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Sell Us the Rope

Stephen May

Sell Us the Rope by Stephen May

May 1907. Young Stalin – poet, bank-robber, spy – is in London for the 5th Congress of the Russian Communist Party. As he builds his powerbase in the party, Stalin manipulates alliances with Lenin, Trotsky, and Rosa Luxemburg under the eyes of the Czar’s secret police. Meanwhile he is drawn to the fiery Finnish activist Elli Vuokko and risks everything in a relationship as complicated as it is dangerous.

RRP: £8.99
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781913207885
Publication Date: 01/03/2022
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Stephen May
Stephen May is the author of five novels including Life! Death! Prizes! which was shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award and The Guardian Not The Booker Prize. He has also...


‘Original, adept and confident... What can I say, except that I wish I had written it myself?’

Hilary Mantel

‘A deeply satisfying novel. Incisive, inventive, frequently very funny.’

Clare Clark, The Guardian

‘Historical facts furnish May with a cast of legends to bring to life, and he does it with verve and humour.’

John Phipps, The Times

‘A captivating thought-experiment that marks a consolidation of May’s powers as a writer.’

Alasdair Lees, The Telegraph

‘May is superb at summoning the sights and smells of turn of the century London... Intelligent and readable.’

Alex Preston, Financial Times

‘'A terrific reimagining of Stalin’s time in London'’

Ruth Scurr, The Spectator

‘Reveals the texture of history as an all too human bricolage of private resentments, sexual slights and mixed motives.’

Rob Doyle, The Observer

‘Fresh and original: jaunty, cunning, thought-provoking but never solemn.’

Hilary Mantel, The Guardian

‘Takes dark delight in the dangerous world of revolutionary double-dealing.’

Eithne Farry, The Daily Mail

‘A richly varied and very enjoyable novel.’

Allan Massie, The Scotsman

‘May animates it all wonderfully with a stripped back mixture of light and darkness, spiced with dialogue that crackles. A gem.’

NJ McGarrigle, Irish Times

‘A fascinating and immersive imagining of real events that both challenges and illuminates history.’

Benjamin Myers

‘Brilliant... A completely immersive historical novel that crackles with energy and revolutionary fervour.’

Alice O'Keeffe, The Bookseller

‘A pacy, rich and rewarding read.’

Yvette Huddleston, Yorkshire Post


Press & Journal

‘Plenty of drama, thrills, love and humour. An immersive read.’

Socialist Worker

‘Electrically-imagined, immersive and compulsively readable, Sell Us the Rope hums with the visceral energy of revolutionary fervour.’

Liz Jensen

‘A seething, febrile world of plots, schisms and revolution.’

Daily Mail

‘Boldly conceived, precisely imagined, beautifully written.’

Michael Stewart

‘Stephen May’s writing is convincing and engaging in this brilliant tale of revolutionary shenanigans in London.’

Suzanne Joinson

‘Brilliant and original — part historical novel, part romantic comedy, and part bildungsroman about a tyrant-in-waiting.’

Marcel Theroux

‘Beautifully written, compelling and insightful, brimming with captivating characters and twisty intrigues.’

Katherine Clements

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On The Blog

A letter to readers: Stephen May on Sell Us the Rope

Dear readers, After five contemporary novels, Sell Us the Rope was a bit of a swerve for me. I came across the story of a young Stalin in gaslit Edwardian...