Somebody please tell me why the Government finds it necessary to make it compulsory for every employer in the country, no matter how small their payroll, to register for the Workplace Pension scheme, and make pension provision for everyone, including people who want no part of it.
Could it be because the financial services industry, which benefits directly from the provision and management of pension products, has such a strong hold over our political decision-makers?
I know of a company that employs one person; he has an existing pension plan and doesn’t want another. No matter, time that would otherwise be spent generating profit for the business must be spent on the elaborate process of establishing and registering something that will never be used. To me, that is demonstrably stupid.
When we leave the EU, (the sooner the better as far as I’m concerned) we will have all the more need to encourage SME’s, not to encase them in ever more burdensome legal scaffolding. We need to provide incentives to employment, rather than the opposite.
One day to go until my appearance at Edinburgh International Book Festival. I hope to see you there; if you are kind/brave/sympathetic enough to come along, I promise you something brand spanking new.
I won’t read from this year’s Skinner, I’ll give you a preview of next year’s.
I had some very good news this morning. I’m on a short list of four for the Crime Writers’ Association’s ‘Dagger in the Library’ award. http://thecwa.co.uk/the-daggers/categories/library/
That’s recognition enough for me, but if I do catch the judges’ eyes I will be very happy: not only for myself, but even more for the nod it will give to all the librarians up and down the country who are the main reason why I’ve been in the top 100 most borrowed authors for the twenty odd years.
The importance of libraries has been recognised since the days of Andrew Carnegie, but now they’re under threat, from budget cuts by penny-pinchers who have no idea of the difference between cost and value. They need all the help and all the publicity they can get.
Shaun Escoffery. Try him, if you haven’t already.
Well, it’s out there at last; Born to be Wild has been in my head for a couple of years and finally it has escaped. The mysterious death of Oz Blackstone, explained at last. Published for ten hours as I write this, and already it’s in the top 1000 mystery titles in the Kindle store, not bad for 99p short story.
My thanks to everyone who’s bought it so far. To the rest? Go on, let’s see how high it can fly.
So what did happen to Oz Blackstone? Find out tomorrow, when Born to be Wild, a brand new short story, is released in the Amazon Kindle store. Or find out right now, on the Kobo platform.
For those who don’t know that there are alternatives to Kindle and Amazon, here’s a link to Kobo, through which Born to be Wild, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, and indeed the entire QJ backlist, are available in ebook form.
No, you don’t have to buy an expensive reader. Click on ‘Apps and ereaders’ and you can download software that lets you access Kobo purchases on computers, tablets, and even smartphones.
Update: ‘Born to be Wild’, the new Oz Blackstone short, is now available for pre-order on both Amazon and Kobo.com, in advance of publication on July 29.
Ten years ago, Oz Blackstone, the slightly sociopathic anti-hero of nine mystery novels, died tragically, and off-page, while filming in the Guatemalan jungle. He left behind him a wife and a soulmate . . . although these were different women . . . and three children. Said soulmate, Primavera Phillips Blackstone, retired with their son Tom to the idyllic (and very real; you should visit) village of St Marti d’Empuries, at the quiet end of the Costa Brava, where she built a new life in his honour and memory, and found what she hoped would be renewed happiness.
So why is it that there are thousands of people who believe that Oz is still alive and out there, choosing his moment to make a comeback? Beats me, but there are.
They keep the faith and they keep hoping; also, they keep me thinking.
Faith is a wonderful thing; it’s belief without any logic or supporting evidence. It deserves to be rewarded, and it will be on July 29. That’s the publication date of a new, original short story, which looks into the mystery of Oz’s death. It answers questions and it poses some new ones that only occurred to me as it took shape.
It’s called ‘Born to be Wild’ and it will be published in ebook form, on Amazon Kindle and also on Kobo.
A good friend said a few days ago that he reckoned we are witnessing the death of political fiction, on the basis that nobody will ever match current reality. I see it differently. With all that’s happened over the last week, how could I not republish my political fantasy, Somewhere over the Rainbow?
Look for it globally on Amazon and soon on Kobo.
I don’t bet. Every time I tip a horse it loses.
I’ve just awakened after a late night watching the St Joan fireworks. I’m happy, and only mildly surprised, for I had a hunch that the people who made the pollsters look like idiots at last year’s General Election might do the same again.
I said I’d be a good loser. Now I’m going to do something even harder: I’m going to be a good winner.
We’re there. The bluster and the bullshit of another corrosive referendum campaign lies behind us, stored away in the memory banks of the political participants, so that the winners can take revenge on the losers at a moment of their choosing.
Remain will win, and I will be as good a loser as I was (and still am) when I voted ‘Yes’ to Scottish independence. But one thing I won’t tolerate or forgive, is the assumption that because I voted to leave the EU, I am a kindred spirit to the likes of Nigel Farage, or Katie Hopkins, or Donald Trump . . . although it beats me why his views should have any relevance.
In a debate that has been largely about money and the protection of the wealth of the rich while also salving their social consciences, I have been focused from the start on the long term. This has nothing to do with immigration, or racism, or xenophobia; I believe that a political union of going on for thirty nation states with different cultures, attitudes, objectives and of course languages . . . and that is where the EU is headed . . . will be an unhappy and unstable creation. In the very long term it will also be unworkable.
So I don’t care what Farage says, or how Cameron spins it, or how sore Corbyn’s arse is from all that fence-sitting, or whether Joanne Rowling thinks we’re all mini-Trumps (although when I read that I couldn’t believe she said it), or whether Becks and Posh wake up happy or sad tomorrow. I will not be browbeaten by the strident voices of Nicola, Ruth and Kezia, or even persuaded by my friend Malcolm.
I voted with my conscience, and it’s clear.
Game of Thrones: by the end, Ramsay had really gone to the dogs.
In two years, the FIFA World Cup is scheduled to take place in Russia.
Soulsville – Beverley Knight, singing her little heart out.
The YouGov daily panel questions are always interesting, but sometimes their purpose can be a little obscure. No ambivalence about one of yesterday’s three, however, only a little grammatical quirkiness:
‘If the UK were not a member of the EU at the moment and there were a referendum on whether we should join (on current terms) wold you vote to join or stay out?’
The result? Out of 4427 total respondents,
I would vote to join: 28%
I would vote to stay out: 60%
I would not vote: 1%
Note sure: 11%
Okay, it didn’t ask for voting intentions on June 23, but if I was part of Operation Fear this morning, I’d find that more than a little ominous.
The notorious ‘Named Person scheme’ and the SNP’s sudden coyness?
Who is SHANARRI?
What influence will the personal views of a man named Alan Small have on every family in Scotland?
For the answers to these quesions, required reading from the invaluable Scottish Review:
I was fifteen when I saw Cassius Clay on television for the first time. He put on a masterclass in the Olympic final in Rome, dismantling the best opponent Europe had to offer. And he was only three years older than me.
When he turned pro, I followed his career in the Ring magazine, my monthly read, and on telly when his fights were shown on Grandstand. They thought he’d be lucky to escape with his life against the brutal Sonny Liston, who would probably have beaten every other opponent that Clay faced in his career. The young man humiliated him.
Ten years later Muhammad Ali faced another monster, someone else who was going to kill him, George Foreman, christened ‘The Mummy’ by Muhammad. The 34-year-old humiliated him.
That was the point at which he should have quit for the sake of his health, and for that of Joe Frazier. But he didn’t. He fought on, too long.
And yet afterwards, when he couldn’t any more, he didn’t drift into a punch-drunk slumber. He went on, as best he could, spreading the word of tolerance and understanding, making people laugh, until they couldn’t any longer, so badly was he maimed by the affliction that followed his career.
There has never been an icon who has transcended his sport as Muhammad did. Yes there have been others; Pele, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, even David Beckham. But when they die, their passing will not dominate the world’s media, or provoke such a wave of love and regret as his does today.
Now I can talk about it.
The Bloody Scotland programme is out, revealing that I will be sharing the stage for the closing event, 5pm Sunday September 11, with the great Ian Rankin, who is, genuinely, apart from being a top bloke, my favourite crime author.
Come and join us.