Plot Outline:

The sixth book in the series. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, B Smith has decided to live -- and to fight for good as long as possible. However, London is overridden with the brain-eating undead and swarming with human mercenaries whose sense of right and wrong dissolved when society did. When they lay a trap, B is captured. And it'll take dozens of battles -- and the fight of a lifetime -- to escape. Filled with gripping, bloody action sequences, the sixth book in Darren Shan's horrifying Zom-B series promises the fright -- and the fight -- of your life.

Author Notes:

The sixth book in the Zom-B series went on sale on 2nd January 2014. I wrote a brief plot outline (although it was called Zom-B Gladiators at the time, as originally I meant to have other Angels involved in the action) on the 4th of August, 2009, but it was the 6th of April 2010 before I started to flesh out the ideas and set to work on the book. I did my final edit of the book more than 3 years later, near the end of May 2013.

I was really looking forward to this book after the quieter, less action-packed double-hitter of Zom-B Angels and Zom-B Baby. Those books were essential to B's development and grounding the series, but it was nice to be able to throw in some truly gripping, dramatic fight scenes again. Plus I got to introduce a whole host of new villains for B to contend with, including one of my all-time favourites from any of my books -- the despicable Dan-Dan!

Dan-Dan was named after my wife's nephew. His name is Daniel, but he was a young boy when I was writing this book, and everyone referred to him as Dan-Dan. It was a such a lovely, sweet name that I thought it would be the perfect contrast for the disgusting child-killer in the book.

Since Dan-Dan wasn't the only villain in the book, I decided I'd use the names of more of my wife's family member for most of the other members of the Board. Justin Bazini is named after her brother (I tweaked the surname slightly -- it's actually Basini). Vicky Wedge is named after his wife at the time -- she comes from the Wedgewood family, which is where the surname originated. (While the Wood part of it became the surname of Dan-Dan and his brother.) Lord Luca is named after my wife's other nephew, and Lady Jemima after her niece.

The Basinis are a lovely family in real life, and I've always enjoyed spending time with them. I hope they enjoy what I've done with them -- they certainly seemed to like it when I read out an extract to them the Christmas when the book was released!

The characters of Emma and Declan were also named after real people -- my brother and his wife. I'd actually used Declan in a book before, in The Saga Of Darren Shan, but I figured there was enough distance between the two series for that not to be an issue.

I had to tread cautiously with Dan-Dan. He's a deliciously over the top villain, but because there's nothing fantastical about him, I had to be careful not to make him TOO disturbing. Fantasy allows you a lot of leeway as a writer -- since Lord Loss was a creature from another dimension, i.e. a pure fantasy creation, I could have him ripping people to shreds, left, right and centre, and nobody minded, because he was clearly not real. But since genuine monsters like Dan-Dan do exist, he's far more unsettling than Lord Loss or Desmond Tiny, so I had to be careful not to push this into the realms of adult literature. To be fair to my editors, they let me go a long way with him, and only occasionally asked me to rein him in.

The HMS Belfast played an important role in this book. I visited the cruiser as a child, but haven't been back to it since. I meant to go back and do some research, but then I found plans and videos of it online, and I was able to use those instead. Some writers insist on experiencing everything in person that they write about, e.g. if they set a scene in a specific place, they go visit that place and write about what they find. But I love the internet and I make as much use of it as I can. Sometimes it can be limiting, and I have to get out into the field to do research in the flesh, but I'm constantly being amazed by just how much I can find out with a few Google searches and a bit of imagination.

We get to see just how far B has come as a character in Zom-B Gladiator. From being a shallow, selfish, borderline (arguably over the border) racist in book 1, she's now come to a point where she's prepared to risk her life every day, and go through all sorts of torments, in an attempt to help others. We also see how she's developed as a fighter -- that training under Master Zhang really pays off here!

The book marks the end of the first half of the series -- B's growth as a person -- and that's why it's the only one of the twelve that doesn't end on a cliffhanger. I wanted readers to be able to pause at this point, reflect on what has gone before, and smile at B's accomplishments. The story line moves forward quickly from book 7 onwards, and it's an adrenaline rush from there until the end, with B facing all sorts of challenges and twists. The ending of this book is a chance to pause, draw breath and take stock, before the REAL madness kicks off in book 7.

A quick note about the covers. Although they featured different designs, my British and American publishers used the same artwork (by the uber-talented Cliff Nielsen) on most of the covers, but in this case they chose to go with different images. They both stem from the same scene in the book -- a bound and hooded figure being menaced -- but the American cover featured a long shot from early on in the scene, while the British one sported a close-up from a few chapters later. I loved them both -- the UK cover is more immediately horrific, but the American cover makes me think of the infamous Abu Ghraib torture photographs. For me, these covers taken together perfectly sum up what I was trying to do with my Zom-B books -- write a series that would thrill and scare readers, while at the same time provide them with plenty of food for thought.

Global Cover Variations

  • Book Cover Image Zom-B Gladiator (Canada)
  • Book Cover Image Zom-B Gladiator (Taiwan)
  • Book Cover Image Zom-B Gladiator 1st draft
  • Book Cover Image Zom-B Gladiator (USA)
  • Book Cover Image Zom-B Gladiator 4th draft
  • View full covers gallery

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