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'The Obedient Assassin' Tells the Story of Trotsky's Killer

Imagine – you have it all – a life of luxury, famous friends, a beautiful lover. You are a good, supportive friend – happy and content. And it’s all a lie.

The truth keeps you up at night, tortures you during the day. But you can’t change who you are.

That is the premise of “The Obedient Assassin” a new novel by Austin author John P Davidson.  John P. Davidson spoke to KUT's Emily Donahue about his fictionalized account of Ramon Mercador.

Mercador was a revolutionary soldier in Spain when he was drafted by his mother, a Soviet operative, into a stealth project that demanded his complete silence. He was retrained and adopted a fake identity - choosing to remake himself as a playboy Belgian aristocrat.

"I thought it was really interesting that his identity was as an aristocrat. Nothing could be farther [from his revolutionary identity]...He was not a militant. I don't think he knew that much about socialism or Marx. And with his mother, she had wanted to be a nun as a young girl... the religious fervor...the hysterical aspect of her character went from the Church into communism."

Davidson said that, in many ways, the book was easy to write. "one of the things that drew me to the project was there was a lot I could know. A lot of this had been written about in the 1940's after it happened...there were a lot of fresh, original sources. So, the assassination - what Mrs. Trotsky - what Natalia was thinking, I knew. Because she had written, she had said, 'this is what I'm thinking,' she wrote about it herself...But there were these gaps in the story, I never could figure out, there were mysteries." 

Emily Donahue is a former grants writer for KUT. She previously served as news director and helped launch KUT’s news department in 2001.
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