TONY BASSETT - The Lazarus Charter is Grounded in Reality

Written by Tony Bassett

The Lazarus Charter may be a work of fiction.  But it’s a book that’s grounded in reality. It’s set in a Britain in which foreign agents seem to be free to swan in and out across borders, committing state-sponsored acts of terrorism as they travel.     

And it’s set in a Britain in which military targets thousands of miles away can be obliterated by drone weapons being operated by the touch of a button in an office somewhere in London. 

Part of the inspiration that drove me to write the book came from the growing dangers posed in this country by foreign agents who seem to believe they can act without regard for the law. 

Like so many people, I have been outraged at the way they seem to have been free to smuggle deadly, unstable poisons into Britain and then use them to eliminate enemies. 

One of the most dramatic incident involved the polonium poisoning murder of British-naturalised Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko, aged 44, on November 23, 2006.  Shockingly, the deadly poison was presented to him in a cup of tea in a London hotel.  

Then, in more recent memory comes the attempted murder with novichok of former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal on March 4, 2018 in Salisbury – which led disgracefully to the death four months later of an entirely innocent party, Dawn Sturgess, also 44. Others who have offended the Kremlin – mainly Russian oligarchs – have also succumbed to mysterious ends.

I decided that, since these were the two people to lose their lives at the hands of foreign agents, I would dedicate The Lazarus Charter to them both. I’m pleased to say that both families have warmly welcomed my gesture.  Stan Sturgess (father of Dawn) and Marina Litvinenko (widow of Alexander) are both making their way through the early chapters after being presented with copies of the spy thriller.

I was a national press journalist at the time of the Litvinenko murder.  I remember the white tent erected outside the Litvinenko home in Muswell Hill.   I recall the startled faces – not just of British neighbours, but of Russian neighbours in the street.  When I spoke to one Russian family, they were too frightened to say anything at all.   

Litvinenko’s 57-year-old widow Marina, who is based in London, has courageously campaigned ever since her husband’s death to try to bring her husband’s killers to justice. 

When I interviewed her this week, she stressed that it is not just one or two individuals who are affected by a modern-day poisoning.

The Author with Marina Litvinenko

She told me: ‘Doctors, nurses, police – everybody is put at risk.’   After he had swallowed polonium, her own life was of course immediately set at risk as well. There were also fears their house had been contaminated and she was unable to return to her home for two years.  

She told me she felt deeply upset when foreign agents targeted ex-Russian agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia on March 4th, 2018 with novichok.

‘The Lazarus Charter is dedicated to both Dawn Sturgess and my husband, Sasha,’ she said. ‘It was only when I read the dedication that I realised the poor woman died at exactly the same age as my husband – forty-four.’

Marina, who is 57, added: ‘I have just started to read the book. I was absolutely delighted it was dedicated to Alexander.’

Caroline Sturgess, Dawn’s mother, was also pleased at the dedication. 

She said at the family home in Durrington, near Salisbury: “We are so grateful that Tony got in touch with us and told us about his book.  We both hope it is well received by the public. What a lovely gesture to dedicate the book to Dawn.”

Tony Bassett and Marina Litvinenko

The Lazarus Charteris my second novel.  The main characters are school teacher Bob Shaw and his wife Anne, both of whom appeared in my first novel, Smile Of The Stowaway.  That book concerned an immigrant accused of murder.  

But in this sequel, the pair become immersed in a world of espionage after struggling to understand at the start of the book how a Government scientist friend has come back to life five weeks after his funeral. 

As the story progresses and the Shaws learn some dangerous secrets, they are forced out of their home and are confronted by ruthless enemies  -- whose identity is, for a while, shrouded in mystery. 

The Lazarus Charter by Tony Bassett is available now in paperback, published by The Conrad Press and priced £9.99. Visit Amazon or for more information go to

Photos © Tony Bassett

Tony Bassett

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