#BlogTour The Benevolent Dictator by Tom Trott

It’s my turn on the BlogTour for The Benevolent Dictator by Tom Trott. It’s a clever little tongue-in-cheek political thriller with a very poignant message.

About the Author

Tom Trott was born in Brighton. He first started writing at Junior School, where he and a group of friends devised and performed comedy plays for school assemblies, much to the amusement of their fellow pupils. Since leaving school and growing up to be a big boy, he has written a short comedy play that was performed at the Theatre Royal Brighton in May 2014 as part of the Brighton Festival; he has written Daye’s Work, a television pilot for the local Brighton channel, and he has won the Empire Award (thriller category) in the 2015 New York Screenplay Contest. He is the proverbial Brighton rock, and currently lives in the city with his wife.

Follow @tjtrott on Twitter, Connect with tomtrottbooks on Facebook, Visit tomtrott.com

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About the book

Ben longs to be prime minister one day. But with no political connections, he is about to crash out of a Masters degree with no future ahead. So when by chance he becomes fast friends with a young Arab prince, and is offered a job in his government, he jumps at the chance to get on the political ladder.

Amal dreads the throne. And with Ben’s help he wants to reform his country, steering it onto a path towards democracy. But with the king’s health failing, revolutionaries in the streets, and terrorism threatening everyone, the country is ready to tear itself apart.

Alone in a hostile land, Ben must help Amal weigh what is best against what is right, making decisions that will risk his country, his family, and his life.


Ben is a boy, filled with the naiveté of a well-educated young man, who believes he can change centuries of oppression merely by being present. No different from any other idealist or any other young person, who has yet to comprehend that the world does not revolve around his or her persona, desires and expectations in life.

Ben inadvertently ends up in the middle of a contentious political skirmish merely because his uni friend asks him to become his political advisor, and a friend in the midst of a nest of vipers.

There is an interesting TV series, which mirrors the true life events of a certain dictator and his son. A son who was raised and schooled amongst the most elite of the British regime. When said son returns with his democratic upbringing and thought processes he plans to change his country and the autocratic rule they have lived under for many decades. What happens instead is that the man raised with western values slowly but surely morphs into his own cultural values and into the dictator his father was before him.

Bearing in mind how different and complex the Western democracy is from non-democratic countries, it is almost colonial thinking that presumes to change these existing systems merely based on the audacity and presumptuous attitude of democracies deciding they need to change every country to reflect their values.

Not that I don’t wish human, civil, basic rights and equal opportunities and safety for all genders in every country, it is just unrealistic and very Victorian to push it on unwilling populations, especially when there is a basic lack of understanding of different cultures.

Although Amal may have the best intentions he lacks the experience to comprehend the intricate political scheming going on around him and behind him. Lacking the objectivity and refusing to believe his situation as the heir is anything other than set in stone and tenable, he ignores the machinations going on around him.

Trott gives an accurate representation of why the democratic countries who think they can save countries under dictatorships or communist regimes either fail or end up making the situation worse. There is a lack of basic understanding of non-Western cultures. In this sense Ben represents the countries, who end up chasing their tail or being helicoptered out of war skirmishes, and leaving the stirred pot to their own devices and demise.

The title Benevolent Dictator is of course a paradox. A dictator is by virtue of the fact he or she decides everything for all of their people regardless of whether they like it or not, never benevolent. It’s a clever little tongue-in-cheek political thriller with a very poignant message.

Buy The Benevolent Dictator at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

#BlogTour A Secret Worth Killing For by Simon Berthon

Today it is my turn on the BlogTour for A Secret Worth Killing For by Simon Berthon. It’s a story full of political intrigue and betrayal. (A Secret Worth Killing For was previously released under the title Woman of State)

About the Author

Simon Berthon has been described by The Daily Telegraph as a ‘formidable Second World War Historian’ for his reporting of events. He became the editor of BBC Northern Ireland’s current affairs programme Spotlight, moved to ITV’s investigative series World in Action  where he won a Gold Hugo at the Chicago Film Festival, and went on to make the major historical series The Shape of the World which won a Gold Medal at the New York Film and Television Festival.

He became a founding partner of 3BM Television, seeing over a stream of high quality historical and investigative documentaries, many of which are award-winning.

His books, Allies at War: Churchill v Roosevelt v De Gaulle (Thistle, 2011) and Warlords (Thistle, 2006) offer detailed accounts of the mind games played by leaders in the war as well as examining their relationships, deals and decision making, all of which has been expertly researched and recounted intelligently.

His latest book, A Secret Worth Killing For (HQ, 2018), follows protagonist Maire Anne McCarthy, a one-time honey-trap for the IRA.

Follow @HQStories

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About the book

Secrets – 1991, Belfast. Maire Anne McCartney is recruited for a one-off IRA mission as a honey trap. She is told there will be no violence. But she has been lied to. To save herself, eighteen-year-old Maire must flee across the border alone, and start a new life.

State – Present day, London. Human rights lawyer Anne-Marie Gallagher is appointed Minister of State for Security and Immigration. At the same time, the police in Belfast receive an anonymous tip-off. The password is verified from the Troubles – and the co-ordinates lead DCI Jon Carne to a field. And a body.

Betrayal – The new Minister receives a message and realises that the new life she has crafted is at risk of being uncovered. And when Carne’s investigation brings Anne- Marie to his attention, she must decide where her allegiances lie…


Anne-Marie is an ambitious politician with quite a few skeletons in her closet. Not exactly unusual for a politician. Her secrets are buried all the way back in Ireland in the midst of the Troubles. The story moves from past to the present and back again, as some of those secrets begin to surface and threaten to destroy the new life and identity she has built for herself.

Although Anne-Marie is portrayed as the unsuspecting and innocent victim of political machinations and spy games, I find that perspective hard to swallow. The whole set-up of the honey-trap suggests at the very least a subconscious awareness of what would happen, especially considering her family and their involvement in the IRA.

The most interesting aspect of the story is the question of guilt. Anne-Marie doesn’t seem to feel as if she is complicit in any way. One could argue that her role in the honey-trap, which leads to the death of a man, is what hardens her and makes her less empathetic or does her family loyalty and politics play a bigger role in her life than she lets on?

To me Anne-Marie reads as a woman fully aware of her actions and the consequences of said actions. In a way her ambitions and her almost instinctive play for power after the successful election is indicative of her true nature and personality.

I also think it is a fairly common assumption that women are less likely to be ruthless leaders, killers and in positions of power, when it comes to crime or terrorism. A fatal mistake I might add. There is this stereotypical misconception that we are less likely to be cruel, brutal and able to make life and death decisions.

Regardless of the truth all of the above still applies to the situation, so I suppose in the end it is a question of whether everything is fair game when we are at war. If that is the case then why do we put war criminals on trial? Are some acts of murder deemed not to be a crime, depending on the circumstances, the conflict and the person who committed them? It’s food for thought at the very least.

Berthon makes an interesting political point and one about human rights with this story, regardless of whether it is intentional or not. It also speaks to the nature of politicians, the omnipotence of secret military and police operations, and human nature in general. The author takes a snapshot of the events during that violent period in our history and manages to place the blame where it belongs, which is firmly on both sides.

It’s a gripping venture into the world of politics, political skirmishes, clandestine operations and history. Ultimately it is also one about human nature, conscience and guilt, and betrayal. I think it is fair to say we all have some skeletons in our closet, some of us have just buried them deeper than other people.

Buy A Secret Worth Killing For at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

#BlogTour Saving the World by Paola Diana

Today it really is a pleasure to host the BlogTour for Saving the World – Women: The Twenty-First Century’s Factor for Change by Paola Diana. It should be made in pocket size, so all women and men can read it on the go.

About the Author

A top ten bestselling author and political activist in Italy, Paola Diana is a mouthpiece for female equality in a country that has some of the worst work place equality in the world ranking 118th out of 144 countries in terms of women’s participation in economic life and 126th for wage equality for similar work according to the 2017 Global Gender Gap Index, with Italy lagging behind India and Iran in wage equality.

A London based entrepreneur and campaigner for equal rights Paola has dedicated her life to championing sexual equality in business and politics in the UK and Italy. In Italy, Paola is the founder of the organisation PariMerito (Equal Merit), which she used to lobby the Italian Government to pass new equality laws in the work place, including a new bill requiring every company board to have minimum 30% female representation.

Prior to starting PariMerito Paola ran a Think Tank in support of the former Prime Minister and President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi’s political campaign, which had a particular focus on issues including welfare, female employment and structural policies in favour of the family and equal opportunities.

Paola is also an entrepreneur starting her first business as a single mother of two, her hugely successful Diana Group, comprises three separate businesses and has established itself as a market leader in recruitment and lifestyle services, recognised as one of London’s most influential service providers for high net worth individuals, families and corporations around the world.

Follow @paoladiana_ @quartetbooks @midaspr

Buy Saving the World

About the book

“I write about history to free us from the past, I write about the present to strive for alternative destinies and I write about the future because the world we live in is not the only one possible.”

Part manifesto for change part historical and sociological essay, Saving the World charts women’s condition through the centuries, analysing their treatment within political, religious, economic and societal contexts to form a bigger picture of their place in the world; and explores what needs to be done in 2018 to create a truly equal world. Having already broken the glass ceiling for women in Italy, where she introduced a new bill requiring company boards to have 30% female representation, Paola turns to the Gender Pay Gap and puts forward her vision for how we reach an equal society, one in which all women are set free from fear, violence and oppression. Paola Diana impresses on us that this world we inhabit, dominated by men and often seemingly immutable, is far from the only one possible.

Already a bestseller in Italy, this translation has been extensively revised by the author to incorporate recent UK events that impinge on women’s rights and the struggle to achieve equality. A clarion call for change, Diana’s polemic should be read by all who hold powerful positions in government, industry and the arts.


There is a paragraph in the preface that gave me food for thought. The author believes she was born with certain instincts, which have made her more attuned to the injustices and discrimination against women, although she does point out that she would have reacted and felt the same if those were directed towards men.

It really made me think about my own tendencies to stand up for the oppressed, the vulnerable and those who have to deal with injustice and discrimination. Our temperament is already shaped within the womb. Are we perhaps genetically pre-wired to be more of a ‘save the universe and the downtrodden’ kind of person? Scientists have proven that there are links between genetics and violence, is it so far-fetched to believe a social justice warrior gene could be embedded in our DNA? It isn’t just a ‘I feel more empathy’ kind of emotion either.

I guess we end up back with the old nature vs nurture argument. I, for instance was privy to an upbringing, which some would now call liberal thinking. Nowadays liberal is perceived to be some kind of insult and associated with an anti-authoritarian free-thinking no rules kind of upbringing. I had rules and was taught discipline, but I was also taught acceptance and tolerance.

Admittedly I think the word tolerance is the wrong one, because I wasn’t taught to tolerate anyone, I was taught that we are all equal. No matter the skin colour, education, origins, socio-economic status, gender or religion. Sounds very flower powery – far from it, because I was also taught that an arsehole is an arsehole regardless of race, colour, gender or religion.

The patriarchal system is the main reason the systemic abuse, oppression and discrimination against women is still alive and kicking. Old habits die hard and a leopard doesn’t change its spots or rather refuses to change them at all.

‘There is no religious justification for female subjugation.’ Diana couldn’t be more right about the way religion is used to control, weaken and oppress the rights of women. To the point of women being so brainwashed by centuries-old man-written rules to keep the opposite gender quiet and submissive, that they dare not question the need for ten wives for one man. The need to support hebephilia and ephebophilia, so men can marry children or the need to obey or be punished, because God says so. Men wrote the rule books, not any entity of faith.

There are so many examples throughout history and many countries, of women standing up to the institutional oppression. Sometimes individuals have been able to bring about change. Women have been tortured and killed to allow us the same rights as men. It is often apparent that 21st century women and girls don’t really have a clue what some women have achieved in history to ensure we can cast a vote in an election for instance.

Among many controversial topics that make me stand up for women’s rights is the topic of our bodies. No man should be allowed to determine what I can or can’t do to my body. You don’t own me, you don’t own my physical appearance and you certainly don’t own my uterus or anything which may reside in it, so your opinions are unwanted and invalid.  Women shouldn’t have to return to the dark alleys of medieval times just because men, religious institutions run by men and governed by rules written by men and interpreted by men, decide they own the rental space in my uterus and yours.

Let’s be clear, the majority of the male gender of our species believes us to be inferior, albeit often a subconscious thought process,  which is why we don’t deserve equal pay or equal representation in the world of politics or business.

What becomes abundantly clear in Saving the World, is not only the need for change, but also how unaware the world really is to the daily injustices against women. We need to educate those, who have been raised to perceive a rift between man and woman. The people who expect obedience and subservience instead of acknowledging the need for equality. For me the change must start in the cradle. Mothers must teach their sons to respect women instead of teaching them to treat women as a sub-humans, they must also teach their daughters to want more than just a life dictated by a patriarchal society.

On the stage of the world we must fight for and insist upon equal representation. It’s time the old boy, and especially the old boy white club mentality, disappeared. We need more female role models for younger women to not only emulate, but also so they can see there is a change on the horizon. Locker room humour, chauvinistic and sexist attitudes should be relegated to the dusty pages of the history books.

There are a lot of negative connotations when it comes to the umbrella phrase of feminism, which is a term I tend not to use to describe myself. I believe in women. I believe in equality, and I believe in justice for the oppressed and those who are discriminated. That is just common sense, which doesn’t need a blanket term or stereotype, so others can box me in by trying to invalidate my arguments.

If there is one thing you take away from this strong encouraging voice of empowerment, then let it be that women should work together and not against each other. When we are critical of women in positions of power, we undermine ourselves and them, and automatically fall back into the trap laid out by men. Not that I am saying women shouldn’t be challenged, by all means challenge them on the topic they are speaking on or their opinions if you disagree, but never do it to undermine in an attempt to be one of the boys. You will never be one of the boys. We are woman, and it is time to hear us roar.

Kudos to Paola Diana for roaring for all of us.

Buy Saving the World at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

#BlogTour Half a World Away by Sue Haasler

Today I am thrilled to host the BlogTour for Half A World Away by Sue Haasler featuring a fantastic guest post by Sue Haasler, Titles for Books, and my review.

About the Author

Sue Haasler was born and brought up in Co. Durham and studied English Literature and Linguistics at Liverpool University. After graduating she moved to London and worked for three years as a residential social worker. Since then, she has lived as an administrator for a disability charity, which recruits volunteer carers for disabled adults. Many of the volunteers are from abroad and this is how she met her husband, who is from the former East Berlin.

Sue has written four books, True Colours, Time after Time, Two’s Company (all Orion paperbacks) and Better Than the Real Thing. Two’s Company was optioned for film by Warner Bros. She has been commissioned by the BBC to write an authorized tie-in to Holby City.

She is married with an adult daughter and lives in London.

Follow @pauseliveaction @DomePress

Visit pauseliveaction.wordpress.com

Buy Half A World Away

About the Book

Charming and talented Alex dreams of becoming a professional saxophonist while working long hours in the family bakery. Detlef, lonely, repressed, and a small-time Stasi informer, develops an obsessive love for him. But Alex only has eyes for Nicky, an English woman visiting East Berlin as an au pair.

With no natural outlet for his feelings, Detlef’s passion becomes destructive, his need for approval enmeshed with the latent homophobia of the regime. As Alex’s band becomes more successful, he moves closer to influences considered subversive by a state that has eyes and ears everywhere, and Detlef’s passions threaten to endanger all of them.

Guest Post by Sue Haasler

Titles for books

I never find it easy to come up with titles for my books, so I’ve almost always used song titles that resonate with what the story is about. Previously I’ve used two Cyndi Lauper songs (‘Time After Time’ and ‘True Colours’), and my next book will be ‘Another Girl’ – a song by The Beatles, as it’s set in the swinging sixties.

‘Half A World Away’ is a song by REM from their album Out Of Time, which came out a few years after the events of the book. It’s a song I strongly associate with the period when I would often visit my boyfriend (now my husband) in Berlin, where he was a student. He was born and brought up in East Berlin, so even though it was after German reunification it was mainly the eastern part of the city that I got to know. Whenever I hear that REM song it reminds me of Berlin.

East Germany in 1987, the time that the book is mainly set, was half a world away from life in Britain or even West Germany – the same, but distinctly different. Young people were interested in the same things as young people anywhere – music, clothes, sex – but their choices and attitudes were shaped by a state that tried to impose order on its citizens through censorship, regulation and by encouraging them to report any transgressions. There are definitely shades of Orwell’s ‘1984’ in the way that the characters in the book find themselves in trouble with the authorities for behaviour that would be completely innocent anywhere else. The main character, Alex, goes on a journey in his attitude to the country he’s known all his life:

“From the airport over there [in West Berlin], you were allowed to go anywhere in the world: New York, New Orleans, Paris, London. No one got sent to prison for saying their government was corrupt or wrong; you could say what you wanted, even write books full of controversial ideas without anyone saying you were a traitor to the state. You could listen to music without being arrested. You could love anyone you wanted to.”


Haasler couldn’t be more right about the now ex-East Germany being half a world away. If you weren’t there to experience it, it is extremely hard to fathom how an entire country, and of course Berlin for example, could be split in half as if there were a river of molten lava flowing between the two sides.

Half a World Away takes place in 1987, a mere two years or so before the fall of The Wall. The years after World War II are actually much more fascinating and troubling, as the plan to divide Germany between the Allies slowly took on an appearance, and the country was split into two separate ones. Even after many decades of becoming one country again there will be an occasional reference made to the division and the difference between the people from the East or the West. One of the favourite terms for the GDR (DDR as it was known in Germany) used by West Germans was, and often still is, Dunkel Deutschland (Dark Germany). Even after so many years the rift still emerges now and again, more so because the GDR was ruled by such an oppressive and strict regime.

The love story between Alex and Nicky is one that would have been frowned upon, and although Haasler describes the minutiae reporting of Detlef very well, in the confines of this story it sometimes appears to be part of his own obsession. However the people in the GDR were encouraged to spy and report on their fellow countrymen and women in this way. A Big Brother society where no deviation from the state rules or plans were allowed. Letters from and to the West were considered inflammatory. Family, lovers, friends and colleagues spied on each other to keep themselves free of suspicion.

The Stasi files can be accessed in Berlin, and quite a few people have requested permission to see who reported whom or why their loved ones or they themselves ended up in prisons or being punished. The State Security Service (Staatssicherheitsdienst, SSD) had many things in common with the previous German regime, a mixture of Gestapo meets KGB.

The author describes the isolation and the lack of development or opportunities for the younger generations really well. Dreams and expectations are weighed up against loyalty and a sense of duty, as opposed to the free thinking minds and paths in life on the other side of Germany. Detlef has trouble adjusting his natural desires to the expectations of the dictatorship he lives in. His choices are rationalised by the rules he is governed by.

Haasler does a fantastic job of balancing the two sides of the coin, and why that broken coin needed to be glued back together. The separation is a distant memory, and yet the consequences are still felt within the country and its people to this day. The author draws an interesting parallel between the political and romantic fallout of this historical separation of mind, matter and state. Simultaneously she keeps the story light-hearted, authentic and free of any political opinions. A riveting read, and a bold combination of love and history.

Buy Half a World Away at Amazon Uk  (Kindle) or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Pre-order Buy Half A World Away (Paperback) Pub. Date 12th April 2018 by Dome Press.