Robert Pimm

The Overton window and social media manipulation: how worried should we be?

I first came across the term “Overton Window” in a piece by John Lanchester in the London Review of Books in July 2016.

He described it as “a term… meaning the acceptable range of political thought in a culture at a given moment… [which] can be moved.”

Lanchester said that ideas can start far outside the political mainstream yet later come to seem acceptable.  He cited Brexit as an example: considered eccentric in 1997, yet enjoying large-scale support in a referendum by 2016.

George Orwell

Lanchester’s article, by the way, like many LRB pieces, is improbably long: set aside a bit of time if you want actually to read it.

A recent piece at the splendid “Flip Chart Fairy Tales” blog (recommended: often a source of illuminating graphs, charts and views) entitled “Breaking the Overton Window“, also noted how opinions can change.  The author argues that the Overton Window (“the range of policies that politicians deem to be politically acceptable”) has moved over recent decades towards libertarian, right-wing policies which do not obviously overlap with established political parties. By contrast, the views of voters have moved in the opposite direction, towards more authoritarian and left-wing ideas – likewise not corresponding clearly to existing parties.  This tendency, he argues, a) is a move away from traditional “left-wing” and “right-wing” categorisations; and b) should lead politicians to shift towards those authoritative and left wing policies if they are not to leave voters alienated from politics.

What has this got to do with social media?

The answer is that we have in recent years seen examples of political parties, corporations or states using social media in an automated, structured and agenda-driven way, to bring about real-world results. On a micro-level, a famous example is the protest and counter-protest in Texas in 2016 allegedly organised by Russia to foment conflict within US society.

On a macro-level, it is alleged – but, to date, not proved – that this type of agenda-driven social media manipulation has been used in recent years to influence – or even to decide – major electoral events such as the election of President Trump.

Why this matters is that if it is impossible to tell whether a mass of social media activity consists of numerous individual posts by real people or of bot-driven campaigns by malevolent state actors, political parties, corporations or other agencies with an opinion-forming agenda, it be becomes feasible for those agencies to move the Overton window without our being aware of it.  

‘Hey!’ we will think.  ‘Idea X always seemed wacky to me, but I see that practically everyone commenting on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram seems to support it.  Hardly anyone but me seems to be in favour of it.  I guess all those millions of people can’t be wrong.’

It’s worse than that.  Not only can malevolent agencies bombard us with social media messages; they can also use big data to target us all with laser-like precision, according to our precise views (see my piece “Read it now, watch it fast: scary, scarier, scariest” on this blog about this issue, also drawing in numerous cool science-fiction references).  Result: we find it increasingly hard to judge what most people actually think. Indeed, such is the power of the herd instinct that we may start to wonder whether we ourselves are the outliers, rather than the apparently large number of people who hold views which we previously viewed as odd or outlandish.

As I set out in the piece at the “Read it now” link, this risks putting power to control opinion into a few hands – or even a single person or organisation – to a positively Orwellian degree.

It also risks driving governments into a frenzy of lousy policy-making. Each time a Twitterstorm blows up over something, governments feel they have to respond instantly (“people are angry. We have to do something. Here’s something. Let’s do it.”). Yet the opinions supposedly represented by that Twitterstorm may not exist at all or may not be shared by a significant proportion of voters. Result: paranoid governments, knee jerk policies, chaos and confusion.

How worried should we be about this?  Is it simply a further iteration of a long-term trend, whereby societies have been prone to influence by all-powerful media for decades?  Or is it something new, more powerful and more sinister?

I would welcome your views.

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“Blood Summit” Chapter 5: Things get worse for Helen

Here is the text of Chapter 5 of my Berlin thriller Blood Summit.  

“In which Helen Gale gets into even more trouble.”

The Reichstag dome.  Warning: bad things happen here in “Blood Summit”

 

BLOOD SUMMIT: CHAPTER 5

Helen watched Sir Leonard Lennox grow angry.  It was a rare, but frightening sight.  Even when the ambassador was calm, his rugged features tended to darken in response to obstacles or unreason.  Now, the combination of brilliant white bandages and a choleric outburst made his face look black with rage.

‘They say what?

Basil Nutter grimaced, glanced around the conference table and said nothing.  Decades of experience in the back rooms of embassies from Abidjan to Yerevan had left the wizened but career-challenged diplomat equipped with two convictions.  The first was that the key to a contented life was to avoid drawing attention to yourself.  The second was that efforts by governments to influence the media were at best pointless and in most cases counter-productive.  Basil was arguably, therefore, ill-fitted to the job of embassy press officer.  He seemed physically to have shrunk as the Summit loomed.  This morning’s blast had left his brow, and his suit, more deeply creased than ever.

Helen had been thinking of the injured child in the street.  She saw Basil’s plight and intervened.

‘Ambassador,’ she said.  ‘You need a cigarette.  Possibly two.’

‘First sensible idea I’ve heard all day.’  A lighter and a packet of Benson and Hedges were in the ambassador’s big hands in an instant.  ‘And before you say anything, Jason, this is an emergency.  Since the windows have been blown out by a terrorist bomb, we’re technically outside anyway.’

Jason Short said nothing, but looked at the overwhelmingly intact windows and pursed his lips.

The ambassador lit a cigarette, blew a stream of smoke towards the ceiling, and turned to Basil.

‘Tell me about this story.’

‘It’s on Wild TV,’ Basil said.  ‘The demonstrators are blaming us for the blast.’

‘Bollocks.’  The ambassador was calmer already.  ‘Do they think we blew up our own embassy?’

‘Uktam Zholobov has issued a statement supporting them.’

‘We can ignore Zholobov,’ Leonard Lennox said.  ‘If he wants to influence the Summit, he should come and join in.  God knows, the Russian government have invited him enough times.’

‘He won’t sit at the same table.’  Helen shook her head.  ‘He says they want to destroy his dodgy energy empire.’

‘He’s probably right.’  The ambassador turned to Basil Nutter.  ‘What are the demonstrators saying?’

‘They claim the embassy had an intelligence warning that a terrorist attack was imminent.  But that we didn’t warn the organisers of the march.’

‘How the hell did they know about the intelligence?’  Short glared at Helen.  ‘I suppose you told your pal Dieter Kremp.’

Helen sighed, and typed on her laptop the words KILL JASON.

‘It is my job to exchange intelligence with the Germans and other partners in the Threat Assessment Committee,’ she said.  ‘There have been dozens of reports about attacks on the Summit.  But no references to British targets.’

‘Did anyone tell the protesters about these warnings?’ Short said.

‘Well,’ Helen blinked.  ‘It would look a bit odd if this embassy started putting out terror warnings to the German public.   I’m not sure the German government would thank us.’

‘British embassy says, “Not our problem”,’ Short said.  ‘That should calm things down.’

‘Hold it.’  The ambassador held up his hand.  ‘Wild TV are always desperate for scoops.  But are they talking out of their arses here?  Or could someone really make a case against this embassy for not giving intelligence to the general public?’  He looked round the table.  ‘Helen.  You were in the Cabinet Office assessments staff, weren’t you?  You must have seen a bit of secret intelligence.’

‘More than I ever want to see again.’  On Helen’s laptop, a fractal pattern was engulfing the screen.  ‘That’s the trouble.  Every day, intelligence services sift through millions of pieces of data.  For every incident, there are a thousand false alarms.  It’s hard to know when to publicise a threat.’

Short shook his head.  ‘I don’t see how it’s our fault if someone blows themselves up outside our embassy.’

Helen ignored him.  ‘The famous case was in 1988, when someone called the American embassy in Helsinki to say a Pan Am flight from Frankfurt to the US would be blown up in the next two weeks by the Abu Nidhal terrorist organisation.  It was an unusually specific threat, so the US aviation authorities issued a warning.  But not everyone heard about it.  Two weeks later, Pan Am Flight 103 blew up over Lockerbie.’

‘I thought the Libyans blew up Pan Am 103,’ the ambassador said.

‘That was what the courts decided.  They said the phone call was probably a hoax.  There are always cranks posting bogus warnings that London or New York is about to be attacked with anthrax or bubonic plague.  The families of Pan Am 103 couldn’t sue the bombers, because they didn’t know who they were.  Instead, they sued Pan Am.  Some people argued the US government was responsible for not publishing the Helsinki warning, or that the CIA were negligent for letting terrorists put a bomb on the plane.’

‘But you said there hadn’t been any warnings about attacks on the embassy,’ the ambassador said.

‘No.  But there have been threats to the Summit, and we’re a member of the G8.’  Helen shrugged.  ‘If someone wanted to play the blame game, they could point at us.’

No-one spoke.

‘Um, there is another problem,’ Basil said.

‘Let’s hear it.’  The ambassador lit a second cigarette.

‘Wild TV say the embassy’s security bollards prevented ambulance crews reaching the injured, and may have caused the death of the demonstrator.’  The press officer’s anxiety had transformed his expression into a fixed grin.  ‘What with this and the intelligence story, the press may decide to bury us in ordure.’

‘What are the casualty figures?’ the ambassador said.

‘Twelve injured and one dead,’ Helen said.  ‘But no way the delay caused the death.  The dead woman was literally blown to pieces.’

‘Don’t we know who she is?’ Short said.

‘It’s a mystery.  None of the demonstrators has identified the body.  The police think it may have been a suicide bomber.’

‘A suicide bomber with a very tiny bomb,’ Short said.  All the men laughed.

Helen took a deep breath.  It was true she had spent two years in the Cabinet Office assessments staff in London.  Her job there had been to spot connections where others saw confusion.  What had the policeman in the street said?  She pressed her lips together and felt blood course through them.

‘How do we know the bomb was aimed at us?’ she said.

Short shook his head.  ‘London agree that this was an attack on the embassy.’

‘You told London we’d been attacked,’ Helen said.  ‘That’s how assumptions become facts.  But how did you know we were the target?’

The ambassador said nothing, but put one hand up to the bandages on his head.  Jason Short laughed again.

Helen forged on.  ‘In Paris, the bomb targeted the Foreign Secretary.  He died, with six other people, four of them ours.  Today, not one of the dead or seriously injured – without wanting to belittle your wounds, ambassador – was in the embassy.  Doesn’t that strike you as odd?’

‘So, to summarise,’ Short said, ‘the ambassador has been injured by a terrorist bomb.  The demonstrators blame us for not warning them, and for stopping help from reaching them afterwards.  And Helen has a theory that the explosion outside the building had no connection to the embassy.’  He paused for effect.  ‘What we need to decide is what to do next.’

Helen closed her laptop.  No-one was listening.  Time for Plan B.

‘We should go on the offensive,’ she said.  ‘Show we care about the people who have been injured, rather than skulk indoors looking furtive.  We do care about the protesters, don’t we?’

‘We do,’ Leonard Lennox said.

‘Then let’s show it.’

‘That could be the second sensible idea I’ve heard today.’  The ambassador lit another cigarette.  ‘Tell me more.’

 

*

 

The flag car was a Mercedes.  Helen was used to seeing the British diplomatic pennant fluttering alongside the three-pointed star.  But Sir Leonard Lennox was from a different generation.

‘I know the Indians have Jaguar, and BMW’s making Rolls Royces,’ he muttered as the fat tyres bulged under the weight of the armour-plating.  ‘But a black Merc.  Where’s the fun in that?’

‘The Rolls was black, the Merc is black.  What’s the difference?’ Helen said.

Leonard Lennox shook his head.  ‘Sometimes, Helen, I don’t know whether you’re joking or not.’

Helen gazed out of the window.  The guard outside the embassy had been augmented by heavily armed officers of the Bundespolizei, the Federal Police, in their dark-blue uniforms.  A crowd of protesters had gathered by the bollards.  A news crew from Wild TV stood recording it all.  She shivered.  The air-conditioning in the car was fierce after the damp heat outside.

She hoped there would be cameras at the hospital, for Basil’s sake.  The press officer had been tearing around shouting into his phone as Ram Kuresh wrapped fresh bandages around the head of Leonard Lennox.

‘You’ve got to make people feel sorry for him without making him look pathetic,’ the shambolically-suited press man had urged between calls.  ‘Think ambassadorial.’

‘Do not worry,’ Ram had said.  ‘I am thinking maharajah.’

Basil was still calling press contacts when they reached the hospital.  The main entrance was a futuristic modern portico tacked onto the front of a 1960s East German prefabricated block.  The walls on either side were plastered with posters protesting against health-care reform, American military adventurism, and the costs of the Children’s Summit.  The rain had stopped and the pavements were steaming in the sunshine.

‘I can’t see any news crews.’  The ambassador’s face was darkening again.

‘Perhaps they’re inside,’ Basil said.

‘Let us hope so.’

But when they entered the building, they saw only a clutter of hospital trolleys, outpatients and listless visitors.  There was not a TV camera in sight.

The ambassador seemed inclined to make the best of things.  ‘Sod it,’ he said.  ‘We can still talk to some poor injured buggers.’  And like an auto-homing missile he was off, eyes bright with empathy, looking for a bed to stand by.  Helen watched Basil tail him, tape recorder at the ready.

They had been walking for several minutes when she saw through a doorway a huddle of camera crews.  Yes!  They were all there: RBB, ARD, Wild TV again.  At last.  The audience the ambassador needed.  She turned off to check it out.

The ward was quiet.  Several beds were occupied by sedated bomb victims.  Helen looked round for the injured boy.  The hush lent the place a chill air.  Then she saw him.  Clad in a grey surgical gown on a bed surrounded by TV crews, the child looked more pitiful than ever.  A tent of raised sheets covered the lower part of his body.  A woman in a green pullover with a bandage on her forehead sat holding his hand.

Helen felt a surge of emotion.  Her own concerns seemed irrelevant next to the grief of a mother for her child.  She stepped closer.  The boy seemed to be asleep.

Someone was talking.  Helen saw a woman being interviewed among the TV cameras.  It took her a moment to tune in to what she was saying.

‘…because his life has become a tragedy.  Because it could have been prevented.  And because responsibility is clear.  Thank you.’

The knot of people loosened.  Now to recruit some media interest for the ambassador.  Helen tapped one of the cameramen on the shoulder.

‘Hi, I’m from the British embassy.  Do you think your people would – ‘

The man reacted unexpectedly.  Ignoring Helen, he turned towards the clump of journalists.  ‘Guess what?  She’s from the embassy.’

There was a stir.  ‘The British embassy?’  A man’s voice.  ‘Unbelievable.’  He sounded delighted.

‘Believe it.’  Helen smiled.  A TV camera turned towards her, the recording light on.  She sensed danger.  A second lens turned her way, then a third, the cameras closing in.

The woman who had been interviewed turned to Helen.  She was short, with big breasts and hips and straight dark hair down to her shoulders.  She was dressed entirely in black: dense trousers, a long-sleeved army-surplus shirt tucked into a belt, and glasses with thick rectangular frames.  At first sight, she projected an impression of immense severity.  But behind the lenses her eyes were constantly moving.

‘You bastards have a nerve.’  The woman in black spat the words out.

Helen stood up straight.  ‘What did you say?’

‘You are from the British embassy, is that right?  You work for the British government?’

‘Yes, we – ‘

‘How does it feel?’  The woman’s voice rose a tone.  ‘To have caused so much suffering?’

Helen licked her lips and nodded, to show she was listening.  Was this being transmitted live?  ‘Sorry.  I don’t quite understand.’

‘Look at this child.  Does that make you feel good?’

‘I feel pity for him.’

‘Do not play games.  You are not sorry.  Do you even know who he is?  Have you taken the trouble to find out?’

‘I only just arrived at the hospital.’  Helen looked at the bed.  Perhaps the boy would wake up and explain how Helen had tried to help him.  But his eyes stayed closed.

‘Of course.  An exercise in public relations.’  The woman used the English words.  ‘Well, his mother says he just learned to ride a bicycle.  He won’t be riding it anytime soon.’

‘I hope he recovers quickly.’

‘I bet you do.  Because we are suing the British embassy for damages of fifty million euro, on behalf of the victims of today’s crime.  Perhaps paying that will make you sorry.’

The TV cameras were still on.  The woman in the rectangular glasses was breathing quickly and seemed unsteady on her feet.  Was she nervous?  Her arms were close to her sides.

‘I hope you’re not suggesting that the embassy is responsible for the bomb which exploded today,’ Helen said.  ‘That would be crazy.’

‘Let us talk about what is and is not crazy.  Do you deny that security barriers to protect British diplomats delayed ambulances from reaching victims of the bomb?  Do you deny that the officer responsible for security in the embassy, Helen Gale, received intelligence warnings of a terrorist attack on a G8 target in Berlin?  Do you deny that the embassy did nothing to warn the peaceful protesters outside?’

How did she know so much?  ‘We don’t comment on intelligence matters.’

‘Perhaps you will have more to say when this comes to court.’  The woman paused, as if about to continue, then stopped.  She took off her glasses and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand.  ‘OK, that is enough.’  She turned away.

Helen saw the lights on the cameras go out.  She reached for the woman’s shoulder.

‘What’s this about suing the embassy?’

The woman spun round, shrinking from Helen’s touch.  ‘Hands off.’  Without her glasses, she looked vulnerable and exposed.

Helen stepped back.  ‘I’m sorry, I just – ‘

‘What do you want?’

‘Who are you?’

‘None of your business.’  The woman turned to go.

Helen lowered her voice.  ‘I’m not your enemy, you know.  I hate all this as much as you do.’

The woman turned back.  She looked at Helen as if seeing her for the first time.  ‘My name is Sabine Wolf.  I work as a trauma counsellor for the Victims’ Legal Support Group.  I try to repair the harm which the powerful do to the powerless.  And you are wrong.  You are my enemy.’

‘We should be fighting whoever did this, not each other.’

‘Your government did this.  You did this.’

‘No.’  Helen glanced at the sleeping boy, and held out her card.  ‘We’re on the same side.’

The woman studied the card.  ‘You are Helen Gale.  Strange.  Well, I don’t need this.’  She took the crisp white rectangle and tore it in two.  ‘And I don’t need any fake sympathy.  All I want is your money.’  Sabine Wolf replaced her glasses and with them a brisker, business persona.  ‘You understand you are the respondent in the case.  The person we are saying is responsible for these injuries.  The Victims’ Legal Support Group is suing you, Helen Gale, personally for fifty million euro.  You had better start saving.’

(Excerpt ends)

Blood Summit is on Amazon, as an e-book and as a paperback – I’ve seen, and signed, a copy.

If you enjoy these excerpts, or the book itself, feel free to leave a review an Amazon, repost my facebook posts, retweet my tweets, or do anything else to spread the word.  The greatest challenge faced by an author is bringing her or his book to the attention of people who might enjoy it.  So far the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive – see reviews on Amazon.

I will be happy to sign paperback copies – these first editions will obviously be priceless collector’s items in years to come.

You can read the complete introduction to the novel at my Blood Summit page.

If  you enjoy fresh, original writing, feel free to friend me on Facebook or sign up for e-mail updates (top right – see the “click here” blue button).  You can check out the range of writing on this site via my 5 pleasure paths.

2017: 10 best blogs

I shall not try to summarise 2017 (thank God, I hear you cry): every journalist on earth is doing that.

Instead, I have chosen my favourite ten posts, out of the 47 I published in 2017.  Which is your favourite?  Let me know.  And feel free to re-post this on Facebook or to “like” it – if you do.

A novelty this year was my Picture Quiz – not including this picture from Cuba. Spot the Che Guevara tattoo

It wasn’t easy choosing a shortlist.  I’ve left out many favourites, including my account of how, aged 8, I used to electrocute myself regularly with my girlfriend Barbara in Wonder Woman and Wartime Moral Confusion; or my recent review of The Last Jedi 3/10: the galaxy’s most shagged-out designers?

So here’s my top 10, in chronological order:

  1.  19 January: The Simpsons – existential, circular fantasy 9/10.  One of my most-clicked blogs.  Would we want to live in a world where no-one grows old, where “everything fits together and no-one gets hurt”?
  2. 21 February: Nine questions about the Alan Clark Diaries: 0/10? Or 10/10?  My attempt to make sense of the life of the creepy but charismatic (sound familiar?) politician Alan Clark, who observed amongst other things: “Obituary pages nearly always cause satisfaction – if not Schadenfreude.”
  3. 20 March: Definitive: Chuck Berry’s 7 greatest tracks (with clips).  My tribute to the Shakespeare of Rock’n’Roll, inspired by others’ inadequate lists.  What is No.1?  Take a look.
  4. 31 March: Vienna Cafe Reviews.  The launch of my cafe review page – the most popular of 2017.  See why at the link.
  5. 17 June: Happiness and small victories.  A rather personal blog about things that make me happy.  Features air-punching and bicycles.
  6. 2 September: Central European melancholy 10/10.  Why melancholy matters; and why we should celebrate the fact that we are alive, knowing we and our loved ones will inevitably die.
  7. 23 September: Short story: Moscow 1993: The Second Phial.  A complete short story which has drawn favourable comments.
  8. 28 October: The Americans.  The colourful prologue to the story of my 1979 solo hitch-hiking trip around 27 US states in seven weeks.
  9. 4 November: A new Hotel Story: The Three Heads.  “The Three Heads” takes my total of short “Hotel Stories” to seven.  I’m proud of them.  They’re available on Amazon (“Hotel Stories: The Complete Collection“) or you can read excerpts on this blog.
  10. 2 December: “Blood Summit” now available!  Read Chapter 3.  The biggest writing news of the year for me: publication of my Berlin thriller “Blood Summit”.  And a plea for help with publicising the book – all assistance gratefully received.

I would be delighted to know which of my blogs this year you liked best.  Nominations not on the list are welcome.

P.S If  you want to be kept up to date on my writing, friend me on Facebook or, best of all, sign up for e-mail updates (top right – see the “click here” blue button).  You can check out the range of writing on this site via my 5 pleasure paths.

The Last Jedi 3/10: the galaxy’s most shagged-out designers?

What a brilliant movie!  Full of breathtaking, blow-you-away moments, unpredictable plot-twists, and unforgettable images and ideas!

I speak, of course, of the original 1977 Star Wars.

I love movies and adore sci-fi.  The original Star Wars sent me into a drug-like high when I saw it in Dolby Sensurround at the Odeon Marble Arch in 1977.  So did parts of the original Guardians of the Galaxynot to mention the hilarious Galaxy Quest.  I gave a strong review to the last Star Wars outing, The Force Awakensdespite initial misgivings.

So when someone takes a massive budget, an epic back story and the expectations of millions and turns out something which is 80% as dull as ditchwater, I feel personally betrayed.  Here are 7 reasons why The Last Jedi is, by the standards of what could have been, an inter-galactic train-wreck:

(i) it is beyond boring.  In fact, it is the first movie in which I have actually fallen asleep in the cinema, ever.  The scenes of Rey and Luke discussing obscure stuff on an island go on and on and… dear God, please can something happen soon? (more…)

My thriller “Blood Summit” – Chapter 4

Here is Chapter 4 of my Berlin thriller Blood Summit.

The Reichstag dome.  Warning: bad things happen here in “Blood Summit”

How did Dieter Kremp, Deputy Head of the Summit Security Unit and a macho package of anger, “exquisite, toned musculature” and chauvinism, become the lover of Helen Gale – a Cambridge-educated top diplomat?  How did the US Secret Service almost stop the Summit happening?

Find out now.

BLOOD SUMMIT: CHAPTER 4

As he ran towards the Summit Security Unit command bunker, Dieter Kremp was reminded with a jolt how much he hated the logo for the Children’s Summit.  A Berlin bear on its back, for Christ’s sake, balancing a cute kid on each of its sharp-clawed paws.  The bear was grinning playfully – hungrily, more like – as it performed this unnatural act.

(more…)

“Blood Summit” now available! Read Chapter 3

Wonderful news and äußerst schön.  My Berlin thriller Blood Summit is now up on Amazon, both as an e-book and as a paperback – I’ve seen, and signed, a copy.  Both look terrific, thanks to Ken and Kate over at Creative Covers.

If you enjoy Blood Summit, feel free to leave a review an Amazon, repost my facebook posts, retweet my tweets, or do anything else to spread the word.  The greatest challenge faced by any author is bringing her or his book – however brilliant – to the attention of people who might enjoy it.

I’ll be doing my bit on this blog and elsewhere, but all help gratefully received.

I will also be happy to sign paperback copies – these first editions will obviously be priceless collector’s items in years to come.

Potsdamer Platz – Helen Gale lives in a flat here (photo RP)

Meanwhile I shall continue to publish excerpts from the novel.

Chapter 3 develops the conflict between Helen Gale and her boss, Jason Short, and introduces several new characters including:

Ram Kuresh: the only avowedly gay member of the Secret Intelligence Service Office in Berlin. (more…)

My thriller “Blood Summit”: Chapter 2

In the last couple of weeks  I have posted the prologue and first chapter of my new thriller, Blood Summit.

This week comes Chapter 2.  Get to know Uli Wenger, the mastermind behind the plot to seize the Reichstag.  What drives him?  Why does he detonate a bomb outside the British Embassy in Berlin?  You decide.

The full text of Chapter 2 is below.  Or you can read all the excerpts published on this blog together at my new Blood Summit page.

One other big piece of news.

The complete thriller Blood Summit is now available on Amazon.  On Friday 1 December I uploaded both the e-book version (suitable for Kindle) and, for the first time in my experience, a paperback version.  The e-book is already available at the link above.  The paperback seems to take longer to appear; I will let you know when it does.

I have worked long and hard on Blood Summit, both to write the novel (a big job) and to prepare it for publication.  It is a wonderful moment to be able to make it available to readers.  I hope you enjoy it.  Anything you can do to draw the book to the attention of potential readers will of course be welcome.

Blood Summit: the cover

Here is the text of Chapter 2.  Thoughts, comments and re-posts welcome!

CHAPTER 2

It was not accident but design which made Uli Wenger so hard to see. His disguise was brilliant. Only one person in the crowd could recognise him. She would never tell a soul.

More marchers were appearing. The merciless punctuality made planning easy. Uli was in control. In thirty-six hours, he would hold a knife to the throat of the world. A few hours after that, the world would embrace him as its saviour.  (more…)

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