to buy them. Thank you for bringing Jazz, Connie, and Howie into my world; they make it intersting.

  8. I just discovered the I Hunt Killers books and plowed through the trilogy. I
    WANT MORE. TAKE MY MONEY.

    With Billy’s notebook and Jazz’s I Hunt Killers tattoo…

    I mean you COULD keep going. I hope there’s more of a demand for the books, and the publisher begs you to keep wiring them.

    I read the first book in that OTHER series about a teenager fighting his serial killer urges and I like your books a lot better. With the movie they made out of that other book, hopefully he more people will discover Jasper Dent.

    I’ll check out your other stuff in the meantime.

    Thanks, man. Good stuff.

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