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Paul Pickering is the author of four novels: Charlie Peace, The Blue Gate of Babylon, Perfect English, and Wild About Harry. He lives in London, where he is a columnist for The Times.
Smiles, a famous English concert pianist, wants to make amends with his African-American schoolmaster, Lyman Andrew, who has buried himself in the war-torn jungle of the Congo. Smiles owes his success to the man he helped ruin and harbors a dark secret from the past and his brutal public school. But a bomb has exploded at a hotel in Kinshasa where Smiles was due to play at a peace and reconciliation concert and he is accidentally invited to his own funeral. Coffins are broken open by the Presidential Guard and when he is not in his, Smiles is suspected of being one of the rebels. He escapes on a ramshackle boat with the grand piano meant for his recital, which is now destined for his old schoolmaster more than a thousand miles upriver, where the rebel forces are gathering and exiles are fleeing the war in the east. On the way he falls in love with Lola, the beautiful wife of Xavier, the head of the Presidential Guard and the Leopard of the title, and Smiles begins to appreciate anew the majesty of creation and the Congo as he brings Beethoven into the atrocity haunted forest. But all the time the Leopard is following ...
Formed in 1839, the Anti-Corn Law League was one of the most important campaigns to introduce the ideas of economic liberalism into mainstream political discourse in Britain. Seeking the abolition of a tariff barrier that buttressed the economic and political power of the land-owning aristocracy, the League presented itself as the vanguard of the emerging industrial middle class in Victorian Britain. Its aspiration for free trade played a crucial role in defining the agenda of 19th-century liberalism and shaping the modern British state. The League's faith in the free market has had resonances in the debates debates over public policy in Britain during recent years, and it also set the pattern for individuals and groups which have stood outside the Establishment articulating alternative visions of society. This study of the Anti-Corn Law League makes use of recent methodological developments in social history.