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Under the Radar

JL Bourne's Zombie Armageddon

Today is the official release date for Day By Day Armageddon: Origin to Exile.

Chances are you’ve at least heard of the Day by Day Armageddon (DBDA) series by author JL Bourne. If you haven’t, then you need to go find it. Once you find it, you really need to read it (unless, of course, you’re scared of zombies). The release of the new omnibus edition is a great excuse to do so.

DBDA is a book with a great story behind as well as inside it. Bourne is a self-made author. He started blogging the chapters of his book on line for the hell of it, then self-published it, was picked up by Permuted Press and is now writing for Simon & Schuster. What began as a hobby is now a cult phenomenon. There are over 100,000 copies in print, vast numbers of e-books downloaded and a following of remarkably loyal fans. In a very real sense, Bourne to zombie books is what Romero is to zombie films and Kirkman is to zombie comics.  (Plus, he can shoot.)

Author's LaRue Tactical 7.62 OBR rifle. You will see it used extensively to slaughter zombies in the upcoming Day by Day Armageddon: Shattered Hourglass (DBDA3).  Want one? Call LaRue Tactical and inform Mark LaRue that J.L. Bourne sent you and you want the Day by Day Armageddon configuration.

"I cannot say enough about the build quality of this gun," JL Bourne.

Recently I was able to speak with Mr. Bourne at length after he graciously agreed to an interview for Military.com. I approached the interview from a slightly different tack than others, however—I knew he could write, knew you could go out and read the plot synopsis of his books. No point rehashing that. I wanted to know a little bit about the author from a gunslinger’s perspective—he writes trigger-pullers well. I wanted to know the hows and whys of that.

First things first, the obvious question. Why zombies, and why make it so tactically correct? Bourne (possibly a pen name) says he chose zombies because, unlike vampires and werewolves, they have no rules. No silver bullets, crosses, running water or the like. “Zombies don’t have limitations or rules. They just want to eat you. Much more terrifying.” Also because, as he put it, “I just hate bad gunplay in books and fiction.”

Now, one of the several unique things about JL Bourne that Under the Radar readers will identify with is his service. Bourne is an active, as in currently serving, Naval Aviator. “I joined the Navy as a slick sleeve E-1 in 1995,” he said. “Earned my college degree during my time off while serving…applied for officer candidate school after making E-6 [Petty Officer First Class] and was selected to attend Navy OCS. I earned my commission in 2003.”

Author hard at work on DBDA3. Bonus CDI Bad Ass points if you can identify that rifle.

After flight training and a tour in an operational fleet squadron from 2005-2008, he was posted to a billet at an intelligence agency in the Washington DC area. That assignment ended back in June and he actually recently departed once again for sea duty. During his career Bourne served in OIF, logging over a thousand hours of flight time, nearly four hundred of which under combat conditions, as well as OEF-P as a member of the now deactivated JTF 515. Now an O-3, he recently provided intel support to Operation Odyssey Dawn.

When asked "Are you a lifer?," he responded simply: "I’ll stay as long as it stays fun."

Another thing that will be of interest to an ever larger portion of UTR’s audience is his devotion to his tactical craft. When not in uniform or working on DBDA, Bourne continues to hone his shooting and tactical skills. He’s trained with Todd Green, Larry Vickers, Kyle Defoor and others, describing such professional training as an “ongoing education”. This is an author who can shoot on the move, speak intelligently to the relative merits of various calibers and conduct effective transition drill under stress. He’s plainspoken and matter of fact about his opinions as much as his books, which on occasion will rub someone the wrong way—but then…he is a prior enlisted sailor versed in trigger-pulling and doorkickery after all. It’s refreshing how little he cares if people get butt-hurt.

Closeup of the custom DBDA design on author's LaRue Tactical OBR.

I asked him a few additional questions during the course of our conversation.

What handgun or handgun caliber do you prefer?

I have no allegiance to a particular pistol. I do like the Glock 19 (though I’m not a fanboy). I have some M&Ps…modern polymer handguns are the most reliable ones on the planet. I don’t follow a cult of handguns, I think you shoot what’s efficient and what you can afford to shoot.

Do you have a rifle caliber?

Here’s what I do…I like the 5.45 caliber for training, so what I do is get a 5.45 upper and slap it on that polymer lower on my training rifle…I don’t want to spend fifty cents a round shooting 5.56, so I shoot Russian 5.45.

What is your preferred rifle?

The rifle I shoot when not shooting bulk is a Daniel Defense M4. For battle rifle work, I go to my LaRue Tactical 7.62 OBR. Mark LaRue loves guns and loves the Constitution, so I gotta give him full thumbs. For a zombie apocalypse I’d go with 5.56mm obviously. I keep a good, reliable M4 carbine, well lubricated, maintained and ready to go. I run my M4s wet.

Any attachments?

I run Aimpoint micros, maybe a trijicon with fiberoptic powered optics, but I don’t neglect training with iron sights.

Why is it so important that the tactics in your books are accurate?

I was reading some fiction on survival and survival scenarios, and really hated the stuff that wasn’t believable…if you’re going to write about the unbelievable, at least write abut it in a believable fashion.

Ever have any trouble on the job now that you’re a “famous” author? Any issues with the intersection of novelist and Naval officer?

There’s been no impact on military operations. I’ve kept my writing career a secret and separate from the military for many years. The enlisted man working alongside me, or the admiral I’m briefing would have no idea.

There are two DBDA books in print now, with the third on the way in 2012. An omnibus collection entitled DBDA: Origin to Exile was released today (which he wasn’t able to celebrate, particularly, because he’s at sea). The first book took him a year to write; the third took three because of deployments. Bourne actually expressed some frustration about his fans’ expectation for the third book.

“I often have to remind my readers I’m a serving military officer,” he says. “I don’t do this full time.”

You’re going to like Bourne because he can write and because of lines like this: “I fucked up on a transition and threw one shot outside the eight inch ring—but still in the kill zone—and  was given some shit for it.  He holds accuracy over speed so I think it might pay some to slow it down a bit…keep those shots at eight inch center mass while moving, or even at 15 yard distances…”

That’s not a line from one of his stories. That’s him talking about screwing up at a carbine class.

Give Day By Day Armageddon a try and carry a full load-out. Zombies are coming.

Better stand to.

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