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The Golden Age of Censorship

‘Imagine wanting something so badly that it filled every waking and sleeping moment of your life. And then suddenly it was given to you.’

Do you remember the video nasty?

It is 1984 and video has just arrived in Britain's homes. With it comes a widespread distrust and fear. The public dread a deluge of porn, ultraviolence, cannibalism and dismemberment. Eager to reflect the public mood, Parliament decides to panic too, and gifts sweeping powers to the chief film censor, Nick Berg.

Every film ever made has to be reclassified for home viewing. But rather than become a tool of moral hysteria, Berg has a grand plan. He will create an entirely new kind of censorship - benign, thoughtful, intelligent. First he must create a team to implement his wishes. Advertising in newspapers and magazines across the country, Berg announces a competition to find a handful of the best and the brightest.

Thousands apply. Interviews, tests, rejections, more interviews, more tests follow, until only seven remain. This 'Magnificent Seven' will have the power to decide what others can and cannot see. They are tasked to reflect the very best of what can be thought and said. They will encounter the great monuments of censorship - The ExorcistCannibal Holocaust and Reservoir Dogs - as well as the obscure and unexpected: Rupert Bear and Little Yum and the almost unwatchable Nappy Love.

But off-screen, all is soon not well in the inner sanctum. What Berg doesn't realize is that his prized rationale is flawed. Fault lines appear within his team of seven. And a struggle for power is set in motion which quickly leads to betrayal, madness and, ultimately, death.

Paul Hoffman, a former senior censor at the British Board of Film Classification, has written a compelling and captivating novel that challenges our ideas about censorship, prejudice and the fine line between art and exploitation.