Blue Fire, Part 2: CIA Mind Control

(Another in a series of posts about the inspiration and the history behind BLUE FIRE, my new mystery novel, which will be available on Amazon at a special New Release Price – 99 cents from April 8th through April 15th -see first part of this series here )


When you write a mystery-thriller, you obviously have to concoct stories that are a little bit bigger than life. But what’s interesting is that I keep discovering real life is a lot scarier than anything I can think up.

For example, in Dark Sky, the first book in my Max Bowman series, the back story was based around a series of savage raids by Americans in the Afghanistan war. And to tell you the truth, I didn’t know if this level of unrestrained violence had really occurred. After some research, I found that it had; after our military surge in Iraq seemed to have met with some success, we then took off the brakes in Afghanistan and let our troops loose with a vengeance, so much so that the Afghani government asked us to tone it down – too many civilians were getting killed.

Not only that, but I found out some of the Special Ops troops were conducting night raids…with tomahawks. Yes, tomahawks, just like those used by Native Americans back in the day. And these were not ordinary tomahawks, but Hollywood tomahawks, because these particular weapons were hand-crafted by the same guy who made them for the 1992 movie version of Last of the Mohicans.

So that was weird.

When it came time to start thinking of plotlines for Blue Fire, the sequel to Dark Sky, I knew there was some kind of secret mind control project that had been conducted by the CIA back in the 1950s and 60s. For some reason, I at first thought it probably didn’t amount to much, but again, my research proved otherwise. The CIA program was called MK-Ultra and its aim was to create brainwashing techniques to persuade enemies to talk – and also to create zombie assassins who could be programmed to carry out whatever lethal orders the agency decided to give them.

Fun stuff. And it gets better – because the CIA started the mind-control ball rolling with the help of some former Nazi scientists who were anxious to continue the loathsome experimentation they had begun in the Third Reich. We even brought these lovely gentlemen and their families into the country through another secret initiative called Operation Paperclip.

The more I read about MK-Ultra, the more twisted the whole effort seemed. The CIA secretly dosed hundreds of people with LSD – just to see what would happen to them. Friends, family, other CIA agents…everyone was fair game. The agency even set up a drug rehab program in the South where they gave out free heroin to junkies if they would agree to participate in their LSD experiments, and attracted some very famous contemporary jazz musicians in the process. The CIA director even covertly gave his son LSD on multiple occasions and the kid ended up being committed for a time to an institution.

There are more wild and weird facts about MK-Ultra in the book, almost all of them true, including the tragic story of Dr. Frank Olson, another associate who was surreptitiously dosed with LSD and ended up mysteriously falling out a window from a New York skyscraper – oh, while a CIA agent just happened to be in the room.

All of the dirty details about MK-Ultra were, of course, meant to stay secret. As a matter of fact, the CIA tried to get rid of any evidence that the program ever existed. In 1973, when Watergate fever ravaged Washington D.C. and government mistrust was at an all-time high, the CIA frantically destroyed all of the MK-Ultra files in case Congress came after them. And Congress did – holding hearings on the program in 1975, where direct participants testified. In 1977, 20,000 MK-Ultra documents were found to have survived the CIA purge, but only a small portion of those have been declassified.

Despite all the damage done, MK-Ultra is still an almost-forgotten footnote in our country’s history, even though a top secret agency was running amok and messing with innocent people’s brain chemistry at will.

As they say, you can’t make this shit up – and fortunately, I didn’t have to.

Tomorrow…the dirty truth about comic books!

The Secret History of Blue Fire, Part 1

(The first in a series of posts about the inspiration and the history behind BLUE FIRE, my new mystery novel, which will be available on Amazon at a special New Release Price – 99 cents – from April 8th through April 15th)

As I write these words, it hasn’t even been a year since I decided to write my first novel. That happened on Memorial Day weekend, 2015 (for more details on that epiphany, read this post from last year).

Now, I’m releasing my second one. I hadn’t anticipated completing another one so soon – especially one that’s about a hundred pages longer than the first. But when you’re inspired…

And boy, was I inspired.

In the next few days, I’m going to be writing more about that inspiration. About the ideas and the history that made me have to write this damn book…in spite of my regular ghostwriting work and my lovely wife telling me I was crazy to try and do a second novel so soon after the first one. The problem was, as with the first book, Dark Sky, I couldn’t help it. I was flooded with characters, plot complications and the overwhelming desire to do a bigger, deeper and richer book than the first – and I had to get it all out on paper. Well, on the computer anyway.

This isn’t to say that I was unhappy with Dark Sky.  Far from it. The feedback from friends and family was fantastic and so were most of the reviews posted on Amazon. But still, it was the first novel I had attempted in thirty years or so and the first time I had really attempted the mystery-thriller genre. I knew I could do even better with the second one.

Of course, whether I did or not is up to the ultimate judgment of readers. And there’s some controversial stuff in this one. And there’s a different tone, particularly in the closing chapters. This time around, I took more chances – and I hope they paid off.

In any event, I hope you’ll come back to this here blog space over the next four days to find out just what went into Blue Fire – and why I’m a little bit nervous about how people will react to it.




Here’s Your Chance to Win the Greatest Book of All Time

Joel Canfield here. Starting today, I’ll be giving away ten copies of DARK SKY on to some lucky winners.

Oh, and by the way, I don’t really think DARK SKY is the greatest book of all time, I was just trying to get your attention. You can find the greatest book of all time by clicking HERE.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Dark Sky by Joel Canfield

Dark Sky

by Joel Canfield

Giveaway ends November 11, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

If I Don’t Write This Blog Post…Will Anyone Care???

writer's blockstops here. (1)

If I’m honest with myself, probably not.

After all, a blog post isn’t gonna change the world. At least, mine isn’t. It’s not likely to contain the secrets of the universe, or a cure for some horrible disease, or a piece of crucial, absolutely-must-have information people are waiting for on the edge of their seats.

To be honest, I’m not sure people would even notice if Seth Godin or Elizabeth Gilbert or some other guru-type person missed a weekly blog post. Provided they actually post weekly blog posts.

Do they?

Would you? (Miss it, I mean.)

So here it is, Friday afternoon, almost 6pm, I’ve been working all day and I’m ready to stop. But this is the day I usually do a blog post, and I have to admit, I completely forgot.

So here I am.

Here we are.

And, as you’ve no doubt noticed here, several paragraphs in, I’m doing it. The blog post, I mean. Because, if you’re out there, and I’ve connected with you in some way, I don’t want to let you down. And hey, maybe you need to hear, right at this moment, that you’re not the only person experiencing a “To-Write-Or-Not-To-Write” existential crisis over a blog post. Maybe you need to hear that, while it will be absolutely, perfectly FINE if you skip it, and the world will not end, and your business will not close next week because of your Blog Posting Failure, it still does matter if you do it.

Maybe only for one person.

Maybe only, even, for you.

That’s why I’m writing this one.

And of course, I’d be remiss – and a terrible biz person – if I didn’t take this opportunity to let you know that if you really, really hate writing blog posts…I can help make it a little easier (for not a lotta dough). You can click HERE to find out how.

And whatever you do, have a lovely weekend. Mine is starting right…now.