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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 November, 2003, 11:38 GMT
IDS novel is strangely compelling

By Ben Davies
BBC News Online political staff

Ousted Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith has launched a new career as a novelist.

Conspiracy, double dealing, repeated assassination, political intrigue. The recent history of the Tory Party?

Actually no - it is the new thriller by Iain Duncan Smith and, like him, it is out on Thursday.

Iain Duncan Smith
Iain Duncan Smith has bid farewell to the Tory leadership
In less than a week, Mr Duncan Smith has gone from the leader of the opposition to published author of an action adventure. It was almost seamless.

The Devil's Tune has it all: a second world war heist, corrupt Democrat presidential candidates, a beautiful and successful heiress, family tragedy and a slightly loony art dealer from Chelsea who becomes entangled in a really complicated conspiracy.

It is boys' own stuff and in many ways a perfect page-turner for a holiday - if you are not a regular reader.

If you are a bookworm then it's probably worth a look just because it will have you laughing out loud.

Mr Duncan Smith has proved that everybody has a novel in them.

Unfortunately he has also proved that in some cases that is exactly where the novel should stay.

Iain Duncan Smith
He admitted his novel is not a Booker winner
Apparently written before he succeeded William Hague, it feels as though this was a book rushed out to capitalise on the current media interest in the deposed Tory leader.

The unfortunate effect is that while on one page a murder victim is the son of a cabinet minister, by the next he's transformed into the nephew. And the characterisation leaves much to be desired.

President Carson - fighting for his political life and renomination as Democratic White House hopeful - has some secrets in his past.

A controversial land deal, a bit of philandering under his belt and a love of Havana cigars, he sounds like a thinly disguised pastiche of President Clinton.

Dialogue between Carson and his White House advisers has uncanny similarities to dialogue in the TV series West Wing.

Iain Duncan Smith
Fresh pastures beckon for IDS' career
A grizzled New York cop could have stepped straight out of NYPD Blue and an Irish character with a dodgy reputation in London's art world is a woeful stereotype who says "craic" far too much.

There is also the Scottish police detective whose rough edges and straight talking have held him back in what could have been a glittering career and a grizzled, ageing hack on the Washington Post who can't quite bring himself to retire.

The hero, John Grande, is a posh loner, a failed businessman, and still in mourning for his wife and young son who were wiped out in a hit and run.

In a bid to save his ailing business he agrees to participate in an art deal that he knows is totally dodgy and then everyone he meets seems to start dying - well, with the exception of ravishing heiress and love interest Laura Buckley.

Michael Howard
Michael Howard is expected to replace IDS
Reading this book, there are some sentences that will just have you scratching your head.

For example: "The flight attendant bent down, smiling at him with one of those smiles with which they apply their make-up."

Others lines read as though this were a deliberate spoof. You could almost see it being turned into a TV drama starring the old Comic Strip team.

But some moments of dialogue are curiously poignant given the way Mr Duncan Smith has been treated of late.

You wonder if he will have a wry smile on his face when he now re-reads the warning issued by the wife of an ageing politician who is planning to run for president.

"I don't hate politics. I hate what it's done to you over the years. It's twisted you, eaten you up."


The conclusion of the book is a bloody showdown with the two heroes both discovering something about their fathers.

Hers is an evil, murderous conspirator. His is his uncle.

Despite everything, however, this is a strangely compelling read even with all the poorly constructed clichés.

Mr Duncan Smith, interviewed about his book earlier this week, was disarmingly frank, readily conceding it wasn't a Booker winner.

And, unfortunately, it does seem the Devil's Tune is more a product of determination than it is of literary talent.

IDS: My near death experience
03 Nov 03  |  Politics
Timeline: Duncan Smith's leadership
30 Oct 03  |  Politics

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