The Ghost

The Ghost by Robert Harris

Book: The Ghost by Robert Harris Read Free Book Online
Authors: Robert Harris
desk so that I could sit facing him, “is that you aren’t really a politician at all, in the conventional sense, even though you’ve been so amazingly successful.” This was the sort of tough questioning I specialized in. “I mean, when you were growing up, no one would have expected you to become a politician, would they?”
    “Jesus, no,” said Lang. “Not at all. I had absolutely no interest in politics, either as a child or as a teenager. I thought people who were obsessed by politics were weird. I still do, as a matter of fact. I liked playing football. I liked theater and the movies. A bit later on I liked going out with girls. I never dreamed I might become a politician. Most student politicians struck me as complete nerds.”
    Bingo! I thought. We’d been working only two minutes and already we had a potential opening of the book right there:
    When I was growing up, I had no interest in politics. In fact, I thought people who were obsessed by politics were weird.
    I still do…
    “So what changed? What turned you on to politics?”
    “Turned on is about right,” said Lang with a laugh. “I’d left Cambridge and drifted for a year, hoping that a play I’d been involved in might get taken up by a theater in London. But it didn’t happen and so I ended up working in a bank, living in this grotty basement flat in Lambeth, feeling very sorry for myself, because all my friends from Cambridge were working in the BBC, or getting paid a fortune to do voice-overs on adverts, or what have you. And I remember it was a Sunday afternoon—raining, I was still in bed—and someone starts knocking on the door…”
    It was a story he must have told a thousand times, but you wouldn’t have guessed it, watching him that morning. He was sitting back in his chair, smiling at the memory, going over the same old words, using the same rehearsed gestures—he was miming knocking on a door—and I thought what an old trouper he was: the sort of pro who’d always make an effort to put on a good show, whether he had an audience of one or one million.
    “…and this person just wouldn’t go away. Knock knock knock. And, you know, I’d had a bit to drink the night before and what have you, and I’m moaning and groaning. I’ve got the pillow over my head. But it starts up again: knock knock knock. So eventually—and by now I’m swearing quite a bit, I can tell you—I get out of bed, I pull on a dressing gown, and I open the door. And there’s this girl, this gorgeous girl. She’s wringing wet from the rain, but she completely ignores that and launches into this speech about the local elections. Bizarre. I have to say I didn’t even know there were any local elections, but at least I have the sense to pretend that I’m very interested, and so I invite her in, and make her a cup of tea, and she dries off. And that’s it—I’m in love. And it quickly becomes clear that the best way of getting to see her again is to take one of her leaflets and turn up the next Tuesday evening, or whenever it is, and join the local party. Which I do.”
    “And this is Ruth?”
    “This is Ruth.”
    “And if she’d been a member of a different political party?”
    “I’d have gone along and joined it just the same. I wouldn’t have stayed in it,” he added quickly. “I mean obviously this was the start of a long political awakening for me—bringing out values and beliefs that were already present but were simply dormant at that time. No, I couldn’t have stayed in just any party. But everything would have been different if Ruth hadn’t knocked on that door that afternoon, and kept knocking.”
    “And if it hadn’t been raining.”
    “If it hadn’t been raining I would have found some other excuse to invite her in,” said Lang with a grin. “I mean, come on, man—I wasn’t completely hopeless.”
    I grinned back, shook my head, and jotted “opening??” in my notebook.

    WE WORKED ALL MORNING without a break, except

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