An Extract from MBA by Douglas Board

June 4, 2019 - 5:17 am No Comments

Something different on my blog today, an extract from MBA by Douglas Board

Blurb: Why is so much of the world managed by arseholes? ‘MBA’ – the abbreviation for a master’s degree in business administration – is a farce set at an English business school run by globe-trotting American professor William C Gyro. When Ben, a high-flying graduate of the college, is suddenly fired for no reason, Gyro asks him to rescue the very imminent, star-studded opening of a spectacular all-glass tower.

The culmination of a farce should be like an extravaganza of fireworks, with reader wondering, ‘Surely the writer can’t top this!’. And of course you try, as many times as you can. Frank is a professor at the school. Connie is an NHS executive who is studying part-time, and has been elected student governor. That has sucked her into the tower’s increasingly chaotic opening, and into falling romantically for Ben. But he has lied to her. Here, not far from Slough, with the tower opening under way, she flees the school for what she hopes is sanity.

Extract: The Slough train was due in eight minutes.

‘Nice evening,’ said the old man with the Union Jack but Connie ignored him, pacing the length of the platform and back. All men were the same and she was not in the mood to forgive any of them ‒ whether the tattooed youngsters in the pub, this barnacle on the railway bench, the fat cat, the slick misogynist, the weird scientist or, no better than any of them, the apprentice shitbag. The human race had been betrayed by its priapic half, and several of them had betrayed her personally. On another day she might have felt more kindly towards the pensioner but her bladder wasn’t having any of it. Whoever fixed the wanking hand to the lift had called it right.

She told herself again and again that all Ben needed to have done was own up to his role at Bakhtin on the Sunday afternoon of her birthday. What could have been easier? She would have shouted for a bit but forgiven him (she liked to think). Probably they would still have slept together, but without a lie growing like weeds in between all the words they said to each other. Without that lie, Frank would not have decided during Wednesday’s dinner to get Connie back to his house this afternoon. Without going back she wouldn’t have been confronted by his need of her car battery. Without giving up her car battery, she would have had no reason to feel the soft curds of fear welling up inside her which she was covering over with a hard blow-torch of anger.

Still, from what she remembered from Ben’s timetable, the tower was open by now and the Prime Minister’s announcement made. In a few minutes she would be on her way to Slough and could begin to calm down. Of all towns, Slough was the epitome of tedious normality, although the poet laureate Sir John Betjeman had wanted to obliterate it from the sky. Connie has fixed the horizon with eyes like red lasers, as if in a minute two smudges of smouldering ash four inches apart might appear on the celestial dome.

Which, a minute later, they did. Connie pinched herself. The approaching roar, horrendously loud, caught her by surprise. Standing a few feet from the man on the park bench, the vibrations in her bones turned her blood to ice. Two cigar tubes about six metres long with stubby wings flew overhead. She ducked.

Waving his Union Jack, the old man has spoken to her but she heard nothing. ‘What did you say?’

‘Tomahawks,’ he repeated matter-of-factly, waving his flag as if at a military exhibition. ‘Cruise missiles. Turbofan engines. 1,500 mile range. Nuclear capable.’

Connie remembered the mobile networks going down on 7/7 and the calls made from hell on 9/11, but reached for her phone anyway. She would leave a message for one of her brothers. She crouched behind the stone hut on the platform which housed engineering equipment; she knew it would not shelter her from the blast, but did it anyway. Out of sight she heard the whine of the missiles’ engines going up as they approached their target, the change in sound destroying any possibility, however remote, that the instruments of death were en route to somewhere far away.

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Meet the author:

Douglas Board is the author of the campus satire MBA (Lightning Books, 2015), which asked why so much of the business world is Managed By Arseholes. Time of Lies, his second novel, is a timely exploration of the collapse of democracy.

Born in Hong Kong, he has degrees from Cambridge and Harvard and worked for the UK Treasury and then as a headhunter. He has also had a distinguished career in public life, serving as treasurer of the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund and chairing the British Refugee Council.

As well as writing fiction, he is the author of two applied research books on leadership, which was the subject of his doctorate. He is currently a senior visiting fellow at the Cass Business School in London. He and his wife Tricia Sibbons live in London and Johannesburg.

Social Media Links

Twitter: @BoardWryter

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