Friday, January 17, 2020

Samson’s Syndrome

  by Ben Soton

Samson’s Syndrome by Steve Monaghan. 2017; Troubador Publishing; 210pp.
Paperback: £7.99; ISBN: 9781788033237.
Kindle: £3.99;
eISBN: 9781788032506.

This is very much a political thriller.  John Morton, a journalist on the Guardianesque newspaper The Chronicle finds himself caught up in the fascist coup in Ukraine in 2014 where a fellow journalist, Karl Waggoner, is killed in suspicious circumstances. Meanwhile a Conservative aristocrat, Sir Harold Nevin, attempts to take over the Chronicle. Morton’s desire to investigate his colleague’s death sees his eyes gradually open about the true nature of events in Ukraine and beyond.
The author uses the story to forward a progressive and anti-imperialist narrative around recent world events. This style reminds me of the novels of the great 1930s thriller writer Eric Ambler, who used the thriller genre to expose both links between finance capital and the criminal underworld, and the threat posed by fascism at the time.
Monaghan demolishes the liberal/fake-left notion of an Orange Revolution, arguing that it was not simply a case of far-right groups joining an otherwise peaceful protest but being the main force behind the overthrow of the Ukrainian government.
Some pro-imperialist commentators like to portray Russia as the aggressor in this conflict – in actual fact she played a purely defensive role. Russia has only provided limited support for the anti-fascist people’s republics in eastern Ukraine and the return of Crimea was perfectly legal; were this not the case why did Ukraine not refer the matter to the International Court?
The author takes time to look at the role of the European Union  in the conflict; further reasons for pro-EU types to hang their heads in shame.
The novel is equally an attack on what the author calls the “Corporate Media”, which is able to paint black as white and white as black.  Monaghan explains how large media organisations do more to censor information than to provide it, in order to prevent opposition to conflict as was the case of Vietnam.
He also covers the poor treatment of loyal employees through the character of Shirley Bould, who has worked on the Chronicle for years and who may have trouble finding future employment. Nonetheless, Shirley, the classic underdog figure, finds a role within the story.
But the author’s attempt to use a novel to espouse progressive politics lacks the subtlety of Ambler. This is referred to as ‘Trojan Horse’ fiction. Nevertheless he should be commended for it, although I can hear less progressive critics calling it a piece of Stalinist propaganda. This is both the book’s greatest strength as well as a possible weakness. I urge readers to purchase this novel, which is available on Amazon, or request it at your local library.

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