Introducing Tariq Goddard

Nov 14th, 2012 | By | Category: Uncategorized

Tariq Goddard was born in London in 1975. He read philosophy at King’s College London, and Continental Philosophy at The
University of Warwick and the University of Surrey.

In 2002 his first novel, Homage to a Firing Squad, was nominated for the Whitbread (Costa) Prize and the Wodehouse-Bollinger Comic Writing Award. He was included as one of Waterstone’s ‘Faces of the Future’ and the novel, whose film rights were sold, was listed as one of The Observer’s Four Debuts of the year. In 2003 his second novel, Dynamo, was cited as one of the ten best sports novels of all time by The Observer Sports Magazine. The Morning Rides Behind Us, his third novel, was released in 2005 and shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize for Fiction. In 2010 The Picture of Contented New Wealth, his fourth novel, won The Independent Publishers Award for Horror Writing, and he was awarded a development grant by The Royal Literary Fund. He lives with his wife and baby son on a farm in Wiltshire where they run Zero Books and have an organic herb business. The Message is his fifth novel and is the first of Tariq's books available as an ebook.  He is currently writing his sixth, Nature and Necessity.

Here is an extract from The Message:

Golem, who at this moment wished he knew a little bit more about Shimba than he did of the English Premier League, cleared his throat to buy a precious second, ‘Julius Limbani,’ he said, a concrete memory forming, ‘leader of one of the small rebel factions trained in the Congo. The Americans want him indicted for War Crimes. I recall it gave you the opportunity to lecture them on double standards…hasn’t he just converted to Islam? In fact, haven’t we been covertly supplying him with arms?’

Jafari sighed patiently, ‘good but out of date. This is the man who was Julius Limbani but who would be Muhammad Al- Mahdi, twelfth Imam, ultimate saviour of mankind and descendent of the prophet Muhammad.’

Golem looked to see if Jafari was joking, and deciding that there was no way of knowing, asked ‘I beg your pardon?’

‘No, this is, as your English friends say, “one of those funny little bits of information that carries a wallop”’, Jafari grinned unpleasantly, ‘it could be as serious for us as the “War of Holy Defence” against Sadaam. Think about it, Khomeini himself said our guardianship of the faith lasts only as long as the Twelfth Imam remains in hiding…’

‘Which is where he has been since 868…and will be until the day of Judgement and the end of history.’

‘Exactly, and now, for reasons best known to Allah, he has decided to appear in the earthly incarnation of a middling African warlord…thus ushering the final battle between righteousness and evil in an apocalyptic contest that will end in his stewardship of the world for several years under a perfect and spiritually enlightened government,’

Jafari paused to wipe a stubborn crumb from his bottom lip, ‘until the return of Jesus Christ, which I’m glad to say will turn the problem over to the Christians.’

‘But he must be an impostor?’ No one can take a war criminal seriously…as a religious figure.’

‘Thousands have, he’s gobbled half the country in the last two months, and now threatens the borders of Shimba’s neighbours, inciting Muslims everywhere to join his banner. We’ve deliberately blocked the story from all our media outlets. Only our foreign desks know of the developing situation. And of course, aside from our supporting his rise, the most disturbing aspect of this is that he says he is a Shia.’

‘Africa is a desperate place, he’s taken advantage of people’s hunger, of their hopelessness…he can only have weeks to go before he implodes like those Somali courts keep doing..’

Jafari smiled coyly, ‘only if you believe that he is an impostor, don’t you trust the teachings of the Shia, Mahmoud? Why ought we all to follow theological instructions when they remain just that, theology, and yet the minute we are asked to trust a real life miracle we become the arch practitioners of agnostic common sense; really, you surprise me, I thought in you the regime had at least one true believer?’

An awful doubt struck Golem, might this whole business be a bizarre test he was in danger of failing?

‘I only meant that the story struck me, in my capacity as an intelligence chief, as unlikely, as much the product of self- deception as the will of Allah. Such people exist everywhere, the only difference is in the scale of Limbani’s claim.’

‘Quite. Self deception, it begins in childhood when we pretend the tree we climb is in fact a space ship, then continues into adulthood as we convince ourselves that those we love, love us in return, and the ones we obey value our loyalty…’

Golem noticed Jafari’s eyes glaze slightly. ‘I’ll speak frankly, our revolution is old and in denial,’ he said. ‘Nations that do not acknowledge human frailty or human weakness allow both to thrive. The masses tolerated our double standards and severity for as long as they were thought to work, but every day the petrol queues grow longer and our village girls sell themselves to buy the stockings they hide under robes. We call America the new Rome, but it could just as easily be us. And now these protests, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, the Greens, everywhere and every day these protests, how long do you honestly think we can last?’

‘I myself have had a hand in putting those down,’ said Golem a little uneasily, it had not been a task he relished, ‘the regime has been shored up.

Jafari adjusted his cushion, ‘don’t try and contradict me, I know there’s not a word of this you haven’t said yourself at your drinking parties. So take the three together, our, shall we say, erratic President, this heretic who rises from nowhere, and us, at the moment of our greatest weakness, sitting atop a degenerating keg of discontent’ Jafari pulled out a folder he was sitting on top of and thrust it at Golem, ‘here, it’s all in here, everything you need to know about the usurper who challenges our authority as defenders of the true faith.’

Golem took the folder. It was not very thick. ‘Why me, I’m internal security, wouldn’t an African expert be more your man?’

Jafari chuckled, ‘why you? Because you once asked, “is it always in God’s interest to have people who believe in him running the world?” Your intellectual background and enquiring mind is worth more to us than a hack with a grasp of Swahili. We need you to find out if Limbani is who he says he is and if he is, is he capable of carrying such historical responsibility on his own?’

‘You mean we should help him?’

‘Not help, investigate, it is the priesthood and not the prophet that makes the world fit for religion…interpret the situation as you see fit but do not take this lightly, if this man is a pretender then he must be exterminated with extreme prejudice. If he is not, then leave on good terms, and we shall try and make Shimba our Israel, an outpost for our interests in Africa.’

‘Still, I’ve never been south of Egypt.’

‘And? I ask you not just because of your mind, but on account of what you’ll become if you stay here. A frivolous and trivial man, wasting his days with long walks and pointless gossip, and who knows, perhaps even a danger to yourself. There were many who thought you a natural figurehead for the Green revolt, even that you might share the demonstrators’ sympathies. You need to travel, to get out of here. Some people have a way of growing into themselves, others fall the other way, it is your destiny to leave here and find your way again in Africa,’ Jafari concluded waving a hand in the air in what might have been a blessing.

‘I see.’

‘They will be expecting you, and will regard you as a friend sent to advise them from their “older” Islamic brother. But remember Mahmoud, whoever our “Mahdi” really is, the one thing we are told he is sincere about is his wish for Islam to rule the world. This must not be allowed to happen.’

‘Why?’

‘Because the capital of Islam is here,’ Jafari tapped the floor, ‘not Shimba. Now go.’

ISBN: 978-1-84694-879-4, $14.95 / £6.99, paperback, 229pp

EISBN: 978-1-84694-880-0, $9.99 / £6.99, ebook

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