Concocting a Real Thriller

Journalist and #BeKindOnline supremo, Simon Hedges, gives us a tantalising peek at his latest page turner.

ARTS OPINION

Simon Hedges

1/13/2022 6 min read

In Robert Peston’s debut novel The Whistleblower, a world-weary lobby journalist attempts to uncover secrets that go right to the top of Britain’s government. Romance and action ensue. In Tom Watson’s debut novel The House, a world-weary lobby journalist attempts to uncover secrets that go right to the top of Britain’s government. Romance and action ensue, especially the romance, probably, I don’t actually know because I don’t have time to look up the synopsis on amazon or whatever because I’m writing this now. A recent survey of Bazake readers has revealed that 97% of men over 45 with a media profile are either concocting a thriller or have already done so. But what do all these tomes have in common? Well, all of them are based on scenarios that the authors have completely made up, and none of the events within even happened, apart from the sex scenes which in many cases are retold in excruciating, granular detail from memory.

I will change this embarrassing trend with my in-progress debut thriller The Orwell Fan. Everything I have written is completely 100 per cent true. So sit back, relax, and enjoy these 4 exclusive extracts below.

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“Oh my God, they’re going to kill Tony Blair!?”

“No, it’s worse than that, Simon. They’re going to keep John Smith alive.”

John Smith, the leader of the Labour Party before Blair. He had died of a heart attack in 1994 and would surely have gone on to win a landslide in the 1997 general election and become Prime Minister. Not Blair.

“But how Professor Cox? Killing someone in the past, that’s easy, a child could do it. But stopping someone from dying, how are they going to do that?”

“The activists plan on going back to the 1970s and developing a huge public education campaign on heart attack awareness. Free CPR training in every school and workplace, a defibrillator in every home, shopping centre and train station. Under this timeline of hate, Smith would be resurrected a total of 37 times and stay Prime Minister for 20 years. Blair would leave politics a broken man, Simon, a nobody. No Iraq, no accidentally creating ISIS, no making millions advising dictators.”

“Geez Louise! I need to stop them, Prof! Take me to the time portal, I need to smash up the Smith family defibrillator before it’s too late!”

                                                         ***

Another howl. This one was louder, closer. Me and the engine burst out of the train shed and into the night, soon we have reached top speed of 12 mph. The throbbing in my head has subsided to a mere twitch and I feel great, we are out of the woods now, although not literally, I can’t quite see the lights of Hedges Hall just yet. “Eat my dust motherfucker! Choke on my steam!!!” I am immediately made to look quite the fool as the smoke and steam blows into my mouth as I scream and I have a coughing fit that lasts several seconds.

There is something up ahead on the track that I can’t quite make out in the gloom, either that or too much blood has got into my eyes. Father? Martina? Adrianna? The Giant Rat of Nutting? Oh hell. Please no! It’s Sebastian the fucking wolf, snarling at me in Russian, teeth bared. I want to bail and run, but I have trust in my little red engine. I am Thomas. I am the Flying Scotsman. I am Snowpiercer. I am a fucking Pendolino you lupine piece of shit, I am…I don’t have time to think of any other famous trains because WE ARE ABOUT TO COLLIDE. I brace for a smash of fur, bones and tangled metal, an unstoppable force meets an…no, the train has been stopped easily. The huge beast has one paw on the front of the miniature train, the wheels pathetically rotating on the tracks like a circulating block of doner meat.

                                                         ***

The Hedges have had a building on this ground since the 11th Century, a plot of land given to our great ancestor Simon Le Herrison by William the Conqueror. Le Herrison was to what the records show to be a “Crawling Man”, a sort of jester or fool. After a meal, Le Herrison was called upon to wriggle under the table between the legs of the feasters, where he would be kicked, shouted at and vomited on.  I imagine it was all carried out in a spirit of good-natured medieval fun that ignorant “woke” historians of today would incorrectly call abuse, or bullying.

Here’s an interesting story. When Charles I stayed at Hedges Hall during the English Civil War he awoke one night to see the spectre of The Crawling Man scurrying around his bedroom. Terrified, the King threw his chamber pot at the apparition and heard a weak voice reply “Merci.” The pious Cromwell heard of this and became convinced the King was being haunted by one of the Devil’s imps. It might have even been the deciding factor in Charles’ eventual execution, so don’t ever say that my family have had no influence on history. Personally, I have never seen The Crawling Man, besides, as a man of science I don’t believe in ghosts. What Charles probably saw was The Giant Rat of Nutting, a legendary cryptid of north Hertfordshire that I have seen many times going through the bins near the servant’s quarters.

                                                   ***

A squirrel rustles around nearby and it triggers a memory. October 2018, me and four friends in The Pineapple, Kentish Town. Ollie, Oliver, James and Olly. We are trying to come up with a plan to stop Brexit after it is coming increasingly clear Her Majesty the Queen is not going to step in to halt proceedings. This is despite our letter writing and email campaign. Ollie suggests faking the second coming of Christ, the resulting upheaval causing people to simply forget about the result of the referendum. Oliver thinks we need to go even bigger, a mass campaign of civil disobedience including 48,000 people (representing the 48% vote for Remain) self-immolating on Oxford Street, making life a living nightmare for anyone just wanting to queue up in Pret. Olly thinks he can get hold of The Queen’s fax number. Meanwhile, James is brooding over his pint. “The problem with Brexit,” he says, “is that the whole thing is nuts.” Everything immediately clicked into place. “James, you’re a genius, haha!” I exclaimed, giving him a hug. The four of them stared at me. “Don’t you see? It’s so simple. Brexit is nuts. And what do the British public love more than anything? Cute animals! What we need is huge billboard campaign, up and down the entire southeast of England, but mainly London. Picture it lads. It’s a squirrel, there’s a speech bubble coming out of his mouth, and he’s saying ‘Brexit, it’s nuts!’”

“Hmmm, I don’t know Simon,” Says Ollie, “I like Olly’s idea about faxing a letter of protest to The Queen.”

“And I’m still going to set myself on fire in Waterstones.” Says Oliver, “right by the European travel section.”

But despite their initial reservations, I eventually won them round to my grand vision. Although, this was after the crowdfunder passed £300,000. The billboards were plastered everywhere. From the Seven Sisters Road to Stoke Newington. From Camden Town to Kentish Town our squirrel was sending out his message. Did the campaign stop Brexit? No. But did we have a laugh? Also no. James ran off with almost all of our hard-earned money and no one knows where he is.”


Nothing hits the spot after a long hard day quite like a refreshing pint of Haemorrhoid Pilsner.