A novel, by Thomas Docheri
Here is where I should place my sixty-second elevator pitch, the hook I would send to agents, the blurb on the back cover of my book to entice you to read it. Since Rogue Elephants is the second book in a series about my protagonist Jonathan Tyne, to make that pitch here would give away some of the more interesting elements of the first book. So instead, I’ll discuss the title of the book and what it means to me.
I am aware of at least two other books that bear the title Rogue Elephants. Because those two exist and because I am not motivated to change the title of mine, I feel the need to explain my usage of the term, since in no way is my story even remotely similar to those. One is fiction of another genre, the other non-fiction.
The title, Rogue Elephants, is a play on words. In nature, a rogue elephant is an adult elephant that behaves aggressively towards humans. Very possibly this aggressive behavior is territorial, stemming from human encroachment, much as man-eating lions and tigers are simply reacting opportunistically to the easy prey humans represent when they encroach on the cat’s domain. A jogger in Malibu Canyon, a woman gathering firewood or a goat herder makes for an easier meal for a hungry cat with cubs to feed than a fleet antelope or an always-dangerous buffalo.
In American politics the elephants are the Republicans. Both Rogue Elephants and its predecessor Affirmative Action are circa 1999-2000, deliberately pre-9/11. Even though a Democrat is in the white house, a Republican (conservative, often reactionary, neo-fascist) POV pervades and dominates the political discourse (the quality and nature of talk radio is a useful case in point). The rogue appellation derives from an underlying theme in both novels that a super-secret, extra-legal group within the federal government is surreptitiously spying on Americans. For my literary purposes (I rely on the fiction writer’s Bill of Rights to invent any literary device that suits my purpose), that fictional group exists within the FBI, specifically, the elements focused on suppressing organized crime.
So, it is revealed; I have a political bias. So what, doesn’t everyone? So sue me. I tried to write Jonathan Tyne apolitically; he hates all politicians, in his case if not mine, with good reason.
However, in all honesty, I must now, reluctantly, admit a broader definition of who the elephants are is warranted. The current administration is out-elephanting the Elephants.
This fictitious group uses (real) technology invented, where else, by our friends at NSA, known as ThinThread, to eavesdrop on domestic cell phone conversations. Since ThinThread was pre-9/11, such eavesdropping without a search warrant was illegal. Since the Patriot Act times have changed and both the elephants and the donkeys have made subtle changes in federal law to make domestic spying de rigueur in American politics, as in PRISM and the disclosures of Edward Snowden.
The rogue group in my stories cares not for legal niceties, since they see their goal as both ethical and moral, given whom they are targeting. Ever notice historically how often good intentions lead to bad outcomes? They have no expectation of using in court information they glean with ThinThread but they do use it to make mischief within the target community. In both of my novels, this mischief at times benefits my protagonist but at other times works to his disadvantage, almost fatally so. How he deals with the rogues and their plans for him once he learns what they are doing is the major conflict of the novel. To learn how Jonathan Tyne resolves this existential crisis you will just have to read the book.
In truth ThinThead incorporated provisions for containing its misuse. The recorded conversations were encrypted before archival and it took a court order to decrypt them for analysis. I have no personal knowledge that ThinThread messages were ever used illegally but their very existence without requiring a court order suggests otherwise. In so far as such misuse was possible, I have invented the fact that they were by the rogues in power at the time. You may draw your own conclusions how plausible is my rendering of how ThinThread could have been used. As always, I welcome your comments.