Authors: Matthew Bracken
Tags: #mystery, #Politics & Social Sciences, #Political Science, #Politics & Government, #Political, #History & Theory, #Thriller & Suspense, #Historical, #Thrillers, #Literature & Fiction
But in my experience the best candidates for a guiding hand are not true “loners.” They often seek friendship and employment, and they may even succeed for a while. But the men who interest me invariably sabotage their social relationships by compulsively discussing their paranoid obsessions. Each human rejection adds heat to their simmering rage. Yet still they crave human companionship, and simple affirmation of their delusional belief systems. This makes them soft putty at my touch. These men, deftly guided, become my arrows. To the world, these arrows seem to plunge at random from the clear blue sky. Sometimes they do, but not always!
It’s not hard to convert a lump of inchoate anger into an arrow. At first all I do is offer them a receptive ear, and confirmation that they are not alone in their beliefs. Our dialogues lead me toward the best approach to take. I adapt my temporary cover story to fit my current subject’s preexisting delusional views. In the past I’ve pretended to be a liaison from the CIA, from Mossad, from Al Qaeda. I’ve posed as a former leading member of the Trilateral Commission, now working against their globalist designs. Sometimes I’ve convinced them that their medications are part of a conspiracy to chemically lobotomize them, robbing them of their most brilliant insights.
After a few private conversations I eventually steer the subject to “doing something really important.” Hypothetically, of course. At least at first. Then we play a conversational game of, “If I could, I would.” A good prospect will soon be describing the precise medieval tortures, punishments and execution methods merited by his worst enemies. Once I have tapped into his personal fantasy realm of gory revenge, it’s “game on,” as they say in the vernacular.
At that point it really doesn’t matter to me who or what is the focus of the subject’s hate, or what group he blames for his own shortcomings or for the ills of the world. Left, right, capitalism, socialism, religion, nationalism…in truth I stopped caring very much about them long ago. When an action will advance the cause of social justice that’s great, but generalized mayhem is also a worthy end in itself. “The worse, the better,” in Lenin’s words. Create the pre-revolutionary conditions. Some days I still half believe the old dogma. But at least I’m not just another insect in the hive.
I slid my empty cup away, and awaited the return of my barista. In a minute I’d be commiserating with him, discovering that we were practically soulmates, rare men of true vision. Posing as an out-of-town business visitor, I’d ask him the best place in the area to eat. It would turn out that he and I shared similar culinary and beverage tastes, fancy that! And I’d gladly spring for lunch or dinner if he’d agree to be my local guide. Then we’d discuss further his hatred for the Jewish bankers who run the world, and the right-wing talk radio hosts who are their willing accomplices and mouthpieces. At least, in the world according to Duncan McClaren.
Right-wing talk radio was very much on my mind, because one of the icons of that loathsome industry was going to be passing through the region two weeks hence. Ben Rafferty wasn’t the king of right-wing hate radio, but he was one of the rising princes, nearly up there with the big three. Currently he was on a national book tour, promoting his latest toxic spill of racist hate-speech. Oh happy day, his entire schedule, with bookstore locations, dates and times, was available online.
I’d discovered some other useful information in an interview Rafferty had given to a pro-gun blog. The talk host traveled without an armed bodyguard, due to the vagaries of conflicting state gun laws. This was particularly a problem when flying into New York or New Jersey. It was just too damn hard to stay in compliance with a thousand local gun laws that could cause you to be imprisoned over a technical firearms violation. So instead of an armed bodyguard, he had some kind of karate guy for protection. An ex-soldier who had been wounded in one of America’s wars of imperialism. Poor Ben Rafferty, who never saw an assault rifle he didn’t want to French kiss, couldn’t have a gun during his East Coast book tour. Beautiful.
The imminent proximity of Duncan McClaren and Ben Rafferty had brought me seven hundred miles to this coffee shop. With a little stroking and massaging of Duncan’s twisted and deformed ego, I hoped to convince him that his empty life could at long last have genuine meaning. He could make a real difference! He could change the world! He could accomplish something important, and be remembered forever. I already had an untraceable pistol to provide him, if he proved receptive to my guiding hand. Oh, the mayhem potential, when one of the leading right-wing haters is finally knocked off! Mayhem-fest, indeed. Mayhem squared. Mayhem cubed!
Radio talker Ben Rafferty meant nothing to me, but he had millions of rabid right-wing followers who clung to his every screech and scream for three hours a day. After Duncan McClaren approached the book-signing table, pulled out his pistol and gave his miserable life meaning, Rafferty’s fans would rise en masse in blind rage. And a few of his most rabid fans, feeding their own dark fantasies, would predictably strike out in violent reprisal against progressive leaders. Secondary explosions, if you will. A chain reaction, possibly my greatest work ever.
Duncan returned to my end of the bar when he saw my empty cup. While he poured my refill I quietly said, “You know, you’re right about those Jewish bankers and how they control talk radio. They’re all in New York, right? I mean, most people have no idea what’s going on around them.”
His eyes widened and a half-smile formed on his lips. He set the coffee pot down and leaned on the counter until his nose was a foot from mine. One eyebrow raised in expectation above the high side of his demented grin. He glanced back down the counter to see who was in earshot and then said, “You know about the Illuminati, right?”
Did I ever.
This plan might actually work. I’d know better after a long conversation with Duncan McClaren in a dark restaurant. Duncan might be my masterpiece, the one to light the fuse of Civil War Two. And if he does, eventually I want the world to know who handed him the matches, the gun and Ben Rafferty’s book-signing schedule.
But for now just call me Professor Raoul X, a guiding hand of history.
(Written shortly after the Tucson mass shooting.)
Q&A With Matthew Bracken about Castigo Cay
(Western Rifle Shooters Association)
Thanks to Matt Bracken for this terrific discussion of his upcoming novel, Castigo Cay, and how today’s deteriorating American scene sets the stage for it:
WRSA: Your new book is called Castigo Cay. It sounds like an adventure novel. So have you quit writing contemporary political thrillers?
MB: No, I haven’t quit. My new book is still highly political, but I don’t get into Democrats and Republicans, nothing at that level. The issues that are overwhelming the United States at the time of Castigo Cay go far beyond left and right. In the novel, it’s sufficient just to paint the picture of the contemporary United States in order to understand the political and social pathologies at work.
WRSA: So what are the main political and social issues presented in Castigo Cay?
MB: The loss of privacy and diminishing freedom. Increasingly pervasive surveillance at every level from the internet to the city sidewalk. Politicians and ordinary people coming to grips with the collapse of the debt-based economy. The acceptance of the end of America’s status as the sole global superpower. The decline and death of the dollar. The deliberate deconstruction of American culture through multiculturalism and other means. Virtually legalized graft, bribery, patronage, political corruption and outright theft on a scale that would have made Huey Long ashamed.
WRSA: Why are your novels all set in the near future?
MB: To me, it’s much more interesting to hypothesize about future scenarios than to write about the status quo. Setting the novels ahead a few years permits me to add another dimensional layer to the weave. Anyway, if you don’t postulate some alternate realities in your books, you run the risk of being overtaken by events. I enjoy setting realistic fiction just beyond next year’s event horizon, but with some twist that serves as an event accelerant. For example, a devastating New Madrid Fault earthquake in Foreign Enemies And Traitors, or the stadium massacre which opens Enemies Foreign And Domestic, leading to the banning of all semi-automatic rifles.
But writing too far into the future sends you into the realm of science-fiction. In thirty years we might be fighting with lasers or with rocks. We might be teleporting to Mars, or we might all be dead. To jump even a generation ahead, you have to make some fictional leaps that take you into science fiction, so I stay close to the present day. For one concrete example: all of the high-tech weaponry and surveillance technology portrayed in my novels either exists now or is in an advanced prototype stage. It’s all real, and it can all happen just the way I write it.
WRSA: There seem to be a lot of novels out today that deal with some type of social collapse scenario.
MB: Sure, the meme is finally reaching Joe Sixpack. Ordinary people are figuring it out. But I think the post-Armageddon societal-collapse genre is already overflowing with mostly very bad novels. I prefer to fictionalize the downward slide from the status quo, rather than to set a novel in another rehashed post-apocalyptic Mad Max world. That’s too easy and it’s been done to death. Every historical slide and collapse is unique and interesting. Bare survival in the post-collapse rubble is mostly the same, and becomes rather boring to read. As far as I’m concerned, Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” was the end of the road for post-collapse novels. The process of decay toward ultimate collapse is much more interesting and compelling to me than the end state. In Castigo Cay, most of America’s systems are still functioning, but in a degraded state. The lights are blinking, but they’re not out. America is becoming more of an overt police state even while the national economy is unraveling. Combine terrorism with street riots, bank runs, hyperinflation, currency collapse, and authoritarian rule by local strongmen, and you have the American backdrop of Castigo Cay.
WRSA: The protagonist of Castigo Cay is a Marine sniper?
MB: Former. Dan Kilmer is a thirty-year-old former Marine Corps scout-sniper who is a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. He has been riding out the Greater Depression and staying off of Big Brother’s screen by living aboard a sixty-foot steel schooner. He can’t sail to the USA because his boat will be seized for back taxes and other fines that have piled up while he’s been “out of CONUS” for several years. Through no deliberate choice of his own, he’s become a man without a country, an ex-pat renegade with no fixed address, just doing what he can to live free in an increasingly unfree world.
WRSA: So Castigo Cay all takes place outside of the States?
MB: No, half of it takes place in Fort Lauderdale and Miami. Dan has to sneak back into Florida under the radar in order to rescue his girlfriend. This forces him to navigate through and around the new police state controls, which I hope will be both interesting and helpful to readers.
WRSA: Castigo Cay is just the first Dan Kilmer novel? This will be a series?
MB: That’s my plan, and I already have a shelf of plots to write. Making Dan Kilmer the skipper of an ocean-crossing sailboat will allow the novels to be set in a wide variety of locations with greatly varying politics, economies, social customs and local power structures. The typical fictional PIs, detectives, lawyers, and shrinks almost always hang their shingles in one American town for many years. Dan Kilmer won’t be restricted to one city or region. Because of his boat, Kilmer will be a free radical, who can arrive on any scene and trigger a reaction. In order to afford the boat and maintain his preferred standard of living, he has to be clever and run the odd scam, because he is always a foreigner and isn’t allowed to seek legal employment. He is constantly slipping out of port one step ahead of the authorities or the local mafia.
WRSA: You have an interesting background as a Navy SEAL and an ocean sailor. Does any of this background come through in either the EFAD trilogy or your new novel?
MB: Most writers of genre fiction have little or no first-hand knowledge of subjects such as the use of explosives, tactical firearms employment, running a fast boat across the ocean at night and so on. I think I bring more realism to my fiction because of my experiences.
In my opinion, very few novelists can write well or convincingly about using modern weapons, parachuting at night, preparing a C-4 demo charge or a hundred other things. Some of them literally don’t know a revolver from a pistol, yet they put them both in their characters’ hands. Most of the famous name-brand authors wind up writing thrillers that, at least to me, read like comic books without the benefit of colorful illustrations. Many are so laughable in their depictions of action sequences and technical details that I end up throwing the books against a wall.
These authors are far over their heads when they write about guys running around with sub machineguns, night vision devices and lock picks. They are all creating multi-lingual Jason Bournes who swing between sky-scrapers and even cities like Spiderman. They can hack any computer, pilot any jet, speak any language. It gets silly and unreadable. Because they’ve never done a bit of it themselves, these famous authors can’t write the action scenes convincingly, any more than I could write convincingly about conducting the London Philharmonic or quarterbacking an NFL football team. And original, convincing action is at the heart of a compelling thriller. Otherwise, Dostoyevsky is still waiting to be read on the next aisle.