Saturday, August 8, 2015

Speculative Revolution with T.E. Taylor

I am delighted to welcome another of my fellow Crooked Cat authors, Tim E. Taylor, to the blog this month.

His latest novel, Revolution Day, was released this past June, and like the rest of the Crooked Cat lineup is on sale this week at Amazon. There are some links below to help you find them.

Hello, Maggie, thanks very much for inviting me onto your blog.

Like yours, my books draw heavily on history. My first, Zeus of
Ithome, was straightforwardly a historical novel. It was based on real events – the revolt of the ancient Messenian people against their Spartan overlords in the 4th century BC, and the wider power struggles in Greece which made this possible – and brought them to life through the personal stories of both fictional and historical characters.

My latest, Revolution Day (Crooked Cat 2015), has a rather different relationship with history. It too was inspired – rather more loosely – by real events: in this case, the downfall, in the space of a few months, of one autocratic ruler after another during the ‘Arab Spring’. How could it be, I wondered, that these strongmen who had been in power for decades and seemed unassailable, suddenly became vulnerable? My interest was not so much in the specific causes of those events but in the nature of autocratic power, its effects on those who wield it, and its ultimate fragility.

Having decided that I wanted to explore these issues in my next novel, I soon came up with my central character, ageing dictator Carlos Almanzor. I settled on Latin America rather than the Middle East, partly because I also wanted a strong, politically active female character – Juanita, Carlos’s estranged and imprisoned wife, who is writing a memoir about his regime and their marriage. Carlos is not a monster – he was once an idealist – and does not crave power for its own sake. Rather, he has become deluded by it and convinced that only he can be trusted with the stewardship of the state, so must do whatever is necessary to maintain his control.

His Vice-President, Manuel, does desire power for its own sake. Lacking a military power base, he seeks to gain it not by force but by intrigue, manipulating the perceptions of Carlos and those around him to drive a wedge between Carlos and Angel, the commander of the Army. As he starts to pull the strings, Juanita becomes an unwitting participant in his plans.

Since I wasn’t trying to recreate specific events (the characters and even the country in which the story is set are fictional), I could be eclectic in borrowing from history. Thus Carlos is not based on any particular historical dictator, but aspects of his personality and career (and Juanita’s) have historical precedents. So Revolution Day is not a historical novel, but still owes its inspiration, and much of its colour, to history.

A Sample from Revolution Day

Carlos’s private secretary, Felipe, has persuaded him to show a more human face to the world by doing an informal video blog. As they discover here, this has its down side...

             The President was sitting back in his armchair, dressed in an open-necked white shirt and slacks. As time had gone on, the Admiral’s uniform had fallen by the wayside piece by piece. The angle of his back reclined a few degrees each week from its original bolt upright position, until his most recent appearances on the internet now saw him draped almost languidly over the chair. As he began to speak, his voice too lacked the stiff formality of his early blog posts. 

           “This has been a difficult week,” he began. “For some time now, there have been rumours that foreign agencies are seeking to destabilise our country, as they have done in the past. I am not one to worry too much about rumours, but evidence is beginning to emerge that I cannot ignore. There are people who should be loyal to this nation, but are instead trying to undermine it.” As he spoke, a synthesised dance beat began in the background, and the image of the president started to shift jerkily from side to side in time with it. “They will be…” he continued after a pause, with a bass drum beat underlining each word. In the original version, broadcast a week before, he had continued with the words “…found, they will be brought to justice,” but now the words “found” and “brought to justice” were replaced by “tortured” and “impaled on stakes”, and in time with these words the President’s eyes bulged out of their sockets and a monstrous erection poked out of his trousers. Then, as the music continued, images of corpses, prominent dissidents, and protestors being beaten by police flashed onto the screen, before the President returned again for the chorus. “They will be tortured, they will be impaled on stakes…”

          “Felipe, come here!” The command was issued in a voice that brooked no delay, and the private secretary was by his side within seconds. “Look at this. A seditious website has broadcast an obscene parody of my blog. That is not all. I have found other material on the internet that mocks my blog, and makes vicious allegations against me. We must identify the perpetrators and have them arrested.”

          Felipe composed himself before speaking. “With all due respect, Presidente, we are unlikely to be in a position to do that. Unless they have been so kind as to put their names to the parody, there is no easy way of finding out who they are. In all probability, they are not based in this country anyway.”

          Carlos turned upon him angrily. “So this ‘blog’ that you have cajoled and bullied me into doing, against my own better judgement, has served only to expose me to ridicule and slander that my enemies can disseminate with complete impunity. Why have you wasted so much of my time on this completely pointless and self-defeating project? Take that stupid camera and computer off my desk immediately.”

Learn More about Tim's Books

You can find out more about Tim Taylor's books on his blog:

Other links

Both books are available this week for 99¢/99p in the Crooked Cat Summer Sale at Amazon. 

Look for Revolution Day here

You'll find Zeus of Ithome here

About T. E. Taylor

          T. E.Taylor was born in 1960 in Stoke-on-Trent, England. He studied Classics at Pembroke College, Oxford (and later Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London). After a couple of years playing in a rock band, he joined the Civil Service, eventually leaving in 2011 to spend more time writing. He now lives in Yorkshire with his wife and daughter and divides his time between creative writing, academic research and part-time teaching and other work for Leeds and Huddersfield Universities.
          Tim’s first novel, Zeus of Ithome, a historical novel about the struggle of the ancient Messenians to free themselves from Sparta, was published by Crooked Cat in 2013; his second, Revolution Day in 2015.  Tim also writes poetry and the occasional short story, plays guitar, and likes to walk up hills.


  1. I've always wondered how such megalomaniacs deal with ridicule beyond their reach to strike out at! I imagine this will have been one of Felipe's worst days on the job!
    I can also see how creating your own circumstances as a backdrop allow you to bring in so many diverse details from your research. I'll have to check it out!

    1. Thanks for dropping by, Paul! Enjoy Tim's book!