Monday, December 5, 2016

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Amazon "Rising Stars" List Has Picked JIHADI: A LOVE STORY

What a great boost to the day this bit of news was! Amazon has selected JIHADI: A LOVE STORY, on which I worked for eight years, as one of the "most promising debut titles" of 2016.

The novel, published by London's Orenda Books, is featured here.

Thanks to Amazon, Orenda's Karen Sullivan, and the many, many members of the League of Intrepid Readers who have left such wonderful reviews! And thanks especially to my editor Safie Maken Finlay, without whom there would have been no book.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Let's Clarify

All the exit polls were wrong.

Russia, motivated by a heretofore suppressed sense of fair play, STOPPED trying to influence the outcome of the US presidential election on the morning of November 8.

And this United States Senator is lying.

That's why you don't want to audit the vote in WI, PA, MI, and FL -- and figure out what actually happened?

Full MSNBC interview with Senator Murphy here.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Audit The Vote

Three Wisconsin counties reported more votes cast for president than ballots received.

Anyone, including Fearless Leader, who claims that is not cause for concern is out of his or her GODDAMNED MIND.

Donate to support #AuditTheVote here.

A Gallery of Photos Trump Doesn't Want The News Media to Use

It is my pleasure and honor to curate these special portraits of Fearless Leader. He has apparently threatened journalists who circulate them.

Please email additional public domain images that fall into this category to me so we can create an authoritative archive. Thanks.

Friday, November 25, 2016

DEADLINE: Donate TODAY to Audit the 2016 Vote



Ukraine's voting machines WERE hacked by Russian agents, changing the result of elections. NOTICING THIS MAKES YOU A PATRIOT.

If we find no evidence of undue influence -- fine, at least we conducted due diligence. But there are serious questions from qualified computer science experts that need addressing. Now.

Just to be clear: if you oppose #AuditTheVote, what you're saying is: "I'd rather not know whether Russia hacked US votes." 

Friday, November 18, 2016

No Direction Home

Several prominent figures, including the comedian and talk show host Stephen Colbert, have, with what I am sure is good intent, gently ridiculed those American citizens who have chosen to remain outside the borders of the United States following the 2016 presidential election. As one of those citizens, I want to offer a respectful dissenting voice.

Shortly after the election, Colbert compared staying in the US following the Republican victory to enduring a Thanksgiving dinner with a racist relative in the habit of making offensive remarks when drunk. It was a funny bit, one that made an effective appeal to a favorite progressive  theme: America as family. But Colbert’s routine was a joke, not a decision, and decisions are now what matters. Each of us has to make our own.

I am a Muslim born in the United States. I voted for Clinton. I know my side lost. I also know what that means: We have just elected a fascist Islamophobe with a habit of inciting violence to the highest office in the land.

That fascist Islamophobe has installed another Islamophobe, Stephen Bannon, one of the nation’s leading white supremacists, as his chief strategic advisor, and he has chosen yet another notorious Islamophobe, Michael T. Flynn, as his senior national security advisor.

With these two early choices, the president-elect has eviscerated any remaining hope that he was merely an ambitious, loudmouthed pragmatist whose actions would, unlike his campaign rhetoric, somehow manage to coexist with twenty-first century democratic values. He has forced us all to confront a painful reality: The president-elect is a threat to the Republic.

Complacency in the face of such a threat is, I believe, immoral. It is now time for massive, peaceful organized resistance, within legal boundaries, on a scale no one has yet seen or imagined, using tools no one has yet used. One valid expression of that resistance, and something new to American political history, I think, is the formation of a peaceful, effective, articulate expat opposition community in support of democratic values, which I now invite Muslims and non-Muslims alike to join.

You know what kind of community I mean. I'm talking about that wave of eloquent expat dissenters all the very best tyrants (Stalin, Khomeini, Mugabe, etc.) get. And, I suppose, target. The time has come for us to create such a forum for these dissenters and to share their voices.

That is an appropriate and, I believe, necessary sign to send the nation and the world of how serious things have become.

It is not the only appropriate sign, of course, but it is one we should not apologize for sending. Taking a seat at the Thanksgiving table is, for some of us, no longer healthy or safe. We need to notice: That drunken uncle now has a shotgun on his lap.

Colbert's family metaphor is apt, but it is under-explored. Sometimes families are dysfunctional. Sometimes there are abusers. And when there are, you don't have to stay.

I don't know when I'm going back to the States. But I'm glad I'm in Ireland now. The home I used to have has changed beyond recognition.

Eight years ago, I began work on JIHADI: A LOVE STORY, a novel about, among other things, an Islamophobe with outsized political ambitions -- and an extremist “caliphate” movement in the Middle East that appears to materialize out of thin air. Both of those notions were sheer fiction when I began working on the book in 2008. They are chilling reality now. I sometimes feel as though I have somehow managed, without meaning to, to summon up something evil, by daring life to imitate art. Please accept my apology for that dare.

Following the presidential election, hate crimes are up sharply. That is no surprise. I suspect hate crimes will continue to rise as unrepentant bigots congregate ever more openly in whiter and whiter, larger and larger mainstream gatherings. In recent weeks, the safety pin has become a symbol of support to all those threatened by racists taking their cue from the man we just elected president.

I write to America now from Ireland to suggest that the nation as a whole deserves that support ... the notion of American diversity deserves that support ... and that some of us are indeed justified in choosing to offer it from abroad. Notice that we do. Notice that this is not normal. Notice that normalizing racism is not acceptable. Notice that absence, coupled with effective advocacy, is protest, too.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of Anti-Defamation League, Pushes Back on American Fascism

Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said that a registry for Muslims would almost certainly be unconstitutional. “The day they create a Muslim registry is the day I register as a Muslim,” he added.

(From the Washington Post.)

Saturday, November 12, 2016

A few thoughts on SETTLED HISTORY with NO BEARING on current events

Looks like Hitler didn't MEAN anything he said in order to gain power, according to this contemporary New York Times article.

I guess he must have been a harmless loudmouth who made a successful adjustment to a leadership role.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Notes from a Republic In Exile

Thoughts from Ireland, at the moment a saner, safer nation than my own, and a haven for which I am grateful to God:

The prevailing post-election wisdom from various beloved tribal elders is that Americans should now find a way to unite behind Feckface Von Clownstick. Respect him. Praise him. Follow him. I am sorry. No matter how many times I hear that kind of speech, no matter how earnestly it is delivered, I still feel this wave of visceral disgust rising from the pit of my stomach.

After what has gone down, he has to earn that respect. He does not get it automatically.

To the extent that HE respects democratic values, human rights, the principle of equality, and the norms of civilized behavior, I will RETURN respect.

In the event that he doesn't, this particular presidency may consider itself on time out. And I curate the official archives of the League of Intrepid Readers as a proud member of the Diaspora.

Protect the Future: Abolish the Electoral College

Yes. It's over. Those of us who voted to support values of tolerance and inclusion in 2016 lost. We are entitled to our grief and our anger about that. But now that we are on Day Two of whatever new era this is going to be, let's channel that grief and anger into something constructive that will protect people. Let's notice that the reason we lost was that the rules under which we were operating are antiquated and unworkable.

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but lost the election. That fact needs discussion.

Despite this election result, we are not an ugly country. We are not a country devoted to oppressing minorities. The US election system, with its disaster-prone Electoral College, has simply failed us. It has done that by electing a president who did not receive the most popular votes five times out of a possible forty-five, and twice in the last sixteen years. That is too high a failure rate for a modern democracy.

We need to update the Constitution.

Sign this petition as a first step.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

If You Are an American ...

 "If you are an American, you must allow all ideas to circulate freely in your community, not merely your own." -- Kurt Vonnegut

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

My Pet Peeve: Adverbs

My pet writing peeve is my own dangerous propensity to rely on cheap adverbs, which I consider the linguistic equivalent of junk food.

It happens, from time to time, that I find myself tempted to stick cheap adverbs into my fiction. When that temptation arises, I remind myself of Stephen King's admonition to avoid them. Here is the relevant quote from ON WRITING, a marvelous hybrid of memoir and how-to book, and one of my favorite nonfiction books of all time:

“I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they're like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day... fifty the day after that... and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions. By then you see them for the weeds they really are, but by then it's—GASP!!—too late.”

Now, Mr. King is an authority I respect, and I hope you will hear him out on this. Of course, I would understand if you preferred not to be lectured about such things. Lectures are no fun, and the older I get, the deeper my own skepticism becomes about hard-and-fast writing "rules." In this case, though, I have to note that King is not promulgating such a rule, but rather stating a useful principle that can guide writers in making good decisions.

Notice that he's not saying one should never use adverbs. (Indeed, he uses three of them in this paragraph, and to good effect.) He's saying we should avoid them, and, by inference, I hear him asking us to make sure they are essential if we do choose to use them.

I find my prose tends to be strong, disciplined, and specific when it avoids adverbs. Showing, dramatizing, embodying the action in question tends to deliver better results than me telling people how I, the writer, think the action is unfolding. For instance: "Your lawn is teeming with dandelions" seems preferable to me to "Your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions." Take out any two of King's silly adverbs, and mine will still work better. Yes, "better," which I just used, is an adverb. Note that it's the only way to get the idea across. It's not a cheap, pointless, easy-to-work-around-with-a-basic-rewrite adverb, like "totally."

The urge to use cheap adverbs can feel overpowering. I don't know why. If I fight the urge off, though, and find another way to express the idea, the sentence improves.

There are any number of adverbs to be found in Mr. King's fiction, even in books that he completed after ON WRITING. And there are plenty of great writers I admire who rely on adverbs more than King does. (Dickens and Rowling come to mind.) But for me, the operating principle Stephen King proposes remains a sound one. When in doubt, rip that dandelion out of the soil .... or don't plant it in the first place ... so something better can grow. If you do decide to leave one growing in your lawn, make sure you know why you made that decision.

Some people like dandelions, of course, and I realize it's impossible to get rid of all of them. Not even Stephen King can manage that. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't make the effort. Anyway, I like the way the lawn looks when I do.

This is part of a blog hop about writing peeves. My dear friend Richard Gibney tagged me.

Thank you, Rich. He was tagged by Larysia Woropay.

I hereby tag for this blog hop Rich's friend Carissa Ann Lynch, who is the author of the Flocksdale Files trilogy, Horror High series, Grayson’s Ridge, This Is Not About Love, 13: An Anthology of Horror and Dark Fiction, and Dark Legends: A Collection of 20 Paranormal and Urban Fantasy Novels. She resides in Floyds Knobs, Indiana with her husband and three children. Besides her family, her greatest love in life is books.

I was supposed to tag a second person for this blog hop, but I wimped out. So I tag myself again. Watch this space for another pet peeve of mine: writers who wimp out when it comes to tagging other writers for blog hops.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Ayat of the Day: October 15, 2016

Surat Ar-Rahman, 60
هَلۡ جَزَآءُ ٱلۡإِحۡسَـٰنِ إِلَّا ٱلۡإِحۡسَـٰنُ
Is there any Reward for Good other than Good?
نیکی کا بدلہ نیکی کے سوا کچھ نہیں ہے

NO I AM NOT KIDDING: Get ready for President Trump. Here's why.

This latest news is quite alarming. It turns out there is in fact a strategy to the Loathsome One's final weeks of the campaign. And you know what? It could work. Below is from

The most recent ABC poll shows Clinton with only a four-point lead, far less than one would expect given the magnitude of national outrage over the Tape. I believe this strategy is brilliant. I believe it is working. And it makes my stomach churn.

This little twist suggests that, to the degree we focus on things like, say, whether Donald is a sexual predator, we are actually playing into his hands.

That seems strange, and maybe even a bit sulfurous, but you know what? It's been that kind of year.

Let's all remember that this election is really a series of big questions. It's asking us to say...

  • who is more qualified for the job ... 
  • who can be trusted to tell the FBI what it can and can't do to  ... 
  • who is more likely to protect our civil liberties... 
  • and who can be trusted with nuclear weapons.

There is one and only one good answer to those questions.

Attention all people of voting age with a functioning conscience: Please, please, please vote. And click here to help get out the vote.

The Work In Progress

It's coming along quite nicely. My editor par excellence +Safie Maken Finlay knows how much work has gone into it. As of now I have 15,000 readable words of a projected 100,000 words, and the thing has kicked into overdrive. The car seems to know where it's going.

No Beatles references in this one.

The target completion date for the draft is February 15.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Michiko Kakutani's review of Volker Ullrich's HITLER: ASCENT does not mention the US presidential election ...

... and is all the more powerful for not doing so.

Read the review. It serves as a grim, important warning to all democracies, and this year, the American democracy in particular. You'll find it here.

Then connect the dots and share, please.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Suppose we all call him "DONALD" from this point forward.

The Democratic nominee never said a word about "Mr. Trump" in the recent debate. Did you notice?

It was always "Donald."

This was a shrewd tactic, and it clearly rattled the Fascist candidate. Mrs. Clinton placed a bet that this man really, really doesn't like being called "Donald." And the bet paid off.

Personally, I think the practice should continue for the rest of his life.

His doorman should call him "Donald." His limo driver should call him "Donald." Random strangers passing him on the street should call out, "Donald! Great to see you!"

Let's all do that, please, and let's take note, too, of what is perhaps the most important takeaway yet from this improbable election. When someone disrespects Donald, he falls apart. Click the image below for proof.

 Donald falls apart

Is a man so easily baited, so clearly incapable of managing his own emotions, really to be trusted to handle the provocations of Kim Jong-Un or Vladimir Putin?

Sunday, September 25, 2016

My vote for best show on Netflix: SPOTLESS

Two brothers, one of whom owns a crime-scene cleaning business, are forced to clean up the mob's dirty work.

SPOTLESS is not for the faint of heart -- in fact, it's brutally violent in places -- but if you liked BREAKING BAD, I predict you will not regret committing to this brilliant, occasionally blood-spattered black comedy. Click the image below for a teaser video. Warning: It contains spoilers.

 Teaser video for SPOTLESS

Some might not agree with me about the "comedy" label, but I do think it fits here. The show's intricate, interlaced musings on morality, duty, fidelity, family ties, and childhood trauma are full of dark humor -- a distinctive, hypnotic humor that somehow holds everything together. Certain absurd situations stay with you for weeks. A masterful Episode One scene, for instance, centers on a late-night fraternal conflict over the proper location of a freezer containing a dead body. Things get considerably darker, and stranger, from there. This is black farce elevated to a unique, intense, hyper-realistic pitch.

The word that keeps coming up for me as I try to describe this amazing, unlikely world to others is "beautiful." That's a little odd, perhaps, considering the disturbing subject matter. But beautiful it is. So that's the word I will stick with. Beautifully conceived, written, shot, and performed, this shrewd, inventive series borrows Walter White's perpetual challenge of ever-more-difficult ethical dilemmas, combines that with a compelling brother-to-brother relationship, and adds some of the wary, "look closer" aesthetic of, yes, AMERICAN BEAUTY. Put it all together, set it in London, and somehow the game has been raised to another, altogether sublime, level.

This is fine, compelling, addictive television drama of the very highest caliber. Note, please, the consistently spectacular viewer reviews:

This response does not surprise me. The series is both provocative and accessible to a mass audience, in the tradition of BREAKING BAD and THE SOPRANOS. Some truly extraordinary performances are on display here from Marc-Andre Grondin, Denis Ménochet, and Brendan Coyle. The team of gifted writers includes creators Corinne Marrinan and Ed McCardie.

My favorite show on Netflix, hands down. (SPOTLESS is available via Netflix in Ireland, where I am, and in the UK.)

In the US, SPOTLESS is listed as being on the Esquire Network, but I can't seem to find an on-demand option for viewing the episodes. Probably user error. Even so, you may want to order the DVD set. This is a keeper.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

How the Hell Did Vladimir Nabokov Pronounce His Last Name? How the Hell Do I Pronounce Mine?

Let's start with the most essential piece of evidence. Sting, an English speaker and former English teacher, chooses to accent the first syllable of the name "Nabokov" in the Police classic DON'T STAND SO CLOSE TO ME -- just as I, an English speaker and former English teacher, choose to accent the first syllable in my own last name.

That great Eighties band, of course, played no role in my dad's decision to reclaim our family name. It had been long concealed by my grandfather, who was not eager to attract the interest of immigration officials. Back in the Twenties, when my grandfather made it to the States from Russia by creative, unorthodox means that are still unclear to me, he called himself George Mitchell, having picked that last name out of a phone book because it sounded American. He was, my father insisted, born Giorgi Toropov. The two did not get along. In 1966 or thereabouts, my father, the former George Mitchell II, rebranded himself as Yuri Toropov. He always pronounced the name "TOR-o-povv." I don't know why.

Now it's time to pose the question I have asked myself more times than I can count in my career as a writer: What Would Vlad Do?

If my father's aim was to follow the Russian tradition, it's looking like he got it wrong, or at least different, and that the family name should have been pronounced "tor-ROP-off." Oh well. This ambiguous reply from the late Master Prose Stylist, given during a 1965 interview, suggests there are at least three acceptable options.

Whew. Looks like I can stick with Sting, and my dad, when it comes time to pronounce either of our last names. (Always taking care not to do so in the same breath, though.)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Details behind the multiple times TRUMP has been accused of rape or attempted rape

 Trump Rape Lawsuit Filing Excerpt

  • Trump has been accused multiple times of this kind of assault. This alleged pattern of behavior should be MAJOR national mainstream news. 
  • It is not -- but only because the Fascist candidate has ordered that it should not be, and CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, and the NEW YORK TIMES (among others) are obeying Trump's orders not to push the story.
  • Get used to that controlling-what-can-and-can't-be-said-by-reporters thing if Trump wins.
  • There are three alleged incidents to consider, all adding up to one glaring case of journalistic malpractice from Big Media. Quotes below via


Ivana Trump. (Photo:
Christopherpeterson at English Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0,

"The first and most famous accusation comes from Trump’s ex-wife Ivana Trump. During a deposition in the ’90s, Ivana described a harrowing scene in which Trump held her arms back, pulled at her hair, and raped her in a fit of rage. She herself used the word “rape.” The details of the incident were made public in the 1993 book Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump, written by the journalist Harry Hurt III."

"Trump denies this incident took place, and before the book hit shelves his lawyers required that it include a statement at the front written by Ivana, in which she walks back her use of the word 'rape':"

During a deposition given by me in connection with my matrimonial case, I stated that my husband had raped me. I referred to this as a "rape," but I do not want my words to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense.

"In her statement she added instead that she felt 'violated.'"


Jill Harth. (Photo:

"The second accusation of sexual assault comes from a 1997 lawsuit. Jill Harth says she and her romantic partner were working with Trump on a business deal, when The Donald started making unwelcome sexual advances. In a lawsuit filed against Trump, she says he leered at her inappropriately, groped her on several occasions without her consent, and even 'attempted rape.' In her lawsuit, Harth describes a scene in which Trump took her into one of his children’s bedrooms at his Florida estate Mar-a-Lago, threw her against the wall, began touching her all over, and lifted up her dress."

"In a recent interview with The Guardian, Harth says she had to physically prevent him from advancing and shouted out: 'What are you doing? Stop it.' Adding, 'It was a shocking thing to have him do this because he knew I was with George [her partner], he knew they were in the next room. And how could he be doing this when I’m there for business?'

Trump denies any of this ever happened, calling the allegations “meritless.”


"The third case against Trump comes via a recent federal lawsuit filed in June 2016 in the State of New York by 'Jane Doe.' In the suit, Doe alleges that Trump raped her back in 1994, when she was just 13 years old. According to legal docs, Doe says she attended parties with Trump and his friend Jeffrey Epstein—a registered sex offender known in the media as the 'billionaire pedophile.'

"Doe, who was trying to become a model, says it was during these parties that Trump initiated sexual contact with her on several occasions and on one occasion allegedly raped her. According to the suit, Trump tied her to a bed, exposed himself to her and then raped her in a 'savage sexual attack.' Doe says she screamed for him to stop at which point he struck her in the face while screaming 'that he would do whatever he wanted.' In a statement filed with the lawsuit, Doe says Trump threatened to ruin her life and her family’s life if she ever told anyone about the incident:"

Immediately following this rape Defendant Trump threatened me that, were I ever to reveal any of the details of Defendant Trump’s sexual and physical abuse of me, my family and I would be physically harmed if not killed.

"The lawsuit also includes a witness statement from a 'Tiffany Doe,' who says that, in the ’90s, she was in charge of recruiting adolescent women to entertain guests at Epstein’s parties—and she personally saw the incident occur."

I personally witnessed the Plaintiff being forced to perform various sexual acts with Donald J. Trump and Mr. Epstein. Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Epstein were advised that she was 13 years old.

"In her statement, Tiffany Doe also says she witnessed Trump force other minors to perform oral sex on him and witnessed his 'physical abuse' on them 'when they finished the act.'"

"According to documents, Trump has denied the allegations, stating 'These allegations are not only categorically false, but disgusting at the highest level and clearly framed to solicit media attention or, perhaps, are simply politically motivated. There is absolutely no merit to these allegations. Period.'"




Sunday, September 18, 2016

Arrest this man. No. I'm not kidding, @SecretService

Trump: Clinton's bodyguards should drop weapons 'and let's see what happens to her.'

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Make No Mistake: Clinton Is Under Attack Because She Is a Woman (#ImWithHer) (#video)

Hillary Clinton has now become the target of the broadest, ugliest, coarsest, and longest-running character assassination/disinformation campaign in modern American political history. Click the image below for proof of this, but don't watch the video while the kids are around.

 Sexist attacks on Hillary Clinton

Make no mistake. This series of sexist attacks is intensifying ... but not because of any specific policy misstep that Clinton's opponents can elucidate. (In an interesting parallel development, the Trump campaign's senior policy development team recently disintegrated.)

This series of sexist attacks is intensifying ... but not because of any credible, real-world evidence of corruption that anyone can produce or even summarize. (Indeed, the Trump camp's manifest record of bribery of public officials should be Topic A in this campaign, but for some reason it isn't.) 

This series of sexist attacks is intensifying ... but not because of any credible claim against Clinton's qualifications in comparison with those of her opponent.  (Quite the contrary. The former acting director of the CIA official publicly endorsed Clinton -- remarkable in itself -- and went on to note his view that "Donald J. Trump is not only unqualified for the job, but he may well pose a threat to our national security.")

  • No. The unprecedented venality, profanity, and intensity of the sexist attacks against Hillary Clinton are are happening, and intensifying, simply because she is female. 
  • We need to notice this. 
  • Again: The attacks we are seeing daily have one and only one unifying factor: fear and loathing of a qualified woman's daring to seek the presidency. 

That is the reality US progressives and feminists now face in this campaign.

Whether someone else should have been or could have been nominated is beside the point. Whether Hillary represents all of our favorite causes, exactly as we would, is beside the point. Whether she was our first choice is beside the point.

What matters now is whether we will allow hatred, and specifically hatred of powerful, intelligent women, to determine the political culture of this nation.

If we are complacent in the face of the well-funded, vigorous, vicious, and fundamentally misogynistic attempt to smear this candidate, then we will get what we deserve: a dangerous, unqualified, woman-hating Fascist taking the oath of office on the 20th of January, 2017 -- and continuing the war on women from the White House.

Please, please, please click here to help Hillary Clinton win on November 8. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Edward Wilson's stellar intellectual thriller A VERY BRITISH ENDING

It's a fascinating question, whether the latest Edward Wilson spy novel A VERY BRITISH ENDING would be as smart, vigorous, engaging, and downright delightful a read without us all having easy access to the Internet. Fortunately, I don't have to answer that question.

This is a book custom-built for the smart-phone era, the era when you can think "Better look that up," launch a Google search, and expect to get a clearer sense, within a few seconds, of who actually did what, when, in real life. Much of the pleasure of this novel lies in determining just how much of Wilson's intricate intellectual thriller is history and how much is literary invention.

Here's the remarkable thing. Pausing momentarily to check, for instance, whether the CIA really was behind the 1954 screenplay adaptation of George Orwell's ANIMAL FARM (it was), or whether senior intelligence operatives really were, or really are, eager to strike up dark, democracy-threatening alliances with the military, somehow does not dull one's interest in William Catesby, Wilson's long-suffering, fundamentally decent hero.

Quite the contrary. Once you put down the phone and return to the book, you find yourself more curious than ever about where Catesby's journey will lead -- and anticipating the strangely satisfying ritual of Googling the history behind the book's next plot development. I don't know how Wilson manages that, but he does.

Catesby, a liberal-leaning MI6 officer with a functioning conscience and a deep love of his country, is a man who knows paranoia when he sees it. He sees a whole lot of it in Cold War-era England, and he learns, first-hand, its heavy cost to the body politic. The central conceit of this story -- the destabilization of a sitting Prime Minister's government by fanatically anti-Communist elements of the UK's intelligence apparatus -- may seem to those unfamiliar with the period to be implausible, some kind of fanciful improvisation meant to boost book sales. Yet it is settled history, every bit as real as the Profumo scandal or the Cuban Missile Crisis. So: Did these machinations really turn into a coup? Were people like Catesby really around to note, with alarm, the mental state that served as the source of such plots? And who, exactly, are we talking about, back in the real world?

Better look all that up. And once you do, better make sure you keep this stellar page-turner nearby, because, having begun it, you will return to it in very short order. A marvelous, magnetic, and endlessly intriguing spy novel that boasts equal measures of dazzling invention and responsible research, A VERY BRITISH ENDING illuminates potent and enduring truths about the perils of hyper-nationalism and groupthink. It also gives us, in William Catesby, that rare protagonist in whom cynicism and idealism persist, believably if not comfortably, side-by-side.

"Treason usually, but not always," Catesby's mentor and ally Henry Bone notes at one point, "comes from the right wing." Later, Bone warns Catesby that "power is a poison -- and even more deadly when it exists in confined spaces." Such insightful passages about political excess (there are many, many more) could just be the musings of a writer who knows when he's found the right tone for a novel about a coup plot hatched by reactionaries. On the other hand, who knows? Wilson's prose could very well have something to do with real, live, catastrophic threats to democracy that we all need to be ready to spot in the era of Farage and Trump. What schemes have the increasingly paranoid followers of those gentlemen come up with lately? Better look that up, too.