Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart: A Most Haunted Man

Wee bit of exciting news. My second Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart novel, A Most Haunted Man, is now available for pre-order. The full press release is here. I greatly enjoyed writing this one, and I hope you enjoy reading it.

Blurb:

In 1977, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart suffered a shock so great that he was hospitalised. Not that he can remember what happened. Teachers found him, knocked out cold beside the obelisk on the hill. No signs of an attack. No bumps on his head, and no memory of why he lay where he fell, who he’d been with, and great chunks of his past torn from his mind.

It wasn’t like any form of amnesia described in the textbooks. The clinic discharged him back to Brendon Public School and he resumed his duties as a teacher of mathematics and rugger.

Two years later and a series of nightmares send him back to the clinic. Then come the pranks played by identical twins, his own erratic behaviour and short-term memory loss leading to a breach of the Official Secrets Act. Someone else is living in his house, driving his car, and making changes to the school he loves.

It seems that the demons haunting him prove too big for him to fight on his own.



Two years ago this month I quit my Civil Service career and began writing full-time. It’s been an interesting two years in which I moved to the Highlands from London. Plus, of course, there is the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic that started about 18 months ago.

My plan to write a short story a month, and finish a few novel projects to shop around to agents hasn’t worked out. So, I’ve eased off and done what I can. It’s not all “Covid-brain” (in my case, caused by the global zeitgeist rather than the coronavirus itself); I had a lot of built-up stress from my old job, and the grief from losing my parents and a good friend in fairly close succession. Oh, and perimenopause. The apparently never-ending perimenopause…

However, I have finished two novel manuscripts that are now awaiting decisions by publishers. In addition, I have been commissioned to write a novel, but I can’t reveal details as yet. In terms of short stories, I have had a handful of rejections for two stories (I’m resting them to review, either to rewrite or retire), have a new story going through its first submission process, and have been commissioned to write another. As with the novel, I can’t reveal details as yet on that one. Next month, my piece “Smoke and Mirrors” in Outside In Wants to Believe: 156 New Perspectives on 156 X-Files Universe Stories by 156 Writers, edited by Stacey Smith?, ATB Publishing, is released (https://www.atbpublishing.com/product-category/books/).

Not too shabby, really. All things considered.

***

I have an abiding fascination with politics. Not so much party politics — I don’t belong to any political party — but the broader flow of it. There is a lot going on globally that disturbs me, and more that angers me. There are times when despair threatens to overwhelm. I remind myself to focus on what I can do, when I can. No one person can do everything, but together we can achieve quite a bit.

Politics to do with diversity/equality/equity/social justice is what gets me going. During the last two years I have been able to read more about these areas, both from books and from social media postings by people who know their stuff. I occasionally delve into the “un-woke” streams of vitriol on Twitter, and while I block and report a lot of them, it’s useful to check out for myself just what they’re raving about.

There are a few people in powerful positions who mean well yet struggle to implement effective and long-lasting changes. They keep hitting against both institutional obstructions, and opposition from people who tenaciously hang on to their bigotry and prejudices.

It doesn’t help that the UK has a government that at best embodies many of those prejudices. The days of David Cameron extending a bit of marriage equality to same-sex partners are long over. The current Equalities Minister is reportedly anti-LGBTQIA, and the government keeps egging on “cultural wars”, importing a certain set of bigotries mostly from parts of the USA. Unsurprisingly, they are racist and anti-LGBTQIA in flavour. They have a lot in common also with the current governments in Hungary, Poland, Russia, and others.

It is difficult to distinguish the noises made from Downing Street from actual action, but inaction in at least one front of the “culture wars” is harming real people. The statistics on waiting times for trans people to access needed medical assistance to transition is shocking, and every one of those statistics is a real person suffering needlessly. It’s not the fault of Covid. As with the criminal justice system, the neglect started well before Covid hit.

Publishing has a big problem with racism, ableism, and anti-trans bigotry. So-called “cancel-culture” is an uneven playing field. Those authors who cry they are being “cancelled” from social life tend to be those with easy access to national newspapers, TV, radio, and publishing deals (even if one imprint may decline to publish their book, another will usually pick it up). The views for which they are criticised are all about dehumanising groups of people: disabled people, trans people, bisexual people, Jews, Muslims… the list is a long one.

Words have consequences. Their words lead to real harm, both intended and unintended. Dehumanising groups of people is a big step towards eliminating said groups. Horrifyingly, eugenicist ideas keep cropping up in mainstream settings and with big bucks behind them.

Those criticising the views of those crying “cancellation” often come from the marginalised and dehumanised groups, and their protests are about their rights to exist as human beings. Very few have any access to the big platforms of their opponents, and those who do are finding that access harder and harder to navigate because of the increasing numbers and types of obstacles placed in their ways.

It is really easy to feel overwhelmed by all this.

I recognise the strengths I have in coming from a country where English was my first language, of growing up in a middle class family that prided education above almost anything else, of being white, and of having relatively good health.

In my 50+ years, I have seen huge changes in making my life as a queer person easier; however, I know every single one of them is reversible. Having recently finished reading Masha Gessen’s The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, the anti-LGBTQIA playbook is scarily obvious. You might think that if you’re not LGBTQIA then you’ll be safe. Learn from history. You won’t be. As Hannah Arendt observed and argued, totalitarianism given free reign eventually destroys everyone.

There is no time for complacency. Choose what you’ll do to combat this, big or small. I still believe we can win, but we cannot just sit by and hope for the best.
© September 2021