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  • Writer's pictureJames McGee

Today's the day...

So, it's Inauguration Day…

Love him or loathe him, The Donald, will, this afternoon - barring accidents or Hillary hurling herself across the barricades, carving knife held high and screaming, 'Kill! Kill! Kill!' - be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. Er, or the 44th, depending on how you tot up the figures.

(43 People have actually served as President, including Barack Obama, who’s most often listed as the 44th President, because Grover Cleveland is counted as both the 22nd and 24th President - he was elected in 1884, then lost, then won again four years later).

Yeah, I know…only in America.

Anyway, here we are.

Which brings us to the point of this particular epistle, prompted by an interview I heard on the radio the other morning; the topic of which was a book written by the late, great, spy-fiction writer, Ted Allbeury, entitled: The Twentieth Day of January.

The book came out way back in 1980.

After I listened to the interview I headed upstairs to raid my loft. It’s where I keep all those books – around a thousand or so – that I’ve hung on to in the vain hope that one day I might actually put up some shelves to accommodate them. Long story short, I managed to dig out my copy of the aforementioned book – an old Granada paperback, lovingly preserved, I might add – and reminded myself of the plot, which is spookily prescient given the headlines of the last few weeks.

Here’s the blurb from the back of the book:

THE PRESIDENT-ELECT A PUPPET FOR THE SOVIETS? ‘Could the Soviet Union get their own man elected President of the United States? Ted Allbeury, rarely at a loss for provocative ideas in his thrillers, makes this one look only too plausible in his new spy story, THE TWENTIETH DAY OF JANUARY’.

Now, I’m not gonna give you any further details. That would spoil it. What I will say is that if you haven’t read any of Ted’s books, you need to hit the book stores – online will be your best bet as I very much doubt many high street stores will have his novels in stock, unless they order copies on the strength of the coincidence – or, more realistically, your local library (if the council hasn’t closed it down) and check out his back catalogue. At the risk of coming under fire, I can tell you that they are available on Kindle for a fantastic price.

The strength of Ted’s writing is that he knew what he was writing about, having served as an intelligence officer in the Special Operations Executive between 1940 and 1947, reaching the rank of lieutenant colonel. During the Cold War, he ran agents across the border between West and East Germany.

He wrote some forty novels, the majority of them set in the spy world. There are many who would rank him alongside Len Deighton and John le Carré.

I also mention him as I had the pleasure of meeting Ted during my time as a store manager with Ottakar’s. I worked in the Tunbridge Wells branch and hadn't been there long when I recognized him from his author photo. Tall, distinguised and hugely engaging.

Any road, if you’d like to know more about him and his books – while in some respects they could be considered a little dated, they’re well worth a read – here’s the link to his obituary in The Independent from December 2005.

If you’d like to check out his books, here’s the link to his page on the Hodder website:

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