the fifth of November – gunpowder, treason and plot.
It’s bonfire night – when the UK celebrates the thwarting of a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament. One of history’s most famous conspiracies. Plotting – of a different kind, is always a matter of interest to authors. Thriller writers in particular love a good conspiracy. In fact there are whole sub genres of conspiracy thrillers – some are based on real events, murders, assassinations, robberies. I confess that I’ve got a weakness for the more fanciful kind, the ones that are based on a chase, or a treasure hunt, and feature ancient secret societies and missing artifacts with terrible powers which must not be released on an unsuspecting world. Of course the hero and heroine have to stop all that. And probably fall in love in the process …
My favourite real life conspiracy story involves the death of the Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe, who was killed in a tavern brawl. Was he a spy, as well as a playwright? Was he murdered to keep him quiet – if so, why, and who gave the orders? We’ll never know, but there are numerous fascinating books that speculate about it.
Fictional conspiracy adventures of the fantasy kind have an essential list of ingredients – a secret organisation, with roots in the past, to do the conspiring, an object – often a book, or a piece of art , missing or hidden, that has to be discovered, or maybe kept hidden, or destroyed. There are usually significant historical buildings involved – libraries, churches, museums, abbeys, old houses – and to drive the plot, some sort of dreadful secret, that poses a threat to someone in the present world.
With all those, its tempting to play a variation on the famous detective board game and assemble your favourite ingredients. Although I hate caves (damp, dark and cold – three of my least favourite things) the Hellfire Club has always exerted a certain fascination. It was a group of 18th Century noblemen who met in caves in Buckinghamshire to get up to all sorts of debauchery and supposed black magic. The real thing was probably pretty nasty, but the romantic trappings are very strong, when viewed from a distance. And plenty there for my chosen secret society. My artifact would probably be a book, and my building a castle or a ruined abbey. (My Gothic leanings are showing again!) My plot – ah, now we get more complicated – but it will have to involve a chase, and cryptic clues … Excuse me, I think I have an idea coming on …
I’d love to know what other people’s fantasy conspiracy ingredients would be. Or is it just me that plays games like this? (she asks, worriedly.)
Have a happy bonfire night, and if involves fireworks, please stay safe.