Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Secret Code in WRAITH

Codebreaker Challenge

Recently I posted a youtube video challenging codebreakers worldwide to decipher the secret message hidden within the text of my covert ops thriller, WRAITH (available now in hardcover and Kindle). You can check out the codebreaker challenge video by clicking the link above.

Not surprisingly, I've received a barrage of questions about this code: What is the secret message? How did you do encode it? How can I crack the code? Why did you do it? Is this just a way to get more people to buy your book? Will there be secret messages hidden in your other books?

Let me address these questions one by one.

First of all, I'm not telling anyone what the secret message is. Okay, that's not entirely true. My wife knows; but she's already had numerous Top Secret Clearance background checks just for being married to a Stealth pilot, so I think I can trust her.

The codebreaking challenge runs until September 15th, so mums the word until then. After that, I'll post a series of hints on that you can look at one by one, so as not to spoil all of the fun.

What I can tell you about the secret message is the basic concept. It is a clue about WRAITH that you won't find anywhere else in the book. The plot doesn't suffer without this information, but if you can crack the code, you'll have a perspective that the other folks in your reading group don't have. Feel free to look down your nose at them. This secret message also gives you a heads up about what you can expect from WRAITH's sequel, SHADOW CATCHER.

How did I encode the message? I encrypted the actual message into something called code pairs using a Playfair Cipher, a 150 year old cipher technique employed by the British up until World War I. A string of Playfair code pairs looks something like this: cf wl ar pt (this is just an example, there's no code here). I then took my code pairs and hid them in the text of the dedication using a specific pattern.

To crack the code you'll need to do a little research and figure out how a Playfair Cipher works. Really, all you have to do is go and look it up on Wikipedia, they have a good article on the subject. Armed with the knowledge of what clues you'll need to break the code, you can then read WRAITH with a critical eye. There are generic and specific clues hidden within the text that should help you find the tools you'll need to decode the message.

I'll answer the next two questions here:
Yes, of course I hope this helps sell more books.
Call me a capitalist, but that's kind of my job. No, that isn't the only, or even the primary reason I did it. The primary reason that I hid the message and clues in WRAITH was for fun. What a challenge! To go a little above and beyond the normal story telling and add something extra for the reader. I'm a big fan of encryption and puzzels and stories like Disney's National Treasure, and I'm sure there are many readers out there who share this passion. With this same spirit, I included a lot of riddles for Jim Thatcher to solve in my pirate novella, PIRATES The Midnight Passage (available in paperback and Kindle). Readers can attempt to beat Thatcher to the punch and solve the riddles first. I love these kind of brain stimulating adventures, so it's only natural that I write them as an author.

Finally, yes, there will be codes in every novel that I write. In fact, not only does PIRATES contain riddles in the text, it also contains its own secret message encrypted into the dedication, though on a much simpler scale.

In all of this I will make one promise: None of my coded messages will ever decipher as "Be sure to drink your Ovaltine."

God Bless You All,

Jim Hannibal

PS If you didn't get that last comment, go back and watch A Christmas Story again.

James R. Hannibal is an USAF trained Islamic Terrorism expert, former Stealth Bomber pilot, and the author of WRAITH, a covert ops thriller lauded by Clive Cussler and Publishers Weekly. He is also the author of PIRATES The Midnight Passage. Both are available now from your favorite online bookstore. Find out more about James at