Oliver Richbell

Oliver Richbell
After spending over a decade as a lawyer Oliver now runs a dispute resolution consultancy that helps businesses avoid, manage and resolve their commercial disputes through dialogue and negotiation. He is also Chairman of Bedfordshire’s region of Wooden Spoon, a national charity that helps socially, mentally and physically disadvantaged children and young people. He is also a volunteer at a local homeless outreach organisation. He lives in Bedford with his wife and daughter.

Oliver published his first book Gloriana in September 2018 and it was inspired by the Valkyrie plot to assassinate Hitler in 1944. Gloriana tells the fictional story behind a band of conspirators intent on reversing the Brexit referendum result. Gloriana has already received over fifty 4 and 5 star reviews.

Oliver's style of writing is aimed to appeal to the pace of modern life where he deliberately takes the reader on a 'roller-coaster' of a journey from start to finish in around as much time as it takes to watch a movie, commute back and forth from work or to fly away for a holiday. This approach, as used in Gloriana, is deliberately aimed at the book-fans but with the realisation that, in the twenty-first century, we all have so many other devices to entertain than just the printed word. As a result of this style Oliver was commissioned to write a series of legal short stories focused on the modern appetite for instant enjoyment and the need to binge!
Award Category Finalist
Award Submission Title
Gloriana
Logline
A change must be made. Permanently removing The Prime Minister is the only way.

This was the aim of a band of conspirators intent on quashing the Brexit Referendum result. Everything was planned with military precision and with the words “we go tonight” they were ready to initiate Gloriana.
My Submission
THE CONSPIRATORS:

Sir William Bretherinby
The Cabinet Secretary and the most senior Civil Servant in the country.
Clive Ferringsly QC
A retired Lord Chief Justice and former joint-head of the ‘Remain’ legal team.
Brigadier General Xavier Llewellyn-Jones
One of the most highly decorated and experienced military figures of his generation.
Katherine MacStones
The Attorney General and Chief Legal Adviser to the Crown.
Philip Nicholson
The Master of the Royal Household and personal confidante to the Royal Family.
Sebastian Pennington
Permanent Secretary to the Home Office who is responsible for law and order and security in Great Britain.
Samantha (Sam) Wyde
Director General and Chief Economic Advisor to the Treasury who oversees the economic and fiscal groups in the Treasury and is co-head of the Government Economic Service.


GLORIANA

The morning mist rose from the Thames like swirls of white candyfloss and as his jet-black chauffeur-driven car glided over Westminster Bridge, Sebastian Pennington was idly peering through the tinted windows watching the great unwashed shuffling along on the pavement.

It was not just the mist that made these daily commuters move ponderously but it was, in fact, because they were glued to the screens of their mobile phones. No-one seemed to be aware of each other as they sauntered along. Sebastian smiled as one suited gentleman dodged around a small group of tourists as they stopped mid-stride for their latest photo. It was a side-step worthy of a world class rugby player and as he dodged and swerved he broke his avid attention to his hand-held technical device to perform a superbly timed photo-bomb by jutting his head sharply upwards and to the left like some displaying meerkat.

Sebastian allowed himself an inward chuckle as he was driven past this Pythonesque moment and as he turned to look over his shoulder the man had continued walking, already head down and re- immersed with his phone.

Sebastian adjusted the wings of his Thomas Pink shirt, feeling the folds of his tie and its double- Windsor knot. He was tense and he knew it. Earlier that morning it had taken him five attempts to get his tie as he wanted; it normally only took him two but his fingers just didn’t want to function as usual.

Nervous energy he concluded, so he declined his usual morning Nespresso. He also didn’t want to take the risk of ruining his immaculately pressed shirt or tie.

He was now regretting not having that first hit of coffee as he could sense a gigantic yawn was coming. Like most people he lived off that powerful bean to get him going in the morning. He fought the sleepiness that he sensed was washing over him by pinching his nose hard with his right hand; it didn’t work as he arched his back and yawned for Britain.

His car, a pristine Jaguar, always had a valet-fresh aroma and this mattered to Sebastian as he enjoyed all things prim, proper and refined. The sole exception to this rule was with his mistresses, who he preferred to be anything but sophisticated. The selection last night from Madame Verity, the most discreet of the co-ordinators in London, was just right for his tastes and his mood.

Whatever the woman’s name was didn’t matter as they were never invited to stay the night. Sebastian always preferred the middle of his bed and even when he was back home, in his Georgian cottage with his Wife, Natalie, he would insist on occupying the centre of the marital mattress.

However, as of late and by his personal preference he was rarely at home with Natalie, especially when the only thing that welcomed him there was the mat on the doorstep.

Rather than heading to Whitehall, Sebastian called out to Jonathan, “Slight detour this morning please Jonathan. Victoria Embankment if you would.” Jonathan, who had been Sebastian’s driver for longer than he wanted to remember, inwardly cursed as he was hopeful of a cheeky little catnap after dropping off his charge – he always looked forward to his flick through The Sun newspaper and then ten or so minutes shut-eye before the obligatory cleaning and valeting.

His response was however as courteous as ever, “Of course Sir” despite the fact that it meant fighting the morning traffic around Parliament Square to get onto Victoria Embankment as there was presently no right turn after Westminster Bridge. What was the point, contemplated Jonathan, about having a bigwig in the back if he couldn’t flout a few road signs.

After a minute or so of driving, Jonathan glanced into his rear-view mirror to try and gauge precisely where he was meant to be going. Victoria Embankment was unusually a very vague destination; however, his normally alert and focused passenger seemed to be lost in his thoughts.

Driving around London was never easy but with a saloon Jaguar it was always slightly more precarious, certainly with the volumes of neon-clad cyclists cutting in and out of gaps in the traffic like leaping, luminous salmon. Jonathan just continued to slowly meander along waiting for his instructions.

Cruising in his Jaguar, Jonathan knew it wasn’t his but he liked to tell himself that it was and it made him feel important and wealthy; after all why couldn’t he daydream a little; everyone is a legend in their own bath time so why shouldn’t he be? Most of the rest of his regiment who left the army around the time he did were either working as security guards at supermarkets or breaking their backs labouring, whereas he got to drive a flash motor and babysit some government toff; easy in comparison. As he carefully drove along, his mind was distracted; playing that song in his head, “He’s got a brand new car, Looks like a Jaguar ...” but he couldn’t for the life of him remember the name of the band.

“Stop here,” came the barked order from the back seat – fortunately for Jonathan there was a sufficient break in the traffic so he was able to come to a halt on the corner of Richmond Terrace off Victoria Embankment. Jonathan looked behind him to check what he was meant to do next but he only caught sight of Sebastian’s suit jacket as it was leaping out of the car which had barely slowed to a standstill. “No need to wait” came the hasty voice from Sebastian as the door slammed shut. Jonathan watched his patron stoop down to place his leather satchel between his legs so he was able to adjust his tie before marching purposely towards a rather grand looking modern building overlooking the most famous of rivers.

It was not uncommon in itself for Jonathan to be asked to return to the office alone, so hearing the impatient beeping of horns behind him and catching sight of a rather angry looking cabbie giving him a two-finger salute in his rear view mirror he placed his right foot on the accelerator. Jonathan felt the immediate power at his disposal and as he pulled the dark leather steering wheel down to his right the Jaguar leapt in front of the creeping traffic and back onto Victoria Embankment and towards Horse Guard’s Avenue. As he sped away he shot a quick peak over his shoulder and saw the sign “New Scotland Yard”.

Jonathan thought to himself that there must be a ‘to-do’ on as normally the Metropolitan Police came to Sebastian at his Whitehall offices but heading back now his attention was half on whether he was going to get any kip this morning and the other half was on trying to recall the name of that band ...

Sebastian had entered the modern edifice by the time Jonathan had cried out the answer to his ‘name that band’ quandary. “Feeder,” he exclaimed as he relaxed back into his seat with a self-satisfied bum wiggle of relief. His next stop would be forty-winks with a bit of luck.

Sebastian declined to participate in the usual formalities of signing in and going through security checks. There really was no need to be so rude about it thought the guard, just because you are the Permanent Secretary to the Home Office and one of the most powerful unelected men in the country, who is basically in charge of law and order and security throughout Britain, there’s no need to be such a dick. The guard, still chewing his internal dissatisfaction like it was one of the dumplings in the staff canteen, watched Sebastian march down the hallway.

Sebastian reached his destination, then he repeated the charade of adjusting his tie for the umpteenth time that morning. The door was closed and as Sebastian placed his palm on the handle and pushed downwards he inadvertently hit his knee on the solid frame by moving forward too decisively. Letting out an audible grunt he impatiently rattled the lever expecting frustration to be the solution. After a moment or two he heard the metallic click as the door was opened from the inside.

As Sebastian entered the meeting room his attempted levity was a serious misjudgement of the atmosphere in the room; “It comes to something that you have to lock a door inside New Scotland Yard”. He smiled as he spoke and scanned the faces around the room looking to share his ‘amusing’ quip - he was not pleased by the ashen expressions he received so he moved for the nearest chair.

As he sat down he fiddled with his tie once again.

The meeting room was modern in appearance and decor but it lacked soul. One side was glazed facing a courtyard, the back and other side wall were adorned with images from the by-gone era of London policing; the majority of which were black and white photos but there was a dominating colour one which depicted The Prime Minister standing together with the Metropolitan Police Commissioner.

Sebastian had by now opened his satchel and was about to delve into it to retrieve his note pad and pen when a voice came from the other end of the table.

“We go tonight”.

With the sound of those three words Sebastian lost the sensation in his right hand thereby dropping his Mont Blanc pen into the depths of his bag.

There was an audible intake of breath as those around the room became immediately aware that the time for decisive action had arrived.

Sat at the head of the table and in charge of the group was Brigadier General Xavier Llewellyn-Jones and it was he who had caused such commotion by uttering those words that seemed to hang over them all like a net of balloons on prom night. LJ commanded respect and was idolised by all that had served under him in a highly distinguished military career that had spanned over three decades and countless countries. LJ had been on active service everywhere Britain had been in the last thirty odd years; from the first Gulf War to Afghanistan, Iraq, Sierra Leone and Bosnia.

One of Brigadier General Xavier Llewellyn-Jones’ most admirable characteristics was that unlike most of his fellow ‘top-brass’ he didn’t insist on too much formality, for example he preferred to be addressed as “LJ”.

“Right then everyone, let’s stop fucking about and confirm we are all green for go,” commanded LJ. There was no doubt that he was the leader of the conspirators and he continued with a summons similar to what you’d hear at a rugby social, “To my left”.

All eyes turned to face the Director General and Chief Economic Adviser to the Treasury: Sam Wyde. She was dressed in a bespoke tailored charcoal grey business suit as she had a tendency to prefer suits and shirts to perhaps what is considered to be more feminine attire. In her experience she felt it necessary to be more manly, hence Sam and not Samantha. Sam’s attitude had paid dividends as her “call me Sam” approach had certainly helped achieve her stated goal of becoming the youngest ever Chief Economic Adviser. She was brilliant and everyone knew it and her knowledge of macroeconomics was worthy of a Nobel Prize.

Sam was ruthless though. She was like an assassin and nothing would distract her from achieving even greater power and authority. People often mistook her for arrogant but actually, and as her favourite song went, she was in reality just a ‘cold hard bitch’.

Her one fault was that she was perhaps too calculating and preferred to prefix her statements with caveats or to be overly generic in her replies in order that she maintained a comfortable and balanced seat on the fence. After all, the primary rule of Whitehall was survival and the best way to survive was not to adopt a polarised position.

Sam began to speak with a calm and deliberate purpose as she carefully uttered her planned opening statement “All that has been needed to be done has been done, therefore...” LJ was not a fan of this Whitehall rule.

“Well fuck me. What does that mean?” snapped LJ. “Any chance you could take that civil service arse- covering dictionary out of your mouth for just one minute!”

“Look here LJ,” responded Sam - “There is no need for me to spell it out is there?” With an intake of breath she looked around the room and stated, “We have all spent a great deal of time getting everything in place, we know what we’re doing and what is at stake. The Treasury are on board provided that events go as we have planned so let’s just Leave it at that”. After seeking out eye-contact with LJ she added “OK?” But for once her confidence eluded her and those two letters got stuck in her throat so she coughed into her right hand and repeated, “OK?” with a little more volume and force than before.

The room fell silent as they waited for LJ to reply and Sebastian felt that it was his job to speak so with the obligatory knot shuffle, he opened his mouth and took a deep gulp of the stale air-conditioned air. However, he had lost his moment as to the right of Sam a voice was heard which left Sebastian with his mouth agape and his right hand off the table and index finger out as if he were attempting to enter his pin code at an invisible cash point.

The voice belonged to Katherine MacStones, the Attorney General and the Chief Legal Adviser to the Crown. She was not Scottish but she had married Douglas MacStones of MacStones LLP, the largest and most influential law firm in Scotland. Katherine had been in and out of foster-homes all her childhood, not that she wanted to remember anything of her formative years. She had worked hard at college and her absolute tenacity and sheer gritty stubbornness got her through university and law school and into a decent mid-sized legal practice in Newcastle. She met her future husband at a conference and despite what was rumoured, she fell immediately in love with him.

Katherine became Katherine MacStones within a few months of their meeting, a partner not long after and managing partner a few years later. With her no- nonsense approach and ‘common touch’ her stock kept rising and she was elected to Parliament with a vast majority and became the Attorney General within her first elected term. However, despite every success that came her way it was never enough for Katherine as she felt that in spite of everything she was unable to rid herself of the stigma of her early life. It was irrational paranoia on her part but she couldn’t help it; her only cure was to amass more and more money and power.

Katherine was, on occasion, fond of adding a little Scottish twang to her words as she spoke and this was one such occasion “As I (which came out as aye) see it, if LJ says we are on, then we are on”. Accepting the nods from around the room Katherine continued, “This is it, the die is cast and if need be I’ll play Brutus myself”.

Sam didn’t wait for her to continue as she forcefully interjected, “Look here, Katherine,” she almost spat out her name, “It’s all very well you being so candid about it but we are talking High Treason here, not some slap on the wrist misdemeanour and I think there needs to be some carefully chosen words”.

Katherine turned to face Sam, “Tell me Samantha what exactly have you got to add right now?”. The measured choice of ‘Samantha’ was a deliberately barbed comment designed to ‘score a point’ and attempt to establish an aura of dominance. Sam’s reaction was, in the opinion of the men in the room, as calm as a Las Vegas poker ace but as the two women were, at best only a foot away, Katherine saw the flicker of indignation in Sam’s eyes.

Katherine pressed on. “We’ve been through this on more than one occasion; there are no listening devices and we’ve all left our mobiles and computers at work or at least disabled the tracking and recording functions.” Sebastian gulped and his mouth fell open again as he tried to remember if he had disabled the tracker and microphone on his government issue smartphone.

“So, what is your problem here?” Katherine asked of Sam and the stress placed on ‘your’ was overly emphasised to highlight that Sam was isolating herself from the rest of the group.

Sam, sensing that the five sets of male eyes were observing this ‘interchange’ like sports fans watching the opening rounds of a boxing bout, reacted with gusto.

“Katherine I know you are built to play Brutus”; the dig at her weight hit home better than Brutus’ dagger did as Katherine recoiled. Sam attacked again, “but there has to be some class to what we are doing here.” Sam deliberately pronounced the ‘we’ louder than the rest of the sentence but the comment addressed to Katherine about ‘class’ was another knife wound and given the blazing eyes that stared back at her, Sam knew she had scored.

LJ had heard enough of the persistent sniping between Katherine and Sam – he liked them both, of course he did, but he had not counted on the personality clash between them. Clash was a polite way of describing it.

LJ resented what he perceived as the lily-livered Whitehall attitude which, in his personal opinion, had started this entire mess in the first place. He was not a fan of lawyers either, he never had been but especially not after his second wife had dragged his good name through the divorce courts using his money to pay for a bulldog of a barrister to nail him to the wall.

He was a pragmatist though and was acutely aware that the Treasury and the Attorney General’s office needed to be fully onside if his plan was to succeed. It was always referred to by LJ as ‘his’ plan although it was certainly not his entirely. LJ had structured, formed and named The Committee and had, of course, nominated himself as Chair, but this was no ordinary cross-departmental committee that reported back up the chain of command.

The Committee was the secret kind; the top-secret kind; the kind of committee that had no minutes taken, no records of any sort and it could only meet with every member present. It was an ‘all for one, one for all’ quorum and although he had never read anything by Alexandre Dumas, LJ would have liked the sobriquet of one of the musketeers. Instead he settled on the slightly un-original ‘LJ’.

The first meeting of The Committee had taken place in LJ’s country house in the Cotswolds. It was a very informal occasion, cigars and brandy were offered and taken by some including MacStones, which LJ highly approved of, and it was agreed by all that something had to be done to prevent the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union.

Brexit, as the population as a whole knew it, was voted for by just 51.9% of the votes cast – which meant that 48.1% voted to Remain. But the staggering percentage from The Committee’s point of view was that the turnout was just 72.2% of those eligible to vote. There were 27.8% of voters who didn’t turn out for such a crucial decision which was more than enough to have changed the result. LJ did have to concede the point from Sebastian that not all of those who did not vote would have voted Remain; if they had all voted it could, for argument’s sake have increased the Leave share of the vote. LJ accepted the notion in principle but rejected the hypothesis on the basis that the Leave Campaign had been predicated on mistruths and false promises and that if the electorate had been truthfully informed and not pandered to like cantankerous children, there was no plausible way the United Kingdom would have voted to Leave the European Union.

As the cigar smoke swirled around their heads like pirouetting ballerinas and the brandy decanter was emptied and refilled and emptied and refilled again the opinions and words from those present became more militant and radical.

It was LJ who first talked of ‘taking direct action’ with MacStones the first to suggest that if a change of policy was to be achieved it could not occur through typical constitutional means.

Out of a brandy-fuelled bombastic rant-athon came the kernel of an idea that it might just be possible to alter Britain’s future. It was very high risk but nevertheless the conclusion LJ came to when the last of his guests had stumbled upstairs to the bedrooms was that in fact it might just be possible.

Comments

adellryan Mon, 08/24/2020 - 15:31

What an intriguing plot concept! The 1940s is, indeed, an excellent timeframe from which to pull inspiration. Congratulations on becoming a Page Turner eBook Award finalist. Best of wishes on your writing journey. ~ Adell Ryan

Nikki Vallance Mon, 08/31/2020 - 16:51

Now that premise will have (almost) half the country wishing this were an expose and not a novel. As for me ,if asked for my opinion, I'd site Sir Humphrey and say 'I couldn't possibly comment.' 

Well done for reaching the finals and good luck for the next round of judging! 😊