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Friday 13 October 2023

Armed, Female and Fascist by Jason Monaghan

Women play a big part in Blackshirt Conspiracy, the second of my Agents of Room Z thrillers. During the 1930s the British Union of Fascists had a strong female  following. This may seem odd, as those grim black uniforms, the flag-waving and marching is terribly macho. However, starry-eyed young ladies were drawn into fascism for similar reasons that others were drawn to communism – an urge to make Britain a better place. The country was in a depressing state, and former suffragettes were frustrated by the lack of progress once women had won the vote. Female members also included old-fashioned right-wingers wanting to restore England to the chocolate-box fantasy it never was, and some were simply racists or antisemites seeking power over weaker people.

MI5 agent Hugh Clifton has penetrated the fascist intelligence unit Department Z and perhaps unwisely began an affair with the idealistic Sissy. Unable to escape the reputation he’s gained as a Blackshirt hero, he forms his own confidential investigation section, and Sissy recruits former schoolfriends and ex-debutantes to join the team. In a male-dominated world, women were not often taken seriously as intelligence agents, easily overlooked or underestimated. For all their boasts about building a shiny new Britain free from the mistakes of the past, the fascist leadership were still chauvinists, as were their enemies working from Whitehall offices or gentleman’s clubs. Women become the secret weapon of Hugh’s section.

When a man is murdered, another vanishes and the mistress of King Edward VIII comes under threat, Sissy and her ladies in black blouses lead the investigation. One challenge of writing this book is to avoid making characters the stereotype sadistic Nazi woman often found in war movies. The horrible reality of what fascism would lead to was still several years away and Sissy and her friends still believe the promises of ‘the Leader’. As the women’s section goes up against dangerous enemies, the reader must care about their fate. Armed, dedicated, the ladies play a vital role in combating the multiple plots swirling around the king. But can Hugh trust them? After all, they are fascists.  

Blackshirt Conspiracy
was published 10 October 2023 by the Historia Imprint of Level Best Books
Click on the title to read a review.

Jason Monaghan is a thriller writer and Roman archaeologist. He has also at times been a financial regulator, an anti-money laundering specialist and a bank director. The eccentric side of Archaeology provided the background to his first five novels written under the pen-name of Jason Foss, and he is an active member of the Crime Writers Association. Glint of Light on Broken Glass was his first historical novel. Major projects he has worked on include Britain's most intact Roman ship (from Guernsey), and possibly the only known English Elizabethan shipwreck (off Alderney). His PhD thesis was on the Roman Pottery of Kent, and he later published research on pottery from the Roman fortress of York. Each summer since 2009 he has led a group of friends excavating in Alderney, investigating what looks to be Britain’s finest small Roman fort. He lives in the north of England.

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