Conspiracy of Wolves
Ernie Hasler brings us a political thriller set in Scotland in the mid-to-late 90s. We’re in the midst of Tony Blair’s United Kingdom, or are we? Conspiracy of Wolves takes its time to warm but soon readers are in the midst of an action novel involving police manhunts, spy agency duplicity, and a sprinkling of gangsters.
Douglas Hamilton, son of an anti-Thatcher trade unionist coal miner, inherits a list of the supposed three hundred people who rule the world. This cabal has a genesis falling in line with the most fantastical of Dan Brown’s speculations equal parts bizarre religious history and overt capitalist domineering. All of which makes Douglas and his wife Kelly the perfect enemies as they are staunchly individual leftists. In fact, the novel grounds us in the anti-nuclear protests the two engage in before inadvertently getting involved in this world-wide conspiracy while on holiday.
While Douglas is the protagonist, it would be wrong-headed to assume Kelly as some sort of damsel. Hasler does an excellent job of showing us the couple’s dynamic as one of mutual support, deeply caring, and willfully challenging of each other to be better. They are intelligent and dedicated to social justice, a simple stance putting them at odds with New Labour, neo-conservatives, and industrialists alike. Ultimately, Hasler’s story is about the moral victory of its heroes and to get there we need to see them undergo some panicky, on-the-run scenarios.
What is difficult about Conspiracy of Wolves is there’s never really a moment where we get a sense of what the cabal of three hundred are motivated to do. This three hundred is a sort of faceless Leviathan existing to keep itself secret and in power. And, perhaps, we should look for more of a motivation. As we’ve all seen in the political world, especially of late, the vast majority of those in power are only concerned with consolidating and/or maintaining their power, their control. This isn’t so much nefarious as it is maliciously petty, which is why Douglas is an excellent foil to stand up and expose it.
In the same vein, some readers may find the dialogue stilted, or perhaps, there’s too much tell and not enough show. However, I’ll commend Hasler for bringing an under-respected aspect of realism to his speculative fiction–when we speak to others, we routinely resist descriptive language in favor of the discursive. However, it is but a quibble because Hasler is able to balance this with action.
Hasler is now in the process of writing a sequel of sorts to Conspiracy of Wolves that will take readers into the world of the cabal post-Brexit. It will be interesting to see just how the story will translate now twenty years later. Most certainly, things won’t have changed too much and will be an equally fertile ground for Hasler to present us with a common hero willing to stand up the political and economic elites.
Ernie recently retired at age 67 as a health and safety advisor. He is a tireless vocal advocate for awareness of the global threat of climate change, reduced access to water, the destruction of trees and nuclear arms development and deployment. He puts his beliefs into action as a trustee of Emmaus Glasgow, a working community of previously homeless people running their own business and recovering their lives.
He believes workplace health and safety civil responsibilities, including equal opportunities, are directly linked to the Old Testament and still apply today.