Saturday, February 9, 2013

Conspiracy Theory: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

By Robin Burcell

Leave a comment for Robin this weekend and you'll be entered in a drawing for a free copy of The Black List.

 I’ve always been a fan of conspiracy theory—the sort relating to Templar treasures, the Masons, and Washington, D.C. being run by a handful of millionaires. Not that I necessarily believe all of it, or even the vast majority.  But I do find it extremely entertaining as a form of fiction. The question is why? What makes it so interesting? Isn’t it just the ramblings of the paranoid? Or is there something more to it? Something real, tangible?

More than likely, it is a little of both.

I think my fascination with conspiracy theory started with the movie by the same name starring Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts, as well as Enemy of the State, starring Will Smith and Gene Hackman. Both movies are about ordinary people going about their ordinary lives, then suddenly falling prey to some governmental plot to eliminate them because they had accidentally and unknowingly witnessed something or found something that could possibly blow the lid off a major government scandal.

Conspiracy theory has been around for a long, long time. Historians battle it, news stations love it. The higher profile the event, the more likely it is that conspiracy theorists will have placed the blame on the government or that cabal of millionaires (some who are politicians, I’m sure) trying to rule the world.

Who wants to believe that one lone man is insane enough to take a life or dozens of lives, or even hundreds of lives? How can anyone be that deranged? How could we possibly walk outside? Or send our children out there? Because if it’s not some government plot, then it could be our next-door-neighbor, or the guy in line behind us at the grocery store, or sitting next to us on the subway.

We could be next.

Perhaps by believing in conspiracy theory, we take the Russian roulette element out of the horrible things that have happened in this world and we rationalize the evil by believing that since there really is a cabal out there plotting to overtake the world and that this is just part of their master plan, it’s not going to touch us. We didn’t see the secret documents, or learn the identity of the high-ranking person involved in an assassination who must remain unidentified. The recent killing/s was/were a cover up. Not random at all. The unexplainable can be explained and we can continue on with our lives and know that we will be safe.

I watched the film JFK the other night, about the conspiracy surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. By the film’s conclusion, I believed in the conspiracy, at least as it related to the film. I’m still not sure who was behind it, or exactly what the conspiracy was about beyond Cuba and the Bay of Pigs, maybe even the CIA (they always make good fictional bad guys), but definitely that a conspiracy existed, starting with the fact that there was more than one shooter.

What makes these conspiracy stories stand the test of time is that there’s a bit of truth in every one. And that’s what I do in my books. I make sure they include some historical facts, then tweak them so that my characters can investigate and uncover the actual reason as to why something did or did not happen. I try to include a Fact or Fiction at the end of each of my books detailing where the premises for the stories came from, and what is tweaked and what is true. Some of the real life conspiracies that I’ve used for inspiration are: BCCI, the bank used by the CIA for their black ops in Iran-Contra. It became BICTT in Face of a Killer. Propaganda Due (P2), the clandestine Italian Masonic lodge that nearly crippled the Italian government inspired my version, Ci-Tre (C3) in The Bone Chamber. Chimera viruses and profit-driven pharmaceutical companies were part of The Dark Hour, and charities fleecing the government to bring refugees into the country all to line their coffers were part of The Black List.

Naturally my intrepid FBI agents and covert agents from ATLAS investigate and restore order to the world. And isn’t that why we turn to fiction? We not only want to be entertained, but we want to have that hope and belief that someone out there is going to save us, whether it’s the FBI or another character. Maybe it gives us hope for the future. In real life, the more horrific the event, the more we need and search for that hope. Why then would we even consider conspiracy theory?

The answer is simple. It gives a rational explanation for the irrational.

 Leave a comment for Robin this weekend and you'll be entered in a drawing for a free copy of The Black List.
Robin Burcell worked as a police officer, detective, hostage negotiator, and forensic artist, and is the author of 9 novels. The Black List is her latest international thriller about an FBI forensic artist. Visit her at,, and


Liz V. said...

Sometimes, there is a conspiracy, as Caesar learned. (Although this week mention of Richard III probably is more appropriate.)

Anonymous said...

This article and the intriguing cover make me really want to read The Black list! Whether I win or not, I plan to get hold of your books, Robin. You sound like a writer right up my own alley! Thelma Straw, AFIO member and MWA-NY

Anonymous said...

You're absolutely right. Sometimes there is one. I think Fox Mulder/THE X FILES said it best: The truth is out there.

And Thelma, glad to hear it! Always music to an author's ears!

mike eagle said...

Yes, count me in. Just finished face of a killer. Wonderful!

Larry W. Chavis said...

I've always been intrigued by these stories (especially the alleged Knights Templar-Freemasonry connections -- maybe because I am Mason). The ubiquitous Templars, Nazis/occult, grand CIA/mafia/foreign intelligence, secret bankers --- there are so many ways to tell one of these stories. And, if done well, they always are satisfying - even if the best ones leave niggling questions behind.

Garrett Nyland said...

Well said, Robin! Excuse me while I run to the bookstore...

Carole Price said...

Love your article. I'm a huge fan of conspiracy theory, the depth, the questions, the what-ifs. I'll definitely add The Black List to your other books on my shelves.

Chester Campbell said...

I love conspiracies, too. I have one in each of my Post Cold War political thrillers. The best is in the third, not out yet. It deals with one modeled after the Council on Foreign Relations. Your book sounds great, Robin.

skkorman said...

I just last night finished reading The Dark Hour—loved it, beginning to end, and I would love to read The Black List; thanks for the opportunity to win a copy!

skkorman AT bellsouth DOT net

Anonymous said...

Sounds intriguing, thanks for wonderful opportunity!

Anonymous said...

Geez, I go away for a bit and look what I missed!

Glad you enjoyed it!

I have a great Knights Templar-Freemasonry connect in THE BONE CHAMBER (which I think is still .99 cents on the ebooks!) I had one man who didn't finish the book, because of the Masons, to which he said he'd never allow another of my books in his house. I was a tad worried that anyone involved in Masons was going to feel that way, and then received a great email from a guy who was a Mason and apparently a recent Knights Templar (the modern order, obviously). He loved the story. Since part of the story has to do with a map and the possibility of finding the hidden Templar Treasure, he wanted to know where his share was.

Anonymous said...

Glad it sounds like your type of book!

I'm with you. It's the "what ifs" that intrigue me every time.

I'm so glad you liked THE DARK HOUR! Thanks for letting me know!!!

Thanks for dropping by!

Brenda Coxe said...

Many even believe there was a conspiracy involved in 9-11. After all, apparently Bush was forewarned and thought it was just a hoax, and earlier emails somehow disappeared. As for Kennedy, I always heard the stories on that one and many believe Johnson was behind it as he had the most to gain.

Anonymous said...

I think there's a conspiracy theory behind about every major historical catastrophic event.

In fact, I think it's probably harder to find an event where someone hasn't theorized that some sort of conspiracy exists.

Tom Sawyer said...

I'm definitely with you! My only quibble: my theories contain more than a little truth. My first novel, THE SIXTEENTH MAN is about the JFK Assassination. My second, NO PLACE TO RUN, explains 9/11. At the last MEN OF MYSTERY event, I intro-ed myself by saying to the room: "For those of you who may have wondered what a Paranoid Conspiracy Freak looks like, you're looking at one." My books sold out at the bookstore that day.
Anyway, Robin, Brava!
Tom Sawyer

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Tom!

cmgren said...

Love a good conspiracy. This sounds like my kind of read. Thanks for having this contest.

Anonymous said...

I think you've got a point about why people are into it, though I also think that sometimes "conspiracy theory" is a term that's thrown out to discredit legitimate questions.

After all; on the one hand, it's comforting to think that there's some shadowy cabal out there pulling the strings. At the same time, it's equally comforting to some people to think that lone nuts make up a certain unpredictable percentage of the population, rather than to think that the People In Charge really don't have your best interests in mind.

Some days it seems like, for every Royal Conspiracy Theory out there that can be disproven a dozen different ways, there are a a handful of cases where the evidence really does point to something a lot nastier than the official story.

Anonymous said...

No doubt about it. The term has been thrown out there indiscriminately at times. And undoubtedly there are real conspiracies of the shadowy governmental type. But like you said, they are probably few and far between.

In fact in my next book, THE KILL ORDER, due out end of the year, I have a governmental official even commenting on the fact that they've done their best to make sure some things stay in the realm of conspiracy theory--the better to protect what's really going on.

Harold Wagner said...

Harold Wagner , Robin thats what I love so much about your books you find yourself wondering where the fiction ends and wondering just how much of your stories are actual fact, when I finish one of youe books I sit back and think just how much of this actually takes place within our government and we just dont know about it.Thats why your books are so fascinating to me.Please keep them coming.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Harold! Glad you enjoy them. I'll certainly do my best to keep them coming!

Amy Nagdeman said...

I love conspiracy theories! Can hardly wait to get my hands in it.

Judy Dee said...

Conspiracies, yes. Count me in.
Thanks. judydee22002@yahoo dot com

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I tend to be a skeptic.

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