U.S. Constitution/Political Thriller by John T. Cullen
Update January 2021: The horrifying coup attempt by misled, violent fascist radicals in the U.S. Capital on 6 Jan 2021 powerfully reminded me of events in my 1990s political thriller CON2: The Generals of October. The novel involves a coup attempt by the same sort of cabal during a CON2 (Second Constitutional Convention). Click on the image above or at right for more info + read half the novel free (the Bookstore Metaphor). Bottom line: we must never invoke Article V of the U.S. Constitution to hold a CON2.
Basic problem: no matter how we prepare, once the gavel comes down and CON2 is in session, the delegates will be under diplomatic immunity and free from any government or police/military control. Just as Trump's lawless regime ran wild for four years, aided and abetted by the corporate-republican oligarchy using willing and well-greased (elected) stooges, and nobody could do anything
so CON2 in my novel is taken over by a radical cabal. The intentions were great: all the sides came together and agreed on ten major new amendments that would make everybody happy across the spectrum. As soon as the gavel came down, the trap was sprung. Radical delegates began putting hundreds of insane ideas on the floor.
The convention in my novel dissolves into anarchy while all three branches of U.S. Govt stand by helplessly. Then the Generals of October step in to 'help things along.' Pre-programmed, these flag officers seize power on behalf of shadowy oligarchs who had been manipulating the political world all along under guise of a powerful new party, MCP (Middle Class Party). MCP's name is as misleading as much of today's corporate/wrong-wing propaganda outlets masquerading as 'nooze.' Read the novel, which clearly lays out the scenario under an enjoyable fiction candy wrapper (murder mystery, cyber thriller, political/military thriller, and love story involving strong, compelling male & female leads). We must never permit a CON2 to occur. Rather, we must restore sanity and the work only begins from there
Earlier Notes & Info
My First Big Mainstream Thriller: In the early 1990s, I found a theme to fall in love with. 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 or,we could theoretically also hold a convention and have all the states approve that one amendment. Either path is very difficult, requiring a 2/3 majority to even consider an amendment or call for convention; and a 3/4 vote for final approval. That is why we've had fewer than two dozen amendments in nearly a quarter millennium, and no convention (thank God).
My novel is a warning: don't do it. Let's never have that CON2. I thought it through, and realized that once such a convention opens
when the gavel comes down to open proceedings
everything about our existing governance moves into a gray area. As I realized, in order for a convention to proceed, the delegates must be free of all interference. It's as if the U.S. and its government do not exist in that bubble. In effect, the delegates will have a form of diplomatic immunity from any prosecution or harrassment. That in turn weakens the entire government at all levels to a significant degree. And, as we learn in my thought experiment (novel), once the gavel comes down and CON2 is in session, anything is possible (mostly very scary).
In my scenario, a near-future USA rocked by economic crises calls for a CON2. The various rival parties agree to a fixed ten-point agenda. That is, they agree on ten amendments (no more, no less) that will be agreed upon. The Convention starts out as a done deal, to be finished in one day. But once it's in session, all hell breaks loose (according to the plan of predictable shadowy, corrupt figures: huge corporations; slimy politicians; cynical media figures; and fake religious leaders who are merely corporate money lords disguised as evangelists). Behind all that is an even more sinister plot by the new Middle Class Party (MCP). The MCP has swept national elections in a rather populist manner, promising an alternative to the entrenched Democratic and Republican parties. As CON2 opens, with a thousand delegates, a coterie of delegates from MCP and other backgrounds suddenly violate the basic agreement and start introducing hundreds of unexpected and often crazy, destructive amendments. The intention is to throw CON2 into chaosand the paralyzed Government itself can do nothing but stand by. A vast military presence already exists to protect the convention (in another scenario, there would be no military). Now a shadowy general appears, claiming to restore order. He leads a faction called the Generals of October, who promise to throw out the old 'ineffective' Constitution and impose (for the gratification of the typical urban or Hitler mob) a 'Biblical' Constitution that is, in reality, a mandate handing all power to corporations. The result is a rousing thriller full of murder mystery, intel operations, and of course a great romance between the two young Army officer heroes (David Gordon, an IG type with S-2 background, and Victoria 'Tory' Breen, a computer systems specialist). Among my 1990s innovations was a massively parallel computer array called (are you ready?) CloudMaster.
I chose to write a rousing thriller with a strong love story. I felt (and still feel) that the political stuff could operate in the background and be very obvious to readers. In other words, I chose not to write a nonfiction article, opinion piece, or academic paper. The result is a large, complex novel that must be accepted on its own terms. It is both a fast-moving thriller, a murder mystery involving haunting corridors of cyberspace (CloudMaster), a political subtext of great importance, and of course a rousing romantic love story ultimately ending in HEA. (continued at bottom right)
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(continued from bottom left)
In writing the novel, I was acutely conscious of thriller movies I had enjoyed, starting with Seven Days in May (more info on these inspirations at lower right). I was an avid reader of the big thrillers written by authors like Lawrence Sanders, John Le Carré, and Robert Ludlum. I also read and loved my share of shorter, faster, less ambitious, but extremely fun thrillers by Leslie Charteris, Eric Ambler, Ian Fleming, and the like. In the end, I resolved to blaze my own trail, and here we are with a novel that received praise from John McCain and Robert Bork among others (if I can find the correspondence, I'll post it here). In short, this is stuff every U.S. intellectual should read, in my opinion. Several major university law school libraries accepted copies for their odds and ends section (case studies, perhaps) as reference works.
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 positively A.D.D. and shortened the film again to Three Days of the Condor.