Politics and fantasy: can you tell the difference?

Politics and fantasy: can you tell the difference?

I’m not a big one for preparing my Friday blog posts ages in advance. I generally prefer to see what I can think of to write on the day or (as now) the day before.

This week I really wasn’t sure what to talk about. There seemed to be quite a lot going on in the world and posting pretty pictures from a weekend away didn’t seem appropriate. (Not that we’ve had a weekend away as my beloved and I have both been hit with covid.) But anything based on what was going on in the wider world seemed likely to be overtaken by events before Friday. Now our Prime Minister has announced that he is (more or less) on his way out and I feel safe making the odd comment about writing about politics.

There is actually a lot of politics in many of my books but, because they are mostly set a long time ago, I don’t have to worry too much about how things might change from day to day. When Karl Marx pops up in Back Home, I know that he will be around for a while. (I loved working Marx into my plot. The idea that he and his friends used to meet for drinks and political chat in Soho in 1859 – when the book is set – always fascinated me.)

Can’t swear this is the right pub but it’s certainly close

I have written a couple of contemporary stories but they are fantasies featuring deals with the devil and vampires who dance tango. No particular problems with politics there.

But then I had to spoil it all by writing Eat the Poor. In Something Wicked, I introduced the detective odd-couple Galbraith and Pole. Galbraith is a traditional old-school Metropolitan Police detective and Pole is a vampire. The relationship seemed to work, both in terms of their forming a credible double act and allowing room for my sense of humour to tease both of them. People seemed to like them and suggested I write more. I decided not to do vampires again (Pole is enough vampire all by himself) so, after some thought, I came up with a werewolf. But if vampires dance tango (they really do) and spend a lot of time in self-improvement, what do werewolves do? Where would you come across them?

Maybe a good place to look for vampires

I ended up by having my werewolf hold down a day-job as an MP.

Maybe a good place to look for werewolves

Urban Fantasy (which is what fans call this genre) relies on having a realistic contemporary background, so my MP is an ambitious Conservative, anxious to get on in government. And that meant I had to write against the clock. The story would look a bit silly if it came out just as the Conservatives left government. And it rather relied on the party not noticing that they had a werewolf on the backbenches.

I’ve had a complaint that the whole thing is just an attack on the Conservatives, which it clearly isn’t. It’s a very tongue-in-cheek story about tracking down a mythical creature. But it works so much better with a particular approach to government in power at Number Ten. And now it looks as if that approach will be around for a few months yet.

Even once this government is gone, though, it has left a significant gift for Eat The Poor and any books like it. The idea that the House of Commons might be the site of a standoff between supernatural forces of Good and Evil once seemed to stretch the bounds of credibility. After what we’ve seen over the past week, though, nothing in my book seems impossible after all.


Next week is the anniversary of the massacre of women and children at Cawnpore in 1857, so I’ll be writing about that. Plus, for that one day only, my book about 1857, Cawnpore, will be available FREE.

Politics and fantasy: can you tell the difference?

If your MP were a werewolf, would you really notice?

Eat the Poor got its first Amazon review this week, which made me very happy. Sue Bavey enjoys the idea of a werewolf who is a Conservative MP:

“I particularly liked how odious the Conservative MP Christopher Garold was. Anyone following  British politics lately will not find the idea of a murderous werewolf that far-fetched when it comes to the dirty little secrets of those in power.”

I feel she is being a little harsh on Christopher Garold. He is, by his lights, a good MP, albeit one who disapproves of those he thinks of as “the undeserving poor”. He works hard for his constituents, takes no bribes, and campaigns on environmental issues. As one of his voters says, “He may be a Tory, but his heart’s in the right place.” And he can hardly help being a werewolf.

I had wanted to write a story about a werewolf since people started asking me for a sequel to Something Wicked. That book had started from the idea that if vampires lived among us, they would probably dance tango. I know so many tango dancers I have never seen in daylight that it seemed entirely credible and from that point the whole story just sort of took off. But where would you find a werewolf? What sort of person could turn into a creature that rips open the throats of innocent people who are foolish enough to be out on the night of a full moon?

The honest answer, of course, is that it could be anybody. But that wasn’t really satisfying. I wanted a job where a ruthless killer instinct and an unerring conviction of your own superiority to others made the idea of being a werewolf a natural match with your personality – and I came up with a Conservative MP.

The political edge was just a way of making the story work. Eat the Poor is an entertainment, not a searing bit of political satire. But while I was writing it, I watched our traditional political system falling apart. The ‘Good Chaps’ theory of government, which underlies our unwritten constitution, has given way to an approach to political power which is much better summed up as the Werewolf theory of government: the powerful take what they want and convince themselves that they are making society a better place while they do it. So there are points where the anger slips through. If you haven’t felt angry about Parliament in the past couple of years, you haven’t been paying attention.

Much more important than any political elements is the growing relationship between the all-too-human Chief Inspector Galbraith, very aware of growing older, and his vampire partner, Pole. Both essentially rather lonely individuals, they grow closer through their rather old-fashioned shared values. They believe in decency and protecting society. And, increasingly, they believe in each other.

More important than either the satire or the relationship, though, is the sheer fun of a hunt for the supernatural in the everyday (or everynight) world of today’s London. Wouldn’t you, deep down, enjoy seeing a werewolf in Parliament? Well now you can.

Eat the Poor is available on Kindle, in paperback or on Kindle Unlimited. You can link to it here: mybook.to/EatThePoor.