House of Cards From a Handbag to Hollywood


EAFOL16 Programme Administrator Annabelle Corton tells us about her long association with House of Cards

“Politics. The word is taken from the Ancient Greek. “Poly” means “many.” And ticks are tiny, bloodsucking insects.”*

It is the mid-seventies. Bitter and hurt, the former aide to Margaret Thatcher sits beside a swimming pool on a sun lounger and contemplates the ‘handbagging’ he has received; his name is Michael Dobbs and he is but the latest recipient of her notorious verbal attacks – vicious even by the Iron Lady’s standards. He has refused offers to write a ‘kiss and tell’ about the incident but he wonders if he could use it to write a novel instead.

As it turns out, he could. And he did.

The novel was to become House of Cards; now a household name, it was originally the first title in a trilogy of novels featuring the Machiavellian UK politician Francis Urquhart. It is a creation that has met with great success – not just at home in the form of the 90s BBC adaptation starring Ian Richardson, but across the pond in the hands of Kevin Spacey and the entire Netflix generation.

I first saw the 1990s TV series when I was about 15. It may have been the social politics of school cliques that drew me to it – some part of me wanted to be like Francis Urquhart – all questionable moral implications of that statement aside, he was everything I aspired to be: impervious, clever, powerful. You see, anyone can be a hero – but it takes real panache to be evil and likeable.

Then IGCSEs happened.

Anyone sitting exams knows that you don’t have time for villainy when you’re trying to figure out where X is and whether or not that test tube in your Biology practical should really be green and smell like rotten eggs.

Decades and many school and university exams later, the legacy of HoC and my love of it endures. My plans for world domination have subsided. But the little box room I keep in my heart marked ‘Villains for Keeps’ is still alive and well-furnished – Othello’s Iago is there, along with The Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. Meanwhile, Francis looks on and works out how to manipulate them to his advantage.

So, am I excited about the writer of House of Cards, Lord Michael Dobbs, attending the 2016 LitFest?

“You might very well think that – I couldn’t possibly comment.”

*All quotes taken from House of Cards by Lord Michael Dobbs.

Read more about Michael Dobbs here