Around this time last year, I was putting the finishing touches on Total Power while the world teetered on the precipice. The scale of COVID was still unknown but my imagination was running wild. I’d recently spent a year inventing YARS, the deadly coronavirus that gave rise to Lethal Agent, and was way too well versed in every possible worst-case scenario. Visions of plague, smallpox, and Ebola danced in my head, causing me to wonder if I’d even survive to see the book published. And if anyone would be around to read it.
Such is the overactive imagination of a thriller writer…
Fast forward twelve months and we’re on much more stable ground. COVID has been a heartbreaking tragedy, but not the species-defining disaster of my nightmares. What is still up in the air, though, is how the pandemic will affect society going forward. And how best to reflect that in novels that fans expect to feel real and current.
Pandemic and Societal Shifts
Black death brought about changes on a level that is hard to overstate. Everything from politics and economics to art and religion were turned on their heads. The reduction in labor and decimation of the ruling class gave workers unheard of freedom and opportunity. The grip of the Catholic church, which had been the cornerstone of medieval society, was significantly weakened. And people began to question whether the whims of God were so easily explained. In some ways, the modern world was built on the wreckage left by plague.
The World Going Forward
Experts say it takes approximately two months to form a habit, so it seems that the last year will be plenty to permanently change the way America functions. But will it? If you’re working from home right now do you love the flexibility or do you miss the social interactions of the office? Virtually everyone’s spent the year glued to Netflix and other streaming services, but have you grown so accustomed to them that you won’t return to theaters? Online shopping has gone from being a convenience to being a necessity. Have you been seduced by the ease or are you anxious to start browsing store aisles again?
For many, the tempo of everyday life has slowed. Was that a good thing or a bad one? Have you connected online with friends you hadn’t seen in years? Did you start getting outside more? Enjoy more family time? Maybe those activities will take hold and be the silver lining in the dark cloud that’s been hovering over us for so long.
Coronavirus And The Rapp-verse
As I tap out the opening pages of Mitch Rapp’s twenty-first adventure, I find myself constantly thinking about what world we’ll be living in when it’s published. How will Mitch’s operating environment have changed from the one he experienced in Total Power?
Hand sanitizer all around after taking out a terrorist? Probably not. Kicking back for a Zoom happy hour with his college roommates? I doubt it. But in a world exploding with surveillance cameras, I could see him appreciating the ability to wear a mask in public. And any excuse to avoid airports in favor of the Gulfstream would be welcome.
Typically, I’m pretty cynical about people’s ability to change. We’re a species that solves problems, not one that prevents them. It’s possible that when Book 21 hits shelves, the pandemic will already feel like a distant memory. On the other hand, with vaccine hesitancy and variants, the life we’re living right now might be the new normal. As always, I’ll keep eyes—and my mind—open.