‘Write’ honourable members – academics examine politicians’ novels

The reasons why politicians pen novels come under the spotlight in research from University of Wolverhampton academics.

Dr Aidan Byrne and Dr Nicola Allen are delving into this unusual but distinctive genre and whether it reflects a loss of faith in the democratic process. 

Their work highlights issues such as plot, characterisation, marketing, cover design and adaptation to see if politicians’ novels are a barometer of political moods.

Dr Byrne said: “We’re examining whether the dominance of this sub-genre indicates that even politicians are disenchanted with the boring nature of democratic politics and fantasise about a politics of personal charisma and ruthlessness.

“We’re also discussing whether there’s a difference between the kind of work produced by politicians from different parties, and examining the production, marketing and consumption of their work.”

The research covers the era of professional politicians, which begins in the early 20th Century, and looks at the relationship between their chosen literary forms and their personal politics.

Amongst the most famous politician authors examined are Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton South West MP) who translated Latin poetry, Winston Churchill who wrote a novel, Chris Mullins who wrote A Very British Coup about a leftwing Labour Prime Minister forced out by the secret services and the Americans. They have also looked at Michael Dobbs, who penned House of Cards, Jeffrey Archer, Nigel West (spy thrillers), Norman Tebbit, Nadine Dorries and Iain Duncan Smith. 

“We feel that the common generic and structural characteristics of politicians’ novels convey a profound and widespread loss of faith in the democratic process amongst the political classes, including those elected to represent us,” said Dr Byrne.

The research is ongoing and will include interviews with politicians, publishers and readers to explore the conditions of commissioning, writing, publishing and consuming these texts.

Dr Byrne and Dr Allen will present on the topic at the Cheltenham Festival on October 10: http://www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/literature/whats-on/2015/write-honourable-members/.

They will be part of a panel which will include Michael Dobbs (House of Cards), Anne McElvoy (deputy editor of The Economist) and Robbie Millen (former TLS editor). The event is supported by the Art and Humanities Research Council.

ENDS

For media inquiries, or to arrange an interview with Dr Byrne, please contact Emma Pugh in the media relations office on 01902 322736.

 
 

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