Translations Now Available

cubierta copertura copertina del libro

I’m starting to get my books translated into other languages. At the moment, A Damn Close-Run Thing has been translated into Italian and Spanish, and A Fleet In Being has been translated into Italian. More translations will be released soon. All translations can be found on the Translations page.

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Digital Book Day 2014

Digital Book Day banner
Monday, 14th July 2014 is the first Digital Book Day. On that day, I and over 100 other authors (108 at the time of writing, and that number is likely to increase) will offer one of their books for free.

I will be giving away A Damn Close-Run Thing. Simply come back on Monday 14th, and use discount code DBD2014 to get it for free.

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Gavrilo Princip and the Mythical Sandwich

Gavrilo PrincipIt is generally accepted that the First World War was triggered by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by the Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip. In recent years, however, an extra twist has been added: that the only reason Princip was in a position to fire at the Archduke was because he happened to be eating lunch when the Archduke’s car drove past. Millions of lives were lost during the war that followed. The Russian Revolution, the rise of Hitler and Nazism, the Second World War, and even the atomic bomb can arguably be attributed to the First World War, and thus, to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. It’s sobering to think that all of those terrible things might never have happened if Princip hadn’t felt a little hungry and stopped off at Schiller’s delicatessen for a sandwich.

The sandwich theory, however, is deeply flawed. The Smithsonian blog published an excellent debunking of it back in 2011. It appears that the original source of the sandwich was a novel by a Brazilian TV host. The post is very interesting, and well worth a read.

When I first heard about this, I wasn’t at all sure how to feel about it. It seemed to trivialise a truly earth-shattering event, and I couldn’t understand why people felt the need to focus on the apparent coincidence of the Archduke’s car happening to go past the delicatessen where Princip was having his lunch. When I mentioned it to my wife, she came up with what seems like a very plausible theory. People have difficulty relating to the event, because they have nothing in common with Princip. People find it hard to empathise with a murderer, and the fact that the act had such incredible consequences makes it even harder to relate. Everyone, however, can relate to eating a sandwich. It’s something we all do, so it gives people something in common with Princip, some tiny little thing that they can relate to, and that makes the whole story easier to take in.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand of AustriaThe sandwich is a minor detail, and perhaps it doesn’t matter if such minor details are incorrect. If the sandwich was told as an interesting aside, maybe it wouldn’t bother me quite so much. The problem is that in some accounts, it takes on a great deal of importance, and is said to be what led Princip to be in the right place at the right time to fire the fateful shot. The implication being that, if Princip hadn’t had that sandwich, he wouldn’t have killed the Archduke, and history would have been very different. However, the Archduke had already survived one assassination attempt that day, and even without his assassination, a war was likely. These things are all too easily forgotten when people focus on the apparent bizarre coincidence of the sandwich. Suddenly a major war (and all the events that can be said to have happened as a result of that war) happens just because one man ate a sandwich. If that were true, all well and good, but it isn’t, and so many people get a completely wrong understanding of the events that led to a major war where millions died.

No doubt there will be much written and spoken about the war over the next four years, as the centenary of various events comes around. Let’s make an effort to honour those that suffered by doing our best to get the facts right. It’s not always easy, of course, and an honest disagreement over the correct interpretation of events is perfectly valid, but there’s no excuse for making up stories or coincidences that simply didn’t happen.

Tweetables

Honour those that suffered in WWI: make an effort to get the facts right – Click to tweet

Many people suffered during WWI. Repeating fictional stories as fact dishonours their sacrifice – Click to tweet

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Business Negotiations Are Not Wars

I’d like to make a request. Can we please stop referring to business negotiations as wars? Amazon and Hachette are currently engaged in contentious negotiations, which journalists are referring to as a “war” between the two companies.

Soldiers around a grave

I don’t care what you think about Amazon or Hachette. Referring to a business negotiations as a “war” is lazy, sensationalist, and insulting to everyone that has ever been in an actual war. My wife’s grandfather was in Burma during WWII. My parents lived through the German bombing of Britain in 1940, and my dad later served on HMS Ceylon during the Korean War. A friend was on RFA Fort Austin during the Falklands War. I’m very happy to say that none of them were physically harmed, but they were all affected, and saw things that they won’t talk about. Many people that were involved in those wars were physically or mentally harmed, including civilians and children.

What is happening between Amazon and Hachette is business. It’s people in suits arguing about how much money they each get. It is not a war. No-one is getting shot at or bombed. The veterans of these negotiations won’t need help from organisations like the Royal British Legion or The Forgotten Heroes.

Obviously it’s a metaphor, but I think it’s used too widely and too glibly. War is a terrible business, and when the word is over-used, it starts to lose its real meaning. That leads to people forgetting that war is a really stupid idea, which in turn leads to real wars. Wars where real people are really killed, maimed, and psychologically damaged.

Tweetables

The Amazon / Hachette dispute is not a war. It’s people in suits arguing about money – Click to tweet
Referring to business negotiations as “war” is lazy, sensationalist, and insulting to veterans – Click to tweet

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Lidice Unearthed

The Unearthed project to commemmorate Lidice
Today is the 72nd anniversary of the destruction of Lidice. Last year, the Unearthed project created a sculpture to raise awareness of, and remember, both the atrocity and the incredible generosity of North Staffordshire’s miners.

The story of Lidice is one that should be shared far and wide. If you don’t know it, see this blog post. If you do know it, tell others. Don’t let the atrocity be forgotten – it’s when we forget that we allow such things to happen again. But also, don’t let the miners’ generosity be forgotten – it can, and should, inspire future generations to be the best they can be.

As well as a beautiful sculpture, the project created a series of videos, which illustrate the story of Lidice.

Lidice Shall Die

This first episode is the documentary that I saw at the Potteries Museum, when I first discovered the story of Lidice and Stoke-on-Trent.

Lidice Shall Live

This is a play that was performed to an unsuspecting audience in the Victoria Hall in Hanley, where the Lidice Shall Live movement was started seventy-one years before.

The Miners Raise Money

After the Lidice Shall Live movement was started, the miners of Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire raised £1,000,000 to help rebuild Lidice once the war was won.

Lidice Is Rebuilt

The final episode is a virtual tour of the Lidice memorial gardens and the new village.

The massacre of Lidice was an act of cold, calculated brutality, outrageous even by the standards of the regime that perpetrated it. It led to an act of outstanding generosity and compassion. North Staffordshire’s miners were living under rationing and still grieving from an explosion at Sneyd Green colliery that had killed 57 and devastated the local community. Yet they still gave a day’s wage each week to the Lidice Shall Live campaign. The dead of Lidice deserve to be remembered, because it is when we forget such things that we allow them to happen again. The miners and Sir Barnett Stross deserve to be remembered, because they reacted with compassion and generosity. In so doing they ensured that the evil did not prevail.

Tweetables

The @unearthed2013 project made 4 videos about #Lidice, showing the incredible brutality and compassion
Click to tweet

It’s the 72nd anniversary of the destruction of #Lidice, a story of brutality and incredible generosity
Click to tweet

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