The end of the pseudonym: why I’m killing off thriller writer Sam Bourne

For the past 10 years, Guardian journalist Jonathan Freedland has used the alter ego to publish a series of hit novels, so why is his sixth story appearing under his own name?

I am about to say goodbye to a person who has been exceptionally close to me, even though he doesn’t quite exist. He is my alter ego, my alias, the man who has taken credit for the last five novels I have written. He is Sam Bourne, who has loyally served as the pseudonym for my life in fiction – until now.

This week, a new novel is published. But The 3rd Woman won’t be like my previous five. This time, the name on the cover is mine. Sam has had to retreat to the inside pages, making do with a fleeting mention in the “about the author” blurb.

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After Tunisia, Kuwait and France we should not be afraid to call evil by its name | Jonathan Freedland

The sheer sadism of Islamic State cannot be explained by politics alone. It comes from something deeper and darker

In France, in Tunisia, in Kuwait – horror upon horror, in a single day. It played out like some kind of gruesome auction, each atrocity bidding against the others for our appalled attention. The opening offer came near Lyon, where a factory was attacked and, more shocking, a severed head was found on top of a gate, and a decapitated body nearby. The French president said the corpse had been inscribed with a message.

From the Tunisian resort of Sousse, holidaymakers tweeted terrified pictures from their barricaded hotel rooms, describing how they had fled from the beach after sounds they had assumed were a daytime fireworks display turned out to be the opening gunshots of a massacre. From Kuwait City, as if to top the rival bids, a suicide bomber walked into a mosque packed with 2,000 people and pressed the button that he hoped would send scores to their deaths.

A battle is under way for civilisation, that should unite the great religions of the world against this tiny death cult

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Shaken by a stunning racist

It's hardly made headlines here, but one striking feature of the new Israeli government is the presence of several vocal, forceful and trenchantly right-wing women.

The Minister of Culture is Miri Regev, who achieved notoriety in 2012 when she described Sudanese asylum seekers in Israel as "a cancer in our body." Under pressure, she later apologised - to cancer patients. It seems she felt bad for likening their disease to something as awful as African refugees.

Regev has given an early hint of how she sees the role of the Culture Ministry. In a meeting with writers and artists, she warned she would not hesitate to withhold funding from projects which she believed "disgrace the state of Israel." She cut off money for an Arabic-language theatre in Haifa and threatened to do the same to the much-admired Elmina Arab-Jewish children's theatre in Jaffa.

When challenged by the artists, she explained it was very simple. "We (Likud) got 30 seats, you only got 20," seemingly confusing the writers and directors before her with the Israeli Labour party.

Meanwhile, at the Foreign Ministry is Tzipi Hotovely, a 36-year old Orthodox Likudnik whose inaugural address to Israel's diplomats urged them to seek international recognition for West Bank settlements. She urged them to remind the world that God gave the land of Israel to the Jews. "This land is ours," she said. "All of it is ours." As a diplomatic approach, it's certainly novel.

But perhaps most attention has gone to Ayelet Shaked, the new Minister of Justice. Her views are as unbending as the others'. But that's not why she has stood out. For while she is an ultra-nationalist, one whose opinions have been described as "quasi-genocidal", she also has movie star good looks. She is both an extremist and extremely beautiful.

This has created a conundrum for the Israeli left. On the one hand, they want to stand against her for her vile views, denouncing her for, say, her reposting on Facebook during last year's Gaza conflict of an essay by a radical settler who urged Israel to fight a total war against the entire Palestinian people, killing not just terrorists but the mothers of terrorists: "They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there." That description of potential Palestinian children, including babies and even the unborn, as "little snakes" chills the blood.

And yet, any self-respecting feminist also wants to slam the appalling sexism that Shaked has attracted - starting with the former cabinet minister who drooled that at last Israel had a justice minister "worthy of being featured on calendars" hanging in car mechanics' garages. Or the gossip column that reported on Shaked's visit to a hotel pool and lamented that she had "remained clothed."

As a result, the leaders of Israel's leftist parties have had to take time out from condemning Shaked's sinister political positions - she helped dream up the bill that would downgrade Israel's democratic character, subordinating it to the Jewishness of the state - in order to defend her from such Neanderthal attitudes. And that has blunted their opposition.

But Shaked prompts a thought that goes deeper than politics. Hebrew has two words for beauty. Yoffee refers to external good looks, while chain speaks of inner beauty. It's possible to have one without the other.

Ayelet Shaked is a reminder of the great wisdom embedded in the Hebrew language. For she is blessed with an abundance of yoffee, yet is lacking in chain. She is simultaneously gorgeous and a racist; she is a stunning bigot. She has a beautiful face, but her soul is ugly.

On guns and race, America is a nation shackled to its past | Jonathan Freedland

The Charleston shootings show that for all its might, the US still cannot cure its two critical birth defects

Jon Stewart and Barack Obama are men of a similar age with, on some days, a similar role. Sometimes it falls to both of them to help their fellow Americans digest what’s happening around them, to make sense of it. Yesterday it was the murder by a white supremacist of nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina.

The TV host did something unusual, dispensing with his usual gag-packed opening to deliver a joke-free monologue. Obama, by contrast, did something that has become all too usual, delivering what is now a rhetorical genre of its own: the presidential post-massacre speech. “I’ve had to make statements like this too many times,” he said. By one count, it was the 14th time he had had to speak in such a way after such a mass shooting.

A rule written in the musket age, to protect an infant republic from the return of King George’s redcoats, still holds

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Kinabalu’s naked backpackers were thinking of Las Vegas, not Rome | Jonathan Freedland

Today’s travellers are caught between respect for local customs and having the fun they dare not have at home

Somewhere between Rome and Las Vegas stands the island of Borneo and its highest peak, Mount Kinabalu. Not literally, you understand. But in the map of our minds, its contours formed by our confused, conflicting attitudes to travel, tourism and the way we are meant to behave when we venture beyond these shores.

That confusion saw Eleanor Hawkins, a British backpacker on a postgraduate gap year, convicted along with three others in a Malaysian court today of committing an obscene act on a mountain site deemed sacred by those who live in its shadow. Hawkins was one of a group of travellers who celebrated their scaling of Kinabalu last month by stripping off in near-freezing temperatures and capturing the moment with a photograph. Once the picture got out, the locals were incensed. When an earthquake struck a matter of days later, many saw cause and effect. “We have to take this as a reminder that local beliefs and customs are not to be disrespected,” said the deputy chief minister.

Related: Malaysia to free British tourist over naked mountain pose

The true purpose of your trip is not the discovery of language or culture. Who cares you’re in Spain? You’re in Shagaluf

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‘Moving on’: the mantra that traps Labour in the past | Jonathan Freedland

Charles Kennedy understood what Ed Miliband didn’t: you can talk of the future, but you cannot escape your history

As forms of political communication go, the campaign theme song is among the lamest. It’ll be a special kind of nerd who treasures his copy of the Lib Dems’ mash-up of Uptown Funk, while the Green party’s boyband parody similarly prompted the toes to curl into a previously unknown and possibly dangerous position. And yet politicians’ choice of election anthem can be revealing.

For their part, the Conservatives aped 1992-vintage Bill Clinton by closing out David Cameron’s rallies with Fleetwood Mac’s Don’t Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow). Never mind that the song is four decades old, political types like it because it screams “the future”. And if there’s one thing candidates, their aides and highly paid consultants all agree on, it’s that a winning campaign must always own the future.

Related: The undoing of Ed Miliband – and how Labour lost the election | Patrick Wintour

I have sympathy for Labour people who urged Miliband to confront the Tory narrative: I experienced his rebuffing myself

It took 1992 for the nation to forgive 1978-9, and it took 2008 to wipe out the memory of 1992

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