Archive for August, 2012

The wind in Spain

August 31, 2012 1 comment

Back in L’Escala, where we appear to have imported a modified version of the Scottish summer. We landed in Girona last night to the first rain in living memory and woke this morning to find a Tramuntana (local lingo for gale out of the north) blowing.

Doesn’t matter. Nothing will ruin my lovely wife’s birthday.

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Fallen heroes

August 31, 2012 11 comments

The son of a friend of mine once caddied for Clint Eastwood when he came to East Lothian to play some golf. He said he was a nice guy. I’m sure he’s all that, as well as being possibly the mot successful actor directors ever.

That’s why I’m going to give him the of the doubt by assuming that when he stood up and said that the Republican Party owns America, he was only acting, replaying the part of the old geezer in Gran Torino.

I don’t say this to upset any American friends, only to point out that if he did mean it he was fundamentally wrong. History is littered with horror stories of one party states,  and your nation has a fine record when it comes to opposing them.

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The Texan view of New Yorkers, courtesy of a friend

New Yorkers in Texas are like haemorrhoids. When they show up for a little while, folks don’t like ’em very much. But when they come down, hang out and stay there, then they’re a real pain in the ass.

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Jeffrey Krell

August 30, 2012 3 comments

Thanks Jeffrey, I know you mean well, but . . .

Funeral Note isn’t a cliff-hanger: it ends with a question, unspoken, but a question nonetheless. And the answer is there. Most readers have worked it out; it just takes a little observation and reasoning.

As for your other comment, I have to tell you that the day I find myself giving a fuck about an Amazon review will be the day I give up writing. Those things are so infiltrated by sock puppets and idiots that they have lost all credibility. In any event, if the unvalidated opinions of total strangers, (even if they are real people, which is not always the case)  discourage an individual from choosing a book or buying a piece of music, that person is seriously lacking a mind of his or her own.

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John Carson

August 30, 2012 1 comment

Thanks John, and good luck with the book. Let me know when you get a deal; I look forward to reading it.

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August 29, 2012 1 comment

Last night I caught up on back episodes of one of my favourite cop shows, Blue Bloods. Please don’t hold that against me. I know it’s formulaic, PC, (even  though in Series 2 they apear to have cut down on the praying round the family dinner table) and as the new Mayor said to Frank in Series 2 Ep 1, ‘A hold-over from the 20th century’, but I like it, okay? It is also instructional.

In one episode I noticed, for the first time, although I suspect it’s always been there, the sign on Frank’s daughter’s desk. It reads ‘Erin Reagan-Boyle, Esq’. Because  ‘Esquire’ is a Western European designation applicable to men only, and because Erin is quite evidently a woman, at first I thought that either the production team had been sloppy, or that political correctness in the US had gone beyond madness. Then I looked it up and discovered that in the US the suffix ‘esq.’ designates individuals entitled to practice law, and may be used by both men and women. Where the hell did that one come from, I wonder?

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Don’t like it

Those were our Mia’s first observed words in English . . . apart from ‘Woof woof’ which doesn’t really count as it’s Dog. They came to mind  this morning when I went on Facebook and found a post from another writer. It asked me, and the other 800+ people on her Friends list to vote for her in the current on-line poll for the ITV3 Bestseller Dagger award.

Letting your close friends and family know you’re up for an award, that’s one thing, but using Facebook, well, that doesn’t sit quite right with me; that’s what politicians do, not authors. So I’ve voted for Kathy Reichs instead, on the basis that she’s also a Facebook Friend, but she didn’t ask for my support. I’ll probably have one less Friend as a result, but I can live with that.

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Alan Park

What a question. How do I have such a handle on the female psyche? I don’t; just ask my wife. If you think you do, beware; any such belief or assumption can land you in deeper shit than you could ever imagine.

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Penn State

I’m grateful to Patricia Wright, a regular correspondent from Arizona, for alerting me to the aftermath of the notorious sex abuse case brought against a former college football coach, Jerry Sandusky. The case itself made international headlines with his conviction, but what followed has  slipped under the radar outside the US. Wikipedia may be a dodgy witness at times, but the following piece is very well sourced, and explains it all in detail.

I’m with college football’s ruling body in fining the university involved, but I’m still trying to get my head round the logic in ‘vacating’ the results of 111 football games. Punish the guilty and those who covered up his actions, by all means, but how can it be right or fair to extend that sanction to take in the players involved, who were at best innocent parties, and at worst, potential victims? I can’t work it out, can you?

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Time for a crack down

Further to my last post, I’ve just read, and shared on Facebook, an article about a guy in Oklahoma who ran an online business that posted positive book reviews on Amazon and elsewhere for money, and made tons of it doing so. There are US Federal guidelines against phoney reviewing, but clearly they don’t work. The internet is all too easy to abuse, but governments do very little to protect it. Time they did, by making such activities illegal, globally, with penalties up to and including jail time for offenders.

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Sock in it

August 26, 2012 2 comments

I never take the word of a Guardian journalist at face value. That said, whatever the facts of the case, I had never heard of sock-puppets until all this crap started. Some people seem to think that their use is legitimate promotion and marketing. To me it’s cheating of the very worst sort.

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Urbane spaceman

RIP Neil Armstrong, one of the great heroes of my life-time. I say ‘one of’ because he shares that status with his crew mates Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, and with every other person, in the Apollo programme and beyond who has been brave and crazy enough to sit on top of a bloody great rocket and be blasted into space.

Like much of the world, I sat up waiting for Armstrong to step out of that capsule; by the time he did, the next day had dawned in Scotland, but none of us cared for we weren’t going to miss that moment. When  think about it now, I’m staggered by the realisation that it all happend 43 years ago, way back in the days when a computer filled a room, and my next door neighbour who worked for IBM has a sales target of one a year. That was the greatest human achievement of my lifetime, and I’m proud I was around when it happened.

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August 24, 2012 8 comments

I don’t follow cycling all that much, but that doesn’t mean I’ve never heard of Lance Armstrong. What do I know about him? In 1998 he returned to professional road-racing after surgery and chemotherapy for testicular cancer that had metastasized into his brain and lungs. I know that in 1999 he won  the first of seven successive Tour de France, a feat which may well remain unequalled for ever. I know that he is the most decorated cyclist ever, by a country mile. I know that he left his wife and had a fling with Sheryl Crowe. I know that since then he has fathered two children by his current partner, a notable achievement for someone who has had chemotherapy for testicular cancer. I know that throughout his career he never failed a drug test, in a sport where doping is endemic. Finally I know that for the second part of his career lesser men have been out to get him.

Now it seems  they have succeeded. For some time now Armstrong has been hounded by the US Anti-Doping Agency, on the basis of allegations made against him by a convicted doper and former team-mate, backed up by some other cyclists with doping records. There still have been no positive drug tests from that period, and a two-year Federal criminal investigation found no case to answer, but the USADA will not give up.

If Armstrong  was a doper when he won all those tours, then one of the most rigorous testing systems in world sport failed to produce any physical evidence against him, and without that it’s hard to see how any proceedings can be valid. That’s the basis of Armstrong’s case, and to many it might seem incontrovertible, yet what he describes as a witch-hunt goes on. Now he says that is no longer prepared to participate further in a process that he regards as one-sided and unfair and is walking away.

That’s the story, as it stands. The truth of it all will never be known, but . . . I have always been a little suspicious of the zeal with which athletes are pursued by the doping police. They must train and prepare for events knowing that at any hour of the day or night someone with a badge is likely to turn up on their doorstep demanding that they piss in a bottle. They work under conditions  that would not be tolerated in any other industry, other than those where public safety is an issue, and if they do not accept them then they are assumed to be guilty. Any sport which does not accept the full rigours of  the World Anti Doping Agency finds its integrity questioned. This happened to professional football, and to golf.

Lance Armstrong’s case may or may not have been a witch-hunt, but there is always a Witch-finder General somewhere around. Dick Pound would have been an obscure Canadian lawyer but for WADA, but he became one of the most quoted men in global sports media. I had never heard of Travis Tygart, the chief executive of the USADA, but I have now, because of his pursuit of Armstrong. History is full of people who have built their fame around pursuit of individuals and issues. Joe McCarthy comes most readily to mind, but most nations have them. The venal public, always too ready to pull down the idols it has created, will always them a hearing without pausing to consider what they are actually saying. For example, John Fahey, Dick Pound’s successor at WADA, is quoted thus:

He had a right to contest the charges. He chose not to. The simple fact is that his refusal to examine the evidence means the charges had substance in them.

If that is Mr Fahey’s definition of a fact, then God help every accused sportsman in the world. For an example of the injustices such an attitude can throw up, examine the situation of a golfer named Doug Barron.

So what’s my take on the Armstrong case? Well, it’s this. If the guy managed to fake those countless drug tests then sure as hell he wasn’t alone. If he was a doper in that sport at that time, he’d have gained no unfair advantage over most of his competitors. If he wasn’t, then he was all the more remarkable. There was a man called Alan Hardaker, Secretary of the English Football League, who said, notoriously, that he would not hang a dog on the word of a professional footballer. As I look at the people who are accusing Armstrong, I find  myself recalling that tongue in cheek quote. Bottom line is this; the USADA can scratch his name out of the record books if it chooses, but everyone will still know who won those seven Tours de France.


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August 23, 2012 1 comment

I’d like to thank everybody who turned out for my event yesterday at EIBF. I hope you all enjoyed it for I sure as hell did.The event was made all the more fun by my excellent chairperson, my good friend Peter Guttridge, no slouch himself as a crime writer. If you haven’t sampled his Brighton series, you should. Those who were there will know because I told them and those who weren’t are learning now, that he and I will be on stage again on September 15, at Bloody Scotland, out nation’s first dedicated crime-writing festival, where we will be joined by the great Anne Perry, a genuine international bestseller.

Thanks also to Nick, Roland, Esme and everyone else in Charlotte Square for making the world’s biggest book festival a success for yet another year.

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Desert Island Dicks

Songs that famous/notorious  people should have recorded:

You made me love you‘ — Julian Assange. (On the basis that he always blames somebody else)

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Katheryn Rivas

Another link:


Thanks for that Katheryn. I suspect that a similar compilation in the UK would be on the other side of the spectrum.

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Just for fun

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Tomorrow is one of my big days of the year: 3pm, in the Main Theatre at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, I will be doing my thing, chaired by my good friend Peter Guttridge. They tell me there are still tickets left, so anything you guys can do to make it a sell-out would be appreciated. EIBF costs a lot to stage; small wonder as it’s the biggest Bookfest in the world.

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The passage of time

August 21, 2012 3 comments

For many years now, four or five of us, long-time friends, have gathered in a certain hostelry at around 10pm on a Friday evening. Through those decades and centuries, our discussions have touched on countless topics, but mostly, football, rugby, cricket and the village hot topic of the day.

Last Friday we found ourselves discussing Inheritance Tax Planning. That, guys, is when you know you’re getting old.

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Pamela Connolly

August 21, 2012 5 comments

I appreciate your problem; fact is, large print books mostly go to libraries, and since I seem to be popular there, that may be the reason. I wasn’t aware of that site until you told me, but now I am, I’ll explore other supply options. Meantime, if you have an iTunes account, you can buy downloadable unabridged audio versions there for around the same cost as a paperback. They’re also available in that format on but tend to be more expensive. Would that be an option for your father?

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