Kompromat by Stanley Johnson

Review published on July 28, 2017.

The introduction to this satirical political book stresses it is not a work of history but I defy anyone to read it, with its huge cast of world politicians, and not to immediately recognise a certain similarity between the fictitious cast members and some well known world leaders and their cohorts. They may have different names but they are thinly disguised.

The writer must have been burning the midnight oil since the period covered takes us right up to this summer as the story mirrors the Brexit campaign, holding much of it up to ridicule. This is political satire and is laugh out loud funny.

The action begins with a summit meeting of world leaders in St. Petersburg attended by world leaders including the macho Russian president, Popov, and the USA presidential candidate, Ronald C. Craig. The youthful Craig with his mop of blonde hair is accompanied by his daughter and closest adviser, Rosie. And of course also present is Helga Brun, Chancellor of Germany.

A tiger hunt is organised by Popov worried at so many rare tigers disappearing into China across the Russian border. It is a fact funding hunt but seemingly inadvertently Popov manages to shoot a sedative dart into the American’s backside. A rush to hospital for an antidote is hilariously funny as the reader is left wondering if any other items were placed in the victim’s gluteus maximus.
Never one to miss a photo opportunity, Popov appears in the media in full manly hunting gear, bare chested and holding a gun acclaimed for saving the life of the possible future president of the USA.

The British Secretary of State for the Environment and chairman of the Leave Campaign has his career almost ruined when a film turns up showing having some lively sex with two blondes. However, his wife’s sharp eye notices that the underpants on the bed are ones he would never wear! I love the slogan stitched into the boxers ‘Put America First’.

The story stops just short of farce but worryingly close to truth as politicians are caught in compromising films, email, and letters. Undercover agents are working round the clock to get their own team off the hook while laying traps for the opposition while the Russian politicians would appear to be influencing Brexit and the American Presidential election. Phrases like ‘Take back Control,’ ‘Make America Great Again’ constantly repeated on the media are slipped into the conversations deftly.

The leaders of China claim they do not want to negotiate with a fragmented Europe while in Australia, their wealthy leader hides his intense dislike of the English for his own benefit and financial gain.

A great book for anyone interested in world politics especially and if not cynical before you will be after reading this skilfully written book. The writer covers the whole gamut of political life. The wrangling, the financial implications of staying or leaving, the dodgy dossier, weapons of mass destruction, subterfuge, attempted assassination, infidelity, fake news and of course the immigration problem. All caricatured and held up in this book for the enjoyment of readers.

Regardless of readers’ views on Brexit, many will find they are mirrored in this clever and entertaining book. There are metaphors that are uncomfortable close to the truth. So close that if truth is stranger than fiction, where does one draw the line?

If I was to summarise the theme of this book it might well be ‘trust no one’!

Sheila Grant 5/5

Kompromat by Stanley Johnson
Point Blank 9781786072467 hbk Jul 2017

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