Shut Up

I suppose it’s not particularly insightful to note that this has been a grim old year, and depending on the outcome of the US Presidential election it may get even grimmer, but the thing I’ll be taking away from 2016 is that this is the year we were told to shut up.

Specifically, the formulation goes: ‘The People have spoken, now shut up.’ I’ve heard it most often from the Leave camp with relation to the EU Referendum; anyone who expresses disappointment or apprehension about the result is branded a ‘Remoaner’ and told that the People voted to leave the EU and any dissent is sour grapes. I’ve also started seeing it with relation to the election of Jeremy Corbyn – those who express doubts about Labour’s future electability are told, ‘The People have spoken; shut up.’

There’s a long and noble tradition of dissent in this country, and it feels odd to see it being countered with the simple words ‘We won, now shut up.’ Eurosceptics didn’t shut up after the People spoke in the 1975 Referendum and voted to remain in the EEC, and if the Left had taken that advice a great deal of social justice, down the years, would have gone unchallenged.

But perhaps we should just shut up now. The People spoke last year and returned David Cameron’s government with a majority, and perhaps we should shut up about that. When the American People speak and send Donald Trump to the White House in a couple of months, perhaps we should shut up about that.

Perhaps we should all just shut the fuck up.


Europe in Winter

Quite a lot has happened since I finished writing Europe at Midnight. When I handed the book in to the publishers, an EU referendum was still a vague promise, a coalition was still running the country, and Great British Bake Off was still on the BBC. I remember I got my first look at a proof of Midnight at last year’s Clarke Awards do, the day before the general election, the day before we all took what turned out to be the first step into the abyss.

What a difference a year makes. David Cameron is about to become a (very well-off) private citizen, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband are no more, the Labour Party is now apparently being directed by Mack Sennett, and we are being led by St Theresa, Our Lady of Brexit.

Meanwhile, Midnight has been well-received, thankfully. I was really worried about how it would go down. I read it again just before publication and it seemed kind of lightweight to me, not as dense or as textured as Autumn and I was sure I’d made a mistake. I’d written it as well as I could, but I thought it sat awkwardly beside its predecessor.

And so here we go again. Europe in Autumn, the book I was basically picking away at now and again as a hobby, is about to spawn a third book. Europe in Winter comes out in about a month and a half, and I have the Doubt again. Is it any good? Well, yes, bits of it are very good, I’m particularly proud of the first chapter; there are a couple of very good gags in there. Does it work, as a book? Just about. Does it sit well alongside Autumn and Midnight? I hope so; I’ve come to realise I genuinely can’t tell.

It’s more of a direct sequel to Autumn than Midnight, but the engine of the plot arises from stuff that happens in Midnight. Rudi is the central character again – one of the things that have surprised me is how popular he seems to be; he’s basically me, or at least we share a worldview, so it’s been odd to discover how much people like him – and Rupert makes a return, along with a cast of new characters.

It’s also been a bit strange to see how much people are looking forward to the book. I’m not used to that and it’s a little bit scary; I sense a weight of expectation and I hope people aren’t disappointed. I worked my tits off on this one, and it wasn’t easy – I only got a sense of what it was about when I was in the last third of writing it – but once it’s in the reader’s hands I can’t do anything else. After having total control over the book for so long, there’s a terrifying feeling of helplessness.

I know I told people to shoot me if I even looked as if I was going to write another Europe book, but there will be one more, Europe at Dawn. Again, because I realised there’s stuff I haven’t tackled in the earlier books. The refugee crisis and its effects on Europe’s southern borders, what I’m starting to see as a growing split between the wealthy countries of the North and the poorer ones of the South, a two-tier Europe. Canals. I can’t believe I overlooked canals in the other books. I plan to throw the fucking kitchen sink at this one. But this will be the last; there’s a limit to how many world-shaking conspiracies a series of novels will stand. Also, I like the idea of a Quartet.

So, here we go again, in a new world, waiting for a new Europe book. It has an absolutely fantastic cover; Clint Langley has done me proud with all the books, and this is no exception. I think it’s a fun book; I don’t think it stands alone the way Midnight does, but it pushes Rudi’s story along and in the processĀ really pisses him off. I’m starting to feel sorry about messing the poor sod about so much; all he really wants to do is cook.

Anyway. Onward. Hope you like the book.