IP Picks🔎: Disasters (Real & Imagined), Wall Street Greed & A Cure For Cancer
➕ A princess raised by bears and a beautiful con
Welcome to The Optionist! As always, thanks for reading. Though it occurred a few weeks back, I remain riveted to continuing coverage of the East Palestine, Ohio train derailment — ending as it did in conflagration, the release of five railcars’ worth of toxic gas, and the evacuation of thousands from the sleepiest of small-town Midwestern homes.
Looking for potential culprits? Line up the usual suspects — an avaricious railroad conglomerate, pliable state officials and weakened federal regulators.
I’m fascinated by what these disasters say about our current world — the gap between our expectations of safety and the actual level of government oversight, the fraying of regulations, Capitol Hill in thrall to regulation-killing lobbyists, and how we’ve let corporate power grow unchecked.
The combination of injustice, greed and our own trepidation that we could be the victims of the next avoidable disaster is why films from Erin Brockovich to Deepwater Horizon to Dark Waters tap into our real anxieties (and sell tickets).
I’m not sure there’s enough here for a movie — not yet. But reading the news about this calamity called to mind a book we featured not that long ago, centering on another nightmare train wreck that killed 16, devastated a small Tennessee town, and spurred the creation of FEMA in the 1970s. Great basis for a compelling film or limited series, I thought then — and still do. (The rights remain available!)
I really loved the drama of that story, and the fact that it was all true gave it extra emotional heft. Interest was limited, as it usually tends to be for throwback events without an obvious current hook. And that’s why it’s the perfect reminder of how a shift in headlines can inject relevance into a story that wasn’t there before.
It’s also a reminder of the value that The Optionist archives can provide to subscribers. With more than a year under our belt, we’ve got our own lengthy backlist. In some cases, as here, the archives may well yield a story whose rights are still available. In other cases, a search for similar stories can ferret out trends.
This week’s pick list brims over with other seat-of-the pants IP, including:
A true crime podcast about a cam girl unwittingly caught up in a massive catfishing fraud
A ripped-from-the-headlines story about the cracking of one of L.A.’s most notorious cold cases by a rank amateur
And my favorite of the week, a hidden gem of a suspense story — courtesy of Wall Street and the pharmaceutical industry—about the race to be first with a new cancer drug, and a parallel sweepstakes to reap billions in profits from the breakthrough
A fab thriller about a plane crash
An adventure yarn about an ancient mythical heroine, strangely of our time