Book Release Blitz: Being Alert! by Charlie Laidlaw [Excerpt/Giveaway]

Happy publication day to author Charlie Laidlaw!

Today marks the release of searing satire, Being Alert, and I have a sneak peek for you as well as a chance to win a digital copy of the book!

Being Alert!

Being Alert!

Publication Date: August 21st, 2020
Genre: Satire

The book, which begins in January 2020, follows in a long tradition of British satire, as the British prime minister, Winston Spragg, first learns about a new virus that seems to be centred in a city in China that nobody has heard of.

The book populates Downing Street and Whitehall with an inept prime minister presiding over a dysfunctional government as it deals with an existential threat that rapidly becomes a national crisis.

It remains true to the timeline of Covid-19 and the government’s response to it, including its failure to lock down sooner, secure adequate supplies of protective equipment or protect the care sector.

Like satires before it, the book uses humour to paint an uncomfortable picture of a government in crisis, and seemingly as concerned about justifying itself as working to suppress the virus.

As the book progresses, with a mounting death toll, I hope the book strikes a changing balance as both a month-by-month narrative about the virus and a comedy to mirror unfolding events.

As the country emerges into a new normal, the country will inevitably want to know why, per head of population, we have suffered worse than any other European country. Being Alert! provides the perfect outlet, not just to ask very real questions of government but to use humour as a satirical and healing tool.

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EXCERPT

Comings and Goings

In late February, according to a Sunday Times report, at a private event, the Prime Minister’s chief advisor outlined the government’s strategy at the time and which was summarised by someone present as ‘herd immunity, protect the economy, and if that means some pensioners die, too bad.’

In early March, the Prime Minister told the nation that, while the virus was likely to become a more significant problem, ‘this country is very, very well prepared. However, the final sentence of his message didn’t appear on his official Twitter page: “I wish to stress that, at the moment, it is very important that people consider that they should, as far as possible, go about business as usual.’

By and large, Derek Goings was both universally loathed and feared. It was assumed that he either had access to supernatural forces or was, in fact, one of the Undead. Even the Archbishop of Westminster would cross himself when the two met, which was rarely – at the archbishop’s request. Partly, he was loathed because of his role as the PM’s chief advisor, with almost permanent access to the Prime Minister’s ear. Partly, it was also because the PM usually did what his advisor told him to do, and that this was somehow undemocratic. Partly, too, it was because he smelled of sulphur. Nobody could therefore understand how he was married, shared a marital bed and had fathered a child. However, the sceptics pointed out, only his marriage was a matter of record. Whether he slept with his wife, and who the father of his child was, were grey areas best not explored.

Derek, his critics often complained, although never to his face or to his few friends, had somehow appeared from nowhere. One minute, nobody had ever heard of him; the next minute, his name, and the smell of the underworld, was everywhere. Derek’s great achievement, agreed on by friends and foes, was to have leaped successfully onto the political stage without ever having done anything useful. Okay, he had once helped a relative run a nightclub in the north of England, and never mind that it had been voted the second-worst in Europe. (The worst subsequently burned down, accidentally or on purpose, handing the crown to Derek’s relative). Okay, he had also tried to start an airline in either Prague or Moscow (nobody was entirely sure which) but that hadn’t got off the ground, either literally or metaphorically.

Having therefore done nothing of note, he then appeared as if in a puff of black and menacing smoke on the Westminster stage, immediately making enemies of virtually everyone. However, having enemies only seemed to increase his powers because, say what you might about him, he did get things done. In a Whitehall dominated by men in grey suits, and all either from Oxbridge or interbred, the proper way to get things done had always been the old-fashioned way. After all, the British way was the traditional way; decisions were made over Pimm’s at Wimbledon; gin and tonics at Twickenham, and whatever was available at Henley. Decisions were rarely made in Whitehall, where they were supposed to be made. Derek, of course, thought otherwise, facing up to the grey suits in either jeans or tracksuit, with a mission to bring the British Civil Service at least into the 20th century. Perhaps, even for him, the 21st century was too big a task, at least for now. This wrecking-ball of a man, with his glittering career in night-time entertainment and air travel, therefore brought him into endless conflict with the mandarins who were supposed to be running the country.

Derek’s meteoric rise through the government’s advisory ranks was extraordinary; so too the growth of his reputation as someone who could end a political career with the merest nod of his head. He was, it was agreed, either Machiavellian or Svengalian – generally the former, because few civil servants or politicians had ever read a 19th century novel, and therefore didn’t quite know who Svengali was.

Kevin Kock was, of course, all too aware of the PM’s advisor, having been in numerous meetings with him and having seen how even the most confident minister could be brought to his or, sometimes, her knees with a cursory glance. It was therefore with alarm bordering on panic that he received the news from his Permanent Secretary that Derek Goings was on his way round for a ‘bit of a chin-wag.’

“But I’m busy,” he’d squeaked to Sir Roger.

“No, you’re not. I manage your diary, Minister.”

The Health Secretary could have said that he had a completely separate diary in which he, as Health Secretary, kept his Top Secret meetings; or that he was ill; or could have chosen from any one of the many excuses that he’d used over the years, mostly to cover up his blood and germ phobias. Now, of course, thanks to his Permanent Secretary, his alien life-form phobia because, in his mind, Covid-19 was now sentient and possibly intelligent – like a jellyfish, but with a more deadly sting. He then spent some minutes spraying his office with air freshener and disinfectant, and covering his desk with large piles of files. He even undid the top button of his shirt to demonstrate his dedication to the British people except, of course, Derek Goings.

His arrival was signalled, not by a deferential knock on his office door or a bleep from his internal phone, but by the smell of decay. The Health Secretary closed his eyes for just a moment and took several deep breaths only to find, when he opened his eyes again, that the PM’s advisor was already standing on the other side of his desk.

“Derek, good gracious! How nice to see you!” The Health Secretary automatically stuck out a hand, before realising that Derek Goings still had both hands in the pockets of his jeans. Only the Prime Minister was still shaking everyone’s hand, particularly on hospital visits.

The PM’s advisor sat in the chair opposite and sniffed the air. “Very wise,” he remarked. “As Health Secretary, it’s good to see that you’re setting an example.”

“Am I?”

“You can’t be too careful, Minister, because you never know who might be harbouring infection. Sterilising your office is possibly or probably a good thing.” The advisor’s eyes, hidden behind dark glasses, were black discs. His soft voice carried with it both menace and good hygienic advice.

“Am I to assume that you’re here for a reason?” the Health Secretary asked, hoping to sound business-like and brusque, having rehearsed this opening line as he sprayed the room. “Because I am, as I’m sure you are, rather busy.”

“No, you’re not, Health Secretary. I looked at your diary.”

“Sir Roger had no right….”

“I have every right, Minister.”

Before Kevin could think of a suitably outraged reply, there was a soft knock on the door and Sir Roger himself appeared, carrying a notebook. Without asking, he took the other available seat next to Derek and neatly crossed his legs.

“I am here, Minister, to determine whether this country is prepared.” The PM’s advisor’s voice was barely a whisper. “After all, we are now beginning to see the first Covid-19 fatalities on British soil.”

“I did know that, Derek.”

“We will certainly see more fatalities, Minister, which brings me neatly to the reason why I am here. I merely wish to determine if you have made adequate preparations. Particularly the provision of personal protective equipment.”

This was a question that the Health Secretary, even panic-stricken, had foreseen. “Of course, Derek. We have, for example, a reserve of over one billion items of PPE. One billion, Derek.” The Health Secretary smiled brightly at his nemesis on the other side of the desk,

using the advisor’s first name twice in the space of a few seconds, a useful trick that he’d learned on some management course he’d attended. Sir Roger picked imaginary spots of dust from his immaculate trousers and looked out the window.

“Yet, I am led to believe, Minister, that this figure includes things like cleaning products, waste bags, detergents and paper towels,” said the advisor, still in his stage whisper.

“Does it?” replied Kevin. “I mean, yes it does. At least, possibly it does. But a billion is still rather a lot of stuff, I’m sure you would agree.”

“Not necessarily,” said the advisor. “For example, your inventory lists 547 million protective gloves.”

“So?”

“So, a more accurate figure would be 273.5 million pairs of gloves, or am I missing something?”

“Pairs of gloves?”

“Your inventory lists each glove separately.”

The Health Secretary looked wildly at his Permanent Secretary, who merely shrugged. “I did send you the inventory last year, Minister. Which you approved,” he added with a smile.

“Well, you know what they say, Derek.”

“No, I don’t know what they say, Minister.”

“That there are only three kinds of people in the world. Those who can count, and those who can’t.” The Health Secretary gave a small laugh, which wasn’t echoed from across the table.

“I hardly think that this is a time for levity, Minister.” The smell of sulphur had risen several notches, and a green vapour seemed to be filling the room. “I also just hope the media don’t get hold of the story. I dread to think what Panorama would make of it.”

“I’m sure they won’t, Derek.”

“However, if things deteriorate, PPE will get eaten up pretty quickly,” said the advisor, whose eyes had never left Kevin’s face, or maybe they had because, behind dark glasses, he could be looking anywhere.

“We are, of course, setting up new procurement channels to ensure against any and every contingency, aren’t we, Sir Roger?”

His Permanent Secretary shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “Of course, Minister,” and then actually wrote something in his notebook.

“Very well, then I will assume that you have the needs of the health service and its gallant staff fully covered. But what about the care sector?”

“What about the care sector?” asked the Health Secretary.

The advisor was quiet for a moment. “Well, you are the person responsible for it.”

“What!” Kevin almost pushed himself upright.

“You are, as I assume you must realise, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.”

“What!”

Sir Roger cleared his throat. “I did send you a memo, Minister.”

Purchase Links

Amazon
Amazon UK

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I was born in Paisley, central Scotland, which wasn’t my fault. That week, Eddie Calvert with Norrie Paramor and his Orchestra were Top of the Pops, with Oh, Mein Papa, as sung by a young German woman remembering her once-famous clown father. That gives a clue to my age, not my musical taste.

I was brought up in the west of Scotland and graduated from the University of Edinburgh. I still have the scroll, but it’s in Latin, so it could say anything.

I then worked briefly as a street actor, baby photographer, puppeteer and restaurant dogsbody before becoming a journalist. I started in Glasgow and ended up in London, covering news, features and politics. I interviewed motorbike ace Barry Sheene, Noel Edmonds threatened me with legal action and, because of a bureaucratic muddle, I was ordered out of Greece.

I then took a year to travel round the world, visiting 19 countries. Highlights included being threatened by a man with a gun in Dubai, being given an armed bodyguard by the PLO in Beirut (not the same person with a gun), and visiting Robert Louis Stevenson’s grave in Samoa. What I did for the rest of the year I can’t quite remember

Surprisingly, I was approached by a government agency to work in intelligence, which just shows how shoddy government recruitment was back then. However, it turned out to be very boring and I don’t like vodka martini.

Craving excitement and adventure, I ended up as a PR consultant, which is the fate of all journalists who haven’t won a Pulitzer Prize, and I’ve still to listen to Oh, Mein Papa.

I am married with two grown-up children and live in central Scotland. And that’s about it.

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GIVEAWAY

Win a digital copy of Being Alert in format of choice! Giveaway will be open from today until August 24th.

Enter Giveaway HERE

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Love Potions and Other Calamities by Charlie Laidlaw

Love Potions and Other Calamities
by: Charlie Laidlaw

love potions and other calamities

Rosie McLeod, pub proprietor and a gifted herbalist of local renown, is thirty-nine and holding, but only just. The talons of her fortieth birthday are in her back and her bloody, bloody husband hasn’t laid a lustful hand on her for months.

Rosie sets out to discover if her husband is having an affair, using deductive powers based solely on the careful preparation of plants and herbs. But as her well-laid plans entirely fall apart, the sighting of a large black cat sets off another chain of events.

Rosie now realises that a psychopath is on the loose and that she’s been selected as his next victim. – Goodreads

*Book received in exchange for honest review*

After reading two novels by Charlie Laidlaw, there is no doubt that he is a writer with a lot of creativity as he mixes genres and adds in very unique twists. It is usually those sharp ideas that makes his books such a pleasure to read and also why Love Potions and Other Calamities was one that I wanted to read. Blending mystery, romance and humor is a risky move especially the last third of the equation as humor is such a subjective element. Luckily, the humor does deliver most of the time especially with some of the outrageous things that do happen and the fact that a lot of the doing wrong things with the best intentions actually do backfire a lot and ends up creating some right especially as it highlights some of the elements of mystery.

Let’s start with the positives! Love Potions and Other Calamities is a charming little book. One of the main elements of charms is the characters that truly do come to life through the words. There’s a heavy focus on Rosie, a woman awaiting her 40th birthday like its her death bed and really having a heavy hit of self-esteem issues about her attraction to her husband Jack due to lack of intimacy. Her solution is to make him drinks and food that she believes that he likes to build up the urge and motivation at the very least. However, things go awry when he doesn’t really like those things and it ends up somewhere else and consumed by someone else. As we read these parts, its truly a “Oh no” moment over and over again as things go really awkward and at times bad, creating situations that eventually have more misunderstandings and it all propels to have even more funny and awkward and weird moments.

On the other side, the story also focuses on another couple with Mara being a younger girl and waitress at Rosie and Jack’s pub (I think, its a pub) and the events ends up turning out better for her as her relationship with her cop boyfriend Richie improves. Richie becomes the center of the mystery as he starts working hard to connect the dots of the mysterious events happening. Richie and Mara bring in some elements of intimacy and younger relationships but also bringing forward a character like Richie from outside that helps have that connection to explain some of the beliefs and history that hangs in this town.

While at the same time, there is some political issues with voting around the corner and all kinds of characters that pop in the scene. They all have their own charm and intrigue as it all adds to how the situations are blown up to incredible proportions and Rosie starts to wonder whether what she did is right and the issue with the black cat being a sign towards witches and bad omens. There’s a lot of little bits and pieces that work well together. The little description of different types of herbs at the beginning of each chapter actually did bring a lot of fun elements to this as it was the extra bits of knowledge and gave it a lot of substance.

With that said, one element that wasn’t done was well was the execution. The pacing was a bit odd at times. At the same time, the separation of chapters and the abrupt jumps from one scene to the next sometimes made it slightly hard to follow especially as the situation got more complex in the middle section. Its really the one issue that was a tad annoying but as the characters became more familiar, the issue in the second half becomes less of an issue.

Overall, Love Potions and Other Calamities is a pretty decent novel. The idea of using potions and witches and a little town with their own beliefs and history gave it a lot of character. Not to mention the characters here were also rather charming and had its unique elements that made them a lot of fun to read. Sure, there’s some execution issues but its still a fun book with some unexpected twists to the outcomes of the misdirected potion (or poison?) attempts, misunderstanding and other sudden scenarios. This one is a fun read.

Check out reviews of other books by Charlie Laidlaw:

The Things We Learn When We’re Dead
The Space Between Time

Blog Tour: The Space Between Time by Charlie Laidlaw [Review & Giveaway]

The Space Between Time
By: Charlie Laidlaw

The Space Between Time

Expected Publication Date: June 20th, 2019
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Drama/Dark Comedy

SYNOPSIS

There are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on Earth…

Emma Maria Rossini appears to be the luckiest girl in the world. She’s the daughter of a beautiful and loving mother, and her father is one of the most famous film actors of his generation. She’s also the granddaughter of a rather eccentric and obscure Italian astrophysicist.

But as her seemingly charmed life begins to unravel, and Emma experiences love and tragedy, she ultimately finds solace in her once-derided grandfather’s Theorem on the universe.

The Space Between Time is humorous and poignant and offers the metaphor that we are all connected, even to those we have loved and not quite lost.

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REVIEW

The Space Between Time is a novel of many good qualities as is expected with Charlie Laidlaw. While I’ve only read one other book from him last year, his writing style and the voice he gives his characters (especially the main one) is very unique. At the the same time, the structure and the story also work very well. In this case, The Space Between Time truly benefits by creating this parallel of the main character Emma’s constant comparison to her grandfather’s theorem of space and time to draw the different events that happen in her life. It is also the unique angle of the story. The novel itself takes form by its different parts (cleverly titled with different space formulas and titles) that take us into the different stages of Emma’s life.

While The Space Between Time does have a good few characters that come in and out of Emma’s life, the main character here is Emma used in a first person voice. This is particularly effective for this story because of one circumstance which helps round up the story and might hit spoiler territory so I’ll avoid it but the second is that it helps capture, like a journal, the different ways of talking as well as the different point of views as Emma grows up, from when she was a little girl just until the present, being an adult. A lot of the novel and plot benefits from this element because the story itself is one that is more dramatic and with that, heartbreaking.

The Space Between Time overall works quite well. It is both unique, well-structured and creative with some unique ideas. The character of Emma is complex, has depth and also is one that grows over time as she fights some of her own inner monsters and grows up to understand more and change her perspective of the people around her. There are so many lessons to learn in this novel through Emma’s story. Its a story about love and loss, family and communication as well as letting go and forgiveness. Its about coming to terms to the different sides of a character.

A lot of elements in The Space Between Time lands really well. The only small issue here was some areas dragged on a little too much with descriptions. There are also some moments where some of the stories seem to drag on too much but then in the sum of things, especially with how it ends, some of the little mundane things come back in the storyline and have their own purpose. On a more personal note, there is a decent amount of dark humor here which (at least for myself) didn’t quite always land as much. However, as much as there are some small issues with the pacing and such, The Space Between Time tells a story about Emma that should be told and probably needs to be told because it highlights some very important elements of life.

Goodreads score: 4 out of 5

Purchase Link

Amazon

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

charlie laidlaw

I was born in Paisley, central Scotland, which wasn’t my fault. That week, Eddie Calvert with Norrie Paramor and his Orchestra were Top of the Pops, with Oh, Mein Papa, as sung by a young German woman remembering her once-famous clown father. That gives a clue to my age, not my musical taste.

I was brought up in the west of Scotland and graduated from the University of Edinburgh. I still have the scroll, but it’s in Latin, so it could say anything.

I then worked briefly as a street actor, baby photographer, puppeteer and restaurant dogsbody before becoming a journalist. I started in Glasgow and ended up in London, covering news, features and politics. I interviewed motorbike ace Barry Sheene, Noel Edmonds threatened me with legal action and, because of a bureaucratic muddle, I was ordered out of Greece.

I then took a year to travel round the world, visiting 19 countries. Highlights included being threatened by a man with a gun in Dubai, being given an armed bodyguard by the PLO in Beirut (not the same person with a gun), and visiting Robert Louis Stevenson’s grave in Samoa. What I did for the rest of the year I can’t quite remember

Surprisingly, I was approached by a government agency to work in intelligence, which just shows how shoddy government recruitment was back then. However, it turned out to be very boring and I don’t like vodka martini.

Craving excitement and adventure, I ended up as a PR consultant, which is the fate of all journalists who haven’t won a Pulitzer Prize, and I’ve still to listen to Oh, Mein Papa.

I am married with two grown-up children and live in central Scotland. And that’s about it.

Website
Facebook
Twitter

GIVEAWAY

I have 2 signed copies of The Space Between Time to giveaway, 3 fun coffee mugs featuring all 3 of Charlie Laidlaw’s books, and 3 digital copies of the book in the winner’s format of choice! Amazing right? Click the link HERE to enter!

*Open Internationally – Giveaway closes June 30th

Blog Tour Organized by:

Blog Tour: The Things We Learn When We’re Dead by Charlie Laidlaw (Review & Giveaway)

The Things We Learn When We’re Dead
by: Charlie Laidlaw

Things We Learn When We're Dead

Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Humor
Publication Date: January 26, 2017

Synopsis

With elements of The Wizard of Oz, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and The Lovely Bones, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead shows how small decisions can have profound and unintended consequences, and how sometimes we can get a second chance.

On the way home from a dinner party, Lorna Love steps into the path of an oncoming car. When she wakes up she is in what appears to be a hospital – but a hospital in which her nurse looks like a young Sean Connery, she is served wine for supper, and everyone avoids her questions. It soon transpires that she is in Heaven, or on HVN. Because HVN is a lost, dysfunctional spaceship, and God the aging hippy captain. She seems to be there by accident… Or does God have a higher purpose after all?

At first Lorna can remember nothing. As her memories return – some good, some bad – she realises that she has decision to make and that maybe she needs to find a way home. – Goodreads

Review

Leaning much more towards the contemporary fiction than humorous side for myself, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead works the best in its creative setting. Perhaps the best way to start is that The Things We Learn When We’re Dead is set up in a structure that takes us between the present state of after Lorna’s accident and waking up in a foreign place that she realizes is a spaceship called HVN and is run by a man calling himself God. How can you not stop to think about whether heaven is actually run by some alien life who is stranded in limbo and has the power to live for eternity. The constant question is whether this was the vision of her death or was this all in her head or maybe some other situations will come to mind as we also get Lorna’s significant moments in life that create a connection to the memories that are regenerating as the time passes by in heaven. In many ways, the story here is something of a character study in itself because of the focus pretty much solely on Lorna. Other characters, no matter how close, were simply passing through her life and things that affected or observed her choices. In that way, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead works very well. It actually achieves quite a few moments of where we get to see the little details of her pass sprinkle into the present people and locations that she visits in heaven.

However, where the story that fall a little bit apart is something of the overly descriptive spots or sometimes feeling like the past had way more focus and detail than it needed to have. It is the defining points of her life but sometimes it also failed to really see the importance of some of the people that kept recurring or simply situations that didn’t seem to matter so much. While that is the case, the writing and word choice is something that I haven’t seen in a while using some obscure things in comparison (at least in my opinion) and added that extra bit of detail and creativity that gives it merit. I guess what I’m saying is that the writing overall was very good but the story was a little overly long for its own good and as the book progressed to the end, the past events dominated over the present and it felt like it lingered a little bit too long and the balance of the two was lost on me.

Overall, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead is a decent read. Its not exactly a page turner through and through but the creativity here deserves a lot of credit. Life is made up of our choices and how we choose to live our lives and in many ways, Lorna’s life story in all its detail is very honest and realistic. It might have dragged at certain parts but very few stories do hit those personal journeys with so much honesty and it works on that level. At least I was able to relate to some of her sentiments that she went through.

On a side note, the guy characters here have last names related to birds, “Bird, Dove, Crow”, it makes me wonder if there’s something more about freedom or something linked that I can’t find a connection to, or maybe I’m just overthinking it.

Goodreads score: 3/5

Purchase link: Amazon

About the Author

charlie laidlaw

I was born in Paisley, central Scotland, which wasn’t my fault.  That week, Eddie Calvert with Norrie Paramor and his Orchestra were Top of the Pops, with Oh, Mein Papa, as sung by a young German woman remembering her once-famous clown father.  That gives a clue to my age, not my musical taste.

I was brought up in the west of Scotland and graduated from the University of Edinburgh.  I still have the scroll, but it’s in Latin, so it could say anything.

I then worked briefly as a street actor, baby photographer, puppeteer and restaurant dogsbody before becoming a journalist.  I started in Glasgow and ended up in London, covering news, features and politics. I interviewed motorbike ace Barry Sheene, Noel Edmonds threatened me with legal action and, because of a bureaucratic muddle, I was ordered out of Greece.

I then took a year to travel round the world, visiting 19 countries.  Highlights included being threatened by a man with a gun in Dubai, being given an armed bodyguard by the PLO in Beirut (not the same person with a gun), and visiting Robert Louis Stevenson’s grave in Samoa.  What I did for the rest of the year I can’t quite remember

Surprisingly, I was approached by a government agency to work in intelligence, which just shows how shoddy government recruitment was back then.  However, it turned out to be very boring and I don’t like vodka martini.

Craving excitement and adventure, I ended up as a PR consultant, which is the fate of all journalists who haven’t won a Pulitzer Prize, and I’ve still to listen to Oh, Mein Papa.

I am married with two grown-up children and live in central Scotland. And that’s about it.

Twitter: @claidlawauthor
Facebook: charlielaidlawauthor
Website: www.charlielaidlawauthor.com

GIVEAWAY

2 Printed Copies of The Things We Learn When We’re Dead

Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/0e7c6a8f35/?

Blog Tour organized by:

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