Below is an edited version of the pitch I wrote up for the new series. I've cut out some commercially sensitive stuff, some in house chatter, some industry BS. What's left is a pretty good outline of what I'll be writing next. It's also a good template for how to pitch a book idea (although you need to bear in mind I have excised all of the marketing content).
Meet Dave Hooper. Marine engineer, oilrig fire boss, single dad, drinker, fighter. A man who has selfishly squandered great intellectual gifts and the luck of his Irish grandmother on dissipation and boorishness. A loveable asshole, but really, an asshole. The Jimmy McNulty of the small, clubbish world of oilrig disaster response.
Hooper is the sort of guy who fights fiercely to be with his children, but inevitably lets everyone down when he’s allowed anywhere near them. The things that make him great at one of the most dangerous jobs in the world – physical courage bordering on recklessness, a pigheaded refusal to accept the odds when they’re stacked against him, a lack of respect for any authority which hasn’t earned it, directly, on the fire line with him – all make Dave Hooper ill suited to decent company and parenthood.
We find him, at the start of his saga, experiencing a moment of clarity about the mess he has made of his life and the lives of everyone who ever loved him. Divorce papers await his signature back in small, stale-smelling room he has moved into on the Deep Horizon drill rig. Even his own lawyer, who he hasn’t paid, is telling him to sign them and give up. He’s beaten. His soon to be ex-wife loves him, really she does, but she just can’t be with him any more and nor can their two boys, she insists. David Hooper is a bad influence.
Suffering from a hangover and struggling to recall the details of the two hookers he left asleep in a hotel room paid for BP back onshore, Hooper can only agree. For the sake of his sons he has decided not to fight, for the first time in his life. He’ll sign the papers, say goodbye to his boys and let them go. It would be best for all, even though his wife plans to take them back to Nantucket.
And then, at his lowest ebb, the world as he knew it passes into history.
The Deep Horizon drill bit punches down through a capstone hidden tens of thousands of feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. It cracks open the seal between the world of men and the Under-Realms, allowing monsters back into the light.
At first it seems an everyday emergency. A shattered drill bit, a splintered drive shaft, an explosion, a fire. A day at the office for Dave Hooper. So much easier than dealing with women and their needs and feelings and their demands and their lawyers and the expectations and frustrations and the never-ending fucking migraine of coping with the hell of other people…
And then suddenly it’s not normal because two of his guys are screaming. They’re not burned. They haven’t been caught in a blow out or a secondary explosion. Something is… eating them. Something covered in crude oil and looking just like one of those things in that Lord of the Rings movie he took the boys to. The one that gave them nightmares for a week. This thing… orcs they were called in the movie… this thing has ripped the arm right off of Marty Grback, and Marty Grback has some pretty big fucking arms.
Dave Hooper doesn’t think. He acts. He charges the… thing, the orc, whatever it is, swinging his axe and splitting its skull with the first mighty blow. With a second, short and brutal strike he all but takes off the head, a nobbled, snarling animalistic skull that is all fangs and giant suppurating warts. And when he does that something happens.
He feels the life of the creature leaving it and some of that malign force seems to stay with him. As though he has leeched a small portion of its strength by the act of taking its life.
The creature, a demon, soon named an ‘orc’ by the mass media, is the vanguard of an old evil come back into our lives. The monsters of our legends were not just legends. They once walked the Earth were cast down by an older God who feared they might imperil his chosen kind. They live on in our myths and stories of the major demon archetypes, of vampires, werewolves, ghosts and demons. Of dragons and orcs and zombies and souleaters. All cultures have their own tales of them because all cultures share a common, long forgotten human history, a history of our near extinction at their hands.
When the Deep Horizon punches through the barrier between our world and their prison it releases our deepest fears in material form.
Has mankind grown strong enough to fight back? Can our magic, our technology and discipline and armies match the massed hordes of the Under Realms?
The story of dark magic and its monsters coming back into the world will mostly be the story of Dave Hooper, a flawed hero, an everyman champion who was there at the birth of the new, dark age and comes to lead the human resistance and fightback. A man who has greatness thrust upon him, he becomes our champion simply by being the first man to kill one of the Accursed. He did indeed steal some of its life essence and strength, and although he does not know it, the weapon he used, the humble fireman’s axe was likewise imbued. It is a strength that will grow with every enemy he takes down.
At first however Hooper is most concerned with saving his men, and then the rig, and then as the world falls apart, with his kids.
Magic is back, and it’s bad news for mankind. While our technology is more than a match for the power of the Under Realms – a dragon is easy meat for a Stinger missile – the hyper-complex, fragile nature of the modern human societies that make things like Stinger missiles and Apache helicopters will see them collapse when cities can no longer sustain themselves in the face of primal panic.
Importantly, although this book has obvious fantasy appeal, it is actually the technology and military elements that I want to emphasize. In the end, although Hooper is crucial, he cannot win on his own. Humanity must rescue itself and the tools we will use to do so are the weapons and the cultures we have crafted over the millennia during which we’ve been free to develop. For thousands of years our brutal, Hobbesian natures were the sorrow of the human condition. Now our hunger for war, our madness for weapons, will be the saving of us.
That, and a man called Dave.