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William Thomas
William Thomas

The Secrets Behind House of Cards: Michael Dobbs on Writing and Politics

- Why is House of Cards a classic of political fiction? - What are the main themes and characters of House of Cards? H2: The Plot of House of Cards - How does Francis Urquhart rise to power in the Conservative Party? - What are his methods and motives for manipulating and eliminating his rivals? - How does he deal with the media, the public, and his personal life? H2: The Historical and Cultural Context of House of Cards - When and where was House of Cards written and published? - How does House of Cards reflect the political and social climate of Britain in the late 1980s and early 1990s? - How does House of Cards draw inspiration from Shakespeare and other literary sources? H2: The Adaptations and Legacy of House of Cards - How was House of Cards adapted for television by the BBC in 1990? - How did House of Cards spawn two sequels and a trilogy? - How was House of Cards adapted for Netflix in 2013 and set in Washington, D.C.? - How has House of Cards influenced other works of political fiction and drama? H2: Conclusion - What are the main messages and lessons of House of Cards? - Why is House of Cards still relevant and popular today? - How can readers enjoy and appreciate House of Cards as a novel? Table 2: Article with HTML formatting House of Cards by Michael Dobbs: A Political Thriller That Inspired a Global Phenomenon


If you are a fan of political intrigue, drama, and suspense, you have probably heard of or watched House of Cards, the acclaimed Netflix series that follows the ruthless rise of Frank Underwood, a power-hungry congressman who will stop at nothing to become the president of the United States. But did you know that House of Cards is actually based on a novel by a British author and politician named Michael Dobbs?

House Of Cards Michael Dobbs 99.epub

Michael Dobbs is a Conservative peer who has served as an advisor to several prime ministers, including Margaret Thatcher, John Major, and David Cameron. He is also a prolific writer who has published over 20 novels, most of them in the genre of political thriller. His most famous work is House of Cards, which he wrote in 1989 as a satire and critique of British politics in the aftermath of Thatcher's resignation.

House of Cards is a classic of political fiction that has been praised for its realism, wit, and insight into the workings of power and corruption. It tells the story of Francis Urquhart, a fictional chief whip of the Conservative Party who schemes and murders his way to become the prime minister of the United Kingdom. Along the way, he faces challenges from his rivals, allies, enemies, journalists, and even his own wife.

In this article, we will explore the plot, themes, characters, context, adaptations, and legacy of House of Cards. We will also give you some tips on how to enjoy and appreciate this novel as a reader. Whether you are new to House of Cards or a longtime fan, we hope you will find this article informative and entertaining.

The Plot of House of Cards

The novel begins with the resignation of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who has lost the confidence of her party after a series of scandals and unpopular policies. The ruling Conservative Party is about to elect a new leader, and Francis Urquhart, the chief whip, is in charge of ensuring a smooth and orderly transition.

However, Urquhart is not satisfied with the outcome of the leadership election, which results in the victory of Henry "Hal" Collingridge, a moderate but indecisive politician who lacks vision and charisma. Urquhart believes that he deserves to be the prime minister himself, and decides to launch a covert campaign to undermine and destroy Collingridge.

Urquhart's methods are ruthless and cunning. He uses his position as chief whip to manipulate and blackmail his colleagues, leak secrets and scandals to the press, and orchestrate accidents and assassinations. He also forms a relationship with Mattie Storin, a young and ambitious journalist who works for The Chronicle, a tabloid newspaper. Urquhart feeds Mattie exclusive information and scoops, while also seducing her and using her as a pawn in his game.

As Urquhart's plot unfolds, he faces various obstacles and enemies, such as Roger O'Neill, the party's cocaine-addicted public relations director; Michael Samuels, the ambitious environment secretary who is Collingridge's heir apparent; Patrick Woolton, the arrogant foreign secretary who is Urquhart's main rival; Penny Guy, Mattie's colleague and friend who suspects Urquhart's involvement in the scandals; and Elizabeth Urquhart, Francis's wife who supports his ambitions but also has her own agenda.

Urquhart manages to overcome all these challenges and eventually forces Collingridge to resign after implicating him in a financial scandal. Urquhart then wins the second leadership election and becomes the prime minister. However, he still has to deal with Mattie, who has discovered his true nature and his role in the murders of O'Neill and Samuels. Urquhart invites Mattie to his country residence, where he confesses everything to her and then pushes her off the roof, killing her. He then returns to London, where he is greeted by cheering crowds and loyal supporters.

The Historical and Cultural Context of House of Cards

House of Cards was written and published in 1989, a time of great political and social change in Britain and the world. The novel reflects the mood and atmosphere of this period, as well as draws inspiration from historical and literary sources.

One of the main influences on House of Cards was the career and legacy of Margaret Thatcher, who was the prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990. Thatcher was a controversial and divisive figure who implemented radical reforms in the economy, society, and foreign policy. She was known for her strong leadership style, her conservative ideology, and her confrontational approach to her opponents. She also faced several challenges and crises during her tenure, such as the Falklands War, the miners' strike, the IRA bombings, the poll tax riots, and the Westland affair.

Thatcher's popularity declined in the late 1980s, as she became increasingly isolated and out of touch with her party and the public. She faced growing dissent and opposition from within her own cabinet, especially from Michael Heseltine, who challenged her for the leadership in 1990. Thatcher eventually resigned after losing the first round of the leadership election, paving the way for John Major to succeed her as prime minister.

House of Cards imagines a scenario where Thatcher resigns earlier than she did in reality, and where Francis Urquhart exploits the power vacuum and chaos that ensues. The novel also portrays a realistic and cynical view of British politics in the late 1980s, which was marked by corruption, scandal, sleaze, media manipulation, and public disillusionment. The novel exposes the dark side of power and ambition, as well as the moral decay and hypocrisy of the political elite.

Another influence on House of Cards was the works of William Shakespeare, especially his plays about English history and politics. Dobbs has acknowledged that he was inspired by Shakespeare's Richard III, a play that depicts the rise and fall of a ruthless and charismatic villain who murders his way to become the king of England. Dobbs has said that he wanted to write \"a modern version of Richard III\", [1] and that he modeled Francis Urquhart after Richard III, both in terms of personality and appearance.

House of Cards borrows many elements and motifs from Richard III, such as:

  • The use of direct address to the audience, where Urquhart breaks the fourth wall and reveals his thoughts and plans the readers, creating a sense of intimacy and complicity.

  • The use of prophecy and supernatural elements, such as the ghosts of the victims who haunt and curse Richard on the eve of the battle.

  • The use of animal imagery and metaphors, such as Richard being compared to a boar, a dog, a spider, and a toad.

  • The use of irony and sarcasm, such as Richard's mock humility and piety, and his frequent puns and jokes.

  • The use of soliloquies and asides, where Richard reveals his inner thoughts and emotions, as well as his plans and motives.

House of Cards also incorporates some quotes and references from other Shakespearean plays, such as Macbeth, Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Othello, and King Lear. For example, Urquhart says "Nothing can come of nothing" (from King Lear) when he dismisses Mattie's love for him; he also says "The rest is silence" (from Hamlet) when he kills Mattie.

The Adaptations and Legacy of House of Cards

House of Cards was a huge success when it was published in 1989, selling over a million copies worldwide. It also attracted the attention of the BBC, who commissioned a four-part television adaptation in 1990. The adaptation was written by Andrew Davies, who made some changes to the plot and characters, but retained the essence and tone of the novel. The adaptation starred Ian Richardson as Francis Urquhart, Susannah Harker as Mattie Storin, Miles Anderson as Roger O'Neill, David Lyon as Henry Collingridge, Malcolm Tierney as Patrick Woolton, Diane Fletcher as Elizabeth Urquhart, and Alphonsia Emmanuel as Penny Guy.

The adaptation was also a critical and commercial hit, winning several awards, including an Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Miniseries or a Special. It was praised for its sharp dialogue, dark humor, stylish direction, and superb performances, especially by Richardson, who became synonymous with the role of Urquhart. The adaptation also introduced some memorable catchphrases that became part of popular culture, such as "You might very well think that; I couldn't possibly comment" (Urquhart's way of avoiding direct answers) and "Put a bit of stick about" (Urquhart's way of urging action).

The success of the adaptation led to two sequels: To Play the King (1993) and The Final Cut (1995), both based on Dobbs's novels of the same names. The sequels followed Urquhart's conflicts with a new king (played by Michael Kitchen), his former ally Tom Makepeace (played by Paul Freeman), and his own past. The sequels also featured new characters, such as Sarah Harding (played by Kitty Aldridge), Urquhart's new lover; Claire Carlsen (played by Isla Blair), Urquhart's former mistress; Tim Stamper (played by Colin Jeavons), Urquhart's loyal henchman; and Ben Landless (played by Nicholas Farrell), Urquhart's illegitimate son.

In 2013, Netflix released a new adaptation of House of Cards, set in Washington, D.C., and starring Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood, a Democratic congressman who schemes to become the president of the United States. The adaptation was created by Beau Willimon, who updated and expanded the story and characters to suit the American political system and culture. The adaptation also starred Robin Wright as Claire Underwood, Frank's wife and partner; Kate Mara as Zoe Barnes, a young reporter who works with Frank; Corey Stoll as Peter Russo, a troubled congressman who is manipulated by Frank; Michael Kelly as Doug Stamper, Frank's chief of staff; and Mahershala Ali as Remy Danton, a lobbyist and Frank's former protégé.

The Netflix adaptation was also a critical and commercial success, winning several awards, including Golden Globes, Emmys, and Screen Actors Guild Awards. It was praised for its production values, writing, direction, and acting, especially by Spacey and Wright, who both won Golden Globes for their roles. The adaptation also introduced some innovative features, such as releasing all episodes of a season at once, allowing viewers to binge-watch the show; and using direct address to the camera, where Frank breaks the fourth wall and talks to the viewers, similar to Urquhart in the original adaptation.

The Netflix adaptation ran for six seasons, from 2013 to 2018. The first four seasons followed Frank's rise and fall as president, while the fifth and sixth seasons focused on Claire's presidency after Frank's death. The adaptation also featured new plotlines and characters, such as Lucas Goodwin (played by Sebastian Arcelus), Zoe's colleague and lover; Rachel Posner (played by Rachel Brosnahan), a former prostitute who is involved with Doug; Jackie Sharp (played by Molly Parker), a congresswoman who allies with Frank; Tom Hammerschmidt (played by Boris McGiver), Zoe's former editor who investigates Frank; Tom Yates (played by Paul Sparks), a novelist who writes about Frank and Claire; Will Conway (played by Joel Kinnaman), Frank's Republican opponent in the 2016 election; Mark Usher (played by Campbell Scott), a political strategist who works for both Conway and Underwood; Jane Davis (played by Patricia Clarkson), a mysterious advisor who works for both Underwood and Usher; LeAnn Harvey (played by Neve Campbell), Claire's campaign manager; and Annette Shepherd (played by Diane Lane) and Bill Shepherd (played by Greg Kinnear), wealthy siblings who oppose Claire.

House of Cards has influenced many other works of political fiction and drama, such as The Thick of It, The West Wing, Veep, Borgen, Scandal, Designated Survivor, The Crown, and Bodyguard. It has also been compared and contrasted with real-life political events and figures, such as the Brexit referendum, the Trump presidency, the Clinton scandals, the Obama administration, and the Kennedy assassination.


House of Cards is a novel that explores the nature and consequences of power and ambition in politics. It shows how a charismatic and ruthless politician can manipulate and deceive his way to the top, while also revealing his inner conflicts and vulnerabilities. It also depicts how politics affects the lives of other people, such as journalists, advisors, family members, friends, and enemies. It offers a realistic and cynical view of the political system and culture, as well as a satirical and witty commentary on human nature.

House of Cards is also a novel that has inspired a global phenomenon. It has been adapted for television in different countries and contexts, reaching millions of viewers around the world. It has also influenced other works of political fiction and drama, as well as generated discussions and debates about real-life politics. It has become a part of popular culture and a reference point for understanding power dynamics.

House of Cards is a novel that can be enjoyed and appreciated by readers of different backgrounds and interests. It can be read as a thrilling story of intrigue and suspense, as a historical and cultural document of British politics in the late 1980s, as a literary homage to Shakespeare and other classics, or as a philosophical reflection on morality and ethics. It can also be read in conjunction with its adaptations, which offer different perspectives and interpretations of the same story.

In conclusion, House of Cards is a novel that deserves to be read and re-read, as it offers a rich and complex portrait of politics and human nature.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Who is Michael Dobbs?

Michael Dobbs is a British Conservative politician and author, best known for his House of Cards

  • trilogy. He has served as an advisor to several prime ministers, including Margaret Thatcher, John Major, and David Cameron. He is also a prolific writer who has published over 20 novels, most of them in the genre of political thriller.

  • Who is Francis Urquhart?