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[GUEST POST] Laurence MacNaughton on The True Story Behind THE SPIDER THIEF: STOLEN MEMORY (+ Giveaway!)

Laurence MacNaughton is the author of Conspiracy of Angels and the Spider Thief series. His articles and stories have appeared in Writers’ Journal, The Rocky Mountain Writer, Pyramid Magazine, Cabal Asylum, The Inkwell and Noir Journal. He teaches fiction writing at For more information please visit

The True Story Behind “The Spider Thief: Stolen Memory”

by Laurence MacNaughton

Many years ago, I lost several crucial minutes of my memory, and in that time I almost died. There’s a funny thing about having your memories stolen from you — it makes you wonder how those memories, if you had them back, might change who you are.

As I sat down to write The Spider Thief, I knew that I wanted to have the main character piece together the mystery behind his own amnesia.

But then something weird happened. A few miles from my home, a man lost much more than a few minutes of memory. He lost two whole weeks.

This is a true story: a Colorado man took a short drive to the library and never returned. His family went looking for him. They enlisted help from friends and neighbors, but no one could find him.

His worried wife filed a missing person report with the police. But he didn’t turn up.

Day after day, they heard nothing. No word, no trace of him. He had simply vanished, without explanation.

About a week later, police in California found his van abandoned on the side of the road, keys still in the ignition. There was no indication of where he had gone, or what had happened to him.

Everyone feared the worst.

Then, two weeks after his disappearance, about two o’clock in the morning, another local man woke to the sound of someone pounding on his door. Cautiously, the homeowner turned on the porch light. A crazed-looking stranger stood on the front step, begging for help.

It was the missing man. He had no idea where he was, how he had gotten there — or why he was holding a loaded gun.

He had absolutely no memory of the previous two weeks. No idea where he had gone, or what had happened during that time.

He sat down on the lawn and waited for the police to arrive. Shortly after that, he was happily reunited with his family, where he still is today.

The doctors couldn’t find anything wrong with him. He seemed to be in perfect health. What caused his amnesia? What happened during that missing time? And where did he get the gun?

To this day, no one knows for certain. But we can speculate.

Studies have shown that amnesia can have any number of causes, including alcohol or drugs, or exposure to toxins such as lead, mercury, carbon monoxide, even certain insecticides. In fact, you can even lose your memory from eating contaminated shellfish.

In 1987, a serious outbreak of food poisoning in eastern Canada left over a hundred people suffering serious memory loss. The condition was caused by a substance called domoic acid, which is a marine toxin that occurs naturally in shellfish during toxic plankton blooms.

In the human brain, domoic acid activates certain neural receptors, which cause an uncontrolled release of calcium into the cells, leading to memory loss. There’s even a name for the phenomenon: amnesic shellfish poisoning.

My personal brush with memory loss wasn’t caused by shellfish. The cause was much more mundane: a drunk driver.

I remember being flat on my back in the ambulance, sirens wailing as I struggled to tell the paramedics that I had been hit by a truck. But I have no memory of the actual impact. I only remember myself recounting the events after the fact.

It’s a strange sensation, knowing that in that moment, I had a memory which I no longer possess. Ever since then, I’ve been fascinated by the concept of memory.

Our memories define us. If we are the sum total of all of our experiences, what happens when you take some of those away?

Can you become a new person? Can you reinterpret your past in a new light?

What if someone — say, a criminal, perhaps a con artist, wakes up in the middle of his latest scheme, with no idea what’s going on? As he pieces together his past, can he choose to take a different path? Can he do the right thing, redeem his wrongs, and salvage his relationships with the people he cares about? Or is he bound by his history to repeat the same mistakes?

That’s the theme I wanted to explore in my new book, The Spider Thief.

To reinforce that Memento-like feeling of being disconnected from your past, yet haunted by it, I broke the book into four separate episodes, writing it as a serialized novel. Each episode releases weekly, and you can read them separately, or all in sequence. In April 2014, all of the episodes will be collected together in one complete novel, The Spider Thief: Omnibus.

It’s kind of an odd concept, I know. So I’ve decided to give away the first episode, Stolen Memory, free to all subscribers on my website at

Have you ever forgotten something crucial, or known someone who has? Leave me a comment. Tell me your story.

GIVEAWAY (US Only): Win a Copy of THE SPIDER THIEF OMNIBUS by Laurence MacNaughton

We have a paperback copy of The Spider Thief Omnibus by Laurence MacNaughton to give away to a lucky SF Signal reader!

Here’s what the book is about:

All of his life, Ash has been haunted by the ancient curse that killed his parents.

From the cobweb-choked ruins of a lost city in the Amazon emerges a gold spider statue with flashing emerald eyes. If the legends are true, the gold spider has the power to erase the past . . . change the future . . . perhaps even grant eternal life. But touching the spider will steal your memories — and then your life.

For centuries, men have killed to possess the gold spider. Like the man who murdered Ash’s parents. Now, the killer has returned, and Ash is trapped in the grip of the spider’s curse.

His only hope is Cleo, his embittered high-school sweetheart, now a highly-trained agent obsessed with tracking down the spider. But Cleo knows something she’s not telling Ash — about a million dollars in dirty cash, and the terrifying secret his parents died to keep.

Can they solve the riddle of the gold spider before its deadly curse claims them next?

SERIES NOTE: For the first time, this omnibus collects all four novellas in The Spider Thief series into one gripping novel! Bonus: also includes the opening chapters of Conspiracy of Angels, “a thrilling adventure” (James Rollins, New York Times bestselling author).

Here’s how you can enter for a chance to win:

  1. Send an email to contest at sfsignal dot com. (That’s us).
  2. In the subject line, enter “The Spider Thief Omnibus
  3. Please provide a mailing address in the email so the books can be sent as soon as possible. (The winning address is used only to mail the prize. All other address info will be purged once the giveaway ends.)
  4. Geographic restrictions: This giveaway is open only to residents of the U.S.
  5. The giveaway will end Monday, May 7th, 2014 (9:00 PM U.S. Central time). The winners will be selected at random, notified, and announced shortly thereafter.

Good luck!

1 Comment on [GUEST POST] Laurence MacNaughton on The True Story Behind THE SPIDER THIEF: STOLEN MEMORY (+ Giveaway!)

  1. John, thanks for having me on! It’s been a real pleasure.

Comments are closed.

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