Indochina, 1936: Charlie Chaplin and his co-star and lover, Paulette Goddard, are on vacation in Asia following the release of the global superstar’s silent masterpiece, Modern Times. Evading the press in Phnom Penh, he is inspired to work on a new film idea – imagining his iconic alter ego, the Tramp, in the colonial rubber plantations. But Charlie Chaplin’s presence in the French protectorate has encouraged Cambodians to speak out for real against colonial exploitation and the authorities are nervous about his visit. As the middle-aged filmmaker grapples with his creativity and his conscience, a deepening friendship with a Cambodian comic actor and anti-colonial communist eventually forces him to choose between lending his voice to their cause or keeping silent.
Fictionalised around real events, Charlot is a story about how an embittered Charlie Chaplin abandons his silent Tramp in order to find his own voice in the politically turbulent 1930s.
‘A brilliant feat of imagination – reconstructing an episode from Charlie Chaplin’s life and exploring its ramifications in a wholly fascinating and convincing way. An incredibly impressive debut.’ William Boyd, author
‘Chaplin did not only want to make people laugh, he wanted to make them think and Charlot does the same. Richly atmospheric, it explores the struggle between the two sides of his character as it emerges on his journey through colonial Cambodia of the 1930s. Sensitive, articulate and impeccably researched, it restores fresh humanity to the man behind the mask of the Tramp.’
Nigel Barley, author
‘Charlot is outstanding in its setting. Sparked by an apocryphal news item about Chaplin’s death and rich in its evocation of personalities, place and time, this is a work that truly realises the possibilities of historical fiction … a great read.’ Historical Novel Society (A.K. Kulshreshth)
‘What’s inside Charlot? The charm of Charlie Chaplin, the pulse of a changing Cambodia, the call to speak up in the face of oppression – and a lot of strong G&Ts. Unique, powerful, and transporting – Masters knows Asia, and his way around words.’ Karin Tanabe, author of A Hundred Suns
About the author
Ian Masters is an award-winning screenwriter who has worked across Africa and Asia for over twenty years. As a freelance scriptwriter and creative consultant for BBC Media Action he has developed and written TV and radio dramas from Bangladesh to Indonesia, Cambodia to South Sudan. His first produced feature film script, The Last Reel, was Cambodia’s submission to the Academy Awards in 2014. In 2018 he returned to the UK, where he continues to write and work as an international script consultant from Somerset. Charlot is his first novel.