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1st Publication date 23rd July 1976 United Kingdom Weidenfeld
Hardback Severn House Publishers ISBN 0727845489 288pp 222 x 141mm
Paperback publication date 1991 Mandarin ISBN 0749303646 286pp 178 x 111mm
From book cover
It is the mid-1970s. A group of disaffected politicians,businessmen, and servicemen -- fiercely patriotic men and women with the right skills and ambitions -- plan and execute a bizarre operation to stop Britain sliding into what they see as anarchy.
They seize a nuclear power station as a means of holding the government to ransom. The twist ending comes as a complete surprise and demonstrates this new author's mastery of indirection.
Once a General, now a terrorist, Conrad Pyne has delivered "The Doomsday Ultimatum" to the Prime Minster in a last, desperate attempt to save his protesting country from anarchy. Pyne has seized a nuclear power station on Canvey Island and the Government has 100 hours in which to respond.
This book reads to me like a film with some very well described events that would not look out of place on the big screen. This is also one of those books that would cost a fortune to film and who would be the lead character? This would also present a problem in finding the odd nuclear power station lying around that no one would want for three or four months.
The twists in the tale are also very good. The ending is very clever, And to find out that it was his first novel as well just adds to the book as a whole. I must like this book as it makes it in to my top five Follett's at number five. This is also one of the books that James Follett has revised since its first publication. One day I will ask him for a short list of the major changes between the 1st edition and the 2nd edition of the book. ( But don't put off buying both books as they are a good read and good value for money.....) David Williams
The Hamilton Spectator Canada Date Saturday January 29th 1977
General Conrad Payne and a consortium of military and scientific confederates see the economic and political salvation of England lies in the control of the government being placed in the hands of their U.K. Policy Control Group. The theft of two surface-to-surface Honest John Missiles is the first step. The ultimatum is delivered to 10 Downing Street.
An early-pages helicopter duel is the prelude to the destruction of an oil refinery - a "demonstration" of the group's "determination". Follett escalates the action. Dissention and betrayal crack the company's resolve; government bumbling and Indecision fire the dilemma; anarchy threatens to erupt. A climactic assault on a power station and a death conference between Payne and the Prime Minister of England bring this first novel to a surprise, might-makes-right conclusion.
Author James Follett comments
" The Doomsday Ultimatum was my first novel, written in my garden on a portable typewriter during the drought of 1975. Actually, I never wanted to write a novel. I was happy churning out radio plays, which are, by their very nature, virtually all dialogue and therefore grammatical errors don't matter too much.
Novels are very different. Having had a reasonable education, I was comfortable with the function and purpose of full stops and commas, but I was completely at sea with colons and semi-colons. But my agent insisted that I write a novel and that publishers had tobacco tins full of punctuation marks that they knew how to use. She packed me off to see Simon Dally at Weidenfeld and Nicholson. He listened to my idea for a story and said that he wanted to commission me to write it as a novel.
My protests that I couldn't do it fell on deaf ears. With much misgiving I signed a contract, bought a couple of reams of typing paper, and turned my life on its head. Security was almost nonexistent at nuclear power stations when I wrote the book. Shortly after publication, the then Energy Minister, Tony Benn, set up the British Nuclear Police -- all armed. I've often wondered if my book was responsible for a change of government policy.
Thrashing out much-needed rewrites with George Markstein was a harrowing experience. He even thumped the desk during one session but I learned from him -- boy, did I learn !
It's got the best twist ending I've ever dreamed-up. When people ask me where I get my ideas from, I can only say that if I knew that, I'd go there more often. "James Follett
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