Goleen and local lawyer feature in Stanley Johnson's new novel

July 24th, 2017 5:45 PM

By Siobhan Cronin

Michael Kingston with Stanley Johnson, father of Boris, in London this week, with Stanley's new book, ‘Kompromat'

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AUTHOR and environmentalist Stanley Johnson, father of British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, has written the West Cork village of Goleen and a local lawyer into his new novel. 

And he told The Southern Star that he ‘can't wait' to visit West Cork to see the place where a portion of the book is set. 

The satirical thriller, Kompromat, which has been described by former MP Ken Livingstone as ‘brilliant', was launched in London last week and is being developed as a major TV series.

Mr Johnson, a former MEP, has written the novel drawing from the events of 2016 and the unexpected political upheaval on both sides of the Atlantic.

There are more than a few plots that bear a resemblance to reality – British PM Jeremy Hartley thinks he can't lose the UK referendum on Brexit, but the morning after he awakens, in a state of shock. 

America, meanwhile, has an unlikely Presidential candidate, the brash showman Ronald Craig, a man that nobody thought could possibly gain office. Throw into the mix the cunning Russian President Igor Popov, and Craig's daughter Rosie, who some tip to succeed her father, and there will be more than a few eyebrows raised in political circles.

The main character is Edward Bernard – a UK cabinet minister and leader of the Leave campaign. In the book, his daughter's partner is an Irish lawyer, Michael Kennedy, from Goleen.

There's no doubt that Michael Kennedy has been based on Goleen maritime lawyer Michael Kingston, a friend and admirer of Mr Johnson's. 

Kingston believes his name was changed to Kennedy to give it more of an appeal to an Irish American audience. ‘It was not just an honour, but most importantly fun too, to be included in the book,' Michael told The Southern Star.

The book describes the Kennedys as living in ‘a small village called Goleen on the South West coast of Ireland' and Kennedy as a local man who went to Trinity (Kingston went to UCD) and then worked as an ‘international maritime lawyer in London' – Kingston was named Lloyds Maritime Lawyer of the Year in 2014.

The character tells how his father died in the Bantry Bay disaster ‘when an oil tanker caught fire and exploded' in 1979 – Kingston's father Tim died in the Betelgueuse that year, and Johnson was aware of his background. 

‘I am a long-standing environmentalist and am on the Council of the UK all-party group on the Arctic and Antarctic polar regions and in that connection am familiar with the wonderful work Michael has been doing,' Mr Johnson told The Southern Star this week.

He said he was very taken with Kingston's background story. ‘I was immensely moved by Michael's own personal story, including the tragic death of his father in a totally avoidable marine acccident in Bantry Bay. I was looking for a maritime lawyer as one of the characters and Michael fitted the bill precisely. Of course I didn't call my fictional character Michael Kingston, I called him Michael Kennedy. I loved his descriptions of Goleen, did some research and realised this place fitted exactly into the plot, both in terms of characters and location,' he said.

‘Michael gave me free reign [with the character].  I hope he is pleased with the portrayal.'

Both Kingston and Kennedy are fighting for better standards in maritime safety as a result of the Bantry Bay incident. Both the character and the real-life lawyer are also working on international rules to protect the Arctic. Kingston had a great giggle at the plot which shows him ‘smitten' by the US president's glamorous daughter Rosie.

Kingston – who is organising a fundraiser for the Irish Community Air Ambulance next week – told The Southern Star that he was surprised by his inclusion in the political thriller, but is delighted with the exposure it will give to his beloved West Cork.

‘It would be wonderful if the TV series, which I believe is being filmed by Channel 4, came to Goleen to film some scenes. Kennedy appears a few times in the book, so hopefully there will be plenty of opportunity for West Cork to get a mention,' he said.

‘It's true that this is a “what might have been novel” and because I am dealing with very recent events, I suppose people will look for parallels in real life, but honestly my ambition here is just to write a gripping thriller which people can take to the beach or wherever they go on holiday,' Mr Johnson explained.

When asked about plans to visit Goleen, the author replied: ‘I can't wait.  I love Ireland and the Irish and, by the way, I have included an Irishman as President of the European Commission.'

Johnson has written widely in both fiction and non-fiction. Previous thrillers are The Doomsday Project, The Marburg Virus, Tunnel and The Commissioner, which was made into a film starring John Hurt. 

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