An Event – 29 October

Some news hot off the press about an exciting event coming up at the end of the month!  On Sunday 29 October, from 2 to 4pm I’m going to be doing a reading event with two other authors, at The Gallery in Slaithwaite.

I’ll be reading excerpts from Revolution Day and talking about the inspiration for the book. Sharing the limelight will Christina Longden, author of Mind Games and Ministers and A Cuckoo in the Chocolate, romantic comedies with a political and satirical edge (and a friend from Holmfirth Writers Group); and fellow Crooked Cat author Angela Wren whose crime novels Messandriere and Merle are set in France (Angela has visited this blog a couple of times).  So there will be a good mix of fiction – politics, intrigue, crime and romance – with some synergies between the different books.  You can find out more about Chris and Angela via the links at the bottom of this post.

The Gallery, run by furniture maker Wendy Beattie, is an amazing space, full of beautiful and interesting objects (see pic), and has its own café, so there’ll be plenty to eat and drink at the event.  And I know from experience that the coffee (which coincidentally is roasted by Christina’s family business, Dark Woods) is excellent!

All in all then, I’m getting very excited about this event, and hope to see lots of my friends there.  The Gallery is on Britannia Road, Slaithwaite HD7 5HE – go through the Emporium to the door beyond.


IMG_4706 cover Cuckoo in the Chocolate smaller Merle CoverArt


Revolution Day web page

Chris L Longden Facebook page

Chris’s blog

Angela’s blog

Angela’s website



Unintended Consequences

Here’s a little tale I wrote at Holmfirth Writers a week or two ago.  A billionaire give a statement to rebut criticisms regarding his island home ….

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I cannot emphasise enough to you that, while I am very sad about some of the things that have happened here on Paradise Island, everything I have done has been motivated by a deep and sincere love of this island, its unique flora and fauna, and above all its wonderful people.

Please don’t forget that it was my love of this place, and my desire to benefit its people and wildlife, that led me to build a home here in the first place. Remember too that before my arrival there were some serious problems here that I was determined to address. The fact is that, though life for the inhabitants had been colourful and distinctive, in a way that is always appealing to anthropologists, it was a hard life, eking out a meagre subsistence from the limited resources this place had to offer. And in order just to survive, it had been necessary for those people to encroach more and more on the island’s natural ecosystem each year, for the purpose of growing crops, to the point where, after a couple more decades, that unique flora and fauna would have been lost for ever.

So that is why I took it upon myself to build, at my own expense, an airport and a deep water port, to make the island that little bit less remote. It is also the reason why I offered to fund, again at my own expense, the import of all essential food supplies in perpetuity, so the people would no longer need to scratch a living from this thin soil; and, with their agreement, established a nature reserve to protect the island’s natural future.

So I feel it is grossly unfair that I have been blamed for the fact that 40% of the population have left the island and for the prevalence of heroin addiction among those who remain. And as for the AIDS pandemic, I agree that is highly regrettable, but I don’t think I can be blamed for the reckless philandering of certain members of my yacht’s crew, who have since been dismissed – or for the unhygienic practices of intravenous drug users. And, let me add, I responded by establishing a free HIV clinic for residents, again at my own expense.

Similarly, there is the matter of the rats. I have always insisted upon the strictest standards of pest control upon my own vessels, and demanded the same from the contractors hired to provide the island’s free grain supply. By breaching those standards, thus precipitating the arrival of rats on Paradise Island, they have betrayed their obligations to the island, and to me. I have pursued them in the courts with the utmost vigour.

Once the rat infestation had got out of control, there was universal agreement among all parties that urgent action needed to be taken. And the record shows that I did not shirk that responsibility. On the contrary, I acted promptly and decisively, once again entirely at my own expense. I sought out expert opinion and was advised that the controlled introduction of the European Polecat would be the most effective and environmentally friendly way to control the rats. And who can deny that this measure succeeded in its aim. Ladies and gentlemen, I can now declare that Paradise Island is rat-free.

It is, of course, unfortunate that the introduction of polecats also resulted in the extinction of the Paradise Island flightless heron, the Paradise Island giant squirrel and all other indigenous vertebrate species. But drastic problems require drastic measures.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are where we are. I cannot deny that there is still a polecat problem on Paradise Island. But rest assured that a solution is at hand. On the basic of the best scientific advice, I plan to introduce a control measure – a modified form of the influenza virus – and am absolutely sure that this will be the solution to the island’s problems.


[ picture (c) Peter Trimming 2010 ]

Felt Words

A bit of news on an event I’m going to be involved in next weekend.  On Sunday, 24th September, from 3-5pm at Colne Valley Museum, Cliffe Ash, Golcar, Huddersfield HD7 4PY there will be readings of poetry and prose by local writers, including me. I might even be playing a bit of guitar as well!


So, if you live in or near Yorkshire and are free that afternoon, why not go along? Here’s a poem I’m planning to read at the event – this is about as close as I get to textiles!


No Goodbye

We are enmeshed together, you and I,

our roots and branches coil and intertwine.

So do not say that futile word, goodbye


as if these knots were easy to untie.

Your threads cannot be unpicked from mine:

we are enmeshed together, you and I.


Do you forget, or worse, do you defy

the vow we made that binds us for all time?

Do not say that faithless word, goodbye.


This tapestry of love we crafted, why

would you destroy what touched on the sublime?

We are enmeshed together, you and I:


two such as us, if torn apart, must die

or shamble on in pitiful decline.

Do not pronounce that fatal word, goodbye.


All this has been for nothing: in your eye

I see the web beginning to unwind.

We were enmeshed together, you and I;

go now, spare me that final word, goodbye.


The Ghost Village

Today I welcome fellow Crooked Cat author Cy Forrest, whose novel, The Punished is published on Wednesday!  (Why not drop in on the Facebook Launch event at 9pm on 13 Sept?)

The Punished is set in the Dorset village of Tyneham, which was taken over completely by the Army during World War II and remains deserted to this day.  Tell us more, Cy!


the surviving school room in Tyneham

Tyneham in World War Two – What Was It Like To Actually Be There?

Bringing extraordinary events to life in fiction is not a particularly English thing to do. Great English writers Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy did not make readers sweat in the way Scots, Irish, Welsh, American and mainland European writers did.

For example, Scots writer James Hogg’s The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824) makes you feel dread when the editor’s narrative ends and the confession begins. Space stops me describing the Protestant Reformation here, but Hogg’s juxtaposition of the two accounts is the most extraordinary effect I’ve experienced in fiction. It actually changed the way I viewed the world. I’ll certainly never watch a game of tennis again without thinking about the Protestant Reformation, and maybe that’s a good thing.

I wanted to bring Tyneham ghost village to life for readers. The video gaming industry has been bringing events to life for gamers for decades, and those people are no longer readers. I don’t think the novel is dead yet, but the James Hogg effect is something I’ve been working on for the last four years in an effort to show that historical fiction can be exciting.

I have a family link to the occupation of Tyneham and rare insight. My aim was to bring these three bare historical facts to life:

Wikipedia: ‘The M.S. Factory, Valley was a Second World War site in Rhydymwyn, Flintshire, Wales, that was used for the storage and production of mustard gas.’,_Valley

December 2nd, 1943. 28 Allied ships in the Port of Bari were destroyed in a German raid and gallons of mustard gas released across the city causing an estimated 2000 deaths. Wiki: ‘The release of mustard gas from one of the wrecked cargo ships added to the loss of life. The British and US governments covered up the presence of mustard gas and its effects on victims of the raid.’

December 17th, 1943. 255 people were removed from their homes in Tyneham, or as Wikipedia dispassionately puts it, ‘225 people were displaced.’

These are the facts, but the real people behind them and the legacy have been relegated.

The Punished

England, 1943. The British Army occupies the tiny village of Tyneham and captures Jack after his one-man-stand fails. Commanding Officer Hulford-Prandy forces the eighteen year old to handle BLISS, a deadly chemical weapon.

Jack falls for radar operator Gin, but so does Hulford-Prandy who inveigles Gin into the Special Overseas Executive, sending her to destroy a munitions factory in France and making sure she’s captured. Jack never gets over his loss.

Forty years later, City high-flyer Alexis is cornered by three veiled women at her mother’s funeral. They want to know what happened to her mother, Gin, during the war. Alexis doesn’t know. She doesn’t know why Gin gave her up for adoption, nor why the name of her biological father is a secret, but when she’s scattering Gin’s ashes in the ghost village of Tyneham, as requested by Gin, she meets a loner, Aidan, who knows everything and claims BLISS is still in the soil.

His dire warning sends her fleeing back to London where her boss tells her not to wear tights, slashes her bonus and praises the willingness of a young intern. Summoning her mother’s wartime spirit, Alexis confronts the bully.

She uncovers the truth about Gin and returns to Tyneham where Aidan’s made a huge discovery about BLISS. She follows him into occupied territory demanding the truth, and the American bullets start flying.

I hope you have the chance to look further into what lies behind my writing and, hopefully, you can enjoy my novel for the roller-coaster ride it is. Many thanks to Tim for letting me borrow you all to tell you about The Punished.

Here are the universal links to it on Amazon:


Many thanks for sharing this fascinating story with us, Cy.  Good luck with your launch: I hope The Punished is a big success!

Dictators in History: Benito Mussolini

It’s time for another one in my occasional series discussing historical dictators and comparing them to Carlos Almanzor, the fictional dictator in my novel Revolution Day (in honour of the fact that Revolution Day is reduced to 99p/c – today only! – in the Crooked Cat Summer Sale – find it here ).  This time I thought I would look at the person who perhaps more than any other defines our stereotype of the dictator: Benito Mussolini of Italy.

Mussolini was born in 1883 in the town of Predappia in Romagna, northern Italy.  His father, a blacksmith, was a socialist and named his eldest son after the Mexican president Benito Juarez.  In his early career, Benito too embraced socialism and became a political agitator and journalist. However, he was also influenced by the nationalism of Giuseppe Mazzini and the philosophy of Nietsche, which led him to reject egalitarianism.  The tension between these different aspects of his thought came to a head when he advocated Italian participation in World War 1, contrary to the stance of the socialist party, from which he was duly expelled.  He served as a soldier and was wounded in 1917.

Thereafter, it was nationalism that dominated Mussolini’s politics.  In 1919 he formed the Fascist party, which acquired a paramilitary wing, the blackshirts, who fought against left-wing groups.  In 1922 30,000 blackshirts marched on Rome as Mussolini demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Luigi Facta. The King of Italy, Victor Emmanuel III, refused to grant Facta’s request for martial law. Facta resigned and the King invited Mussolini to form a government.

Once in power, Mussolini took steps to keep it firmly in his hands, establishing a one-party state by 1925.  He pursued public works, nationalisation, and interventionist economics at home, and an expansionist and opportunistic foreign policy which sought to expand Italy’s territory, particularly at the expense of ‘inferior’ peoples in Yugoslavia and Africa. This led him to invade Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in 1935, forcing its Emperor Haile Selassie to flee and killing an estimated 7% of the population.  His relationships with other European powers were fluid: at times he flirted with Britain and France or tried to steer a middle way between them and Germany.  Ultimately, however, he aligned himself with his fellow dictators, supporting Franco in Spain and allying Italy with Nazi Germany, hoping to take advantage of the War to make territorial gains in North Africa and elsewhere.  However, Italy was not well-prepared for war, and a succession of defeats greatly weakened Mussolini’s position. After the Allied conquest of Sicily in July 1943 he lost the support of his party and of the King, who dismissed him in favour of Marshal Badoglio.

As Badoglio began negotiations for an armistice, Mussolini was imprisoned in the Apennine mountains, only to be dramatically rescued by the Germans in September, to become the puppet ruler of a rump Italian Social Republic in the north, as the remainder of the country joined the allies.  As the war approached its end, he fled with his mistress Clara Petacci and others, but they were captured by partisans and shot, two days before the death of Hitler.

As the progenitor of Fascism, Mussolini left a baleful legacy to the world. His ideology and methods, in particular his centralisation of power, use of propaganda, militaristic nationalism and contempt for ‘inferior’ races, were an important influence on Hitler, who admired him and took those techniques and beliefs to even greater and more catastrophic extremes.

Mussolini and Carlos

I didn’t particularly have Mussolini in mind when I was creating Carlos.  Nevertheless, there are some interesting parallels. A surprising one is the fact that both started out as socialists before moving to the right.  In Mussolini’s case, of course, his rejection of socialism and embracing of nationalism preceded and fuelled his rise to power, coming to define him; whereas Carlos becomes President at the head of an avowedly socialist revolutionary movement, only later coming to adopt elements of capitalism and nationalism as pragmatic means to sustain himself in power.  Authoritarian rather than fascist, he comes to share Mussolini’s contempt for democracy but has none of the latter’s racism or militarism.

Less surprisingly, Carlos’ projection of himself has something in common with Mussolini. Thus he makes use of the cult of personality and employs his oratorical skills to good effect. And both men affect senior military uniform, (though at least Mussolini, unlike Carlos, did serve briefly in the Army, albeit at a lowly rank).  Both, in somewhat different ways, consider themselves intellectuals.  In other ways the two are quite different – unlike Mussolini, Carlos is neither a womaniser nor a family man.  Yet there is a final parallel in that in the twilight of their careers they both see the power they have held for decades slipping away from them. Whether this ends as badly for Carlos as it did for Mussolini, you will have to read the book to find out!

You can find out more about Revolution Day, and read excerpts and reviews, on its page on my website

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Summer Sale!

Revolution Day is reduced to 99p/c or equivalent on Amazon (here! – US link below) till the end of August, in the Crooked Cat Summer Sale (as are lots of other great books)!

Revolution Day follows a year in the life of ageing dictator Carlos Almanzor as vice-president Manuel plots against him and his estranged wife recalls his rise to power and descent from idealism into autocracy and repression.

In this excerpt, Manuel brings Carlos to see a prisoner who appears to have important information:


The young man was sitting bolt upright in the chair, a posture which at first sight sat oddly with the expression of overwhelming weariness upon his face. Closer inspection would reveal, however, that his arms and legs were strapped to the chair, preventing him from slumping forward and giving him very little freedom of movement in any direction. There was blood around his mouth and nose, and bruises were beginning to form around his eyes. Facing him, in two more comfortable chairs against the far wall, were two guards, dressed not in uniform but in jeans, t-shirts and trainers, their thick arms copiously adorned with tattoos. A key turned in the lock of the room’s heavy door, and the door swung open.

“Sit up straight. You’ve got some important visitors.”

Three men entered the room;: first, holding the key, an intelligence officer in a grey suit, a surprisingly slight and innocuous-looking man. The other two were known to all present as the Vice-President (and Minister of Information) and the President of the Republic. The guards sprang to their feet and saluted enthusiastically, hastily moving to positions behind the prisoner so that the VIPs could occupy the chairs they had just vacated. The intelligence officer also saluted, and waited for his guests to sit down before addressing the President.

“Presidente, allow me to present to you Hector Aguilar, until recently an activist with the Freedom and Democracy Party, who has provided us with some important information which we believe you would wish to hear.”

“I would salute you too, Presidente,” said Aguilar, “but as you can see, my arms are tied to this chair.” One of the guards moved to hit him, but the Vice-President stilled him with a wave of his hand. He then turned to face the President.

“Thank you for setting aside some time from your busy schedule to come here, Presidente. You have seen the intelligence reports, but I thought that it was best for you to hear the information from the horse’s mouth.” He nodded to the intelligence officer, who turned towards the prisoner.

“Tell the President what you told us earlier today.”

Aguilar hesitated for a moment. Then, as the nearest guard began to crack his knuckles, an expression of resigned weariness came over the prisoner’s face and he finally began to speak …


Carlos Almanzor has ruled his country for 37 years. He is feeling his age and seeing enemies around every corner. And with good reason: his Vice-President, Manuel Jimenez, though outwardly loyal, is burning with frustration at his subordinate position.

Meanwhile, Carlos’ estranged and imprisoned wife Juanita recalls the revolution that brought him to power and how his regime descended from idealism into autocracy and repression.

In time, as Manuel makes his own bid for power, Juanita will find herself an unwitting participant in his plans.

Revolution Day on




When Death came walking up the road

Well, I was trying to think of something to post on my blog this week, when I happened to come across a facebook post about Emily Dickinson (by Jennifer Wilson, in the launch party for Miriam Drori’s new book Social Anxiety Revealed).  This reminded my of the session we did on Emily at Poetry Day once, and the light-hearted (if you can be light-hearted about death!) poem that I wrote – part pastiche, part commentary on Emily herself.  So, I thought, why not post it here, then?  (It’s also in the Holme Valley Poets anthology In the Company of Poets).


When Death came walking up the road,

a chill as cold as space

filled me as I beheld his cloak –

I dared not see his face.

With shaking hands I combed my hair,

put on my finest hat –

but then I thought, “don’t waste this time:

others will see to that.”

I cast my gaze around the room:

upon the desk there lay

great piles of scribbled lines of verse

in woeful disarray.

“Alas, my children,” I bemoaned,

“How I have failed you!

For years I left you incomplete

save for a paltry few.

You are not ready to be read

and now will never be.

You will not, as I once hoped,

remind the world of me.”

In sadness, I took up a pen

and wrote, “please burn them all.”

I steeled myself as best I could

and waited in the hall

for his dread knock, but no knock came –

I looked outside and saw

the bones of that unearthly hand

upon my neighbour’s door.

It opened, and the poor man left

to join the ageless dead.

Death grinned, and tipped his hat at me.

“I’ll see you soon,” he said.