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Monday, 5 December 2016

Brexit skirmish

Gina Miller is a businesswoman whose legal team won a High Court case to force the British government to put to Parliament the triggering of Article 50. The government’s appeal in front of the Supreme Court begins today.

Yesterday, Gina Miller put her case in an article in a Sunday paper. The sub-editor, presumably, chose an inflammatory heading, ‘Yes we must have Brexit – but not by MOB RULE.’ And this is a pro-EU periodical!

It is appalling that so many reprehensible individuals have threatened her for bringing legal action to trigger Article 50 by Parliament. Let’s look at her words in that article.

‘Last Thursday’s Richmond by-election – with the defeat of a Conservative and victory for a LibDem candidate who, like me, believes a parliamentary vote is necessary – has served to throw more fuel on to the fire. I believe that defeat for Zac Goldsmith in Richmond is a distraction.’

Clever wording, here, from someone who is legally trained. By the simple expedient of mentioning the so-called defeat of a Tory, she is implying that the Tory Government is losing the Brexit argument; yet, in the same breath, she’s saying, disregard that point. Lawyers use this questionable technique all the time to plant a seed of doubt; no jury, and no reader, can disregard it once it is said. Furthermore, Goldsmith stood as an Independent, not a Conservative, so the vote was skewed in that sense. Unsurprisingly, the BBC report on the by-election fell into the same Tory-bashing mode – ‘LibDems overturned a Tory majority’; no they didn’t, they overturned Goldsmith’s majority. If a Tory had been contesting, the verdict might have been different, the voting being split. In both cases, it’s what is implied that is underhand.

‘…Any first-year law student knows: only Parliament can grant people rights, and only Parliament can take them away.’ Parliament voted 6 to 1 for the referendum, and the referendum was to vote to stay in or to get out of the EU, no ifs or buts. The referendum delivered a majority ‘out’. Therefore there is nothing else for Parliament to discuss at this stage. It stands to reason that Parliament cannot publicly discuss in advance its tactics at the negotiating table with EU in the following two years. At the end of the two years, Parliament can then pass an act, when everything is established. It is disingenuous to suggest that this salvo is only about ‘democracy’ and Article 50; it is the first skirmish in an attempt to stop any kind of Brexit from happening.

‘So, to be clear, it is not the idea of Brexit that filled me with dread. It was the idea of an unchallenged, unanswerable Government taking us back to 1610 and ripping a hole through our democratic structures.’ This is selective memory working. Gina Miller is on record saying that on June 24 she was angered by the result (primarily because she feels that Brexit will damage fund management firms (reported in the FT), and coincidentally she is an investment fund manager). Presumably, only later did she grasp the ostensible democratic angle as a means to an end.

Referring to high courts judges’ ‘total independence’ on issues relating to IRA members or destitute asylum seekers is of no relevance here; mere obfuscation. ‘Our judges are not plotters or subversives – they are a repository of wisdom, independence and intellect.’ I would like to think so – up to a point. If any of these judges sat on a case when the jury was being selected, they would dismiss any potential juror who revealed any conflict of interest regarding the case. Not because the individual would be biased, but because it could be construed that he would be. Several of the judges involved in this case are known to have considerable interests relating to the EU and because of these associations could be construed to be biased. If the government’s appeal is not upheld, then protestations and assurances that ‘only the legal aspects’ were considered would be highly suspect. Only those judges with no link to the EU should be reviewing this appeal.

Write to be read

My thanks to the many readers who took advantage of the special Kindle Unlimited offer over the weekend for SPANISH EYE and BLOOD OF THE DRAGON TREES.

I often say that I write to be read, not to earn loads of money (though payment for work done is a fine bonus!), so I hope you all enjoy the books and come back for more. And please feel free to write a review, no matter how brief!

The e-book versions - and the paperbacks - are now priced again on Amazon.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Kindle Unlimited limited offer

Like things Spain and Spanish? 

Have you tried my two books set in Spain? 

BLOOD OF THE DRAGON TREES and SPANISH EYE are free as e-books today and tomorrow only on Kindle Unlimited.

here's the link for Spanish Eye: 

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Book review - The Paradise Game

Fourth in the six-book Hooded Swan sequence by Brian Stableford, The Paradise Game (1974) is another intriguing space opera offering an alien planetary puzzle.

Space-pilot Grainger, still lumbered with the mind-parasite or symbiote ‘the wind’ has landed on Pharos, a planet that appears to be paradise. Unpolluted, with no large predators, no disease, indeed no death, it seems truly ideal. That’s why the Caradoc Company wants to take over the planet, to make money, of course; future wealth is in the service industry. The only indigenous natives are quite obliging about the project. However, conservationists in the guise of the Aegis group object strongly, even resorting to explosive sabotage. Charlot, Grainger’s boss, has been tasked with the job of arbitrating and determining if the Caradoc claim can succeed.

Yet again, Stableford has created interesting aliens and a planetary life-system. The natives ‘were humanoid, curious, gullible and all female… Her skin was covered in light gray fur. Her face reminded me of an owl, with huge large-lidded eyes. The eyelids moved slowly up and down, so that one moment the whole of the eyes were exposed, the next only a half or three-quarters. She had a sort of mane of lighter fur or hair descending down her back from the crown of her head, starting off in between her small pointed ears. Her arms were thin and short, and she walked with her legs permanently crooked. She was naked, but thick hair covered her loins.’ (pp9/10)

The natives have ‘no generic name for themselves, and they have no word for death.’ (p42)

Of course, no paradise can be perfect. Eden had its snake. Grainger wondered what lingered in the verdant vegetation of Pharos. ‘It’s always darkest before it gets even darker.’ (p45)

Stableford likes word-play and one of the lawmen on Pharos is Keith Just. He goes further, ‘Four of them. And Just.’(p113)  Four Just Men, no less? Edgar Wallace would smile, I suspect. And his final two words in the story hit the right note, too!

As in earlier adventures, ‘the wind’ is instrumental in resolving the puzzle for Grainger. There’s also a good assessment of his relationship with the symbiote: ‘my relationship with the wind became a matter of vital necessity…’ (p133) ‘In a way, he was more me than I was.’ (p134).

Inventive, as usual, and worth reading for that reason.

Editor’s hat on:

On more than one occasion, characters speak without interruption for over two pages. This is unrealistic (pp 151-153, for instance).

Repetitive use of some words. ‘Back’, for instance, written seven times in 10 lines (p77) And ‘lot’, another one of those echo words: 5 times in 10 lines (p153).

There’s a great visual description of a mother spaceship launching an invasion fleet of smaller craft: ‘the battleship was beginning to shrink as she accelerated and climbed, while the infant fleet grew as it descended, changing appearance momentarily as our prospective adjusted, so that it was first a swarm of bees, then locusts, and then black butterflies. (p94) Pity ‘prospective’ was used instead of ‘perspective’.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

'Atmospheric descriptions of life under the yoke of Soviet rule'

Latest Amazon review of The Prague Papers (e-book) from reader 'Sandbagger'.

Set during the Cold War behind the Iron Curtain in the mid- 1970s the storyline follows the young, intriguing Tana Standish, a British secret agent, who was orphaned and yet managed to survive the brutality and the horrors of the Warsaw ghetto in WWII. She possesses a psychic ability that gives her an advantage but occasionally appears to be something of a double-edged sword.

Tana is called in to help repair the beleaguered underground network in Czechoslovakia, who had been stymied after the so-called Prague Spring, when the reformist First Secretary, Alexander Dubček, well meaning attempts of reform were brought to heel seven years earlier by the arrival of Soviet tanks.

This is a well-researched novel with atmospheric descriptions of life under the yoke of Soviet rule.

A real page turner. Highly recommended.
Many thanks, Sandbagger! 

The follow-up is The Tehran Text, set in Iran in 1978.

My apologies for not posting here regularly of late, but I'm moving towards the end of the third Tana Standish mission, set in Afghanistan in 1979: The Khyber Chronicle.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Books - Library loans

The Irish Public Lending Right statement has arrived in the inbox. The earnings are not great, but what is interesting to me is the number of loans.

All six of my westerns (by 'Ross Morton') are represented in the Irish and UK libraries:

Death at Bethesda Falls
Last Chance Saloon
The $300 Man
Blind Justice at Wedlock
Old Guns
The Magnificent Mendozas

For 2015 They have clocked up between them 217 loans.

Not many, true; by averages that suggests that 36 people have read each book.
In truth, it shows how averages can be skewed.

Book - loans
Blind Justice - 69
Last Chance Saloon - 39
Old Guns - 46
The Magnificent Mendozas - 24
Death at Bethesda Falls - 29
The $300 Man - 10

It's heartening to know that the oldest, Death at Bethesda Falls (published in 2007) is still finding a readership.

The loans in the UK libraries are considerably higher; that statement comes out in the new year.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Writing - animal cries and calls

Cries of despair today, in British date-format, 9/11... as Mr Trump is voted in as president-elect of the USA.

To the cry, call or voice of many animals a special name is attributed. Rarely can the accepted name of the cry be changed. Here you will find a selection from Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Perhaps some will end up in your text:

apes gibber
asses bray
bears growl
bees hum
bitterns boom
bulls bellow
calves bleat
cats mew, purr, swear and caterwaul (swear?)
crows caw
cuckoos cuckoo
dogs bark, bay, howl and yelp
doves coo
eagles, vultures and peacocks scream
flies buzz
foxes bark and yelp
hawks scream
ravens croak

Some I didn't know:
beetles drone
blackcap 'chick-chicks'
falcons chant
grasshoppers chirp and pitter
grouse drums
guineafowls cry 'come back'
nightingales pipe and warble and 'jug-jug'
swallows twitter (hence the Twitter avatar?)
whitethroat chirrs

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Writing – animals in symbolism

Browsing through my old (1981) edition of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, trying to find the root of the phrase, ‘Fed up’, I came across this interesting item.

I won’t quote all of it, but you can get the drift, and the list should bring to mind relevant idioms and descriptions:

Creature          symbolizes
Ant                  frugality and prevision
Ape                  uncleanness, malice, lust and cunning
Ass                  stupidity

Bantam cock    pluckiness, priggishness
Bat                   blindness
Bear                 ill-temper, uncouthness
Bulldog            pertinacity

Cock                vigilance, overbearing insolence
Crocodile         hypocrisy

Dog                  fidelity, dirty habits

Fox                  cunning, artifice

Goat                 lasciviousness
Goose              conceit, folly
Gull                 gullibility

Hen                  maternal care

Lamb               innocence, sacrifice
Leopard           sin
Lion                 noble courage

Owl                  wisdom
Ox                   patience, strength, pride

Pig                   obstinacy, dirtiness, gluttony

Rabbit              fecundity
Raven              ill-luck

Sheep               silliness, timidity

Worm              cringing…

Whether it’s the realisation that ‘the law is an ass’, or acknowledging the pluckiness of bantamweight boxers, or noticing that person acting like a bear with a sore head, while shedding crocodile tears; or thinking of the faithful friend, a dog, or the wily fox, or mother hen, or gulling people out of money, or leopards being unable to change their spots, or rabbits breeding like rabbits, or those ravens of the Tower of London, this symbolism has crept into our everyday language.

Oh, and ‘fed up’ wasn’t in there. It is in the OED and stems from having enough, fed up to the back teeth, a surfeit, can’t eat another morsel or rather, no more, thanks, I’m bored. (I can take a hint, and will close now…)

Monday, 7 November 2016

Writing – competition – short story – Inktears

Short story 1,000 to 3,500 words

Deadline is 30 November 2016

Any theme.

There are six prizes which will be awarded by the InkTears judging panel:
    Winner: £1,000
    Runner-up: £100
    4x Highly Commended: £25

Entry fee - £7.50

This is of interest indeed: Story may have been previously published in a magazine or online, providing the author still owns the copyright and there is no exclusivity with the prior publication. Alternatively, the story may be as yet unpublished.

Open to non-UK based writers.

Entrants must be a minimum of 18 years old.

Winning entrants agree to have their story published by InkTears in both electronic and paper format. Authors will retain worldwide copyright on their work with InkTears having publication rights. 

Full rules and submission portal can be found here

'Will of the people'

Brexit alert!
In the recent Mail on Sunday, which is a pro-EU, Remain periodical, Lord Falconer wrote an article headlined ‘Off with her Head!’ I doubt if the former Lord Chancellor actually wrote the headline; a sub-editor probably thought it was a good one in light of the allusion in the text to Charles I losing his head.

This Labour peer who, alongside Tony Blair, took Britain into an illegal war in Iraq supports the recent High Court ruling against the Government regarding Article 50. You couldn’t make it up.

He states that ‘the executive – in this case the Government led by Theresa May – cannot take away the rights of the people simply by issuing an executive decree.’

Clearly, it is the government led by Theresa May that is actually fulfilling the rights of the people by opting to trigger Article 50. The rights of the people, Lord Falconer; your phrase.

The elephant in the room is that the Remain lobby is ever-hopeful that taking the issue to Parliament will delay implementation of Brexit or even ultimately confound the will of the people. Smoke and mirrors, it's called.

The referendum asked the people to vote, and they did so. That is defined as the will of the people. Argue all you like, but that’s the basic fact.

As an aside, what I find fascinating is where newspapers stand on this issue; they’re all the same. Those pro-EU feature letters from readers confirming that stance (notably judges and lawyers in The London Times, for example), as if no reader of their august periodical holds alternative views. The same goes for the pro-Leave papers too. Even-handed? No, of course not. It just confirms you cannot believe everything you read in the press, no matter what political complexion they wear on their sleeve (to mix metaphors).