While we British remember the 5th of November, it’s easy to forget it’s a local tradition. The rest of the world don’t care that Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1606. Who knows what Britain might have looked like today if the plotters hadn’t been betrayed by a spy? Other coups of the past have had a massive impact on the shape of the world today – the American War of Independence, and the overthrow of monarchies in Russia, China and France, for example.
Intrigue simmers below the surface of big business too. While the Volkswagen emissions cover-up is in the news right now, the company’s been caught up in scandal before. In 1993, General Motors accused the German car maker of stealing its secrets. It cost VW over $1bn to settle, although it never admitted any liability.
The Matt Damon film, The Informant, was actually based on a true story of industrial espionage. The FBI used an inside man within the food industry to prove that an illegal cartel was fixing prices. The Insider, starred Russell Crowe in a similar role, as a whistleblower uncomfortable with his cushy executive job in Big Tobacco. It’s even harder, of course, to keep secrets in the digital age. They can be stolen at the touch of a button. Hackers recently attempted to blackmail British company Talk Talk – how many other companies have been clandestinely held to ransom?
Plotters and spies will always be with us. On Bonfire Night, we celebrate their failure. How very British – and what a great excuse for a fireworks party!
I’m a British writer of short stories and crime thrillers. My first full-length book, Up In Smoke, features two corporate spies with totally different goals – one driven by money, the other by revenge. With counterfeiters, murderers, drug smugglers and a letter bomb or two, there are enough twists to rival the original Gunpowder Plot!