From Henry VIII to the Iron Lady.
Two-time Man Booker Prize-winner Hilary Mantel is preparing to publish a collection of short stories provocatively titled “The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher.”
The book is currently set to appear in Britain and the United States in September. Mantel’s novels about Thomas Cromwell — “Wolf Hall” and “Bring Up the Bodies” — have won fans and prizes around the world.
In a statement from her British publisher, 4th Estate, publishing director Nicholas Pearson said: “Where her last two novels explore how modern England was forged, ‘The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher’ shows us the country we have become. These stories are Mantel at her observant best.”
Writing about the assassination of a political leader, even one who is no longer alive, stirs up a special kind of anxiety in the Age of Terror.
Last year, Brad Meltzer published a thriller titled “The Fifth Assassin” about a conspiracy of presidential murders stretching back to Abraham Lincoln. He told me today via e-mail that “the hardest part about writing about assassinations is when you hit that moment where you think you’ve figured out how to do it. And then all you do is spend time with death. And then all you do is unscrew your phone to see if the Secret Service tapped it.”
In 2004, just weeks before the Republican National Convention, Nicholson Baker published a novella called “Checkpoint” about two men in a Washington hotel room arguing about whether to assassinate President George W. Bush. Some questioned whether it was a violation of U.S. law to discuss killing a sitting president, but there was no formal objection from the Secret Service.
At the time, Baker told me that he was certainly not encouraging anyone to hurt the president. “This is a book about the rage and sadness of war, and about the moral consequences of war, boiled down to a conversation between two people,” he said. “I want readers to think things through. Sometimes a novel is the best way of making that happen.”
Of course, Mantel is working only in fiction. Despite collecting some political enemies, Margaret Thatcher, the prime minister from 1979 to 1990, died last year of natural causes.
Mantel recently told the Guardian newspaper that she intends to finish the third volume of her Tudor series this year. That suggests the novel would appear in 2015 or 2016.