This Is Not Propaganda

Peter Pomerantsev

Faber, £14.99

Forty years ago, his parents were persecuted by the KGB, and in this book on information warfare “lapsed television producer” and student of propaganda Peter Pomerantsev frequently compares their experiences with today’s world of bots, fake news and troll farms. Access to information was supposed to bring power and freedom to the masses. Instead, it’s been harnessed by governments to create a kaleidoscope of disinformation which sows division and uncertainty. Noting that “the Kremlin’s rulers are particularly adept at gaming elements of this new age”, Pomerantsev criss-crosses the world, from the Philippines to Russia and Mexico to China, meeting the people on the frontline of the information wars and charting how social media has chipped away at old certainties and helped put authoritarian regimes in power. Although surprisingly light on the topic of Russian interference in the 2016 US Presidential election, it’s well-researched and consistently chilling, taking a global overview of a subject we tend only to see in fragments.

Our Little Secrets

Peter Ritchie

Black & White, £8.99

In her fifth novel, Peter Ritchie’s detective Grace Macallan, working in counter-corruption for Police Scotland in Edinburgh, is somewhat sidelined by the woman she’s investigating, the compelling Janet Hadden, an ambitious detective inspector prepared to do virtually anything that will advance her career. Tough, devoid of empathy and partial to an adrenaline rush, Hadden plans to assemble a group of informants whose intel will help her climb the ladder of promotion. The one she really wants to recruit is Dominic Grainger, a smooth operator who moved into legitimate business at his earliest opportunity but has two hot-headed brothers who would skin him alive if they knew how much of their money he’d gambled away. Former senior police officer Ritchie can be relied on for a tense, gritty story full of authentic detail, and he drives this murky tale along with vivid, well-realised characters, all of whom are well aware that they’re playing a dangerous game for the highest stakes.

Mad, Bad and Dangerous To Know

Colm Tóibín

Penguin, £9.99

In these revisions of a series of lectures he gave in 2017, Tóibín examines the relationships between three great Irish writers and their fathers. Oscar Wilde, James Joyce and W.B. Yeats were all Dublin Protestants born within 30 years of each other with “prodigal fathers” whose absence may have helped them to flourish. Of the violent alcoholic John Stanislaus Joyce, Tóibín finds traces throughout his son’s work which suggest that in his writing he was trying to bridge the gap between them. And if the era’s premier dandy was reacting against the infamous dishevelment of his father, Sir William Wilde, Tóibín finds much else that did rub off on him. John B Yeats is the most interesting of the three, a more empathetic soul who abandoned the law to paint and entered into a long-distance romantic correspondence in his sunset years. Tóibín’s prose is characteristically elegant and erudite, flowing as though we’re following his thoughts turning over in real time.