A warm welcome again to my fellow Crooked Cat, Tim Taylor, who has the vision and insight to link the past with the present. Why do we never learn!
(And I highly recommend both of his books: compelling and entertaining reads for lovers of historical novels: you can read my review HERE).
Hello, Jane. Many thanks for hosting me!
I’m here to celebrate the first anniversary of the publication of my second novel, Revolution Day (in honour of which it is on special offer at 99p/99c for a short period!). I must admit to being worried about all the turmoil and uncertainty following the Brexit referendum, but one small crumb of comfort amid the gloom is that my novel is suddenly feeling rather topical again!
It was intended to be topical in a different way when I first wrote it. The idea first came to me after the Arab Spring in 2011, when a string of dictators who had once seemed impregnable, such as Mubarak in Egypt and Gaddafy in Libya, fell one after the other in the space of a few months. What interested me was not the specific causes of those events (the novel was never meant to be topical in that way) but the broader issues they raised about the corrupting effects of power and its ultimate fragility. So I set my novel not in the Middle East but in Latin America (with its long association with dictatorship), though my fictional ageing dictator, Carlos Almanzor, is prey to self-importance, delusion and paranoia in much the same way to his Arab counterparts. His estranged and imprisoned wife, Juanita, writes a memoir of their marriage and his regime, in which she chronicles his descent from idealism into autocracy and repression.
I was surprised how quickly the Arab Spring faded from the forefront of public consciousness, no doubt because of the painful years of civil war and religious extremism that followed it, and still haunt us. Now, though, the novel has acquired a rather different resonance with much more recent political events in the UK. The central thread of the plot revolves around the third major character, Manuel Jimenez, a long-standing comrade and trusted ally of Carlos. Manuel, however, has long been frustrated with his subordinate position and wants to replace Carlos as President. He makes his move against Carlos not by force but through intrigue, playing on fears of foreign interference and using misinformation to turn public opinion against the President. Is this ringing any bells?
I’ll end with a short extract, continuing with this theme. Manuel chooses the end of a particularly boring meeting of the Revolutionary Council to drop a bombshell ….
The meeting had dragged on for two hours, and the air was now unpleasantly thick with cigar smoke. Felipe could think of nothing in his copious notes, written over a dozen pages in exquisitely neat, rounded letters, that would have merited more than a few scribbles in the margin of a written brief, let alone a full meeting of the Council. The attention of Angel in particular had begun to wander some time ago, and he had started to concentrate more on the brandy than upon the Agenda, in a manner somewhat reminiscent of Pablo. The President himself from time to time appeared to be on the verge of falling asleep. Carranza and Farias, who had both contributed their fair share of banality to the proceedings, had said what they had to say, and were now silent, contributing nods to the discussion when they felt it appropriate, but little else. Only Manuel, with surprising stamina, was continuing to talk at any length, though it was difficult to discern anything of great import in what he said. The eyelids of the President wavered, and then closed altogether for a few seconds. Then his whole body jerked, and the eyes were wide open once again. Suddenly alert, he glared at Manuel, the loose flesh of his face composing itself into a frown.
“What is there in all this that the Council needs to decide upon? I already know that the Americans do not like me. Could you not have got someone to put this in a written brief, if it needed to be said at all? I am going to close this meeting unless you have something more important to say.”
If Manuel was upset by this dismissive treatment, his face did not show it. Patiently, he took a deep breath and began again.
“I am sorry if what I have been saying is, in itself, less than enthralling. But it was necessary background to put in context what I am about to say.”
“And what, pray, is that?”
“To put it simply, we have some evidence to suggest that the Americans are backing a plot to destabilise this government.” As Manuel looked around the table, eyes that previously had been staring into the middle distance were now focused sharply upon him. A little smile played upon his lips. “There is nothing concrete yet, but encrypted signals traffic to and from the US Embassy has doubled in the last three months, and several of the known pro-democracy activists we have under surveillance have been showing increased mobility, suggesting that they are up to something. As I have said, there is nothing conclusive here. Nevertheless, the signs are suggestive, and consistent with what we have seen in the prelude to other attempts at subversion in the past. The wider picture I have been describing, concerning what is being said about this country – and about you, Carlos – in the United States and elsewhere is also consistent with that hypothesis. So my people are monitoring developments carefully and are under instructions to obtain harder evidence that I can bring to a future meeting. Unless, of course…” He paused, and threw the President a smug little grin “…the matter is not considered of sufficient importance to put before this Council.”
Thanks again for hosting me today, Jane!
Revolution Day page on my website: http://www.tetaylor.co.uk/#!revday/cwpf
Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/timtaylornovels