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A Man Against a Background of Flames (Fiction) [Paperback]

Paul Hoggart
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
RRP: 9.99
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Book Description

23 Oct 2013 Fiction
Appleby never meant to start a global movement - James Appleby's career as a history lecturer is drifting into mediocrity until the phone call that changes his life forever. Our adulterous hero is informed of a mysterious chest of 400 year-old documents, which turns out to house a dangerous secret. To his horror, Appleby discovers his research has ignited a global firestorm that threatens to engulf all he loves. Expertise in Elizabethan country life wasn't supposed to be controversial. But when Appleby and his hilarious Dutch colleague Van Stumpe uncover evidence about the suppression of a heretical cult, they arouse the ire not just of machiavellian academics, but a worldwide swathe of religious fundamentalists. As the reluctant Appleby's discoveries inspire thousands of followers, his enemies begin a murderous hunt which sees the action race effortlessly between Elizabethan Wiltshire, Amsterdam, Washington, New York and all over contemporary England. This fast-paced novel combines elements of the campus novel and the spy thriller into a riveting and sometimes surreal satire on fundamentalism and its suppression of doubt. Blending brilliant historical scene-setting with a generous splash of romantic intrigue, Hoggart's sharply contemporary thriller-satire will have readers hooked from start to finish.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Pighog (23 Oct 2013)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 1906309361
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906309367
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 12.8 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 145,333 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description

Review

'Move over Dan Brown - bulges with action sequences - one of the most thrilling reads I have encountered.' Oxford Times '... a roller-coaster ride ... I absolutely loved it, and was gripped from start to finish.' Valerie Grove 'A cracker, a corker and a tour de force.' Richard Cor field 'Da Vinci Code meets Lucky Jim.' Corinna Honan 'A most interesting book.' Rowan Williams ' - amazing story - Elizabethan history isn't normally this exciting.' The Times "It's extremely refreshing to read a novel which encompasses this wide range of tone and characterisation within such a densely plotted, violent and breath-stoppingly exciting story, so that the hints here and there of a possible sequel are especially welcome. Go out and buy it now as Christmas presents for all your friends and relatives, and you'll reap a huge debt of gratitude at the New Year!" - The Tablet "Dipping back and forth in time, Paul Hoggart's mixed-genre novel is bound to attract comparison with Dan Brown. But this is far better: intelligent, moving, funny and compelling." - Daily Mail

About the Author

Born in 1952, Paul Hoggart grew up in Hull, Leicester and Birmingham. He studied English at the University of York, and taught English, Drama and Media Studies at schools and colleges in Leicester, London and Kenya. Scion of the famous clan (son of Richard and brother of Simon), he was a regular television columnist for The Times and has written for many national newspapers and magazines.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating read 15 April 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
How refreshing to read an intelligent, thought provoking novel with such a humane theme. Following the different time threads was intriguing and stimulating. It had pace but without losing very strong characterisation. Loved Appleby. Highly recommended as an entertaining, funny and relevant read
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Man Against a Background of Flames 1 Sep 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A satisfying, ironic and multi-layered novel, bringing together the past (16th century Elizabethan England) and the present, merging campus novel, thriller, the comic and serious.

The hero, James Appleby, is an engaging, accident prone academic historian, who stumbles on evidence of a sixteenth century sect of humanists, who under their leader, Nicholas Harker, try to formulate a religion without god, The discovery has consequences: the spread of groups imitating the "Harkerites" in the present and a furious reaction to this from religious fundamentalists of all kinds.

The novel involves satirical treatment of backstabbing academic politics, Fox TV, religious cults and practices (Oprah Winfrey style confession sessions). It is sometimes laugh out loud funny and also works as a thriller-it's a page-turner.

It reminds one in some ways of Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum, but it is actually much better, more coherent and all of a piece.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wars of Religion 21 April 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
Entertaining from start to finish, Paul Hoggart's novel raises many thought-provoking questions about the history of religion -- and the history of doubt. A Man Against a Background of Flames combines fine historical scene-setting with the pace of the comedy thriller, as it highlights the paradoxes and absurdities of our supposedly 'post-secular' age.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved it and didn't want it to end. 10 Jun 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a hugely enjoyable read as an action packed, page turning historical thriller. But, at the same time it shows the folly of religious extremism, affirming my belief in the authority and power of a moral code without the need for a God or religion per se.
Demonstrating the very best of human nature by the use of warm, fallible, consistently believable characters, Paul Hoggart draws you into the interplay between intensely human situations, backstabbing academic politics and the madness of fundamentalism with a warm wit. It is thought provoking, humorously irreverent and completely relevant for an increasingly secular society which can feel battered and patronised by the religious right.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive, touching, exciting 3 Feb 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I loved this book. There is so much in it: love, infidelity, betrayal, religious fervour, humanist ideals, violence, tragedy, excitement, action and so many surprises. The structure of the book is incredibly complicated, and I should think if Mr Hoggart used Post-it notes to keep track of his story-lines, his office wall would have been covered in a colourful patchwork.

There are three story-lines that are told in consecutive chapters - the present day Appleby dealing with the monsters leashed by his discovery, the young Appleby trying to establish his career, meeting his future wife and dealing with tragedy, and finally the Elizabethan story of Harker and his disillusion with religion and religious authorities. The threads come together to form a stunning climax at the end. The sheer skill needed to pull it off is incredibly impressive.

This is a book that will grip you. I found it hard to put down. It was just so interesting. The details about Harkerism were fascinating, and the author has gone to amazing trouble with details down to writing Elizabethan poetry and Harker's kind, thoughtful, human "contemplations". A real tour de force and so much better than Da Vinci.

Fantastic stuff!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating! 11 Dec 2013
By crimnut
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I loved the historical background in this novel and the way the different strands of the story were woven together. It may be compared to The Da Vinci Code but I found it vastly superior to that.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Like the curate's egg, good and bad in parts 19 Oct 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
James Appleby is a history lecturer at York University, he has a career of mediocrity mapped out in front of him. Then, as part of his research, he uncovers the story of a massacre of a religious sect in the 16th Century. Further research leads to him uncovering the story of the Harkerites, a humanistic group whose teachings have remained hidden for centuries. Harkerism becomes a worldwide movement through Appleby's research and this triggers terrorist activity.

The story of the Harkerites and their teachings is a good one, juxtaposing beliefs alongside the actions of Appleby and how he changes over time. My problem with the book is the whole terrorist plot device, it reads like a comedy whereas the rest of the book is gentle philosophy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genre Bender 25 May 2013
By JRLB
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Is it a work of historical fiction, a thriller, a morality tale, a fantasy, a comedy of campus manners, or a lament for the loss of liberal englishness? Hoggart's genre-bending novel is all of these, and his skilful interweaving of different narratives across different periods of time makes it much more than the sum of its parts. The historical recreation of an imagined episode of Elizabethan religious dissent cruelly repressed is brilliantly done and truly haunting; there is great warmth, sensitivity and humour in the portrayal of Appleby, the academic who stumbles on the archive and whose life is consumed by it and the consequences of its discovery; and while the global consequences of that discovery may be somewhat fantastical, the clever structure of the novel ensures that this part of the story never unbalances the whole. Overall, a great read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting hook (early humanism = blasphemy) on which to hang ...
Interesting hook (early humanism = blasphemy) on which to hang a thriller, but some plotting details very difficult to swallow.
Published 7 days ago by Mary Frances Knight
4.0 out of 5 stars "Da Vinci Code" for the thinking classes
If the narrative does stumble occasionally, Mr Hoggart must be roundly forgiven for his success in weaving the jungles of academia, social criticism, BBC's Spooks, a historical... Read more
Published 26 days ago by Jonathan Watkiss
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Not bad at all and definitely worth a read if you like mystery and suspense.
Published 29 days ago by Jim Wiseman
3.0 out of 5 stars Background of Flames
I read this book because it got a favourable write-up in the 'Oldie' magazine.

It didn't enjoy it as much as I expected. It was just okay. Read more
Published 4 months ago by J. Taylor
5.0 out of 5 stars A challenging story on all levels
For those who like to read a story that has depth and sets a modern morality tale within an historic framework this is an ideal novel. Read more
Published 6 months ago by P. Tansey
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Entertaining and horribly believable, an excellent tale blending a strong historical setting with modern day themes that resonate well. Read more
Published 7 months ago by P W
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read.
I really enjoyed this book. It was very readable and well researched. It managed to mix some thought provoking ideas and poignant insights into personalities and relationships,... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Dr. Philip DLS
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping read, from start to finish ...
'A Man against a Background of Flames' tells the tale of James Appleby, a contemporary Oxbridge academic, and his dealing with the consequences of the discovery of a chest of... Read more
Published 7 months ago by MR R G HOLLAND
5.0 out of 5 stars Pleasing Tudor Escape
An excellent and exciting read that takes the reader on a fascinating journey through the Tudor world. It is more stimulating than many books in the genre (naming no names!). Read more
Published 7 months ago by naudley
5.0 out of 5 stars A thrilling read
This was a Christmas gift and although thrillers are not my normal choice of reading material, i thoroughly enjoyed Paul Hoggart's new book. Read more
Published 7 months ago by pelham books
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