The Trade Secret

The Trade Secret

Rob's new novel The Trade Secret is available now as a hardback from Cargo, and as an E-book by Cargo Crate.

In Isfahan, Persia, 1599, young servant Nat Bramble loses his master Sir Anthony Sherley's silver in rogue trading. Nat and lovelorn poet Darius Nouredini strike out for secret oil wells said to lie under the abandoned Temple of Mithras. Their venture lights a trail of fire which follows Nat all the way back to England, where he is caught in the crossfire between the new King James, the Levant Company and ruined pirate Sir Thomas Sherley, Anthony's brother. A swashbuckling, rollicking story of espionage, love and adventure, this beautifully written novel will dazzle and delight readers as we follow Nat Bramble to the ends of the earth and back again.

Robert says, "The Trade Secret tells the story of what happens when Elizabethan adventurers in Persia discover three amazing things they never knew existed: oil, coffee and carrier pigeons.

Even though this is fiction and not standup, I'm hoping that people who enjoyed History Of Oil will like The Trade Secret, too. Two reasons. #1, the novel tells the story of Oil, The Early Years. #2 as with History of Oil, The Trade Secret tells a secret history, forgotten facts from our past, e.g. long before she ever sailed to America, The Mayflower may well have transported Mediterranean slaves from port to port across the Ottoman Empire. She was a part time slave ship before she was famous."

Anthony Sherley

Q and A:

Q: Tell us about The Trade Secret

Set in Persia, Venice and London, the Trade Secret is based on the true story of the first Elizabethans to discover coffee, oil and messenger pigeons. The story goes from 1599 to 1606. At the heart of the story is a friendship. Seventeen year old Nat Bramble, a servant of English mercenary Sir Anthony Sherley, befriends poet of the Isfahan bazaar, Darius Nouredini. Together the two young men embezzle Sir Anthony's silver and, hoping to make themselves fortunes as oil merchants, set off for the secret oil wells said to lie under a ruined Temple of Mithras. But the oil lights a trail of fire which follows Nat all the way back to the Pool of London, where he is caught up in the power-struggle between the new King James and the Levant Company. Nat faces a terrible reckoning with Anthony's half-crazed brother, Sir Thomas Sherley - unless Darius can find a way to help his old friend from afar.

Q: What made you want to write this book?

A: Now that we have come to the end of oil, (insofar as climate science demands it stay in the ground) I wanted to write a story set during the beginning of oil. Now that everyone from George Soros to Newsnight are speculating about the end of capitalism, The Trade Secret is about its beginning. If the central political battle of our time is between corporate power and democracy, Nat Bramble is in on the ground floor of the rise of the corporation. Everyone always goes on about the East India Company, but the Levant Comapny are the real template for the way that a corporation can capture and control the state. And it was the first.

Q: It's quite a departure from your previous work in literature and comedy...

A: No, it follows on from both quite closely. My last novel The Fountain At The Centre Of The World was about the end of capitalism, The Trade Secret about its beginning. Both are about the battle between corporate power and democracy. Both The Trade Secret and 2007 stand up show History Of Oil are built on forgotten history. So in History Of Oil, for example, I was interested in why World War I is never taught in school as the invasion of Iraq it was. The Trade Secret seizes on all kinds of forgotten historical nuggets, such as how:

* English mercenary Anthony Sherley became the first Iranian Ambassador to Europe,
* The Mayflower was once an Ottoman slave ship,
* There was an occupation of St Paulís early in the reign of King James.

I'm hopeful that people will like both histories of oil, not least because History Of Oil has been screened all over the world! Oh, and come to think of it, my 2003 stand up show From Caliban to the Taliban also had an Elizabethan theme, since it told the story on the wreck of the Virginia Company's Sea Venture (in which Shakespeare was a shareholder) followed by a colonial uprising. So there's lots of continuities with past comedy and fiction. If there is a difference or departure from earlier comedy or novels it is that it is the most swashbuckling thing I have written.

Q: Why sign with a small Scottish publishing house?

A: They told me they were huge.

Q: What other plans have you for 2013?

A: Iíll be touring an all new stand up show called Robert Newman's New Theory of Evolution, which argues that nature tends to select for cooperation over competition.