#BookReview ~ Being Alert! by @claidlawauthor ~ Timely Contemporary Fiction #Satire #TuesdayBookBlog

Author: Charlie Laidlaw

Kindle Edition

Category: Satire, Humour, Fiction, Book Review


Being Alert! begins in January 2020 as the British prime minister, Winston Spragg, first learns about a new illness that seems to be centred in a city in China that nobody has heard of.

Following in a long tradition of British satire, the book populates Downing Street and Whitehall with an inept prime minister presiding over a dysfunctional government as it deals with an existential threat that rapidly becomes a national crisis.

Like satires before it, the book uses humour to paint an uncomfortable picture of a government seemingly as concerned about justifying itself as working to protect the country.

The beginning

In late January, two Chinese nationals were the first to test positive for coronavirus in the UK. The first officially-recorded fatality took place in China on January 11th.

Being Alert! is a satirical account influenced by the government’s response to, and seeming mismanagement of, the coronavirus crisis based on the facts that emerged in key updates from the government. Charlie Laidlaw has very cleverly constructed scenarios leading up to each release of new information, which really does make you wonder about the people supposedly running the country and who is actually in charge.

The fictional politicians are portrayed perfectly, and even as they appear with exaggerated personalities and attitudes, all are recognisable and pose the question many people ask — was the crisis taken seriously enough initially and has everything that’s been implemented been done with the safety of the population in mind.

Regardless of how tongue in cheek Being Alert! is, the figures speak for themselves and makes you question the ineptitude of the government as the book borders on the ‘could be possible.’

When first alerted to a potentially dangerous virus originating in a town in China he’d never heard of, Winston Spragg, the British Prime Minister didn’t seem particularly worried, despite the emerging warning signs. What follows is an inside look at a flawed government, unprepared and unable to deal with a situation that was supposed to have measures in place already.

In early June, backdated data showed the real number of deaths in Britain had gone beyond the 50,000 mark, making the UK Europe’s worst-hit nation. The Prime Minister told MPs: ‘I take full responsibility for everything this government has been doing in tackling coronavirus and I am very proud of our record.’

Although I don’t normally read satire, when Charlie Laidlaw asked if I’d like to review his latest book I was intrigued. Having read previous books by this author I knew it would be something different. I was in turn amused, horrified and angry at salient points. I’m glad I read it though.

Book links ~ Amazon UK | Amazon US

Houses of Parliament Image by luxstorm from Pixabay

About the Author

I was born and brought up in the west of Scotland and graduated from the University of Edinburgh. I still have the scroll, but it’s in Latin, so it could say anything.

I then worked briefly as a street actor, baby photographer, puppeteer and restaurant dogsbody before becoming a journalist. I started in Glasgow and ended up in London, covering news, features and politics. I interviewed motorbike ace Barry Sheene, Noel Edmonds threatened me with legal action and, because of a bureaucratic muddle, I was ordered out of Greece.

I then took a year to travel round the world, visiting 19 countries. Highlights included being threatened by a man with a gun in Dubai, being given an armed bodyguard by the PLO in Beirut (not the same person with a gun), and visiting Robert Louis Stevenson’s grave in Samoa. What I did for the rest of the year I can’t quite remember.

Surprisingly, I was approached by a government agency to work in intelligence, which just shows how shoddy government recruitment was back then. However, it turned out to be very boring and I don’t like vodka martini.

​Craving excitement and adventure, I ended up as a PR consultant, which is the fate of all journalists who haven’t won a Pulitzer Prize.

​I’m also married with two grown-up children and live in East Lothian. And that’s about it.

Social media links ~ Website | Twitter | Facebook

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