Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Guest post by @timetaylor1

Hello, Lorraine! Thank you for inviting me along talk about my novel, Revolution Day, published this summer by Crooked Cat, which follows a year in the life of Latin American dictator, Carlos Almanzor.

Now in his seventies, Carlos 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 is writing a memoir in which she recalls the revolution that brought him to power and how, once a liberal idealist, he came to embrace autocracy and repression. 

When Manuel’s attempts to increase his profile are met with humiliating rejection, he resolves to take action. Lacking military backing, he must pursue power not by force but through intrigue, playing upon Carlos’ paranoia and manipulating the perceptions of the president and those around him. 

As Manuel makes his move, Juanita and others close to Carlos will soon find themselves unwitting participants in his plans.

Revolution Day is a fictional story and Carlos is not based upon any particular individual. Nevertheless the plot and aspects of Carlos’ character were influenced in different ways by the lives of many real dictators.  Juanita too has some historical precedents – there is a hint of Eva Peron about her.   

My immediate inspiration for the book was the events of the Arab Spring in 2010-11, when a string of dictators who had once seemed unassailable – Gaddafi, Mubarak and others ­­– were toppled one after the other.   

What interested me was not so much the specific reasons for those events, but the wider issues they illuminate regarding the corrupting and deluding effects of power and its ultimate fragility.  Latin America, with its long history of dictatorship, seemed a good setting to explore all this, and hey presto, I had my story!

Here is an extract, an incident early on in the book which helps us understand Carlos’ paranoia:

A column of about fifty people in two parallel lines, each carrying a wreath, marched slowly into the square from the south. At its head, escorted by an inner guard of sixteen soldiers in ceremonial uniform, walked the five members of the Revolutionary Council, led by President Carlos Almanzor himself. He was accompanied by an Archbishop, who wore elaborate robes of white and gold in stark contrast to the military uniforms, dark suits and black dresses of the other mourners. Either side of the column walked two lines of military musicians, playing a funeral march.

A few paces short of the tomb there were two microphones on stands. Here the President and Archbishop came to a halt. The long centipede behind them compressed slightly as each pair of mourners stopped a few moments after the one in front. When all was finally still and the funeral march had come to an end, the President stepped up to one of the microphones and spoke in slow, measured tones.

“Today, on the anniversary of their burial, we pay tribute to those who fell in the cause of liberty on that great day, thirty-seven years ago. In sacrificing their lives, they gave new life to our nation. We are here to show that their courage and their loss were not in vain, and to acknowledge that we are forever in their debt.”

Almanzor finished speaking and stepped back a pace. It had never been his practice to make a long speech on these occasions – for that, there was Revolution Day itself. He saluted, then bowed his head and stood in silence. Some of the people whose remains were in the tomb had been his friends. The Archbishop now stepped forward and began a short service. As he spoke, the others in the column stood motionless under the hot sun. Sweat was beading on their brows, and dark stains were starting to appear at the armpits of some of the suits. They remained stolidly quiet. Even the crowd held their tongues for these moments of holiness.

Amid the stillness, a small object flew from the east towards the west side of the square. It might have been mistaken for a bird, but some people noticed its parabolic trajectory and the fact that it was tumbling end over end. Before anyone could react, the object exploded harmlessly in mid-air with a small puff of smoke and a loud crack. All eyes turned towards the sound, including those of the police and the soldiers, who instinctively turned their rifles towards it.

In that second, from the east side of the square whence the object had come, a long-haired figure forced its way through the crowd and leapt over the barrier. It raised its arms, pointing them towards the President, and from a small silver object in its hands came a flash and a second sharp crack. Every eye, and every rifle, in the square now turned towards this new sound. There were five more bangs, louder and deeper than before. The figure staggered, dropping the silver object, and blotches of red appeared upon its white t-shirt. It stumbled backwards and fell over.
If your readers are intrigued, they might like to know that, from today, the Revolution Day e-book is on special offer for Christmas at 99p/$1.99! More information and excerpts can be found on the Revolution Day page on my website: http://www.tetaylor.co.uk/#!revday/cwpf. 

Thanks again for hosting me, Lorraine!

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Tim was born in 1960 in Stoke-on-Trent. 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.  

Tim 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 November 2013; his second, Revolution Day in June 2015.  Tim also writes poetry and the occasional short story, plays guitar, and likes to walk up hills.

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