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Literature / Agent Lavender

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Agent Lavender written by Jack Tindale and Tom Black, is a story that originated on, eventually being published through Sea Lion Press.

The timeline is written as a classic Cold War thriller, with most of the action taking place in Whitehall, the White House and Red Square, with a large number of characters from across the political spectrum taking leading roles within the narrative.


Beginning on a chilly night in November 1975, Harold Wilson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, First Lord of the Treasury, and Leader of the Labour Party decides to rather abruptly leave office. Why? Because he's an agent of the KGB, he has been since the 1930s, and he's just received a coded message that he's about to be exposed. What follows is a grand chase around East Anglia, constitutional coups by civil servants, slash fiction involving Roy Jenkins and shady cabals of forces of the democratic left and the rather more undemocratic right.


This work provides examples of:

  • Alternate History: Rather than the conspiracy theory that the book might appear to be, it is explicitly set in an alternate timeline where Harold Wilson was, in fact, a spy.
  • Based on a True Story: A complicated version of this trope. Although Harold is a spy from 1937 onwards, the action only obviously diverges from history as we know it in November 1975. As far as the public knows, however, the events up to then are the same. The book acts as if it is revealing the real reasons they happened.
    • For example, Harold took over the leadership of the Labour Party when Hugh Gaitskell died, like in Our Timeline. Unlike Our Timeline, Harold poisons him.
  • Berserk Button: Don't accuse Tony Benn of being a Stalinist.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Harold Wilson was a Communist Spy.
  • Death Equals Redemption: Subverted. None of the characters who have been killed or died while assisting Harold express any regret for their actions.
  • Dirty Communists: Seemingly everywhere.
  • For Want of a Nail: Harold Wilson stays for an extra glass of port with his tutor, who just happens to be recruiting promising students as agents of the KGB.
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  • Fictional Political Party: By the end of the timeline, most of the major political parties in the 1977 General Election have changed their names from OTL. Led by Roy Jenkins and Tony Benn, the Labour Party have renamed themselves The Democrats, Ted Heath is leading a Conservative/Liberal coalition that is implied to become The Moderates, whilst Enoch Powell is leading a large number of right-wing Conservatives, Monetarists and Ulstermen as a newly formed Unionist Party.
  • Flashback: The story begins at the end of Wilson's time as an undercover spy, so there's a lot to catch up on.
  • Glorious Mother Russia: Who Wilson is working for, though YMMV on whether he's doing it for them or out of ideological Marxism.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Played with concerning Enoch Powell; he's not exactly idealised, but due to his notorious "Rivers of Blood" speech, alternate history works tend to treat Powell as a villainous figure, at times even a borderline fascist or Nazi. In this story, however, he furiously rejects any suggestion that he should lead any kind of anti-democratic movement exploiting the situation to take power. The point is to remind the reader that although Powell held some noxious views regarding race, he was both a patriot and a fervent believer in British democracy.
  • Historical In-Joke: The entire book is one long example of this trope. Just one example is Harold being inspired to make his (in)famous 'pound in your pocket' speech by an off-the-cuff remark from his Soviet handler.
    • The book also implies that many of the apparent failures of the Wilson governments were All According to Plan.
  • Hotline: Margaret Thatcher and Leonid Brezhnev are connected via a primitive form of this. The sexism of the leader of the Comintern's does little damage, thanks to careful translators. A more sophisticated version later puts President Ford in touch with Lord Mountbatten.
  • I Will Only Slow You Down: Played straight with John Stonehouse.
  • In Medias Res: Chapter Seven begins with a man being hit in the head with a cricket bat, and goes on to explain the chain of events that led to this. Part Three commences with a nuclear submarine surfacing in the Arctic Ocean, with similar explanations as to why it is there.
  • Iron Lady: The Trope Namer is a Deconstructed version of this, being thrown into office before her image make-over.
  • Last Request: Jacob Brimley asks Paddy Ashdown to make sure a letter he has written gets to his wife, then drinks his last whisky.
  • Only Sane Man: Enoch Powell, especially when compared to his some of his 'supporters'.
  • Punny Name: Peter Wright is a real world example of this, only in the real world he was wrong.
  • Real-Person Fic: Sort of qualifies, as the vast majority of major characters are real historical figures. Only minor roles like police constables, farmers or minor civil servants are fictionalised.
    • The only major exception to this is Jacob Brimley, a friend of Harold's from university who did not exist in real life.
  • Red Scare: Unsurprisingly, a fairly massive one of these hits the British establishment in the immediate aftermath of the first chapter, culminating in the house arrest of the entire Parliamentary Labour Party. Later played with, however, as despite this the Conservative Party's tendency to get discomfortingly cosy with authoritarian-leaning measures doesn't exactly do wonders for their popularity with the public either.
  • Reporting Names: The title comes from Wilson's, Lavender. We also meet Tulip and Lily early on, and Stafford Cripps is later implied to have been 'Agent Petunia' at some point. Yet another, Primrose only appears in the closing paragraph.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Lord Mountbatten briefly takes over as a not-entirely-democratic leader of the country.
  • Running Gag:
    • Not so much in the story itself (as the authors aren't particularly fond of the show), but the commenters on the story frequently noted that significant events in the pursuit of Harold Wilson tended to end up derailing classic episodes of Doctor Who.
    • Enoch Powell keeps getting approached by people urging him to essentially take over the country... which, as Enoch Powell doesn't want to just "take over" the country, is a matter of some frustration to him.
  • Shout-Out: Several, including junior reporter Alan Partridge blundering onto a crime scene, Wilson emulating Mark Corrigan's heat-retention techniques from Peep Show and Suslov citing The Doctor after a hapless Brezhnev fails to bring order to a particularly lively session of the Politburo.
  • Shown Their Work: Roem and Meadow are British political geeks. This becomes fairly obvious after reading a couple of chapters.
  • Stock Unsolved Mysteries: So that's what happened to Lord Lucan.
  • Time Skip: A week passes between the end of Part One and the beginning of Part Two. Enoch Powell provides readers with a narrative look back on the missing week's events.
  • The Cassandra: Peter Wright. See The Cuckoolander Was Right.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: Peter Wright spent years trying to expose Wilson (and others) as spies, as he did in Our Timeline. When he's proved right, he rapidly descends into a combination of this trope and Jerkass Has a Point.
  • The Name Is Bond, James Bond: "Ashdown, Paddy Ashdown."
  • The Voice: As an agent, Harold gets his orders from an unknown voice on various telephones.
  • Unexplained Recovery: Quite how John Stonehouse turns up in Havana, albeit in a wheelchair, is never fully explained.
  • Wham Line: "Certainly, Mr Heath."
  • Who's Laughing Now?: Peter Wright takes a certain amount of gloating pleasure in declaring this to the Labour Cabinet when revealing Wilson's treason to them.
  • You Wouldn't Shoot Me: Lord Lucan says a variation of this to Harold when Wilson hesitates to fire the gun. Ironically, the fact that he laughs at Wilson's paralysis jolts Harold into pulling the trigger.
  • Young Future Famous People: One of the protagonists went on in Our Timeline to lead the Liberal Democrats, whilst a young political aid to Mrs Thatcher would become a well-known Labour Prime Minister.
    • Additionally, one recurring character would IOTL grow up to be a major power-broker in the Labour Party. Here he's a rambunctious student activist.