Suspense Thriller Fiction by John T. Cullen
Jean-Thomas Cullen writing as John T. Cullen
= CON2: The Generals of October (or: Autumn of the Republic) =
CON2: The Generals of October (Autumn of the Republic) About twenty-five years ago, when I set out to write my first 'big' mainstream novel, I came across a theme worthy of my efforts. In the U.S. Constitution, I spotted Article V, which deals with amending the Constitution. If you read it carefully, you'll find that we can either amend it one little amendment at a time, which means sending the amendment around to each of the fifty states for them to separately approve it (by a 2/3 majority, very difficult to achieve); or,we could theoretically also hold a convention and have all the states approve that one amendment. My novel is a warning: don't do it. Let's never have that CON2.
Seven Days in May Inspiration. CON2 was my first major foray into the big novel. One of my all time favorites that inspired this novel was Seven Days in May (1962) by Fletcher Knebel and & Charles W. Bailey II. It was a bestseller, and made in to a successful movie by the same title (Seven Days in May) in 1964. An interesting fact is that the screenplay was written by our SFFH hero Rod Serling. Interestingly also, Rod Serling's screenplay was resurrected in 1994 as a television movie titled The Enemy Within, starring Forest Whitaker and other top stars.
Other Inspirations. I wrote the first of five major drafts (each a total overhaul, so I really labored on CON2) in 1992. I've already mentioned Seven Days in May as a predecessor. At the time, I thought Seven Days in May was a bit far-fetched, sort of 1950s Red Scare paranoia, although today (2017) the Russian hack as a subplot to the Donald Trump nightmare should have resurrected Seven Days in May as it did George Orwell's 1984 and other political nightmares. Other dark political tales I greatly enjoyed, and recalled in launching CON2, included 1974's all-star (Warren Beatty et al) The Parallax View and James Grady's 1974 Six Days of the Condor which became the award-winning 1975 Robert Redford flick Three Days of the Condor. A funny story about Grady's book is that allegedly, his original manuscript was titled Sixteen Days of the Condor, but publisher W.W. Norton, aware of modern folks' short attention spans, decided a thriller couldn't take sixteen days so they shortened it to six. Film makers (Dino DeLaurentiis, Sydney Pollack) registered postively A.D.D. and shortened the film again to Three Days of the Condor.
Frustration: Why We Are In So Much Trouble. As happened with my philosophical DarkSF novel Robinson Crusoe 1,000,000 A.D., the people who should read it (philosophy, history, literary fans) never heard of it. Instead, a few readers seeking car chases, quick sex, and maybe a Hallow E'en mask or two read and were baffled. Here's the point: I could have written a thesis (duhhh). Instead, I decided very deliberately to write a suspenseful entertainment with a love story and (to boot) a murder mystery among its threads. This all pretty much went over the heads of a few readers who left scathing (empty, graffiti) comments. What always amazes me is the venom of these little people. They could simply return the book, get their money's worth, and go on to rent a cartoon at ScyFy or something. I made the assumption (always wrong and dangerous) that a good book will rise to the top, and readers will understand that it is a deeply philosophical observation on history, much as Homer's Iliad (to grab a quick comparison) is a rousing war story and (yes) a love story on the surface, but much more underneath. I'll write about Homer's epics elsewhere soon. Anyway, if you read a novel like CON2: The Generals of October (Autumn of the Republic) prepared to enjoy the war story and romance, but also knowing the terrifying and ominous potentials underneath, you'll have a good read.
So again: over the years, too few persons have read the book, and of those about half failed to grasp the point. I was not writing a treatise here. I had a very strong, correct strategy. I felt that the events of CON2 were so overpowering that I would be best off letting them play out in the background. I therefore wrote a fast-moving thriller and a love story, with a murder investigation in the foreground. If you read the novel with an open, inquisitive, and thoughtful mind, you will get the whole drift of my message about CON2. I don't need to hit you over the head. It's all there. I hope my novel will serve as a silver bullet to kill this thing before it ever happens. There must never be a CON2 in our future, or the United States as we have known it will be a thing of the past. Of course, people need to read my novel and think about its implications, or frankly if we're such sheep that we only go for the bread and games of the circus, and never think about serious issues, then we are doomed anyway.
But Wait, It Gets Worse. Or, and here's the terrifying aspect, we can hold a Second Constitutional Convention (which I call CON2), and amend one or all of the articles in the Constitution. In fact, as I figured out, we could scrap the entire Constitution on which the United States of America as a republic is basedand replace it with who knows what. How about a Biblical Constitution that makes us a neo-Christian theocratic terror state like Iran? Or a tyranny not much better than that like our allies in the Arabian Peninsula, where women are chattel property of their male relatives, and beheading is a common public entertainment. Then too, a large element of society seems to always prefer brutal demagogues with an iron fist and stupid answers that usually resolve to "I am the nation; trust me and you never need to think again." (In 1930s Germany it was "Ich bin das Vaterland"). We came close with the illegal elevation of usurper Donald Dump in 2016-2017. Usually, those types of characters appear in history as antecessors for the real magilla (e.g., Marius, Sulla, Cinna, Pompey, Crassus, et al. as heralds for Caesar and the end of Roman democracy.
First To Think It Through. Sadly, because my novel was not released by the Big Five Non-Traditional, Foreign-Owned Anomaly in New York City, it has gotten no coverage. It's almost as if it has been suppressed. In real life, calls for a CON2 have become ever more frequent in recent decades. For example, there are those who want to make us a theocracy under (what else?) Calvinist Fundamentalist sharia law, with the entire Timothy McVeigh hate and violence that threatens to make us a Third World country. If you lived through the nasty 2016 election cycle, you have only the barest taste of how horrifying CON2 would really be. In my novel, I've thought it all through. The thousand delegates from the states, meeting in Washington, D.C., have diplomatic immunity. That means they are effectively outside the law, untouchable by the three branches of Constitutionally created government, including their police and military agencies. CON2 convenes with a carefully scripted ten amendments that we expect will be ratified in less than a week. The convention will be over and we all go home.
But no. What happens is that radical elements start proposing all sorts of new amendments, each crazier than the last. Pretty soon CON2 starts to fall apart, and nobody can do anything about it. At this point, the 1787 Constitution has been weakened, and its replacement is hanging in the wind. Now a group of generals step in, at the behest of all sorts of cynical talk show hosts, Evangelical mullahs, corrupt politicians, ruthless billionaires, and other nightmare creatures. The Generals of October ostensibly will restore order (just as Augustus promised to restore the Roman Republic but made himself a tyrant for life). The end result is civil war, with bloodshed in the nation's capital. The top general seizes power in the White House. When a press agency calls the President's office, the general answers the phone and speaks the immortal words of Alexander Haig back when Ronald Reagan was shot: "I am in charge here."
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