The 2019 Debut


LINDSAY CLARKE – prize-winning author of The Chymical Wedding


Some animals are still more equal than others

The Iron Bird by Robert Woodshaw (Cover)

Cover design: Mecob


Forget pigs and carthorses and bring on the Big Beasts, because Animal Farm has been reimagined. This time it’s the creatures in the zoo that have decided to take back control. And instead of a parable about the evils of communism, the fable is the life of Margaret Thatcher.

It is 2010 and Baroness Thatcher (a lappet-faced vulture) is losing it. And so she is an unreliable narrator: grand, uncompromising, deluded. But before she drops off her perch, it’s time to set the record straight. What turned a grocer’s daughter from Grantham into the most powerful woman in the world? What put all that infamous iron into her soul?

And it’s also time to take a satirical swipe at other, more recent Prime Ministers. Who is the battle-scarred rhino caught in the glare of the spotlights? And why does he agree with Nick? What animal is David Cameron? And why would Lady Thatcher want to inspect some organ that has been inserted into the mouth of a pig?

The idea is irresistible, the execution brilliant.

David Brewerton (Financial Journalist of the Year)

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Love her or loath her, there’s no escaping the Iron Lady’s iconic status as the architect of modern Britain. Rich or poor? Remain or Leave? This is still a divided nation.

Yet as Orwell’s biographer, D J Taylor, has pointed out

If social historians are just beginning to get to grips with the grocer’s daughter from Grantham (then) novelists still lag far behind.

The Iron Bird sets out to redress this imbalance. Of course, it isn’t the first time that Thatcher has appeared in the pages of fiction – she danced into Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty, she toddled into a short story by Hilary Mantel – but she has never been the protagonist before. Isn’t it about time that she gave herself a good preen, sharpened the gutting blade on the tip of her beak and stepped up to take on the leading role in a novel?

Disrespectful? Perhaps. But despite a generous coat of irreverent humour, this isn’t an exercise in malice. On the contrary, as Richard T Kelly recently observed

…all fiction begins in empathy, and a politician is a complex human creature, just like you and me.

Even one that has been transformed into a bird of prey.

Lappet-faced vulture, photograph: Bee Elle



Although The Iron Bird is available in paperback, perhaps the ebook has the edge, because it contains a series of links allowing you to explore the allegory. Some of these lead to secret pages, hidden deep in the coding of this site. Others reach out across the internet and curate its content. Each has been chosen to add something meaningful to the reading experience. And sometimes raise a smile.

For example, in one episode in the novel, Baroness Thatcher is under the delusion that Cameron intends to offer her a role in his Cabinet – a chance to finish the ‘great work’ she started. “Yes, that’s right, dear,” she says, struggling to suppress her excitement, “The Mummy Returns.” This is the link:

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Who am I? Well, I was brought up in Bristol, and I studied English and Drama at the University of London – an experience that led to a brief career in casting, and credits on several films, including Wonderland (1999) and 24 Hour Party People (2002). That said, come the mid 2000s, I realised I could no longer ignore an idea I’d been nurturing for a novel about Margaret Thatcher, so I retreated to a small town in the foothills of the Italian Alps, took up a teaching position at a local secondary school, and put pen to paper. I still divide my time between the UK and Italy, where I have an Italian civil partner and a pigeon-infested restoration project. The Iron Bird is my first novel.

  • Proud to be Bristolian... https://t.co/DX0bMAtOnT
    Robert Woodshaw about 10 days ago
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    Robert Woodshaw about 12 days ago
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    Robert Woodshaw about 19 days ago
  • RT @queenchristina_: My God. The double think amongst cabinet ministers now is truly sinister. This is like North Korea. They will tell any…
    Robert Woodshaw about 21 days ago
  • RT @JonnyGeller: It’s Nicholas Winton’s birth date today and in case there is anyone who hasn’t seen this greatest clip in history of telev…
    Robert Woodshaw about 29 days ago
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    Robert Woodshaw about 34 days ago
  • RT @Writerer: I knew llamas might save us all... https://t.co/djGglZLB5f
    Robert Woodshaw about 41 days ago
  • RT @shahmiruk: BREAKING: Government contracts have been awarded to an AI firm that was integral to the Vote Leave campaign. The gravity of…
    Robert Woodshaw about 43 days ago
  • RT @baranskithings: christine baranski, meryl streep and @AudraEqualityMc being absolute legends #Sondheim90Concert https://t.co/hSbVVh3xMr
    Robert Woodshaw about 51 days ago
  • RT @charliemackesy: For my tired nurse friend Emma on a Covid-19 ward, and to everyone on the front line - no words to express the gratitud…
    Robert Woodshaw about 53 days ago
  • RT @carolecadwalla: 👏👏👏 What incredible guts & bravery from @meenalsworld - a heavily pregnant doctor who staged a silent protest outside D…
    Robert Woodshaw about 59 days ago
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  • Tired of social distancing? Do it like an animal... https://t.co/T5R5EQAh2a
    Robert Woodshaw about 63 days ago
  • RT @BrethertonWords: Just in case anyone might enjoy this I’ve started recording some readings from my #novel Bone Lines and he is the firs…
    Robert Woodshaw about 77 days ago
  • Oh, and on the subject of (fake) boars, if you fancy some entertaining reading during the lockdown, check out the p… https://t.co/WY4wxh05Nx
    Robert Woodshaw about 78 days ago
  • I’ve just been informed that this was shot in Liguria some time ago, not recently in Bergamo, as I was told. When t… https://t.co/8i9JwYWLqC
    Robert Woodshaw about 78 days ago
  • @WeCopyYouDown @afiabegum38 @Channel4 I remember that. What's astonishing is how quickly it's happening.
    Robert Woodshaw about 78 days ago
  • On a positive note, at least nature is returning to our cities. This is from Bergamo, Italy... https://t.co/VvUUPt3WZg
    Robert Woodshaw about 79 days ago

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