Like the survival board game Zombicide that it’s connected to, Josh Reynold’s novel Zombicide: All Or Nothing (paperback, Kindle, audiobook) was inspired in part by some iconic zombie movies. But as Reynolds explains in the following email interview, it was also inspired by an iconic movie that’s not about the living impaired.
To begin, what is Zombicide: All Or Nothing about, and when and where does it take place?
The book is a sequel to my previous Zombicide novel, Last Resort. Though you don’t need to have read the previous book to enjoy this one. And it’s not connected to the other Zombicide novels, as far as I’m aware.
In it, the thief-turned-survivor Westlake finds himself in the unenviable position of being a self-aware zombie, and trapped between two groups of survivors in what’s left of Atlantic City.
How is Zombicide: All Or Nothing connected to the game Zombicide, in terms of both narrative and chronology?
It’s set in the world of the game, but takes place in the early years of the zombie apocalypse. So, around the time your characters in the game are having their adventures, Westlake and co. are having theirs — just elsewhere. Over there somewhere.
Where did you get the idea for Zombicide: All Or Nothing?
I actually had it while I was writing Last Resort. I wanted to dig a bit more into Westlake’s past, while simultaneously visiting an urban location for the next book.
So, is there a reason you set it in Atlantic City as opposed to Las Vegas or Monte Carlo or the Morongo Casino Resort & Spa in Cabazon, California?
Part of it was down to proximity. It was (relatively) easier for the characters to get to Atlantic City than anywhere else, given the apocalypse. I also find Atlantic City fascinating. It used to be a proper gangster playground, from Prohibition on. These days, not so much, but there’s some interesting history there nonetheless.
As you said, Westlake is a “self-aware zombie.” What does that mean? Like, was he bit and he just hasn’t turned, and this is a natural part of the zombifying process, or is he more like a hybrid and an anomaly?
The latter, unfortunately for him. Biologically, he’s a zombie, but mentally he’s still who he was — at least for now. But as we see in the book, it’s very much a slippery slope for him. He’s rotting on the bone, and he’s on borrowed time.
And I can kind of guess the answer, but why did you decide to make Westlake this way as opposed to someone who was bit and hasn’t turned but, over the course of the novel, starts to display symptoms of the zombification process?
Mostly, I just thought it’d be fun to see a full-blown “Zombivor,” as they’re known in Zombicide. Fans of the game will already be expecting one to turn up eventually, so I figured I might as well get it in as soon as possible. Trying to be tricky with this sort of thing — the whole delayed gratification angle — it just doesn’t work. My philosophy is to give people what they want and don’t mess about.
So, how familiar were you with the Zombicide game when you started to write Last Resort? Because in the previous interview we did about your novel Legend Of The Five Rings: Death’s Kiss, you said, that while you were, “somewhat familiar” with that game, you also said, “…while familiarity isn’t necessary to write in a given setting, it is very helpful in making the end product something fans of said setting can truly enjoy.”
I’m about as familiar with Zombicide as I was with Legend Of The Five Rings, i.e. I’ve played it a few times. But I have read all of the rule books, and watched an inordinate amount of zombie films and television shows, so I hope I managed to convey the right feel for things.
And did anything change in the time between then and when you started writing Zombicide: All Or Nothing in terms of your familiarity with the game? Like, did you play the game a bunch after writing Last Resort?
Unfortunately, no. I’ve been too busy writing to do much gaming in general. Though I would like to try the new edition of the game. Oh, and the new Marvel Zombies Zombicide. You can play as Morbius and Moon Knight, so…yeah. I’m into that.
At the risk of sounding like your disapproving mother, why did you feel like you didn’t need to do more research?
It wasn’t a matter of not feeling like it. It was more a matter of finding the time to play and finding the people to play with. So, I had to content myself with reading the updated rulebooks, watching some films and throwing a mess of zombies at the characters. It’s hard to mess up that particular recipe, you know?
You’ve written more than just these two Zombicide novels. But by my count you’ve written nearly four dozen novels, as well as numerous novellas, short stories, radio dramas, and games. Are there any writers or specific stories that had a big influence on Nothing but not on any of your other stories, and especially not Last Resort?
Not really. The things that inspired Last Resort, inspired this one. I drew from the same well of influences for both books — and for most of my books, honestly. My brain is a bubbling pot of gumbo, and I just keep adding ingredients.
What about non-literary influences; was Zombicide: All Or Nothing influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games?
Interestingly, it was influenced quite a bit by Martin Scorsese’s fantastic 1995 film, Casino, as well as Zack Snyder’s somewhat less fantastic 2021 film, Army Of The Dead. Both of those are set in Las Vegas, but they inspired me nonetheless. While Casino isn’t a zombie film, it informs a lot of Westlake’s character (Westlake is basically a protagonist from a Scorsese / Michael Mann film who wandered into the wrong movie), and Army has a fantastic setting — a zombie-infested Las Vegas — even if it doesn’t make much use of it.
Speaking of movies, etc., is there anything about the zombies in Zombicide — the game and the books — that make them different from, say, the zombies in George Romero’s movies, the Resident Evil games, The Walking Dead, or any other zombies?
Zombicide draws on all of the above for inspiration, so it’s no surprise that there are similarities between the zombies of the board game and the media mentioned above. The main difference, I think, is that the relative intelligence of the Zombicide zombies is up for debate — they may or may not be sentient (for a given value of the term), and that means there may or may not be reasons for how creatures like Abominations act.
And should we read anything into the fact that Westlake sounds a lot like Wesker, who is one of the major characters in the Resident Evil series?
Not really. Westlake is a refugee from crime fiction, not video games.
As you mentioned earlier, Zombicide: All Or Nothing is the sequel to Zombicide: Last Resort. What are your plans going forward with these books? Are they a duology, the first two books of a trilogy, the first in what you hope will be a long-running series…?
I hope that there will be a third book, at least, if only to bring Westlake’s story to an appropriate conclusion. I have some ideas for how to continue the series after that, but whether it does or not isn’t up to me, but the publisher. And, of course, the readers. If you read it and enjoy it, let people know. Word of mouth helps sell books, and the more books that get sold, the more likely it is that subsequent novels get commissioned.
We talked earlier about the movies, TV shows, and games that influenced Zombicide: All Or Nothing. But to flip things around, do you think Zombicide: All Or Nothing could work as a movie, show, or game?
I think it could easily work as a film, with some selective trimming of the backstory. It could also work as a game scenario, especially the gladiatorial scenes. Those would make an excellent one-off scenario for a group of experienced survivors.
If someone wanted to adapt Zombicide: All Or Nothing into a movie or show, who do you think they should cast as Westlake and the other main characters and why them?
Hmmm. For Westlake, I’d be tempted to see Mark Strong [Shazam] in the role or — and hear me out: Stanley Tucci [The Hunger Games]. I think Strong would bring a nice sense of menace to the role, but Tucci would capture that sparky wise guy essence. For Ramirez, I think [Jane The Virgin‘s] Gina Rodriguez could easily pull it off. For Kahwihta, K. Devery Jacobs [Reservation Dogs] is who I imagine when I write her. Ptolemy is William Jackson Harper [The Good Place]. For Sayers, I envision [Parks And Rec‘s] Rashida Jones for some reason. El Calavera could only be played by an actual luchador, so someone like Santos Escobar — who has quite the pedigree when it comes to masked wrestling — would be perfect.
And would you want Martin Scorsese to direct it?
Nah, we need someone who knows zombies and humor. Get me whoever directed Z Nation instead.
So, is there anything else you think people should know about Zombicide: All Or Nothing?
Other than I’d be really grateful if you bought it and left a review — especially if you enjoyed it — not much. It’s a “does what it says on the tin” book. Not subtle, but hopefully fun.
Finally, if someone enjoys Zombicide: All Or Nothing, they’ll probably go back and read Zombicide: Last Resort. But once they’ve done that, which of your original novels or novellas would you suggest they read next?
Oh, I’d definitely suggest you pick up a copy of Monmouth’s Giants, my first collection of Royal Occultist short stories. Think urban fantasy by way of H.P. Lovecraft and PG Wodehouse. Lots of humor, lots of monsters, lots of bullets. They remain some of my favorite things I’ve ever written…which is why I’m still writing them.