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By Martin Liptrot

By Martin Liptrot

A week in America | 19 January 2024

As politics takes centre stage in America, Martin takes a sideways glance at the characters and storylines shaping the US Presidential Election...

Currently stationed in my outpost across the pond, I’m writing a novel.

It’s about two brothers who are both hoping to inherit the family estate.

The estate has been around since 1776 and since that time has grown to be the most powerful economic and political player in its sphere of influence.

While the management of the estate hasn’t been without mistakes and errors, it has consistently grown in stature – but that record is now under threat depending on who succeeds in the power struggle.

The battling brothers were born within a few years of each other, though both were born a long, long time ago.

One, Jay, is currently keeping the estate running. He is popular with the estates’ agricultural workers, those employed in the various businesses the estate runs, and with the many families who live in subsidized crofts and cottages dotted around the estate. Jay is also welcome in the nearby market towns where his largesse and philanthropy keep local community groups active, hosting festivals and parades. Jay is broadly seen as polite and trustworthy – if a bit dull.

The other brother, Dan, is cut from a different cloth.

Having never shown any interest in the fortunes of the estate, he left for the big city to seek his fortune with a career in self-promotion. Working as a carnival barker, he found himself embroiled in numerous schemes and scams many of which have seen him get his collar felt and on more than one occasion threatened to remove him of his liberty.

Dan also has a torrid reputation with women. Marrying and divorcing often, he surrounded himself with fashion models, starlets and occasionally those engaged in the stormy world of adult entertainment. On some occasions, it is rumoured, his advances have been unwarranted.

Dan, fresh from a short spell managing the estate on an interim basis, has now got a taste for the job and is hoping to make that a permanent appointment.

He has his supporters. Despite his flirting with the law and close relationships with those in a challenging moral predicament, Dan is popular with the local vicar and is often invited to deliver a sermon to the estate’s faithful.

In addition to the pious, Dan is also the favoured son of those who worship at the temple of Mammon. Large tracts of the estate are rumoured to hold untapped deposits of precious metals, natural resources and other in-demand commodities. Many of the friends Dan made in those earlier days in the circus are keen to curry his favour and get themselves a piece of that action.

And Dan is also expected to look for new opportunities to improve his and the estates fortune by forging new relationships, partnerships, and deals with competitor estates to the north and east.

But as my editor insists, every good story needs a twist or two.

While these two protagonists are fighting it out to be the next head honcho, the army of managers, directors and experts who have stewarded the slow but steady progress of the estate over the years don’t fancy the look of either of the brothers.

Behind the scenes they are doing everything they can to find and promote a third, or even a fourth, candidate to be in the running.

Jay’s close friend, Kay, is best positioned for this. She has accompanied Jay on many occasions, and it is presumed she has learnt much about the role of running the estate while being his de facto ‘right-hand woman’. The estate workers and local townsfolk are not so sure, struggling to recall anything of impact or significance she has delivered since emerging on the scene as Jay’s trusted partner.

The estate management team are however more concerned about the return of Dan.

They remember the chaos of when he was last in control, when he hid important documents from them, showed them to those he perceived to be his friends instead, before they were finally retrieved when the local sheriff appeared at Dan’s home to find them stashed in a bathroom under some fluffy towels, a crate of vodka, and a box of assorted knock-off Gucci bags and sandals.

The estate managers know that if they are to prevent Dan from taking over again, they have to find a candidate who the local vicar and the church hall organizing committee will support.

Young Ron was their initial choice and he set about his task with gusto – burning books the church didn’t like, accusing those who thought or believed in something different of being heretics, and putting a swift end to the popular Thursday afternoon dressmaking and dancing parties the locals enjoyed. But it quickly became obvious to everyone that young Ron wasn’t the sharpest pencil. After a series of fluffs and blunders the local church folk quickly became tired of young Ron and secretly wished he would just go back to the estate’s citrus farm where he still clung on to some respect.

That left just one alternative – Nikki with a K.

Nikki with a K can’t hide the fact that she doesn’t particularly like Dan.

When Dan was last in charge, he sent Nikki with a K off on an all expenses paid cruise round the world with stops in Israel, Iran, Syria, North Korea and Russia. Nikki with a K could never shake off the feeling that Dan was trying to ‘get rid of her’.

While on her 2-year voyage, Nikki with a K frequently spoke out against her hosts, angering Dan and his close friend and sometime business associate Vlad. But, back at the estate, she won some admiration.

But Nikki with a K has a problem. She isn’t very popular with the vicar. He doesn’t like change or things ‘a bit different’. He is also very wary of anything which he hasn’t tried before and with Nikki with a K and her family hosting one of the big estate jamborees in the coming weeks, the management team are hoping the vicar and the church hall organizing committee will see Nikki with a K more favourably than Dan, who may not be able to attend due to a meeting with a judge in New York he can’t get out of.

Over the next couple of months, the editors have told me I have to submit the next draft of the novel.

First, they want me to complete the chapters which deal with whether Jay and Dan can fend off the challenges of Kay and Nikki with a K, and whether Young Ron is finally returned to the citrus packing plant.

I’m also considering adding chapters on a possible intervention from a recently retired military man returning from foreign shores, or the local radio DJ, or perhaps a long-lost daughter of one of the senior estate management team. Fortunately, the editors don’t expect me to submit the final draft until the first week of November, so there is plenty of time for new story ideas to develop.

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Martin Liptrot

Martin Liptrot is a Public Affairs, PR and Marketing consultant working with UK, US and Global clients to try and ‘make good ideas happen’.

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