House of Cards Author: Politics Isn't a Place for Angels

A view of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben.

Michael Dobbs talks about his bestselling novel House of Cards, which inspired the hit Netflix series. A dark tale of greed, corruption, and unquenchable ambition, House of Cards reveals that no matter the country, politics, intrigue and passion reign in the corridors of power.

Dobbs, who is a member of the House of Lords, had just finished working with Margaret Thatcher when he started writing the book. “We had a huge bust-up. I wrote House of Cards in a moment of pain and anguish a few weeks after her last election campaign.” He says that he based everything on his experiences, but adds, “It’s a drama, not a documentary.”

On whether the book is about politics: “It’s not really about politics; it’s about people. It’s about people and the characters and their vulnerabilities and strengths set against the backcloth of politics.”

The book’s main character is Frank Urquhart (it was changed to Frank Underwood for the Netflix series). He's the chief whip of the House of Commons who uses all kinds of tidbits and dirt to intimidate the rank-and-file members of Parliament. Dobbs notes, “Politics is rough and tough. It’s not a place for choir boys or angels…It can be war and so everything is fair in war. ”

On how British politicians reacted to the book: “The only people that I know I’ve upset by writing this book are those politicians who have come to me and said, ‘That Francis Urquhart– that F.U. character – that was me really, wasn’t it?’ And I have to turn around to them and say, ‘No, it wasn’t.’ They walk away crestfallen.”

“It’s still changing my life, 27 years after I first started writing it.”