Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Wherein I call Dan Brown a hack and then secretly hope he'll call me so that we can discuss my book idea.

I admit it . . . I've been obsessing about Dan Brown lately. (Just ask my lunching friends, as I've talked about him for several days straight.)

I got into the Dan Brown craze later than most. I didn't read The Da Vinci Code until this past December. I just finished Angels & Demons this week. But, reading them so close together has given me insight.

Dan Brown has been writing the same novel for years.

This is, maybe, not the most shocking thing ever. After all, successful novelists often churn out similar books, using similar characters. There was the woman who did all the Cat Detective books. Tolkien used the same universe and the same characters for several books. Tom Clancy even wrote several books with the same character. (But at least Clancy set one on a submarine vs. Soviets and another in Ireland vs. the IRA.)

Dan Brown, however, has chosen to take his most famous fictional character, famed "symbologist" Robert Langdon and drop him into two identical plots.

For instance:
  1. Robert Langdon is awakened to solve a mysterious murder.
  2. He travels to Rome/Paris to uncover the nefarious plot of the Illuminati/Opus Dei.
  3. Along the way, he hooks up with brainy, but unconventionally beautiful academic woman. They face peril several times but escape each time . . and all within the course of a single day.
  4. The Catholic Church is the enemy . . . even if you don't' think it is. Basically, the Catholic Church is ALWAYS lying to you.

That's about it really. Sure, details are different here and there. One involves branding, the other artwork. Sprinkle in a great deal of architecture/art history, some fifty references to Harris Tweed, bingo . . . a "Dan Brown" novel.

But I really shouldn't be so hard on Mr. Brown because I hear he's almost finished with another in what I am sure will be a thrilling Robert Langdon page-turner. This one is supposed to be set in Washington, D.C.

So, that got me thinking . . . could I write a Dan Brown book set in the nation's capital? (And didn't Nicholas Cage already make the movie last year?)

I think the plot would go something like this:

Harvard "symbologist" Robert Langdon awakens in a hotel in Burundi.

He's in the middle of sleeping off a night of drinking, which followed a rather heated conference Q & A session about the dual meanings of the Roman

Langdon groans, but quickly awakens, accustomed as he has become to this sort of early morning interruption. He throws off his Harris tweed sheets (custom made by the Burundi hotel), slips into his Harris tweed slippers, and pads to the hotel door clad in only his Harris tweed pajama bottoms.
He opens the hotel door to silence the incessant pounding and is confronted with the night shift hotel manager.

Langdon groggily listens while the manager first apologizes for interrupting his sleep and then informs him that he has received an urgent pdf file via the hotels central computer email. The manager seems a bit bewildered by this, since, as he claims "No one knows what our central email address is . . . but, here it is anyway." He hands Langdon the printout.

Langdon tries to wipe the sleep out of his eyes and focus on the piece of paper that is swimming in front of him. He also momentarily thinks that he should have put on his Harris tweed bathrobe instead of standing in the chilly doorway with no shirt on. But, he mentally shook the cobwebs out of his mind and looked at the email. Langdon immediately hopes he is dreaming and will soon wake up . . .


I can't tell you that . . . at least not until either 1) Mr. Brown and I agree upon copyright issues for this story or 2) Ron Howard and Tom Hanks calls me for a screenplay treatment.

What I CAN tell you is that in the course of a very hectic and thrilling day, Robert Langdon and the comely daughter of an Iraqi archaeologist will race from Cairo, Egypt to Memphis, Tennessee to Mount Vernon, Virginia, wherein they will discover a heretofore unknown connection between ancient Egyptians, George Washington, and Elvis Presley.

(Psst . . . Dan, email me!)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I'm not Dan Brown, but I am married to someone whose name used to be Brown (although there are no Dans in her family), and I have read all **four** of the Dan Brown novels. And let me tell you that the other two are strikingly similar to the two you have read. They were written before Mr. Langdon materialized as a "symbologist", but you can already see the origins of The Formula beginning to take shape. Science is the predominant theme as opposed to religion. But both of the early ones have female protagonists - brainy and beautiful (hey - where were all of these science-babes in all those engineering classes I had to take at the Institute?!?!). And in these two, the enemy is not the Catholic Church, but the only other institution which catches more hell these days than the Holy See, i.e. the Federal Government. But the tie that binds all four together is Mr. Brown's fascination with air travel on a moment's notice. In both cases the science-babe has to jet off to some mysterious place early in the story. In one of them she even flies off in some friggin **super-sonic space plane**, to the North Freakin Pole... Oh yeah and the chapters are all about 1 1/2 pages long too.

And as for the Harris Tweed, for the female brainiacs he substitutes khaki skirts.