Mohrbooks Literary Agency
Published by
Silvertail Books (2020-01-30)
Current material
Final Pages
Original language
Historical adventure fiction


by Sweeney, John

A brilliant historical novel and spy story by acclaimed former BBC journalist and author John Sweeney. It is based on the terrifying and tragic true story of Gareth Jones, the Welsh journalist who first told the world about the famine in the Soviet Union in 1933.
In THE USEFUL IDIOT, John Sweeney presents real history of enormous significance - events which will lead the world to the brink of nuclear holocaust, to the Cold War, to Chernobyl, and today's global political tensions - wrapped up in an electrifying novel and a tragic love story.

Moscow, 1932. Gareth Jones is a young Welsh reporter who has developed Communist sympathies following the Miners' Strike in 1926, where he witnesses a young boy crushed to death by a police van. He wants to write about what he saw, but the district editor of his paper won't run the story. Looking for a fresh start and eager to make his name in journalism, he arrives in the Soviet Union, excited to see for himself the new system being forged by Josef Stalin.

Johns meets American and British journalists who acclaim Stalin's great experiment, among which the cynical but savvy Walter Duranty of the New York Times, and he falls madly in love with the beautiful and mysterious Ukrainian translator Evgenia.

When Jones sees a young mother leave her dead baby by a Lenin statue in the heart of Moscow, outraged and shocked, he asks Duranty, who just like everyone else, make nothing of it. Evgenia passes him and whispers in Welsh to hold his tongue. But how can she speak Welsh so fluently?

When Jones starts to realise that behind the happy façade put up by the Russian government lies the horror of collective starvation, his admiration for Duranty withers and his belief in the revolution is shattered. He must decide whether to do his job and write honestly about what he sees, or become yet another "useful idiot", saying only what the Communist Party allows and smothering the evidence of his own eyes.

In this special kind of hell, anyone could be an informer, and Jones knows his life will be at risk if he is even suspected of defying the regime. The Cheka, the Soviet secret police, where the pitiless Kapitan Lyushkov makes the rules, has the power of silencing any opposers unchallenged. It's January 1933 and in Berlin Hitler has been appointed Chancellor.

Jones watches and mingles with other western journalists, corrupted by sex and power, not question Stalin's man-made famine. But if he tells truth to power, will he too be silenced forever? Or will he be another 'useful idiot'?

He learns there is a small group of underground resistance amongst the foreign expats of Moscow. But whose side is Evgenia really on? And why can she speak Welsh like a native? Is she a spy and is her attraction to him just an act?

In a harrowing and dangerous journey escaping Moscow and through Ukraine, Jones will risk everything, and the woman he loves, to carry a film reel, the only evidence of the terrible truth to be revealed to the world - it is his word against the Soviet Union...

John Sweeney is an award-winning journalist and a former long-serving BBC reporter. He is the author of ten books, including three novels: the 200,000-copy bestseller ELEPHANT MOON (Silvertail Books), another historical thriller based on true events, and two modern-day political thrillers, COLD and ROAD (Amazon Publishing). He also wrote an investigation into the Church of Scientology, THE CHURCH OF FEAR (Silvertail Books), and an account of his time spent undercover in North Korea working for the BBC, NORTH KOREA UNDERCOVER (Transworld). He tweets from @johnsweeneyroar where he has over 47,000 followers.

Available rights (1)

Language Territory Type Vendor Status
German World All

Mohrbooks Literary Agency
Annelie Geissler

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Hungary: Nouvion; Romania: Rao

Quote: Belli

THE USEFUL IDIOT is a rare find: an insightful, frighteningly intelligent thriller that cuttingly exposes the way we're all complicit in our governments' lies - and that fake news isn't merely a modern phenomenon. A gem of a novel.

Quote: Robert Dinsdale

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