Somewhere to review books I'm reading without giving away any spoilers!
I’ve featured each of these books over the three days of this tour, starting on Monday with “MBA”.
Yesterday it was the turn of “The Rats: A White House Satire” andtoday it is “Time of Lies”…..
In 2020 the United Kingdom elects its own Donald Trump.
Bob Grant, former football hooligan, now the charismatic leader of the Britain’s Great party, has swept to power on a populist tide. With his itchy finger hovering over the nuclear trigger, Bob presides over a brave new Britain where armed drones fill the skies, ex-bankers and foreigners are vilified, and the Millwall football chant ‘No one likes us, we don’t care’ has become an unofficial national anthem.
Meanwhile, Bob’s under-achieving, Guardian-reading brother Zack gets a tap on the shoulder from a shady Whitehall mandarin. A daring plot is afoot to defy the will of the people and unseat the increasingly unstable PM. Can Zack stop his brother before he launches a nuclear strike on Belgium? And just what is ACERBIC, Britain’s most closely-guarded military secret?
A darkly comic political thriller, Time of Lies is also a terrifyingly believable portrait of an alternative Britain. It couldn’t happen here… could it?
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Here’s an excerpt from “TIME OF LIES” by Douglas Board :
In 2020 the UK elects its own Donald Trump as Prime Minister – Bob Grant, uneducated Bermondsey geezer and self-made millionaire. Both the Labour and the Conservative parties have split. The election slogan of Bob’s BG party is ‘Britain’s Great! End of!’. BG is keen on bashing bankers and cutting house prices.
Zack, a Guardian-reading out-of-work actor, can’t believe that his brother Bob has his finger on Britain’s nuclear trigger. Meanwhile Patrick Smath, the Eton-educated permanent secretary at the Ministry of Defence, is wetting himself and having to tell Bob Britain’s most closely-guarded secret for the last 25 years.
Zack lives with his wife Kathy McGinnis in south-west London. Their neighbour, Alan Tinker, is a retired banker. Zack tells the story; his stage name is Zack Parris.
I get the Guardian on paper despite the price. Having a security blanket that flips between portrait and landscape just doesn’t work for me. Today’s main editorial is a Tracy Island masterwork of pointless passion and lucidity: the two Labour parties should recognise a national emergency, merge and invite Thunderbird 4 – sorry, Polly Toynbee – to be leader. It’s scary how hope has been sucked out of our national life, and it’s getting hard to breathe. I’ve never found it more important to read about how the world should be, not just how it is.
I’m about to put my hand back to the humorous plough when I half-imagine Alan calling my name from the front of the house. When I hear ‘Zack!’ a second time, I grab my vaper and head downstairs.
Alan is standing in front of 104, facing an incongruous pair: a stocky forty-year-old in a shiny double-breasted suit, and a fifteen-year-old schoolgirl in an outfit from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. The man obviously needs directions back to the cruise ship where he mangles songs for pensioners. The schoolgirl is holding a clipboard. The give-aways are the giant rosettes: a red and white lion clawing a double ribbon in black and blue. Why is Alan wasting his time talking to canvassers from any of the parties, let alone BG?
‘Sorry to bother you, Zack, but it seemed the simplest way to show them that 102 isn’t empty.’
‘Why would it be empty?’ I ask the canvassers.
‘We’re checking, Mr—’ The crooner peers over the schoolgirl’s shoulder. ‘McGinnis? 102A?’
‘Parris.’ I assume they are looking at a copy of the electoral roll.
‘Of course. Delighted to meet you, Mr Parris. Ed Williams, your local BG councillor.’
I ignored the proffered hand. ‘You might be local in Wandsworth but we’ve no BG councillors here. Anyway, no-one in my house will be voting BG at the election, and my friend here is too smart for your clap-trap—’ Alan nods vigorously, ‘—so feel free to move along and stop spoiling his day.’
His assistant exhibits her braces. ‘We’re not canvassing for votes. Please vote for whoever you want.’
‘I shall. We call it democracy. I expect they’ll cover it in your classes soon, unless someone abolishes it first.’
‘I hope not!’ she exclaims. ‘I’m not old enough to vote yet. What we’re doing is for after the election, when we’re in power. Have you heard about BG’s Empty Homes Survey? So, 102A isn’t empty, but what about 102B?’ The clipboard is a tablet; she switches hands and it flips from portrait to landscape – ugh. ‘There’s no-one at 102B on the electoral roll.’
‘Where’s your authority to carry out this survey? You’re not the government yet, you know.’
Ed gets back in charge. ‘We’ve identified that 106 is empty. Mr Tinker confirms that.’
Alan nods sheepishly. ‘I didn’t realise … I was a bit slow.’
‘Alan, it’s not your fault. Blame these two. So, your licence?’
‘There’s no licence needed to stand up for British homes for British citizens. We’re going to pick protected areas where only British citizens will be allowed to buy residential property. Tories, Labour, they both sold Britain to foreigners, when we have had a housing crisis for three decades. But we’re calling time on all that.’
‘You won’t dare. House prices would collapse. You’d destroy everyone’s savings!’ Alan starts to shake.
Ed gives him a funny look; maybe before cruise ships he worked in prisons. ‘That sounds like banker-talk to me. You weren’t a banker by any chance? Alan Tinker – make a note to check, Jeanette.’
‘We hate bankers,’ chirps Jeanette as she works the tablet. A gust of wind flattens her skirt.
The whiff of banker whets Ed’s appetite. ‘Do you know what they have in banker heaven, Mr Tinker? In Switzerland? They have strict laws on foreigners buying property. What’s sauce for the goose … You’re not an estate agent by any chance, Mr Parris? We hate estate agents almost as much as bankers. Selling our country to foreigners.’ I get the eye scan which he just gave Alan, plus I’m wearing an at-home cotton polyester jumper from which the smell of weed never washes out.
‘No, long-haired lazy arse, more like. Get yourself a job. You should be ashamed of yourself, living off Miss McGinnis. Or Mr McGinnis.’
I spit on the pavement and hit Ed’s left shoe, a scuffed salesman’s special.
Douglas Board is the author of the campus satire MBA (Lightning Books, 2015), which asked why so much of the business world is Managed By Arseholes. Time of Lies, his second novel, is a timely exploration of the collapse of democracy.
Born in Hong Kong, he has degrees from Cambridge and Harvard and worked for the UK Treasury and then as a headhunter. He has also had a distinguished career in public life, serving as treasurer of the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund and chairing the British Refugee Council.
As well as writing fiction, he is the author of two applied research books on leadership, which was the subject of his doctorate. He is currently a senior visiting fellow at the Cass Business School in London. He and his wife Tricia Sibbons live in London and Johannesburg.
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Many thanks to Rachel’s Random Resources
for providing content for this post and organising the tour it is part of.