Peter Mandelson planned Labour’s masterly election campaign of 2010. Here is an excerpt from a long email to party supporters explaining its central message. (My comments as recipient at the time).
‘In all this we should remember the power of a clear, consistent, disciplined message from being on your side, whose side? standing up for hardworking families and the public’s deep fear of cuts in vital public services. Of course they hate the idea of waste and inefficiency. This is not a clear message at all but deeply confused. Are “you” and “hardworking families” and “the public” three different sets of people? And who are “they?” And we should not shy away from explaining what we are doing to make savings.’
In same email, he praised Gordon Brown’s granite-like resilience, although the one thing granite cannot do is to bounce back into shape. He said that the Tories had underlined Labour’s central plank, a difficult subterranean task. He also claimed in the same sentence that the economy was on the road to recovery but that the Tories would pull the rug from under it.
Letter to Four Communications, organizers of the Bollinger Everyman PG Wodehouse Award
Thank you for informing me that this year’s P G Wodehouse Prize for comic fiction is not open to self-published books.
This letter is a plea for this policy to be reconsidered. I would be most grateful if you could share it with any relevant colleagues. I am not making the plea on my own account. Whatever its result, I shall not submit my novel The Prisoner Of Rubato Towers. I make it for writers of comic fiction in general, especially those as yet unknown.
The present policy makes an unwarranted assumption that a self-published book is incapable of inspiring the same spontaneous laughter as P G Wodehouse. There are many reasons today why fine comic writers may feel compelled to bear the costs and risks of publishing their own work. The most obvious is lack of opportunity. The young P G W was able to flex his comic muscles in many different outlets, not only in books and magazines but also in the theatre. Nothing like them is available to his modern counterparts, in terms of number or variety. For any unknown writer, it has grown harder and harder to find publishers (or agents) who are even willing to look at unsolicited submissions.
I had a special motive for self-publishing my novel. Apart from raising English comic prose to heights not attempted, let alone achieved, since the Master, I wanted it to play a role in the overthrow of Donald Trump. It had to be published on my timetable not another publisher’s schedule, while it still might influence the American election. I have been gratified to hear from American readers that some of its material did indeed help Joe Biden to gain small majorities in key states.
Even without the special Trump factor, impatience might have driven me to publish it myself. Compared to the Master’s heyday, it now takes an interminable time to get rejected. The planet Neptune completes a good section of its orbit in the time between submission of one’s manuscript and response. As a writer of advancing years, with no guarantee of the Master’s productive longevity, I wanted to get my book out while I still had the health and strength to meet the anticipated global demand for sequels.
The present prize policy is inevitably biased towards established writers. That is not to say that they are undeserving. But it would mean much more to an unknown one. The discovery of a new P G Wodehouse would make the prize far more valuable to literature. It would also generate a much bigger media story for the benefit of its sponsor, Bollinger, to whom I am copying this letter.
I therefore urge you again to give some sort of a chance for a self-published comic novel to win this award. If the judges fear being swamped with self-published tomes, you might invite such authors to submit a short synopsis of their work and an extract or extracts of maximum length, and see if the judges want to call in any of them for a full reading.
I hope it would not be too late to do this in the current year. If not, perhaps it could be considered for the next one. I intend to write a tragic novel this year, so would not expect to submit anything myself in 2022, unless, like the death of Little Nell, it should prove irresistibly comic on completion.
The speech I offered Joe Biden.
“My fellow Americans. I am now your President. I thank all those who voted for me or against me. I thank the officials and volunteers who in conditions of unprecedented difficulty gave them the means to do so. They are truly the army of American democracy. They allowed us again to shine our values to the world. It is my solemn duty to govern for all Americans, and this I will fulfil. To those who voted for me I will keep my promises, to those who voted against me I will try to give you also a better life. I will respect your right to disagree with me, asking only that you do this with respect for truth and the law and the rights of others. That is the American way. We now have huge tasks to achieve in a short space. Let us all get to work. God bless America, God protect our troops.”
That would have been 112 words shorter than the Gettysburg address and set up nicely his blizzard of executive orders. Within those and the associated briefing he might have included one cute American wildlife species whose habitat would be saved.
Richard Heller is an author, journalist, screenwriter and book editor. He has published fiction and non-fiction, journalism, drama and poetry ever since.
He worked for many years for senior figures in British politics. He also reported and analysed six American Presidential elections.
From 1987 to 1993 he was on the political and feature staff of The Mail On Sunday newspaper: his roles included responsibility for its political diary and for its use of opinion polls. He was also its main non-fiction book reviewer. He was regularly called on to write “explainer” pieces on complex subjects. Turning freelance in 1993, he continued to serve the newspaper as a humorous and satirical columnist, a role he also fulfilled at The Times.
For over twenty years he was associated with various senior Labour Members of Parliament. From 1981 to 1983 he was chief of staff for Rt Hon Rt Hon Denis Healey MP and helped him to retain the Deputy Leadership of the Labour party in 1981 – an event which saved it from extinction. He also assisted him to create and present Labour’s international policies. From 1985 to 1987 he was chief of staff for Rt Hon Gerald Kaufman MP, then Shadow Home Secretary, helping him to create and present radical Labour policies on crime and law and order.
He also worked in the movie business, in England as a story analyst for Sir Richard Attenborough, and in Hollywood in a wide variety of projects including writing dialogue for a forthcoming motion picture called Cycle Sluts Versus The Zombie Ghouls.
In 1996 he was the runner-up in BBC Television’s Mastermind, an erudite quiz show, answering questions on President Harry Truman, British Politics Between The Wars, and Sir Gary Sobers. He was again a finalist in the 2008 series, answering questions on WC Fields, The Bonaparte dynasty and the Rodgers and Hart Songbook.
From 1971 to 1981 he had a successful career in the UK home civil service.
Born in New York, he spent his early life in the United States and then Mexico, before moving as a six-year-old with his family to London. He was educated in England at Repton School and Balliol College, Oxford, where he gained a second-class degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics. He also wrote a great deal of comic drama and revue and composed many song lyrics.
He has played cricket for many different teams in over twenty countries for over sixty years, and continues to do so, although now in the twilight of a career which never really had a dawn, as a slow-medium bowler who moves the ball both ways off the bat. He also enjoys playing the piano badly.
By Richard Heller
High Impact Speeches 2002 – still in use worldwide as a manual for writing and delivering speeches
White On Green 2016 (with Peter Oborne) – a celebration of the drama of Pakistan cricket. Runner-up MCC/Cricket Society Book of the Year. Contributor and editor for Peter Oborne on Wounded Tiger 2014, a full history of Pakistan cricket: Wisden Book of the Year 2015.
A Tale Of Ten Wickets 1995, republished 2007 and 2014 – series of stories about members of a weekend team playing a cricket match. Sequel The Network published in 2008, initially as online serial. The same characters recur over a decade later, but this is principally a coming-of-age novel about a young cricketer. He is having a bleak life at the start, but he keeps true to his faith in cricket and it makes all his dreams come true.
The Prisoner Of Rubato Towers 2020 – an increasingly crazed account of a writer’s life in lockdown London, shared with a literary mouse, a poetic cockroach and a bridge-playing goldfish, with surprising intimate glimpses of famous people.
The Importance Of Not Being Earnest 2014 – comic fantasy about the literary genius Luke Upward. Forgotten today, but his belles-lettres were once the dernier cri of the avant-garde of the nouvelle vague.
Membear Of Parliament 2007 – story of the first teddy bear to become a British MP
The Speculator: romantic comedy, set in London in the 1980s, based on his own novel. Optioned.
Love In A Spin: short comedy, about a man who falls in love at first sight with a launderette lady, and whose life becomes an obsessive quest for laundry. Filmed by young director, shown at festival at Exeter University,
Your Very Own Ricky Rubato: romantic comedy, set in present-day USA. Optioned.
Second Innings drama set in Pakistan, combining stories of movie-making and cricket, due to be made in Pakistan in 2019/2020 before Covid.
Slackerzzz (in progress). Two young slackers are tired of the constant nagging by their families to get off their couches and find a job or an education. They decide to set up a business hiring out slackers for jobs for which they are ideal (such as, obviously, testing couches.) It thrives, and they end up working far harder than if they had taken a conventional job. But in the happy ending: as joint CEOs of the giant Slackerzz Corporation they run the business strategically from their original couches, while hiring others to deal with the “numbers and all that boring stuff.”
Waiting For Gordo – bleak existential drama of backbench life in the Labour Party, commissioned by BBC Radio Four, performed at Labour Party Conference 2005.
204 The School House Pages Walk
London SE1 4HG
Telephone +44 (0)7796 174752
twas the night before christmas and in the big house
the last creature stirring was mortimer mouse
devising some uplifting sentiments new
to fill up his masterpiece keep squeaking through
the book that will soon be the talk of the town
when published next year some time by little brown
his secret reason for keeping awake
was trusting that santa claus wasnt a fake
a message to santa hed sent up the flue
asking for camembert and danish blue
he knew well that santa faced billions of pleas
but hoped he could drop in some small bits of cheese
for hours poor mortimer paced in the dark
as even the foxes slept on in the park
screechless at last in the moons pallid light
their usual sex orgy stilled for this night
one thought beat on mortimers soul like a drum
had he been too naughty for santa to come
at last he could hear a faint noise on the roof
he tried to believe that it might be a hoof
he pinned back his ears and strained to hear more
but just then a note was pushed under his door
it said owing to factors beyond my control
i cannot deliver now to your mousehole
the new rule of six is in force for this year
and ive had to furlough four of my deer
ive no bloody dancer and no bloody vixen
and no takeout donner and no bloody blitzen
with four missing reindeer i havent the speed
to visit each household and drop what they need
if you give me a name i will certainly labour
to leave your request with a suitable neighbour
the same message appeared under millions of doors
all signed yours regretfully mister s claus
poor mortimer sniffled but did not repine
he took up his pen and wrote a new line
of uplifting thought for his uplifting book
he stiffened his sinews and told himself look
things could be much worse when the times are like these
if santa cant visit ill make my own cheese
and this is what mortimer wrote with a smile
the queen might well take certain tips from his style
the sky may be dark but it still is the sky
and its waiting there for you if you choose to fly
so soar like an eagle and dont be a grouse
signed yours very truly
full version of article published in the Yorkshire Post (England) November 5. 2020
As I write these lines, it appears that a clear majority of the American people have chosen Joe Biden as their next President. That does not mean that they will get him. His hopes of an unequivocal majority in the Electoral College have disappeared. Even if he ekes one out from the big swing states yet to declare, including Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Donald Trump will now have the opportunity to carry out his intention of refusing to accept the result.
He has signalled this for a long time, by spurious claims that the Democrats have used postal ballots and early voting for large-scale fraud. Voter fraud is virtually unknown in modern American elections: only a handful of cases have been prosecuted in the last 20 years from an electorate of over 200 million. Trump and his supporters have prepared a barrage of lawsuits to object to unfavourable declarations of results in counties and states, and are ready to appeal them to his newly-packed Supreme Court. Some of his extreme supporters have also threatened force to prevent a “stolen election” (stolen from him, of course, not by him.)
These lawsuits will be the climax of two decades of “voter suppression” by the Republican party, and would follow no fewer than forty Republican lawsuits before the election which were all designed to make it harder to vote. The party has become more and more ingenious in denying entire groups of likely opponents, particularly ethnic minority people, the means to vote conveniently or safely or even at all. Some of the means used to achieve this might embarrass election officials in Belarus. In Florida one elderly black lady found that she had been disqualified in this election for an offence she had committed 43 years ago.
Trump’s lawsuits would plunge his country into a dark chasm of uncertainty, leave them without an effective government as the Covid pandemic continues to rage and give another battering to the American economy and the world’s. The election result would then be determined by provisions of baffling uncertainty which have not been used since the nineteenth century. The Twelfth Amendment to the constitution might come into play. The President would be chosen by the House of Representatives – but not the full body, controlled by the Democrats, instead by one representative from each state delegation. Small Republican states are over-represented in the House, and the Twelfth Amendment would allow 26 people to vote for Trump and set aside the 70 million or so who voted for Biden.
Worse still, Trump’s Supreme Court judges might do their duty by their patron and order the acceptance in the Electoral College of delegations committed to Trump rather than Biden in the disputed states. That would reduce Trump’s electorate from 26 to six.
Either of these nightmare scenarios is likely to plunge the United States into protracted civil strife – which Trump and his vigilante supporters would relish and foment. Resistance to Trump clinging to power could take many forms, lawful or not, and already some communities and whole states have “war-gamed” actual secession from the United States. One idea for non-violent resistance could prove especially popular: a tax rebellion. These have a long history since the American Revolution itself. Democrat voters unfairly robbed of their vote would pay no Federal tax at all (“no taxation without representation”) while others in the majority deprived through Trump’s manoeuvres would cap their contribution to $750 – what he paid in his last year before becoming President.
Even without the nightmare scenarios and their aftermath, Trump has already trashed American democracy by his spurious attacks on its processes, reliance on methods which deny basic rights to likely opponents, and flirtation with violent groups.
This is a loss not just to the United States but to all the democracies in the world, which are facing unprecedented challenges from tyrannical régimes and extremist non-state actors. Free and fair elections, in which the losers accept the will of the majority, are an immense political and ideological bulwark against these enemies. Trump has no right to devalue that asset and allow them to claim that democracy is a sham. A Trump second term would give new opportunities for subversion, lawbreaking and even murder overseas by his supporter, Vladimir Putin. Worse still, it would encourage China to attack democracy wherever it stands in its way, in Hong Kong or Taiwan or anywhere else. Both Russian and Chinese state media have openly mocked the election.
America when it really was great (before Trump) was memorably described as “a shining city on a hill”. Trump is turning it into a stinking sewer in a hole. Biden may not have been an ideal candidate (although he was always the Democrat whom Trump most wanted to eliminate as a challenger). If he does become President he may not be a very effective one, particularly since the Democrats seem to have failed to take control of the Senate. But Biden is at least aware of his responsibilities to democracy itself. The world would see a Presidency that respects the rights of opponents and governs with a sense of responsibility towards them as well to its supporters.
I was born in the United States and have family and friends there. I have lived and worked there and reported or analysed six of its elections. If Donald Trump obtains a second term of office after his conduct in this campaign I do not expect to see again in my lifetime the American democracy I believe in.
Four years that you’ve been lying
But soon you will be crying and crying
For you (oo-who? You-oo-hoo!)
Four years that you’ve been cheating
But now you’re gonna take a beating
Poor you (oo-who? You-oo-hoo!)
You thought you were a great big man
You’re just a worm
You face the sack
Not coming back
No, no, no, not a second term.
You know you’ve been a failure
And now there’s nobody to fix it and bail ya
Poor you (oo-who? You-oo-hoo!)
You thought you were a great big man
But now you squirm
You face the sack
Not coming back
No, no, no, not a second term.
More free materials for this purpose. Any anti-Trumpers may use as they wish without attribution. Apologies for any repeats, but if they were good before they’re still good now.
Some simple narratives for Biden-Harris
Trump is not fit to be your President and represent you. I will never make you ashamed of your President. Trump is going to lose. For once in his career, he should put America before himself and lose with dignity.
A worse virus than COVID is likely to hit America in the next four years. I have a plan for it, to preserve and protect the United States. Or will you give Donald Trump another chance to do things his way – crash the economy again and cause thousands more unnecessary deaths?
The Obama-Biden administration saved the American economy from the Bush crash and the Biden-Harris administration will save it from the Trump slump.
Trump stokes up violence and vigilantes. He threatens civil war in America. No one is safe when every crazy with a gun gets a free pass from the President. We will heal America. We will enforce the law firmly but fairly for all. Everyone will get a police force they can trust.
There is never any excuse for rioting and looting. Rioters and looters are parasites on BlackLivesMatter and everyone else protesting in the cause of justice – and they’re all helping Donald Trump. Poor people are their biggest victims. Our administration will fight them and keep America safe – with proper law enforcement not vigilantes with guns.
For all Christian voters
Repeating for convenience a passage from the Trump Bible:
St Paul to the Corinthians (New Revised Standard Version):
And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
From Trump’s upside-down Bible (Revised No-Standards Version)
St Donald to the Covidians :
And now fear, hate and self-love abide, these three, and my greatest of these is self-love.
In St Luke’s Gospel (King James Version) Jesus says: “Suffer little children to come unto me.” Donald Trump does only the first three words.
For believers faith means too things above all else. First, putting others before yourself. When has Donald Trump ever done that?
Might be illustrated with the image from a while back. Trump walking off Presidential plane on a very wet and windy day carrying a giant umbrella to protect his hair-do. Behind him Melania and his son Barron (then I think about 11), no umbrella, taking the full force of the wind and rain. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5273011/Trump-holds-umbrella-self-boards-Air-Force-One.html
Second: faith means accepting responsibility before God and before your fellow humans for the effect of your words and actions. When has Donald Trump ever done that?
Paybacks for donors: the pre-paid President Nail myth that Trump paid for own campaign in 2016. Find all his big donors and show what he did to pay them back. Ideally a new one each day. Call him the pre-paid President.
Trump and environment. Don’t think we’ve heard enough about this: no voters anywhere like poisoned air and water, trashed landscapes. Big-name speakers should make a point of visiting local examples and blaming them on Trump policies, especially paybacks to campaign donors. Name such places after Trump – Lake Trump, River Trump, Mount Trump etc. Find older voters who can remember them listen to their descriptions of them as they used to be, and promise to restore them.
Trump Street As above. On any campaign appearance to an economically depressed town setting, name it after him: Trump Mall, Trump Square. I think Trump Street is especially evocative.
A message to all non-Americans who love the United States It would normally be wrong for foreigners to try to influence any American election (although tell that to Vladimir Putin). But these are not normal times and this is not a normal President. Suppose you see someone you love about to make a terrible decision: a ruinous investment, getting into a car with a drunk driver, renewing an abusive relationship. Do you stand aside or do you try to prevent it? Tell America what you think of Donald Trump.
A message to all American bridge lovers: the only good bid this election is a Strong No-Trump.
A few cheap shots
They chose the wrong Donald. Write in Duck instead of Trump on the ballot. Donald Duck for President: he makes more sense.
Donald Trump: fat fool… fat fraud… fat fake… fat fibber… fat chance.
Dump Trump End The Slump
A really cheap shot as a possible badge or poster Trump image with WARNING TOXIC WASTE DO NOT APPROACH DO NOT RE-ELECT
These suggestions are a free resource for the Democratic party and anyone campaigning against the re-election of Donald Trump.
Virus The world environment and economy have become a breeding ground for new viruses. It is highly likely that something worse than Covid will hit the world and the United States in the next four years. Do you want Donald Trump to handle the next virus? Do you want thousands more unnecessary deaths? Do you want him to crash the economy all over again?
Law and order Make Trump answer personally for every single wrongful act by police or armed Rightwing vigilantes. “Trump thinks it’s fine for police officers to choke an unresisting man to death… or shoot him in the back in front of his children.” Etc Make him answer especially for Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager in a far Right militia who killed protestors in Kenosha with an automatic weapon. This should resonate especially with decent families. Trump thinks it fine for children to use automatic weapons. Might even ask whether Trump would let his own teenage son use one.
If it’s not the law already, Joe Biden might propose “one-strike-and-you’re-out” for gun owners. Use a gun to commit a crime or let another use it for a crime and you lose your right to own a gun. Simple, comprehensible, drives wedge between responsible gun owners and others. Make Trump and gun lobby find arguments against it.
Policing. Of course Democrats support police officers and departments in their job of protecting people. But they can’t do that if police officers behave like vigilantes. Nobody’s safe when that happens. Law and order collapses. America turns into a tinpot state where the police are out of control. Like Russia under Trump’s good buddy Vladimir Putin. Trump gives a free pass to any racist, trigger-happy, violent police officers. We say they’ve betrayed their colleagues, their community and their country.
Rioting Rioters and looters should be denounced instantly and often. But point out also that Trump loves them. They’re doing his work for him. It might be good politics to spread the idea that some might be in the pay of Trump supporters – or even Russia, trying to help him out. No evidence for this (yet) but of course that’s never bothered Trump. Plenty of historic precedent for Rightwing regimes recruiting revolutionary terrorists (Tsarist regime in Russia paid thousands, including Stalin) or committing terrorist crimes secretly and blaming them on opponents (Nazis setting fire to Reichstag 1933 and blaming patsy, confused revolutionary van der Lubbe.) More recently, Putin did this in Russia using bombing or arson attacks to gain or consolidate power. Straight out of the Putin playbook to use same strategy in USA.
Economy Repeat over and over, Trump inherited a strong economy from Barack Obama and Joe Biden. (Just as he got lots of his daddy’s money to start his business empire.) The Obama-Biden administration pulled America out of the Bush recession: the Biden-Harris one will pull America’s out of Trump’s.
Show simply each day how much Trump’s economic policies gave to the richest ahead of the poorest, especially to donors.
Highlight Trump donors who threw Americans out of work, or cut their wages and rights, and outsourced production – especially to China.
Corruption Attack myth that Trump paid for own campaign in 2016. Name his donors and each day highlight a favor he’s done for one of them. Call Trump a pre-paid President.
(Politely) unsettling Trump’s voters in 2016 Lots of fundamentally decent people were among the 63 million who voted for Trump in 2016. They might be shaken out of Trump’s column in 2020 by showing that he does not represent them or their values. That represents half a vote for Biden even if they don’t come all the way over. Moreover, it would represent a significant gain in individual communities if Trump lost his advocates among respected people and had to find them from those as weird or bad as himself. A few questions below to help achieve this, all focused on Trump’s bad character and lack of standards voters expect from leaders of their own communities:
Would you want Trump as your family doctor? Has he done what you’d expect your doctor to do to keep your family alive and healthy?
Would you trust Trump as your local law enforcement officer to apply the law fairly and equally and go after vigilantes and crazies and rich bad guys?
Do you think Donald Trump obeys the same laws and rules that you do, and pays his tax bill the way you have to pay yours?
If you met Donald Trump in the line for a long bus ride or plane trip would you want him to sit next to you? Or to be near you and your family in a restaurant or at a ball game? Or might you think – anyone but this guy yammering in my ear?
Do you believe that Donald Trump had bonespurs during the Vietnam war? Do you think he has any idea what it means to be a veteran?
If you have a business of your own, did you start it on your own money or did you have a rich daddy? Did you pay your bills on time – or cheat your creditors over and over again? Would you want to do business with Donald Trump now?
Would you want your young daughter to work for Donald Trump, or go to a party with him and his friends Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell?
Does Donald Trump meet the standards you’d expect in your minister of religion? Do you think Donald Trump has ever put Christian principles ahead of his own interests, in political or personal life? Do you think Donald Trump has ever made any kind of sacrifice in his life? Is there anyone chosen by God in the Bible who acts in any way like Donald Trump? Did Jesus Christ ever act like Donald Trump?
If you have children, would you like them to grow up like Donald Trump? Would you let your five-year-old have public tantrums like Donald Trump and tell fibs like Donald Trump’s?
Britain hates Trump Not a major factor but most Americans have a favorable view of Britain so it might be worth reminding them that Britain hates Trump. Most recent survey (by British pollsters YouGov) 68 per cent gave Trump an unfavorable rating – worst performance in Britain by any US President.
But Putin loves him… Most Americans have a poor view of Putin. So remind them that Putin wanted him to win in 2016 and wants this again. Speculate why. Call Trump “Putin’s puppy” (possible poster/video) or “patsy.”
A possible campaign slogan A TIME TO HEAL… Biblical, applies to virus and America generally. Was the title of Gerald Ford’s memoirs. Ford looks like a giant compared to Trump now, and it might remind older voters of Republican party which Trump has taken from them.
A few zingers and jokes, especially for speakers taking the low road:
If you can understand anything Trump says, he must be lying.
Mike Pence gives mediocrity a bad name.
Coming soon, the world’s smallest public building, the Donald Trump Presidential Library.
Donald Trump: dumb but never mute.
Donald Trump: sick visions, out of control. Help America recover from the DTs.
Donald Trump: as yellow as his hair.
Xerus Publishing publishes The Prisoner Of Rubato Towers – Richard Heller’s crazed memories of lockdown life in the plague year. Publication date 21 September Price £6.99 ISBN 978-1-8381654-0-6 Distribution: Vine House Distribution Ltd www.vinehouseuk.co.uk
• Nobel Literature prize judges re-convene
• Donald Trump and Boris Johnson plunge further in polls
• Amazon deafened by butterfly wings
Cover and illustrations by Rupert Macnee
A wild escape from lockdown through fantasy, satire and sheer comic genius. Richard Heller is a man of letters, few of them answered, and a cricketer in the sunset of a career which never really had a dawn. He has been confined to his premises in Rubato Towers, London SE, which he shares with a mouse and two fornicating foxes. He gives regular piano recitals to his neighbours and they bang on the walls and ceilings to hear more – sometimes half the night, they just won’t let go. He has been free of COVID19 but suffers from a regular Mystery Virus, producing flu-like symptoms, which he named after Peter Mandelson. He is writing an autobiography, full of the famous people who knew him, called My Goodness, How I Roared! and compiling a set of upbeat homilies called Happy Talk, tasks regularly interrupted by the tiresome Prodnose. He faces competition in the upbeat homily market from the Resident Mouse. His entourage expands to include a poetic cockroach who claims to be the famous archy and a bridge-playing goldfish.
– The secret life of the Queen and Nadia the Tiger
– What Neil Armstrong nearly said on the Moon
– New ways to mock Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and Xi Jinping, the under-derided Paramount Brute running China
– The invasion of sex-crazed jellyfish
– The dramatic story of Shakespeare’s performing bear
– Songs, light verse and a short screenplay
– Store cupboard recipes for a repeat lockdown (including pilchards with dried apricots)
– Keir Starmer’s past life as Cheeky Keir, risqué variety entertainer
Richard Heller is a Master of the Arts of Oxford University and of many other arts besides. He went to Repton School and Balliol College. He was a long-serving humorous columnist on The Mail On Sunday and more briefly on The Times. He was also the main non-fiction book reviewer for The Mail On Sunday for seven years. He worked in the movie business in the United States and the UK, including a brief engagement on a motion picture called Cycle Sluts Versus The Zombie Ghouls. He wrote two cricket-themed novels A Tale Of Ten Wickets and The Network. He appeared in two finals on BBC Television’s Mastermind: one of his specialist subjects was Sir Garry Sobers. He was chief of staff to Denis Healey, then Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, and Gerald Kaufman, then Shadow Home Secretary. With Peter Oborne he wrote White On Green, celebrating the drama of Pakistan cricket (shortlisted for the MCC/Cricket Society book of the year in 2017). They are currently making podcasts to relieve the cricket-deprived.
Illustrator Rupert Macnee is a creator and producer of television series in England, Canada and the United States, including profiles of Marvel’s Stan Lee, comic artist Jim Steranko, and the creators of Dudley Doright. He studied drawing at the Otis Parsons School in Los Angeles, and developed the character of John Kniteright, a legendary English tabloid journalist. Rupert’s father was the actor Patrick Macnee, who portrayed the immaculate secret agent John Steed in The Avengers.
From The Prisoner Of Rubato Towers
“I have received an email from the Queen asking me to form a government of national salvation. Since there is no cricket, I will consider her invitation but I cannot understand why she needs all my bank account details.”
“Jonathan Swift would never have sent Boris Johnson to Lilliput because it would imply that there was something to diminish.”
A sunlit day without cricket to watch or play is an Imperial gallon of gall, and as Julius Caesar discovered, all gall is divided into three parts, resentment, rancour and rage.
No one seems to know why bat shit became the acme of craziness. It seems very unfair. Like all creatures bats have to shit sometimes, and they often have to wait until all the bears have left the woods. There was a wonderful nature film about bats some years ago, and the star was Mama Bat. She flits around all night. Partying? No way. Desperately looking for food for Baby Bat. Finally she does a supermarket swoop on something and schleps it home – a bat cave with thousands of baby bats, all kicking off for food at a pitch beyond even my reach at the piano at Rubato Towers. In all that kickoffony, Mama Bat can tell which individual squawk belongs to her baby. What a performer! She should take over from the pelican as the emblem of motherhood. No mention of any help from Papa Bat. Probably does not even shave, like Peppa’s deadbeat dad, and just hangs upside down in the cave watching sports replays. Maybe some mama bats can’t take it any more, and they’re the ones that go crazy.
“However, it would take ten thousand overwrought mama bats dumping in the same place at once to generate the President of the United States.”
“Confirming that housework is more violent exercise than cricket, I strained my back mopping the ground floor at Rubato Towers. I blame the communal mop, which is the wrong size for me. After just a few swabs I felt as if I had batted for 20 overs (a rare experience, I admit) with a child’s bat. But thanks to this interfering government, I cannot now go to the mop-makers in Savile Row to have one hand-tailored.”
“A fine romance with no clinches
A fine romance at 78.7 inches
We should be making each other feel desirous
But we’ve been kept apart by this blasted virus
A fine romance with no hugging
If this is romance I’d rather have a mugging
We’re spaced out like a couple of desert plants
Our life is a set of can’ts
This is a fine romance.
“A fine romance, with no dances
And no close-ups but distant glances:
We used to kick and twirl like a Broadway chorus
But now we keep apart like two lovesick walrus.
A fine romance, my good fellow,
With no love songs unless we bellow.
A fleeting kiss is simply too great a chance,
When we’re locked in durance,
This is a fine romance.”
“I also bought some Arabic tuna. It is not dolphin-friendly. In fact, I could hear it mouthing “Who are you looking at, Flipper, you perv?” I am planning a book on Flipper and other famous performing dolphins of the past. It will be called Great Ex-Cetaceans. There will be a lot of sex in it because dolphins are sex-crazed, as much as sea urchins and with many more opportunities.”
“Boris Johnson is the David Brent of British politics. Idle, incompetent and over-promoted but he still expects to be loved as an entertainer.”
“Life is just the bread in your sandwich of dreams.” From Keep Squeaking Through, uplifting homilies by Mortimer Mouse.
Praise for The Prisoner Of Rubato Towers
“There is nothing to match this in world literature.”
Will Thisdo in Bookhypers Journal.
“Droll … Dashing… Definitive… Dazzling!”
Al Literative in The Ultimate Guide To Figures Of Speech
P. R. Handout in The Evening Puff
“Richard Heller is the Raffles of comic literature, the elegant burglar of wit and fantasy.”
A.J. Snide, author of But That’s Enough About Me
“A useful if sporadic review of recently published mollusc research”
Journal of Molluscan Studies
Richard Heller is extremely available
– For interview or profile in any medium
– For video, photographs and selfies
– To contribute to any literary festival, society or blog
– To present the prizes at Market Snodsbury Grammar School and similar institutions
– As a guest speaker
– As a cocktail pianist (especially for exit music)
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org – and to ask for a review copy
In due course, Xerus Publishing will be glad to look at proposals for new comic fiction or new books about cricket. But not now. Any submissions will be treated with ignoral.