1. Winston
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    Winston Member

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    Historical Contraband

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Winston, Jan 31, 2011.

    Hello all :) I have a question about a Thriller that I plan on writing, and I'm wondering if there's any history buffs who'd be able to help me. My main character is an older man who sells/receives illegal goods for a living. Him and a couple of other people in his "circle" decide to rebel in some way...But that's not the important part :)

    The important part is...in which area of history should my story take place? There are lots of great ideas, one of which is alcohol and the Prohibition in the 1930s. Something to do with the American mythology of the West could work as well.

    A little more info about the story might be needed. This older guy is a very resourceful and intelligent fence (term for someone who deals with contraband) who is very good at his job. However, he becomes unhappy with the conditions or something like that, and him and his pals use the authorities to essentially blackmail his clients into doing what he wants.
     
  2. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    You could pick any time period you want really, whether it is 500 BC or 1604 AD or 3025 AD. Contraband items include anything from illegal drugs to smuggling oranges into a city to avoid paying the import taxes on them to selling a stolen stereo.
     
  3. Winston
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    Winston Member

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    Yeah, I have a lot of material to work with, really. :) But I'm looking for a time period and an item where contraband and the various dealings of it made a significant difference in history. Also it needs to be recognized and opposed by a large group of authorities. (i.e. The Texas Rangers a la True Grit or a secret police force)
     
  4. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Prodestant works in the time of Henry VIII onwards.
     
  5. Winston
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    Winston Member

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    Hmm...you raise an interesting point, Elgaisma. I'm guessing you're referring to the Inquisition, and while it mainly refers to the actions of the European Catholic Church in the 1500s, almost every denomination had one at some time. I'm not quite sure what kinds of stolen goods the Inquisition would be fighting against, however.

    One tempting idea that I found online was during the times of World Wars I and II. Nations would declare all cargo on the open seas contraband if it belonged to an enemy nation. They would then claim to have the legal right and responsibility to capture that cargo for themselves.

    A good idea might be a ring of smugglers and clients who take their personal issues to a more...global level, as in a World War. Hmm...I want to have a couple options, though. Any other suggestions for me to work with? :)
     
  6. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Actually in the UK it was the Reformation. Contraband could be anything that was particularly connected to the wrong denomination. There was an incident where Katharine Parr, sixth wife of Henry VIII was almost arrested for reading ardent Prodestant works. Anne Askew was caught with them.

    During James I/VI reign anything particularly Roman Catholic had the same impact, a rosary or a crucifix would be hidden etc.
     
  7. Winston
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    Winston Member

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    Wow. I'm realizing now that I don't have much knowledge on this subject :/ So tell me...were there specific groups of people who actually SMUGGLED Catholic accessories into strictly Protestant countries?
     
  8. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    They had to come from somewhere, usually priests - your MC would probably need a more religious leaning than he has right now. He could make a living smuggling messages between wealthy people about say missions to overthrow the government/monarchy.
     
  9. Winston
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    Hmm...a tantalizing possibility :) But I think we may be moving in a slightly wrong direction here. The MC shouldn't really be that ethical at all. He does what he does for greed, and he takes advantage of the law to better himself and his fortune. A priest wouldn't be so prone to that, I don't think. I'd like to tie in the whole Catholic/Protestant conflict, though, that part of history has always intrigued me. :)
     
  10. Spacer
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    Spacer Active Member

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    Then have him smuggle religious stuff between two regions, where what is promoted in one is contraband in the other. In each he acts as a sympathizer to his customers, but he moves back and forth and sees the irony of it all.
     
  11. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    When Voltaire was writing he did so to debunk the Catholic Church, religion in general, Judaism, Islam, royalty, mindless rituals, and so on. People literal wanted to kill him for it and he had to pay for his own books to get published, run around France, Prussia, and Switzerland to escape death. Since they couldn't kill him in France, they'd have the public executioner "kill" his book on stage!

    This didn't and couldn't stop him and his books spread, and in the end they influenced the founding father of the US to revolt and then the French to revolt. So, his contrbanded books defeated the Catholic Church, spread atheism, and made royalty seem stupid.

    That would make an awesome historical fiction novel as rouges and intellectuals spread his books around.
     
  12. Winston
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    Spacer and Allegro Van Kiddo, you two are brilliant. Thank you :) My idea for my main character was an old roguish man who is very clever, but also philosophical. He's supposed to be greedy and unethical, but he's smart and he's doing what he's doing for a reason.

    I could integrate Voltaire's death-defying escapade in there, too...he could help Voltaire and his own business by drawing these governments away from his chase...by revealing his illegal activities, or something of the sort. Thanks again, guys :)
     
  13. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    I think it would be an exciting tale!

    I always say that you might think you're a very important person, but not really because all of us have many poor people who support all of our "important" activities. It's cool, and I'm sure true, that many forgotten people helped greats like Voltaire (he liked regular folks) and a fictional account of some freedom loving tough guy helped him out.

    Also, Voltaire traveled to England to meet and discuss with Quakers who he semi-admired, so you have lots of countries to use.

    Edit: Also, I love the theme of books and ideas as being a death offense. Many readers might not even imagine such a thing existed but it still does today in some parts.

    Another neat thing is that in Voltaire's time copyright didn't exist, so his enemies would take one of his books, change parts to enrage important people, and then publish it under his name. So, books were used to wage wars against the authors and so on. Perhaps a little sneaking through the right window with knife in hand could put a stop to that!
     
  14. Winston
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    It's been a while since I've been on, I apologize :/ But I just had a great idea. I've always had a burning desire to write steampunk fiction, and I might be able to use a slightly altered version of this story. I could change history in the late 1800s/early 1900s to create some kind of a situation where all of Europe is thrown into tyranny. There could be a resurgence of the ideas of Enlightenment writers, Voltaire's work taking center stage.

    My main character and his buddies could be sky pirates (always loved that concept) dealing with prized and now rare Enlightenment-era works. I could definitely keep the changing his writing part, and the death offense could instead be shifted to these pirates. I think it would have potential, and heaven knows there aren't nearly enough steampunk novels out there :D
     
  15. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    I would like a signed copy please.
     
  16. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I concur.
     

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