A Plot That Would Have Worked.

On this day in 1606 (411 years ago, to save your fingers), Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators were executed for plotting to blow up the House of Lords.

Condemned to be hung, drawn and quartered, Fawkes managed to throw himself from the platform and break his own neck, avoiding the remainder of his sentence.

The Gunpowder Plot is commemorated these day, by Bonfire Night, when effigies of Guy Fawkes are burned and fireworks set off…at least, in countries where ordinary citizens can let off fireworks.

Interestingly, the ITV Network in the UK produced a show, The Gunpowder Plot: Exploding The Legend in 2005, which featured a fully recreated Houses of Parliament (as they were in 1606), and set up a trial explosion using the equivalent in modern explosives that Guy Fawkes was found guarding.

The resulting explosion demonstrated that the plot, if it had been successful, would have completely destroyed the Houses of Parliament and everyone in the building.

Which isn’t too shabby for the 17th century, when you consider the ineptitude of some of today’s terrorists.

Who Got There Before Gagarin?

From  “The Haunting Mystery Of The USSR’s Lost Cosmonauts“:

In 1961, Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. However, some conspiracy theorists speculate that the Soviets reached the cosmos on an earlier mission but covered it up because they lost cosmonauts.

Although, in the grand scheme of things, the USA has lost as many astronauts as Russia.

Russia, though, is the only country to lose astronauts out in space.

A Middle-of-the-Road look at the Cambridge Five

From The Guardian, in review of The Enemies Within, by Trevor Louden:

In Davenport-Hines’s conclusion, the security services were neither “silly asses nor obtuse reactionaries” but decent public servants: “generally subtle, patient, responsive and astute, though never superhuman or infallible”. After a hundred years of spy writing not much has changed: those who step between the reflecting mirrors of British and Soviet intelligence generally have their heads turned.

If the needle has swung back to the middle, is there anything else to be said about the five?

Never Was A Death So Deserved

On this day in 47AD, the Roman Emperor Caligula, a despotic sadist of unmeasured proportions, was assassinated by his own guards.

He reigned for three years and 10 months and in that time, the fear and paranoia he engendered was fueled, in part, by a system of household spies he put in place.  He used slaves and guards, and members of his own family to learn of plots against him.

He also listened to bodiless voices, who proclaimed him a god, too.

No one’s perfect, I guess.

A Gun and a Bad Attitude

Another post I tripped over recently was Ian Coates’ “High-Tech & the Modern Thriller“.

He raises some good points about the difficulty of thriller writers these days who must stay abreast of all technology that can be used for intelligence work (not a small amount), and how it works, while incorporating it into their work, because it’s no longer the 1930s when an author (such as Christie) could simply stick everyone on an isolated island and let events play out.

I dunno about that.

I think about James Bond in his heyday, when the gadgets were four-fifths of the finale.  He even got into space in one movie (at which point, I stopped watching them).

On the other hand, the best James Bond move of recent date is Casino Royale, where Bond gets by pretty much with a gun and a bad attitude.  It took another 1.5 movies for Q to pop up.

Tech for the sake of it is boring, no matter how cool it is (and some of it is, I admit, pretty fucking cool).  They can overwhelm the story and blinker the reader into missing the fact that there is no character arc going on.

Tech with character, though, hell yeah.   I point to James Cameron for a really good example of getting the balance right.  The Abyss is a case in point.  Aliens, too.

Anothing thing about tech in thrillers.  Ever noticed how every gadget, program, app and device works flawlessly?  Outdated software never jams things up, caches never fill, apps don’t mysteriously slow down.  Files are never lost.

The super-advanced, beyond cutting-edge apps should  break down, because most of them are beta-stage only, or else so freaking new, no one has put them into situations the creators never anticipated and reported back to the designers on the meltdown of said device.

On top of that–not every government has an unlimited budget to let their intelligence operatives loose in toyland.

Even if they did, if espionage is out of favour with the powers-that-be, the money for cutting edge tech still isn’t going to appear.

Then there’s the bad guys.  They usually have money falling out of their pockets, yes.  But it’s not endless.  The richest man in the world still has to make a decision about this fifteen million dollar helicopter over here, or that new shiny gadget there.

They can’t have everything, even if they can afford it because those so-new-you’ve-never-heard-of-them gadgets are in limited supply.  Sometimes only one or two exist in the entire world.

So high tech is cool ‘n all, and it’s fun trying to keep up, but not everyone can.  It’s impossible.  Just as it’s impossible that every spy in the world has access to every peice of tech in the world and it all operates flawlessly.

Unless it is James Bond, in which case, geek out.

Raising The Drawbridge

Daniel J. Sawyer, science fiction and mystery writer, recently posted his annual look at the future, this year entitled “The Year of the Jackpot“.

It’s a fairly dim view of the immediate future.  Sawyer assembles his argument with aplomb, though.

As I’m outside the United States, I have a different perspective, but still can’t argue with most of his observations.  The current NAFTA negotiations are bogging down in the mud.  The Pan Pacific Trade Agreement is heading in the same direction.

From the outside, the United States is raising the drawbridge.

Does that isolationist paranoia remind you of anything?

Happy New Year…yes?

This day in 2009 — only eight years ago — the first block of the blockchain of the Bitcoin decentralized payment system, was established by the creator of the system, Satoshi Nakamoto.

Bitcoin spent years building business on the dark web, but just in the last few months has exploded upon the legitimate business world.  Everyone seems to be getting into blockchain investments, Bitcoin in particular (although Bitcoin is just one of several applications built upon the blockchain technology).

Ironically, the first block that Nakamoto launched was called the Genesis block.

Why would I mention a money system/hot investment opportunity on a blog about thriller novels?

Because at the heart of some of the very best thrillers lies a conspiracy and I love a damned good conspiracy.  Ludlum, Baldacci, and the paranoia king himself, Dan Brown (in admittedly small doses).

The thought occurred to me that the whole Bitcoin phenomenon could be a huge private conspiracy to tear down the world’s financial institutions.  In my quiet corner of the globe, I have not yet seen Bitcoin in operation.  I only know it exists because the media and the Internet say it is, and we all know how reliable the word of those two estates is, right?

Everyone keeps expecting the Bitcoin investment bubble to explode sooner, rather than later.  But everyone is holding on, anyway–have you noticed?  There are even new investors scrambling to hop aboard the gravy train, figuring it’s better late than never.

It reminds me strongly of the everyman investment craze that preceded the Wall Street crash in 1929.

The whole point about the blockchain technology is that it keeps participants anonymous.  It allows a cartel kingpin to handshake a seventeen million dollar deal with a buyer in Europe…who could very well be the CIA sniffing around for a clue, but who cares?  The kingpin can’t see them.  They can’t see him.  Money is exchanged, the deal is done, everyone wins (unless it really was the CIA, in which case…sucker!).

It’s been said that decentralized money systems could bring the world into a new phase of political power.  So why are current power holders tripping over themselves to invest in the technology?  It can’t be simply to shut the tech down once they get a majority sharehold, or to spike the system and make it stumble.  The tech is open sourced software — out there for anyone to download and use.  There must be thousands of copies of the software by now, living on hard drives and cloud storage across the globe.  There are a dozen other Bitcoin clones that would happily take the #1 spot, too (again, allegedly waiting).

I can’t help thinking of the British armada made of wood and canvas that De Needle stumbled over in Eye of the Needle, by Ken Follett.

You have to ask yourself who would benefit from the implosion of western financial institutions?

The possible candidates make an unsettling list.

Now it is 2018, I’ll be settling into the conception work and plotting for the first thriller series.

I’m thinking a nice meaty conspiracy might be in order….