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August 29, 2012

My novel pitch

Thanks for letting me pitch my novel. I think it’s got real potential.

This story’s got it all: a sweeping saga of war, greed, treachery, corrupt officials, helpless victims, and a classic bad guy. Think Charles Dickens or, if a bit more comedic, Mark Twain. It’s a dark tale, but we can definitely make it funny. Anyway, here’s an outline of the plot:

A nation in decline attacks a distant country on false pretenses to gain access to its natural resources in order to enrich its own wealthiest citizens. To fight its battle, it recruits hundreds of thousands of poor boys and girls with the promise of a college education in return. These child-soldiers have been entertained practically since birth by hyper-violent video war games, sponsored by the military-industrial complex, so they think they know what they’re getting into but quickly find out they were horribly wrong.

The war comes at a time when medical technology has advanced to the point where the vast majority of battlefield soldiers don’t die but are maimed (both physically and mentally/emotionally) and face a lifetime of costly therapy, which is useful to a post-war economy driven by a capitalist health care system that’s been designed to further enrich its wealthiest citizens.

In a mid-sized, heartland city (that coincidentally also has one of the nation’s largest health insurers), a fourth-generation industrialist, scion of a family that built a small empire out of junkyards and parlayed it into a holding company for oil, gas, health care, transportation, media, defense and, of course, sports management (bread and circuses, ya know), gets an idea: Now that the area has a steady supply of wounded and disabled veterans, there’s only one thing to do: turn a profit!

Conveniently holding a large plot of land in a highly congested location no veteran wants to travel to and no real-estate baron in town can sell, he bribes, tricks or coerces the local zoning authority to rezone the land so a veterans hospital can be built, obtains an ultra-inflated property appraisal and “flips” the land to the federal government to build the hospital, turning a sweet $8 million profit for himself.

But the story breaks in the local paper and all hell breaks loose. Embarrassed by the deal, the local politicians hide and try to take any cover they can find because it’s an election year. Meanwhile, emboldened by the growing hospital scandal, furious taxpayers cry foul and begin to demand answers. Veterans become incensed and … well, I’m not sure yet how it ends.

But it’s pretty good, right? OK, it’s probably a little too outlandish to believe. Maybe we need to soften the bad guy to make him a little more plausible. Would anybody believe he could be that ruthless? It’s one thing to game the system and make some money by greasing some palms. That story’s as old as America. But to suck millions of dollars from the blood of the very soldiers who made his wealth possible? That might be hard for readers to buy.

I know! We’ll weave in a funny subplot for comic relief. What we need is another obscenely rich and comically insensitive baron from the same heartland city, perhaps, I dunno, say, a pizza mogul, to shoot himself in the foot by making an unnecessarily callous comment about providing a basic human right, say access to health care, to his employees. He could show how clueless he is about the problems of the working poor by begrudging their health, because it would cost a comically low amount of money, say, 14 cents per pizza.

He could also be side-splittingly unaware of himself and star in television commercials, giving hilariously bad acting performances that everybody laughs at behind his back. And he could live in an obscenely opulent castle, where he holds fundraisers for politicians — maybe even a presidential candidate — who dedicate their careers to showering more money on rich people like him at the expense of the middle class.

We’ll add to the mix a hearty helping of bumbling bureaucrats, craven government officials and some glitzy, dizzying scenes from a sports-arena’s jewel-and-bimbo-encrusted skyboxes. And the whole thing could be written in a comical global-recession mogul-speak, sort of Gordon Gekko meets Kanye West, but with a soft-Southern accent. It’ll be huge!

Nah, you know what? It’s all too far-fetched. Nobody would ever believe it. Never mind. Sorry I wasted your time.