The legend of the empty house was deliciously lurid. A crazy man had lived there, the story went, and whenever anyone ventured into his home, he killed them with an ax. I have no idea where this story came from, but the older kids in the neighborhood swore it was true, so we younger kids believed it without question. One time, a couple of the older kids even took some of us into the old house and showed us the wall, where a series of marks denoted his record of kills. Ooo, that was a chilling moment.
Of course, there had been no ax murderer living in that empty house, but why mess up a chilling story with the truth?
I think part of being a storyteller is enjoying a good conspiracy theory. Nothing ever happens by chance in a storyteller's world. There's always a reason for everything, hidden machinations that imparts reason to otherwise senseless acts. And because human beings are hardwired to enjoy stories, we are often willing participants in our own deception. Because who doesn't want to make sense of a senseless world?
So instead of believing a single, unstable man shot the president from the window of a book depository in Dallas, some are utterly convinced that there were multiple gunmen, and any number of perpetrators—Castro, the mob, the CIA—were really behind the assassination. Or that a moon landing broadcast on film was clearly a Hollywood trick to convince us that something as fantastical as man walking on the moon could actually happen.
And you know what? Those conspiracy theories are usually a lot more interesting than the more banal truth.
My Cooper Security series follows a private security firm doing battle with a dangerous group of mercenaries who'll do terrible things for the highest bidder. With my August book, Secret Assignment, we begin to find out that these merceneries may be involved in a conspiracy that could endanger not only the United States but democratic countries around the globe. (Yeah, when I come up with a conspiracy theory, I don't play around!)
But part of what I love about a conspiracy theory story is when ordinary people without extraordinary power are able to fight back against ruthless foes with the sheer force of their determination and their honor. The Coopers and the allies they meet along the way are nothing if not honorable people. They may be flawed, they may be outgunned and outnumbered, but the bad guys will never be able to beat their sense of honor and duty to the country they love and to the people they vow to protect and serve.
Do you have a favorite conspiracy theory? And do you really believe them, or do you see yourself like I see myself, as a willing, even eager participant in your own deception? 'Fess up!