Robert Harris (Arrow)

Quite by chance, I was about two-thirds through this novel when the film director Roman Polanski was arrested on a historical rape charge. He had just completed shooting the big budget film version of The Ghost. It's likely that Polanski will be doing jail time in the not too distant future so this may possibly be his last film. Polanski is 76.

Anyway this is my excuse for reviewing a novel that was first published in 2007, although the paperback edition didn't appear until last year.

I liked Harris's other political thrillers - Fatherland, Enigma and Archangel - and although I don't think The Ghost is quite as strong as those novels, its still a good read. Harris is a clever writer who is at ease with the conventions of the commercial thriller.

What makes The Ghost interesting that the central character, former British Prime Minster Adam Lang - is clearly Tony Blair by any other name.

This allows Harris to take a fair number of swipes at a former Labour Prime Minister he obviously loathes - particularly his role in sending the British military into Iraq, his subservience to the Bush administration and his role in the illegal imprisonment and torture of so-called 'terrorist suspects'. Harris thinks that Blair should be charged with war crimes.

Says one character: 'There was a time when princes taking their countries to war were supposed to risk their live sin battle - you know, lead by example. Now they travel around in bomb proof cars with armed bodyguards and make fortunes thousands of miles away , while the rest of us are stuck with the consequences of their actions.'

Harris condemns Blair for allowing the Bush administration to dictate British foreign policy and, in this novel at least, the CIA were closer to the seat of British political power than anyone knew. As this is the trademark Harris 'surprise twist', I will say no more.

As an aside Harris also fires a few salvoes at the publishing industry - which like most of the corporate media -is continuing its descent to new levels of dumbness.

Says a disillusioned editor: 'Tell me, when did it become fashionable to be stupid? That's the thing I really don't understand. the Cult of the Idiot. The Elevation of the Moron. Our two biggest-selling novelists - the actress with the big tits and ex-army psycho - have never written a word of fiction, did you know that?'

I'm writing this review a few days after it was reported that Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska, has 'completed' her memoirs just four months after she signed a publishing contract. She didn't write a word of her 'memoirs' - it was all 'ghosted' for her by some hired hack.

'Governor Palin has been unbelievably conscientious and hands-on at every stage, investing herself deeply and passionately in this project," Jonathan Burnham, of Harper Collins told the media this week.

Unbelievably the 'autobiography' is already at the top of the US bestseller lists on the strength of advance sales.

'The Cult of the Idiot'? You bet!


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