Succession of Power and Very Annoying Coincidences

succession-of-power-on-tableIt’s out. My new book. My first thriller. Succession of Power is out now on,, and Kindle versions in both America, the United Kingdom, and everywhere else as well. In time, it’ll be available on the iBooks store and for Barnes & Noble’s Nook too.

This story is a labour of love. I haven’t done anything like it before, so it’s been a real journey.

But another story has emerged from writing this book that if you wrote it up as a fiction short, people would consider it unbelievable and preposterous.

So back in 2010/2011, I had the idea for the book. The 1947 Presidential Succession Act details the order of cabinet positions that would take over the presidency in the event of a catastrophe. Under the 25th Amendment, if the president can’t discharge his or her duty any more, (either due to impeachment, a medical issue, getting killed, etc.) the vice-president takes over. If they’re both out of the picture at the same time, it’s the Speaker of the House. If the Speaker is out of the equation, then it’s the President pro tempore of the US Senate. Then it goes down to the cabinet positions, starting with the Secretary of State, all the way down to the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

I thought about this back in 2010/2011. And an idea dawned upon me: when would this act ever really need to be applied? The only time I could think of (call it a lack of imagination), when all these people would be in the same room at the same time, is the night of the president’s State of the Union speech in the House of Representative’s chamber. My idea was, what happens if a bomb went off in that room? Who is left?

The answer, as it happens, is the ‘designated survivor’, that is to say the one (usually quite junior) cabinet secretary that stays behind in the White House, and watches the State of the Union on TV. He or she would have to become the president in the event of an horrific attack on Capitol Hill at that moment.

So that’s the premise of my story: A junior cabinet secretary is flung into the president’s chair after a bomb detonates in Capitol Hill, wiping out the rest of the government. The new president takes on the role during the worst possible moment. She is an unknown, with few allies, and is aided by the one Secret Service Agent who, with a dubious informant, was the only one who saw it coming.

I loved the idea. But I figured that it surely must have been done before. So I didn’t think much more about it.

I don’t write down these ideas. I don’t have a “writer’s notepad” in that sense. I think a notepad that you use to write down ideas as you get them is like a repository for bad ideas. An idea has to earn its merit. It has to stay with me. It has to get under my skin. It was to be an intellectual irritant. Only then do I know I might have something.

And this story kept on at me, like the good stories did. So In August of 2015, I decided to write the rough ideas down. I also scoured the annals of time. Surely there was already a novel that covered this idea? No. A TV show? No. A movie? No.

Incredibly, the brilliant idea I had, that I assumed must have been done before, hadn’t been done before. I couldn’t believe it.

Then something happened with my regular working life. I’m a radio guy. I’ve been a presenter/broadcast journalist/media hack for my whole working life. I switched from broadcasting with the biggest commercial radio broadcaster in Europe, to the biggest broadcaster in the world (by employee-count), the BBC.

I moved house, and got settled in my new job, which I love. Then, at the end of February 2016, I started writing Succession of Power. It was done by August. It was published, and came out on Tuesday September 20th, 2016.

Then, on Wednesday September 21st, 2016, unbeknownst to me, a new TV show went on the air on Disney’s ABC channel in the US, starring Keifer Sutherland, called Designated Survivor. The very next day – Thursday September 22nd, 2016 – it aired around the world on Netflix.

Sutherland plays a junior cabinet secretary, who becomes the president under the Succession of Power laws, after a bomb wipes out the rest of the succession line during the president’s State of the Union speech. And an FBI agent (rather than Secret Service Agent), investigates the bombing, convinced that there’s more to come.

It was my plot. My story. It came out exactly 24 hours after my book did.

You cannot make that up.

I had spent so much time in that August of 2015 looking way back to see if the story had been done, that it didn’t occur to me to see if the story was already in production somewhere. I mean, why on earth would it? What would the odds be?

I was gutted. I just couldn’t believe it. I’m genuinely really proud of this story, but now I think that it’ll just be seen as a rip-off of a (what looks like a really great) TV show.

I can’t quite bring myself to watch the show just yet, but I will. It looks fantastic, and while there’s part of me that hopes it’s awful and dies in the ratings and goes away quickly, there’s another part of me that hopes it’s really successful as that almost kinda vindicates the idea I had in the first place. Doesn’t it? I don’t really know.

There’s some thematic differences. My “emergency president” is a gay women. In a Republican administration. One of the themes in the story is how we can all be very politically correct and socially accepting of things like a female president (the polls say we’re getting one very soon), but how tolerant are we in a time of crisis, when the rubber really hits the road? And I’m sure there’s more twists and turns that make them different. But the log-line of the TV show and my book are pretty much identical.

So it’s been a pretty upsetting few days if I’m honest. I only found out about the show by accident this week. I know, I know. Talk about a ‘first world problem’. I’m probably being very silly. But for now, it really stings.

Either way, if you fancy the idea behind the book, and can drag yourself away from the (probably fantastic TV show) Designated Survivor for a few hours, I hope you’ll take the time to read Succession of Power. I think it’s possibly the best thing I’ve ever written. The paperback version is well priced (just £8.99 in the UK), and the Kindle editions are just a few bucks/a couple of quid.

I really hope you enjoy it. I’ll get out of my grumpy cloud very soon, I promise.

Plus, I’ve got a really awesome idea for a new story I’m going to start working on. After this week’s crazy events probably sooner than later.

I just need to spend some time making sure no one’s done it before. And that there’s not a similar TV show in the pipeline…

The Smarterphone

The other week, I had the honour of being the joint winner of the Bernard Bareham Fiction prize for a short film I wrote, directed and chopped called The Smarterphone.

It stars the supremely talented Yvonne Wan, (who you can find out more about here), and if you want to check it out, well, here it is:

Looking Back on the News to Look Forward

I’ve really enjoyed spending a little bit of time on website Retro Report recently.

They subtitle it “The truth now about the big stories then” and it is a really valuable journalistic endeavour.

It’s supported in part by the New York Times, but I believe it operates with autonomy, and is a totally separate company that works with the Times, rather than for them.

Whether it’s the hyperbole surrounding the media’s frenzy over the Y2K bug, or the fear-mongering that plagued the GM revolution and the so-called “Frankenfoods”, it’s very refreshing to watch mini documentary web videos with a more accurate and fair analysis of what really went on during these times. And who knows, maybe this kind of reporting can help those of us in newsrooms around the world to avoid making some of the same mistakes again in the future.

Click here to see for yourself.

To people who write negative responses to blogs, YouTube videos, etc…




Cyberspace Finished…?

Well, I think I’ve gone and finished my new flick, Cyberspace. I’ll post it when I can, but I completed the final render today, and I have a feeling it might be pretty much done.

Which means that I’ll probably tinker with it some more tonight…!

Movies, movies!

I’ve got a couple of flicks to tell you about that are rolling around in my head at the moment:

There’s a fictional short film comp coming up in March, so the first film I want to make over the next couple of weeks has a working title of Cyberspace. It’s about an MIT scientist who develops a small ship that he hopes to beam into the world wide web and destroy a dangerous virus that’s been crippling the internet.

I’m not one for sci-fi usually, but it gives me the great excuse to make another movie with fast ships, action and explosions. Some filmmaking friends of mine have heard the details of what I want to do, and said they were concerned that I might not be able to pull it off. They may well be very right, but that just encourges me to do it even more.

The other isn’t as timely, but certainly something I’d love to do. I want to make a film about Milton Friedman, the late great Nobel prize-winning economist. Details are sketchy at present, but I’ll let you know more as and when!

And as always, drop me an email if you have any cool ideas or comments!

Done in 60 Seconds

Okay, I’ve completed the Ambulance-Chasers Direct advert for the 60 second film competition. Thank you so much for all your fantastic suggestions. I’ll let you know how I get on!