Sale Time

It’s Crooked Cat Sale time again!  The e-book of Revolution Day (along with lots of other books) is reduced to 99p/99c until tomorrow (Friday 29 December).  You can find it via these links: Amazon UK   Other Amazon sites

Usually, when there’s a sale on, I post an excerpt to give people a taster of the novel.  But this time I thought I would do something different. So here’s a brief summary of what the novel is about, illustrated by half a dozen very short extracts.  Hope it whets your appetite!

Carlos Almanzor has ruled his country for 37 years. Now in his seventies, he is feeling his age.

“… the figure of an old man stumbled onto the balcony. He appeared lost, confused, as if, in the grip of senile delirium, he had wandered onto the balcony by mistake. His body was so frail, so insubstantial, that it seemed to be held upright only by the starched creases of his elaborate uniform...”

Nevertheless, he still grimly holds the reins of power to himself, believing that he alone can be trusted to run the nation. His Vice President, Manuel Jimenez, is frustrated by his subordinate position. When an attempt to boost his profile is met with humiliating rejection, he resolves to take action.

“… if what one has is worthless, then the risk of losing it is no risk at all. If there is little to lose and the possibility of gaining a great prize, then to roll the dice seems not like gambling, but rational behaviour. And yet, it is still rolling the dice. As he contemplated the possibility of doing so, Manuel experienced for a moment the frisson of excitement that the gambler must crave: that strange wild union of hope and fear.”

Meanwhile, Carlos’s estranged wife Juanita has been under house arrest for sixteen years.

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.”

She is writing a memoir in which she chronicles Carlos’s seizure of power …

I recall very little of what happened next, though I do remember sensing the change in the fleeing crowd in front of us as they realised what was happening and began to turn upon their tormentors. There was a whirring, bewildering confusion of bodies, a cacophony of shouts and screams, and a few shots. Within minutes, a third of the presidential guards were dead.”

… and his long descent from idealism into autocracy and repression.

And so it was done. The men were shot a week later: the first three of eighteen hundred and forty six executions so far during Carlos’ reign. I remember being glad that it would be done quickly, in case he changed his mind. Angel and Pablo did get to sit in the front row. So did Carlos, and Manuel. So, to my discomfort and later shame, did I.”

Lacking a military power base, Manuel makes his move not by force, but through intrigue, playing on Carlos’s paranoia and exploiting the vulnerabilities of those around him, including his young mistress, Corazon, whose spare time is not always spent in the palace.

The door opened and a man entered the room. This was not her usual driver: younger, taller, with slicked-back hair and dressed in a sharp black suit, he looked more like a guest than an employee of the club. Corazon gave the barman a puzzled look, but he smiled and beckoned her to come forward.

Juanita too will soon find herself an unwitting participant in Manuel’s plans. Will he succeed in deposing Carlos and claiming the Presidency for himself? Or will the old man discover the plot and take action before it is too late? You’ll have to read the novel to find out!


You can find more information about Revolution Day, including reviews and longer excerpts, here

Tim’s Christmas Quiz

Here’s a bit of fun for the festive season.  Ten quiz questions, some easy, some a bit harder, all to do with recent or older history.  All of the answers can be found in posts on this blog from 2017.  Get them right, and you can win an e-book of Revolution Day or Zeus of Ithome!

Send me your answers by Facebook message, Twitter or e-mail ( If more than one person gets all ten correct answers, I will pick a winner randomly.  The quiz is open till Christmas Day.

( You can find out about the books here: )


The Questions

1.  Which African nation was implicated in the 1988 Lockerbie air crash?

2.  Which World War 1 battlefield is close to the ancient city of Troy?

3.  Which POW camp was the scene of the 1944 ‘Great Escape’ in which 76 prisoners escaped (of whom 50 were later executed)?

4.  Which reservoir burst its dam in 1952 to cause a catastrophic flood in the Yorkshire town of Holmfirth?

5.  Who was the murderer of archduke Franz Ferdinand?

6.  Which historical figure was the subject of Mario Vargas Llosa’s novel The Feast of the Goat?

7.  What is Robert Mugabe’s religion?

8.  Which poet was imprisoned in the Tower of London on suspicion of adultery with Anne Boleyn?

9.  Which Mexican president gave his name to an Italian dictator?

10.  Which Dorset village was taken over by the Army in World War II?


Good luck – and a Happy Christmas to all!


Dictators in History: Robert Mugabe

I was on holiday last month when I heard about the end of Robert Mugabe’s long rule over Zimbabwe. It seemed like an obvious cue for another in my occasional series of posts looking at historical dictators and comparing them to Carlos Almanzor, fictional dictator in my novel Revolution Day. Other things got in the way for a while, but I’ve finally managed to make time to do it.

Robert Mugabe was born in 1924 in Katuma, in the then British colony of Southern Rhodesia. His father was from Nyasaland (now Malawi) and his mother was a Shona, the predominant ethnic group in what is now Zimbabwe. A Catholic, he went to St Francis Xavier College in Katuma and became a teacher. During his time at Fort Hare University in South Africa he was influenced by African nationalist and Marxist ideas and joined the African National Congress.

His teaching work took him to Ghana, where he met Sally Hayfron, whom he later married. Returning to Southern Rhodesia in 1960, he joined the National Democratic Party (NDP), a nationalist movement led by Joshua Nkomo, in which he quickly became a prominent figure. The NDP was banned in 1961, but reformed as the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (ZAPU). Differences among the nationalists led to Mugabe and others leaving to form the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU). ZANU and ZAPU were banned in 1964 and Mugabe was imprisoned. In 1965 Ian Smith, the (white) Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia, responded to the British policy of No Independence Before Majority Rule with a Unilateral Declaration of Independence.

Mugabe remained politically active in prison, and on his release in 1974 he secured the allegience of ZANU’s military wing, which was now fighting a guerilla war against the Rhodesian government. He became ZANU’s president in 1977. The war and international pressure eventually forced Smith to accept majority rule. ZANU and ZAPU boycotted the 1979 election called by Smith, but participated in subsequent negotiations brokered by the British. Mugabe, who had hoped for a military victory rather than a political settlement, reluctantly signed the Lancaster House Agreement, which ended the war and set out the transition to independence.

In the subsequent elections Mugabe’s ZANU-Popular Front won a majority and he became the first Prime Minister of the newly-independent Zimbabwe in April 1980 (he would become its President in 1987). Despite the hardline Marxist/nationalist position he had taken before the settlement, Mugabe sought to reassure white Zimbabweans and encourage them to stay, and pursued land reform initially through voluntary means. He adopted relatively conservative economic policies, spent heavily on education and health, and invited political rivals to join his cabinet.

However, this good start was not to last. Tensions between Mugabe’s ZANU-PF, predominantly Shona, and Nkomo’s ZAPU, predominantly of Ndebele ethnicity, erupted into violence. In the mid-80s Mugabe sent troops into the Ndebele heartlands, where an estimated 20,000 civilians were killed. Mugabe replaced the voluntary land reform programme with compulsory purchase in the 1990’s, and later encouraged the violent takeover of remaining white farms by veterans of the independence wars. Much of the redistributed land ended up in the hands of Mugabe’s close supporters. Zimbabwe’s economy collapsed during the 1990’s, leading to hyperinflation and food shortages.

Mugabe nevertheless continued to win elections, which observers repeatedly pronounced neither free nor fair. However, opposition grew, and in 2008 Mugabe was forced into a power-sharing agreement with Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change, though he was able to take back control after the 2013 election. In 2017 he sacked his Vice-President, Emerson Mnangagwa, and seemed to be preparing for his second wife, Grace, to succeed him. This proved the final straw for his own supporters. The Army put him under house arrest and, under threat of impeachment, Mugabe finally resigned on 21 November.

Mugabe and Carlos

Mugabe was not one of the various real-life dictators I had in mind when I was developing Carlos’s persona and career. Nevertheless, there are some remarkable parallels between the two men. One spooky coincidence is that at the time of his resignation Mugabe had been in power in Zimbabwe for 37 years (and a few months). Revolution Day begins on the 37th anniversary of Carlos Almanzor’s rise to power, as he too is about to face a potential coup d’etat.

In their earlier careers too there are similarities. Both were well-educated, and joined left-wing political movements, though unlike Mugabe (and many of his own colleagues) Carlos was not a Marxist (or, of course, an African nationalist). Both were initially seen as liberators and made promising beginnings to their tenure of power, showing restraint and introducing beneficial reforms. Both later became increasingly autocratic, paranoid and oppressive, wanting the figleaf of democratic legitimacy but resorting to whatever means were necessary to ensure that votes went their way.

There are differences too, of course. On the whole Carlos comes out favourably in the comparison. For all his egotism and ruthlessness in dealing with dissidents, unlike Mugabe he never resorts to sectarian killings or cronyism. Nevertheless, as I did my research on Mugabe, I found to my surprise that he may have more in common with Carlos than any of the other real-life dictators I have studied for this series.


You can find out more about Carlos (and Revolution Day) here: