The Launch

Well, the launch of the paperback of Revolution Day on Monday went quite well in the end after a bit of a chaotic start.

I’d prepared a slide show, with pictures of a bunch of historical dictators whose lives and careers inspired my fictional character Carlos Almanzor, but the person who was supposed to be sorting the projector didn’t turn up. In my introduction, I had to tell people to imagine a picture of Colonel Gaddafi or whoever instead.  But at least this got me a few laughs, and the readings seemed to go down very well – with the considerable help of my wife Rosa and friends Mary and Sue, who shared between them the excerpts that were in the voice of Carlos’ estranged wife Juanita.  There were lots of questions afterwards, and I sold quite a few books.  My hosts, the Friends of Holmfirth Library and Tourist Information Centre, laid on plenty of wine and other refreshments which lubricated proceedings nicely.  All in all, it was an enjoyable evening, for me, and I hope for the audience too.

Many thanks to poet and painter David Coldwell for the pic; Rosa Mary and Sue for reading, FOHLATIC for hosting me, and to everyone who came along.

Here’s one of the excerpts that were featured in the event (read by Rosa, in this case).  Juanita contemplates the gate that has separated her from the outside world for sixteen years…

It is just a line on the ground, a slight change in colour between the asphalt on one side and the gravel on the other, a few metres away from the door of my house. The same weeds grow on both sides of the line. After rain, part of it is concealed by a puddle. When I was free, I crossed this line hundreds of times without noticing it, except when the wrought iron gate lay closed above it. But even the gate had little significance. It was never locked in those days; its opening and closing were the task of a couple of seconds. Walking over the line made no impact upon my consciousness other than a rather pleasant, fleeting sense of entering a place of peace, of refuge from the demands of public life. Or – when I was going the other way – an odd mix of apprehension and excitement as I prepared to get back to work.

The line has not changed in any way since then. It, and the gate itself – still the same gate, after all these years – continue to be ignored by all other forms of life but me. The birds fly over it. Snails and lizards move unhindered beneath it. My cat – how I envy her this – passes between the bars as if they were not there when she begins and ends her nightly prowlings. The gate is locked now, of course, but for the various men and occasional woman who come here for one purpose or another, that fact is of no consequence. They all have keys, and the act of unlocking it hardly delays their progress at all.

But for me, the line, and the gate above it, are now an impermeable barrier. I have crossed it no more than four times in sixteen years, under armed guard. The trees on the other side of the road beyond the gate do not look any different from the ones I remember, the ones I could have walked among and touched if I had wanted to. They are no further away, in space. But I no longer see them as real trees. To me, they are like a picture of trees or, when the wind blows, a movie of trees swaying to and fro. They are beyond the line, and all that is outside it has for years been slowly fading out of reality.

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The story behind the story – TE Taylor talks about the inspiration behind Revolution Day

On the launch day for the paperback version of Revolution Day, I’m visiting Katy’s Writing Coffee Shop to talk about the background to the story

Katy's Writing Coffee Shop

IMG_4707I’m delighted to welcome Tim Taylor on what is a very special day – the launch of his novel Revolution Day in paperback. Thanks for dropping in, Tim, what can I get for you today?
Hello, Katy. Many thanks for inviting me along to your coffee shop! I’ll have a cappuccino with gingerbread syrup, please. Ooh, and an almond croissant, if you’ve got one. Yum yum!
How are you feeling today about the book going into paperback?
Excited! Revolution Day has been out for a while as an e-book, but it’s great to have it as a physical object that I can put on my bookshelf. And in my experience, there are still a lot of readers out there who prefer ‘real’ books to e-books, so this is an opportunity to bring it to a new audience.

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How are you planning to celebrate the launch?
Well, it will just be an…

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Dictators in History: Muammar Gaddafi

In anticipation of the launch of the paperback edition of Revolution Day on 24 April (7.30 pm in Holmfirth Library – the e-book is also available today only for 99p/99c) – I thought it was time to do another in my occasional series of posts discussing the careers of historical dictators and comparing them to Carlos Almanzor, the ageing dictator in my novel. Today I’m looking at Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi, whose fall, together with that of other dictators during the ‘Arab Spring’ was a major influence on the novel.

Gaddafi was born in 1942 in Sirte to a poor Bedouin family. In 1963 he entered the Libyan Royal Military Academy and later spent 9 months in Britain during his training. As he rose through the ranks he founded the clandestine Free Officers movement, influenced by the Arab Nationalism of Gamal Abdel Nasser in neighbouring Egypt.

In 1969 the Free Officers took advantage of the absence overseas of the Libyan king, Idris, to depose him in a relatively bloodless coup d’etat. Gaddafi then proclaimed the Libyan Arab Republic. In the four decades of his subsequent rule Gaddafi implemented a form of socialism, combined with nationalism and elements of sharia law. His political philosophy was set out in the Green Book, in which he rejected capitalism and representative democracy and espoused a form of direct democracy. In practice, however, Gaddafi remained in control, enforced by ruthless suppression of opposition.

During his career Gaddafi gained – and often subsequently lost – international support from various quarters. Initially he was close to other Arab states, particularly Egypt, though relations with Nasser’s successor Sadat were poor. He had good relations with the socialist regimes in Latin America and latterly with other African nations, becoming chairperson of the African Union in 2009-10.

For most of his career, however, Libya’s relations with the West were very bad, due to its enthusiastic support for terrorist organisations overseas, including the IRA; its responsibility for the 1988 Lockerbie air crash; and its chemical and nuclear weapons programmes. There was a surprising rapprochement in the first decade of this century, based on the recognition of a common enemy in fundamentalist Islam.

This was not to last, however. When in 2011 the Arab Spring spread from neighbouring Egypt and Tunisia into Libya, Gaddafi responded to the protests with brutal military force, earning him global condemnation and eroding support at home. UN-authorised NATO air strikes helped tip the balance of the conflict in favour of the rebels, forcing Gaddafi to quit the capital Tripoli for his home town of Sirte. Even here, though, the forces of the opposition National Transitional Council closed in exorably, finally cornering him 20 October. He died horribly, first injured by a grenade burst, then captured, beaten up, bayoneted and shot, pleading in vain for his life.

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Gaddafi and Carlos

There is a real-life link between Gaddafi and Revolution Day in that were it not for him, the novel would probably never have taken the form it did. A few years back, I had at the back of my mind an idea for a novel about someone who has enjoyed great power and is beginning to lose his grip – initially, the idea was that it would be an old king. Then, as the Arab Spring happened and Gaddafi, Mubarak and other dictators who had seemed unassailable were toppled one after the other in the space of a few months, a thought occured to me: ‘hey, I could write that novel about a dictator’! Since my particular interest was not so much in the background to the Arab Spring itself but the wider issues it raises about the corrupting effects and ultimate fragility of power, I decided to set the novel in Latin America, with its long association with dictatorship and hey presto! Carlos Almanzor was born!

Though the character of Carlos was not based on Gaddafi, there are some notable parallels between the two. Both were (initially, at least) broadly socialist in their political beliefs, though Gaddafi has the additional elements of Islam and Arab nationalism which are of course absent in Carlos. Both enjoyed several decades of power, making use of brutal repression and the cult of personality in order to keep it. And both became deluded by it as the years went on.

There are notable differences too. Carlos’s background is middle-class, not poor; his route to politics via the law not the Army. Though ruthlessly authoritarian in his own country, he does not foster terrorism overseas as Gaddafi did. And for all his faults, he is ultimately more human, less deranged, than Gaddafi.

Though Gaddafi became a rather pathetic figure at the end, he had done many very bad things in his career. I was saddened by the manner but not the fact of his passing. Nevertheless, I do owe him a strange debt, as a source of inspiration for my novel.

 

Revolution Day on Amazon: http://authl.it/4yo

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