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)





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 cast as 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, then?

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:



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.

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More events planned for spring 2020. Details coming soon.


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