I'm delighted to welcome a fantastic author to the blog today who has written an absolute belter of a thriller set in London. The book is utterly gripping and feels so terrifyingly real, trust me!
Find out more about how the author came to write this awesome book!
Julie Anderson was a Senior Civil Servant in Westminster and Whitehall for many years, including at the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, the Inland Revenue and Treasury Solicitors. Earlier publications include historical adventure novels and short stories. She is Chair of Trustees of Clapham Writers, organisers of the Clapham Book Festival, and curates events across London.
Some important things to know about Julie...
Ketchup or Mayo? - Mayo
Night or Day? - Both ( I can't decide )
Inside or Outside? - Likewise
Dogs or Cats? - Cats
Twitter or Facebook? - Twitter
Ebook or Paperback? - To read, paperback
Sun or Rain? - Sun
Keyboard or Pencil & Notebook? - Both at different stages
Comedy or Drama? - Both, they aren't mutually exclusive
Chips or Chocolate? - Chips, every time
Check out Julie's blog where she's been writing about the growing number of instances in which life is reflecting the plot of PLAGUE!
There are many ways to die. Plague is just one.
Work on a London tube line is halted by the discovery of an ancient plague pit and in it, a very recent corpse. A day later another body is found, also in a plague pit. This victim is linked to the Palace of Westminster, where rumours swirl around the Prime Minister and his rivals.
As the number of deaths climbs, the media stokes fear. Government assurances are disbelieved. Everyone feels threatened. This has to be resolved and fast.
A disgraced civil servant and a policeman must find the answer before Westminster closes for recess. Power, money and love curdle into a deadly brew that could bring down the Mother of Parliaments.
Time is running out. And it’s not clear what – or who – will survive.
PUBLICATION DATE: September 15, 2020
ISBN ppk: 978-1-910461-46-4
ISBN ebk: 978-1-910461-47-1
PAGE NUMBERS: 288
How fiction reflected real life and real life reflected fiction
by Julie Anderson
In late summer, 2018, I was about to have long awaited surgery and knew I'd have time on my hands to research and to write, so I was determined to use that time and create something which, I hoped, would be both interesting and, at the same time, commercial. My first two novels were historical adventure stories. They were well received (the first, Reconquista, was long listed for the Mslexia Children's Book Award 2016), but were somewhat niche and hadn't sold too well. I also wanted to do something different next, to return from 13th century Al Andalus to contemporary times.
I help organise an annual book festival in Clapham, south London, where I live and so I know quite a lot of publishing industry folk. One of them approached me and asked if I would be interested in writing a mystery thriller. She had read my adventure stories and was struck by the way I used tension and jeopardy which could, she believed, be transferred to a modern crime novel. I was very flattered, but unsure, then, as the days running up to my operation passed, I decided to do it. The publisher, Claret Press, was one with a special interest in politics and this dovetailed with my background - I had been a senior Whitehall civil servant for nearly thirty years.
I wanted to use my knowledge and experience, but a lot of civil service business would send any reader to sleep in minutes (no, seconds). The world of politics, however, contained jealousies and rivalries, alliances and betrayals aplenty and I had witnessed much of this. So it had to feature in my book. I also knew the milieu of Whitehall and Westminster intimately, its history, its buildings, streets and alleyways and the august, if decrepit, Palace of Westminster and how things worked there. So that was, obviously, my setting.
But who would be my protagonist? A politician? No, I wanted someone who was part of that world, but I hadn't experienced the life of an MP and, besides, others had written from that perspective. Coming from my background, it seemed natural that my heroine, Cassandra Fortune, should be a civil servant. I should say that none of the characters in Plague were based on single individuals. I've worked for a number of ministers and permanent secretaries, and with MPs and parliamentarians across the political spectrum, but I haven't used any of them directly. I've often taken character traits and tricks of speech or delivery from real people, but they wouldn't be able to tell that. Nonetheless, there are one or two references which, I hope, might make civil servants chuckle.
Next I needed a theme - when starting a new book, I have to find a central tenet, a concept or idea, what the book is really about. For this new book the theme was obvious - power. Power would be the filter through which many of the relationships, interactions and events were seen. Who has the power in a relationship is as pertinent a question as who is going to get the power of the top political job. Or how money brings power, or lack of it means powerlessness and risk. In a democracy like the UK, there are strong institutions, an independent civil service, transparency and accountability which are absolutely necessary to weigh against the will to power of individuals and these limit the power any individual may hold. Recent events, in 2018, lead to my having concerns about how the national life of the UK was being corrupted, with its democratic system and institutions being undermined and I wanted to write about that.
I have also watched, dismayed, as society seemed to move away from valuing objective, reasoned thought and the increase in the denial of facts and of science. Like many people I'm also unhappy at the domination of our media by super wealthy capitalists, the citizens of nowhere who serve nothing but their own interests. So the media would feature and so would 'fake news'. These were more ingredients for the book, now happily bubbling away in my brain.
We know from scientific studies, which eventually found their way into the novel, that the exercising of power prompts chemical changes in the human body and brain. Power is, indeed, a ‘drug’. Researchers have concluded that those individuals who strive most for power are probably those most unsuited to wield it and that its corruption increases over time. This was something which my villain, power hungry himself, would also exploit in others.
The contagion described in Plague is the contagion of corruption and of power. My novel isn't about a pandemic, but there is a 'plague panic' of a more traditional kind in Plague, when bodies are being discovered at the site of old plague pits and everyone fears that the Black Death is returning to London. In the novel people react to something which they believe is taking place, whereas now people are reacting to events actually taking place. How they react is very similar. So, my fiction is now disconcertingly close to what is happening in real life on the streets of London right now.
In real life people demonstrated in Whitehall wearing hazmat suits - Cassandra gets caught up in just such a demo. Pharmacists hire bodyguards, afraid of being attacked by members of the public when they can't provide medicines - this is happening now and also happens in Plague. The media whip up the panic in Plague, unquestioningly reporting as the powerful instruct, often claiming opinion as fact. The real life media might not be whipping up panic, but could be said to be stirring hatred and it is undoubtedly being manipulated.
I started out to write a novel based in my own life experience and elements of it ended up actually taking place, appearing on our TV screens. A fiction reflecting life, then life reflecting that fiction.
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