Zeitgeist – the spirit of the time. Some novels are perennial and treasured, touching something within all of us so that we read them time and again The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird. As history has an unnerving way of repeating itself, the distant past can suddenly have relevance.
My brother retired MP, author and diarist, Chris Mullin, had eventual success with A Very British Coup published in 1982. I’m looking now at the inside of the flyleaf now and I quote, ‘...And who poses the greatest threat to democracy? Is it the Trotskyists and Marxists who are alleged to have infiltrated the Labour Party? Or is it the real threat to the democracy to be found in the secret recesses of Whitehall bureaucracy; in the drawing rooms of the newspaper owner, and in the Oval office of the White House?’ Add ‘social media’ to ‘newspaper owner’ and add ‘Russia’ to ‘Whitehall’ and there you have it... contemporary relevance.
His novel didn’t have a particularly promising start in life, the print runs were short, the publishers, and there were several, tardy and Chris had to do a lot of footwork to get it noticed at all. However, it went on to become a highly successful TV series which garnered awards (an Emmy) and acclaim. The phrase ‘A Very British Coup’ turns up all the time in the press and on television; it is a book title that has become part of the lexicon of political comment in this country. Interest has been renewed since the election to the Labour party leadership of Jeremy Corbin and a sequel The Friends of Harry Perkins is due out shortly. This is remarkable; not least as I recall the author Rose Tremain commenting that the life of a novel is far shorter these days.
On February 25th 2019 I find that my novel Gene Genie is relevant again. I’m driving, Woman’s Hour is on the radio and the playwright Maud Dromgoole and Dr Yuliya Hilevych are being interviewed about her play ‘Mary’s Babies’ opening at the Germain Street Theatre in London. In the nineteen thirties Mary Barton and her husband Bertold Weisner started a fertility clinic, at first Mary used the brother of the infertile as donors literally keeping it in the family! It often resulted in family breakdown; soon her husband Bertold was the donor.
In 1999 I found a paragraph in a newspaper, pressure from the parents of donor children was building to allow the ‘social’ father’s name to appear on the child’s birth certificate. This interested me on two counts: firstly, in a legal document falsification of a birth certificate was punishable by a long prison term; and secondly it had never occurred to me that parents would not tell their children about the circumstances of their conception. Especially at a time when adoption files were being opened up as society recognised the damage that secrecy and identity issues caused. Gene Genie had a troubled birth the legendary agent at Curtis Brown who took me left, e-books had yet to arrive, in the end I went with a fledgling press with no publicity budget. Despite this it sold reasonably well and it still produces modest royalties. It did not though fulfil its early promise, no TV series, no best seller lists. I now think if Davina and Long Lost Family had been broadcasting it would have taken off. Gene Genie was simply ahead of its time. When the rights reverted to me, I was able to publish on Kindle and the good thing about e-books is they’re always out there and when you write another novel that does become a best seller then you will likely find a readership for the one that didn’t take off.
Luck definitely plays a part in publishing success, but then so does dogged determination and fortunately I have that in spades; it’s in my genes.
Follow this link for more information on Chris http://www.chrismullinexmp.com/
The Friends of Harry Perkins is out on 28th March and can be pre-ordered by following this link
Follow this link to download your copy of Gene Genie