“The truth is under assault like never before”

Sam Bourne, author of heart-stopping thriller To Kill the President, tells us about his latest book, To Kill The Truth.

Posted on February 21, 2019 in Behind the Scenes

Sam Bourne tells us about the inspiration behind To Kill The Truth, the follow-up to his pulse-raising bestselling thriller To Kill The President.

The idea for every thriller I’ve written has begun with two words: What if?

For To Kill the President, I found myself wondering: What if you worked for an American president who you concluded was a threat to your country and to the world? Might you decide that your true duty meant removing him, once and for all? The result was a book that seemed to channel readers’ anxieties in a way that, I’m glad to say, many found uncanny.

My new book also springs from a question. What if, in this era of post-truth, someone tried to destroy all evidence of the past – starting with the records and documents by which we know what is true and what is false?

The result is To Kill the Truth, a novel which opens with the murder of an eminent historian. Soon more historians are found dead, along with aged survivors of some of history’s greatest crimes. And then libraries – in America, in Britain and around the world – are burned to the ground, the archives they hold turned to dust.

Once again, at the centre of the action is Maggie Costello, the former White House operative who tried to avert an assassination in To Kill the President. She understands early that it’s not just buildings and digital databases that are the target of this mysterious plot. It is an attack on the knowledge we have about our world – and the very idea of truth.

In some ways, the seed of this story was planted nearly two decades ago. In the winter of 2000, I sat in Court 73 of the High Court, watching as David Irving sued Penguin Books and historian Deborah Lipstadt for libel, because they had branded him a Holocaust denier. I sat in the press gallery as Irving dismissed core historical documents as forgeries and eye-witness testimonies as lies – and I remember having the queasiest sensation, as if the ground beneath my feet was growing unsteady. For if someone is ready to dismiss everything we know as a fake, how can we be sure of anything at all?

So I’ve long been itching to write this novel (which, as it happens, includes a courtroom drama involving a self-styled historian who denies that slavery ever happened in the US). But now feels like the right time – and not only because I wanted to see where Maggie would go next. Thanks to galloping technology – which now makes fake ‘archive footage’ possible, along with bogus sound recordings of historical figures saying things they never said – and governments bent on spreading fake news, the truth is under assault like never before. It no longer seems far-fetched to imagine a plot to kill it off forever.

To Kill the Truth is out now. I hope you enjoy it.

Read an exclusive extract here: http://bit.ly/2IccaoH

Buy it now: https://amzn.to/2RWsidT

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