Are Thriller Writers Prescient?

by | Sep 17, 2018 | Karna Small Bodman | 5 comments

. . . by Karna Small Bodman

any thriller writers see a headline and say to themselves, “I see a crisis occurred.What if I could come up with a scenario whereby my hero or heroine stops a similar threat?” Of course, there are wonderful novels that do just that.  However,  what if the headline comes after the book is written? This has happened to several writers. In fact, certain aspects of my own novels later came true. For example: Several years ago I had an idea about creating a story featuring a couple of Putin allies who were steeped in illegal activities and money-laundering. I wrote that these characters were hit by sanctions and needed to replenish their accounts. So they come up with a heinous scheme to target international financiers and get rid of US officials who were trying to close down their accounts. I did the research and wrote Trust but Verify which will be released next week.

Imagine my reaction when I read in this past weekend’s The Wall Street Journal, that US officials are now urging international financiers to work with them to police certain Russian accounts saying, “There’s an enormous amount of money being moved by both Russian organized crime and cronies surrounding Putin.” In Trust but Verify a White House staffer along with an FBI Special Agent race to track illicit accounts and unravel a heinous plot by Russian oligarchs that targets international financiers and could sink stock markets worldwide. You can get it here 

It turns out that our government sensed that thriller writers just might be “prescient” so

selected authors have been invited into the Department of Homeland Security for what we call “Red Team/Blue Team” exercises.  Bestselling author Brad Meltzer was one such writer who met with those officials and laid out possible terrorist threats to our country.  Then national security experts tried to figure out how to prevent such scenarios and protect the country.

Many of Brad’s great novels take place in and around Washington, DC, The White House, the agencies – and deal with historical as well as contemporary issues. I always learn so much when I read his well-researched books.

Another terrific author who has written thrillers that turned out to predict the future is our own Rogue, Jamie Freveletti. Several years ago I read her bestselling novel, The Geneva Strategy, that features a man who programs certain kinds of drones.

There are incredible scenes of “killer drones” threatening, tracking and chasing
her characters. That book came out in 2015.  Now think about the headlines you have seen recently about the invention and use of advanced drones that can be used in various combat situations. Yes, Jamie certainly has a crystal ball when it comes to conjuring up great stories.

Here’s another example: A decade ago I  interviewed a number of oil and gas experts for a thriller I wanted to write about foreign agents sent here by a Venezuelan dictator who plots to raise energy prices for his own income. The villains come up with a scheme to make natural gas pipelines explode from the inside — which causes havoc and destruction in American cities. That thriller, Final Finesse, came out in 2009. My publisher wanted to re-release it, so I revised this novel to update the technology along with the situation in Venezuela  —  and it just came out a few weeks ago. See it  here

As for the headline coming after the book, we have now read about the series of explosions of natural gas pipelines in the Boston suburbs last week that caused havoc, destroyed homes and injured people at 70 locations.  A fire chief said, “I’ve been in the fire service for almost 39 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this in my entire career. It looked like Armageddon…an absolute war zone.” And at this writing, officials still haven’t figured out the cause of the catastrophe. Our thoughts are with the victims of this devastating event.

Gas line explosions in Boston suburbs Sept. 13, 2018 Photo by: Jessica Rinald 

I have to admit that when these “prescient” things happen, it kind of “freaks me out” and I pray that different threats to our national security that I and other authors write about will never become reality, though I write about them to bring attention to these types of challenges. I recall a great quote by George Bernard Shaw who said, “The best way to get your point across is to entertain.” And that’s what all of us are trying to do — create thrillers and mysteries that will make a point, but also entertain you, our readers.   Now, can you think of books you’ve read that told a story that later came true? Think about it and leave a comment here, or on our Facebook page (the icon is at the upper left). And thank you for visiting us here on Rogue Women Writers.

. . . posted by Karna Small Bodman 

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  1. Lisa Black

    So far I haven't predicted anything…that I know of. Except perhaps movie plots–I was horrified when, after I began writing Takeover which dealt with a bank robbery/hostage situation, I watched the movie Inside Man with Clive Owen.
    Me: They stole my plot!
    My husband: Mmm…uh-huh.

  2. Gayle Lynds

    Ah, yes, Slender Man, Lisa Black! What a fascinating case. I've predicted several things in the intelligence community, including the existence of Robert Hanssen, including his first name and how he was discovered. It's fun when it happens!

  3. Robin Burcell

    The most I've ever "predicted" was the title to a TV series that came out after one of my books, which always led to fan email questions as to whether my book was about *that* TV show. COLD CASE and years later, BLACK LIST. The good news is that both TV shows were hits. So maybe the TV execs need to contact me for TV titles!

  4. Jamie Freveletti

    Hi Karna: Thanks for the shout out about The Geneva Strategy! Yes, the drone wars are truly terrifying and appear to be the wave of the future. And had to laugh when I saw Lisa's comment above, more than once I've seen plots that are so close to what I've been considering. Nice post!

  5. Chris Goff

    I'm late to this discussion, but I have to say it happens. I'm wondering if sometimes its just we do so much research that we see connections between things that the average reader or TV viewer doesn't. I've seen plots on TV and in books that I thought of but someone else has produced or written first. Sort of like the invention or App you think of only to find it's already been done or under patent. And I would bet most of us can watch a show or read a book and predict the ending more often than others.