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When the Lions are Drinking is expected to released in 2010 and will be available on

When the Lions are Drinking

Victoria Embankment

The lions are the embankment lions along the river Thames in central London. There is an old Thames watermen's expression that says when the lions are drinking central London, especially the seat of government in Whitehall, is in danger of flooding.

Val Wake has used this watermen's tale in his new novel as a metaphor. Whitehall is not in danger of flooding but faces another threat, a clash of loyalties and values between Britain's imperial past and the new fashion of economic realism and the realignment of the seats of power around the world.

This is a story of a Liverpool born "Scouser" named Felix Manners. Felix was born into a dysfunctional family with an Irish docker for a father and a German born mother. When the German bombers raided Liverpool during World War Two, Felix's mother went out on the streets and was killed by one of the German bombs. The family believes that their father sent their mother out in the raid during a drunken rage but it could have been suicide.

Felix becomes something of a loner. He spends a lot of his time in the local library reading Boys Own Annual adventure stories. He has a strong need to belong and be accepted as an Englishmen, dedicated and loyal to his country's institutions and practices.

His brothers leave home as soon as they can and his sisters marry. Felix looses touch with his siblings. He drifts to London where he joins the British civil service as a clerk in the government's media factory located in Lambeth across the river from the Palace of Westminster.

Felix works in films marketing. A soulless job mostly concerned with maintaining distribution lists but he is a conscientious worker and has the knack of getting on with people. When the director of films division asks him to take over a film production unit Felix can't believe his luck. The unit has a bad reputation. People outside the unit refer to it as the "snakepit." This is largely because the previous unit head used to make sexual demands of his staff of both sexes that created jealousies and petty rivalries. The unit's remit was to produce films to support the Foreign Office information effort around the world. But this remit was largely ignored by self-indulgent producers intent on proving their creative gifts and gaining the favours of their boss. The boss went mad and was admitted to a mental institution. This left the director of films division, John Hunt, with an unexpected problem. He sees Felix as a stop-gap solution to a problem that can be permanently corrected by his successor, Michael Meadowcroft.

Felix's arrival in the unit gets a mixed response from his staff. The women, by and large, are prepared to reserve judgement but the men in the unit, especially the two men who had been sleeping with the previous boss and his daughter, give Felix a bad time. There is one male producer who is prepared to accept Felix for his own worth. His name is Ted Braithwaite. Ted is the son of an Army medical officer who was knighted for his work in the Sudan and on the North West Frontier. Ted and Felix work well together. Against his immediate boss's advice, Felix decides to use Ted for the production of a series of films in support of the Mujahideen in their fight to repel the Red Army from Afghanistan.

The Afghan series of films has the strong support of the Foreign Office 'Arabist lobby.' Slowly Felix becomes familiar with Foreign Office workings especially the rivalry that exists between News Department and Information Department that causes divisions within Felix's own unit. Some of Felix's staff work for News Department but it is Information Department that is providing the funding for the Afghan series.

Justin Hardwick the head of Information Department involves Ted and Felix in a private war historically known as the Great Game. For generations Britain and Russia have been fighting to exercise their influence in Afghanistan. Justin Hardwick interprets this struggle in his own way and in the process forms alliances with the Americans. Ted and Felix, unwittingly, become a party to these new alliances that force Felix to make decisions beyond his authority and competence.

When Ted returns from a filming trip to Pakistan and dies in a London hospital relations between Information Department and the film unit begin to unravel. There are suggestions that Ted was somehow involved in an American plot to assassinate President Zia of Pakistan. Felix is given "gardening leave" and Justin is sent to new post in the Gulf. The Great Game is over until the next time.

When the Lions are Drinking is available on Amazon