House of Cards: Michael Dobbs on the Dark Art of Writing


Karen Osman writes about seeing Michael Dobbs at the 2016 Festival

Michael DobbsOne of the most popular sessions of the Festival, Michael Dobbs drew a large crowd when he spoke on Friday 11th March.

Charismatic and a natural storyteller, Dobbs made the crowd chuckle with his sense of humour, relaxed attitude and entertaining anecdotes.

Previously Chief of Staff to renowned British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Dobbs’ political career has no doubt played an important role in his success of House of Cards – the first in what would become a trilogy of political thrillers with Francis Urquhart as the central character, which he wrote in 1989.

It changed his life almost 30 years ago and continues to change his life today with the televised US version, featuring acting heavyweights Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright.

Having left politics after a ‘row with Margaret Thatcher’, he went on holiday for the first time in two and half years with his wife. It’s there that he started writing.

Describing his central character, Frank Urquhart, changed to Frank Underwood for the American TV series, he comments:

“There’s a little bit of him in everyone – especially in politicians.”

As an executive producer on the US show, Dobbs is involved in the production, and travels frequently.

“We are in the golden age of television – these [social] platforms enable shows to get out there to people. There’s more great television drama available than ever before, and House of Cards is at the cutting edge of it. The show has gone way beyond the books and way beyond what I dreamed of 30 years ago. It’s a huge privilege.”