The Benevolent Dictator
by Tom Trott
Ben longs to be prime minister one day. But with no political connections, he is about to crash out of a Masters degree with no future ahead. So when by chance he becomes fast friends with a young Arab prince, and is offered a job in his government, he jumps at the chance to get on the political ladder.
Amal dreads the throne. And with Ben’s help he wants to reform his country, steering it onto a path towards democracy. But with the king’s health failing, revolutionaries in the streets, and terrorism threatening everyone, the country is ready to tear itself apart.
Alone in a hostile land, Ben must help Amal weigh what is best against what is right, making decisions that will risk his country, his family, and his life.
Tom Trott was born in Brighton. He first started writing at Junior School, where he and a group of friends devised and performed comedy plays for school assemblies, much to the amusement of their fellow pupils. Since leaving school and growing up to be a big boy, he has written a short comedy play that was performed at the Theatre Royal Brighton in May 2014 as part of the Brighton Festival; he has written Daye’s Work, a television pilot for the local Brighton channel, and he has won the Empire Award (thriller category) in the 2015 New York Screenplay Contest. He is the proverbial Brighton rock, and currently lives in the city with his wife.
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Q & A With Tom Trott
How did you come up with the idea for this book?
This book was one of those lightbulb moments where the story arrived almost complete in a burst of inspiration. But there’s no way that would have happened if I hadn’t read The Great Gatsby, loved Ozymandias, and watched Adam Curtis’s documentary Hypernormalisation. The novel is some strange hybrid of those three very different things, all packed into a thriller.
What was your favorite thing about each character?
My favourite thing about Ben, the narrator, is that he is an entirely well-meaning person, he always wants what’s best for everyone. I had not written from the perspective of a character like that before and it’s a much nicer headspace to spend a year in; it’s also an enjoyable challenge to make a compelling character out of.
Do you have a playlist you listen to when writing?
No, but I often watch five minutes of a film before I write, in order to occupy the right tone. In this case it was Adam Curtis’s documentaries, both Hypernormalisation and Bitter Lake.
Any favorite foods/drinks you like while writing?
Just coffee. I treat myself to one from my Nespresso machine when I’m writing. I did eat raspberries whilst writing one chapter and they made it into the chapter in a really important way. In that case it was fortuitous, but another time it could be a disaster.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Not until I had graduated from University. I always wanted to be a storyteller, but it took a lot of different forms before that: actor, director, etc. I finally decided to write a novel after reading Ian Rankin’s account of writing his first Rebus book. I would encourage any who is thinking of writing a novel to just throw caution to the wind and write it, and most important of all, finish it.
What are some are your favorite reads?
I love Raymond Chandler, and I’ll always go back to his books, particularly The Lady in the Lake. I also love Agatha Christie, J. K. Rowling, Tolkien, Philip Pullman, Arthur Conan Doyle, my tastes are all over the place. The book I read this year that I would recommend to everyone is Rebecca. I was overwhelmed by how good it was. In one particular paragraph I was completely transported to the point where I could smell the sea air she was describing and feel the breeze on my face! I haven’t had that kind of experience since I was a child.