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6:06pm on Monday, 29th August, 2016:
I don't always write up all the story ideas I have, any more than I implement all the game ideas. Here's one I had maybe 10 or 15 years ago.
Detective stories today don't have the same kind of appeal as those of yesteryear, because the police have access to too much technology. CCTV, DNA analysis, phone call records, ATM withdrawal records, vehicle number plate recognition, ... If you want to write a detective story in a modern setting, what can you do? You can set it somewhere in the third world where this kind of technology isn't yet commonplace, or you can have a private detective who won't get any big, juicy cases because the police will step in, or ...
... hmm, or you can have some reason your detective can't involve the police. Who wouldn't want to involve the police, though?
So, the premise of my story was that there is a decent man who is sent to prison for breaking the law in a serious way, but the law he broke is unjust. At the time I was conceiving this idea, I thought he could maybe run some kind of online forum that had being used without his knowledge by perhaps terrorists or child pornographers, and he's imprisoned because he "should have known". That wouldn't work today, but there are plenty of other ways a decent man can wind up in prison with his reputation ruined.
While in prison, he realises his career is over, he has no chance of getting a job again, the publicity surrounding his crime was too much. He remains decent, but has somewhat lost faith in the justice system. He helps solve some petty mysteries in prison, befriending some of the other inmates. When he gets out, one of them asks him to solve a mystery in the world at large. This is where the first story would pick up.
I had it in mind that it would start out as a simple "Someone is smuggling cigarettes in from France and selling them on my patch. Find out who it is, let me know, and I'll see to it they stop." case. It would then turn out that the smugglers weren't just bringing in cigarettes, and bigger groups of organised criminals were involved.
The reason I didn't pursue this premise concerned the main character. I wanted him to be logical, somewhat bitter, but fundamentally good. He had to be a he, because you get a wider variety of criminals in male prisons than in female prisons. He'd need a sidekick. I was thinking that he could be some kind of tech professor and his sidekick would be a former student, perhaps a married woman with kids. The tech professor thing was a bit too close to home, though, and I didn't want him to be able to use his l33t skillz to hack his way through plot obstacles. Maybe if I'd made him a mathematician or a philosopher, that would have worked. That's not what the problem was, though: the problem was that the more I thought about him, the less I liked him. He was interesting, sure, and had a great sense of dark humour, but there was something manipulative about him that put me off.
Also, I don't really like detective novels. That's a bit of an obstacle, too.
Still, a consulting detective for criminals is just the kind of thing that would fly on US TV, so I'm sure we'll see something along these lines sooner or later.
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