April 24th, 2005

Cthulhu

Book idea

Yeah, I know, I have partial drafts of three or four books already in progress, but it occurred to me to wonder if I might have an idea for something actually easier to write, and possibly more commercial.

Sin City (which I wouldn't mind seeing again, hint hint) has me thinking about corruption in all of its forms, and the only reason I don't start right in on that topic is that in the last several weeks, while I was struggling with aphasia, I thought out a ton of material on the subject, and I hardly know where to start. But among other things, I've been: thinking about official corruption, thinking about my alternate-universe Cthulhu timeline, and reading Resume with Monsters. (Or re-reading it. I'm not sure. It was filed on a shelf that only contains books that I've already read, but I don't remember any of what I'm reading.) When those thoughts all collided during breakfast this morning, it occurred to me to wonder if I couldn't get a book out of the combination of things.

Imagine Carl Hiassen meets H.P. Lovecraft, set in eastern and southern Missouri. Take a character loosely based on my self-identity in that alternate universe, a lot like the guy who wrote the essay "It'll Never Work" about why he can't get hired as a licensed occult investigator. Now, give him a job as a security consultant, someone who does security audits for corporations. I imagine him as having a hard time finding work because he's too honest, he doesn't tell customers what they want to hear. (They want to hear that the threat to their business all comes from dark-colored strangers and low-level employees, and that they can fix all of these threats for good by a one-time purchase of some expensive gadget. They do not want to hear about professional employees ignoring policies they don't like, and executives embezzling from the company, or about garden-variety risks that have to be managed on an ongoing basis like fire safety.) So he freelances as an investigative journalist for weekly newspapers in the area.

So my thought is to make him a Miskatonic University flunk-out, someone who had to switch majors out of Occult Sciences and transfer to an easier school because he couldn't handle the foreign-language requirements. As a result, he's under constant FBI surveillance, and he knows it, and he plays games with the surveillance team just to lighten the daily boredom. Then he gets a lead on an investigative report he might be able to write about official corruption in the crack cocaine and methamphetamine business in the Missouri bootheal. He sets out looking for official corruption to report on, only to run afoul of a Missouri Highway Patrol occult investigator who doesn't like him, who's down there trying to "prove" that the drug trade is literally ghoulish. So an FBI field agent in Occult Investigations picks him up, and threatens him with extraordinary rendition, thinking that our hero has too many ties to the occult history and now he's in a suspected ghoul-dominated area. He persuades the FBI guy to investigate whether or not the Missouri state or local cops are honest, under the guise of an occult law enforcement investigation, and to bring him on as a temporary freelance consultant, which would lend our hero temporary legal status.

Frankly, it feels to me like all I'd really have to do is nail down in my head the details of the actual criminal conspiracy, what actual occult ties it had (I'm tempted to use the Curwen Effect). Once I get the actual villains, and the framed non-villains, worked out in my head it feels like it would almost write itself. It becomes an occult "buddy cop" story about a cynical private investigator and a too-honest FBI field agent in the sump of inbreeding and corruption that is eastern and southeastern Missouri, which after all these years of reading St. Louis Post-Dispatch exposés of the meth trade I'd hardly even have to research.

Normally, my attempts at writing fiction suck; I have a hard time with convincing dialog and characterization. But this almost feels like something I could actually pull off, no weirder or harder to imagine and write than many role-playing gaming scenarios I've written. I find myself wondering if I could actually finish a book like this, and if I did if it would sell?