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A modern thriller set in the Middle East

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Thursday, 15 February 2018

Why so many people are suspicious of campaign to leave the EU

      (in no particular order)
  • ·         Bonkin’ Boris Johnson, MP, make-it-up journalist and wanna-be Prime Minister
  • ·         Michael Gove, MP, person of changeable loyalties and wanna-be Prime Minister
  • ·         Rupert Murdoch, American citizen and media manipulator of UK and Australian politics
  • ·         Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Hate (aka Daily Mail) and anti-democratic propagandist
  • ·         David Davis, UK Cabinet Minister who asserts that Brexit will be easy
  • ·         Liam Fox, cocky but clueless rightwing supporter of Brexit
  • ·         Jeremy Corbyn, dithering Eurosceptic leader of the Labour Party
  • ·         Barclay twins, non-domicile owners of the Daily Torygraph (aka Daily Telegraph)
  • ·         Jacob Rees-Mogg, entitled MP for the 19th century and wanna-be Prime Minister
  • ·         Theresa May, unsure out-of-her-depth and UK Prime Minister (at the time of writing)

Monday, 5 February 2018

Sample my TV News thriller set in the BBC and the Middle East

Thrilled to be getting good reviews for my thriller The Mortal Maze. Here's one that I have just spotted:

Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

Thursday, 28 December 2017

An unplanned and relaxed writing life

Some writers plan their lives; some don’t. I’m one of those folk who have planned almost nothing about their lives. I can’t make up my mind whether this is from laziness or a lack of commitment or a deep-seated fear of failing to achieve a lifetime of targets. It’s probably chiefly the last of these three, if I’m honest.
      I have known ambitious people who have led miserable lives never achieving things that they regard as their due. Not me. I can’t be bothered. But having stated that, it is a serious mistake for a writer not to make the best of the opportunities that come their way.

      Although I have always loved writing, it was never my expectation that I would become someone who earned a living from it. As a teenager in the small Australian town of Charlton, Victoria, I worked after school for the local jeweller and watchmaker and it had been agreed that when I had completed my schooling I would begin a formal apprenticeship as a watch repairer.
      But it wasn’t to be. My father, who owned a small printing business and edited the local weekly newspaper, the Charlton Tribune, had other ideas. Unbeknown to me, he was losing a struggle against cancer and he needed me to help out in the business. So began an apprenticeship as a printer, learning skills that have proved useful to this very day.
      After my father’s death, my mother took over the business, and as she was not a journalist, I found myself with the opportunity to contribute a growing of articles to the newspaper, affectionately referred to as “the local rag”. A few years later my mother remarried and sold the business, and I moved on to broadcasting journalism with 3BO Bendigo and 3AW Melbourne, then moved to London and the BBC World Service.
      None of this had been planned. It just sort of happened. But I am hugely grateful for the skills I acquired along my haphazard route -- particularly in radio and television news which taught me there can be no such thing as writer’s block in that medium. The quickest way to be fired in broadcasting is to tell an editor “I can’t think what to write”.
      After I retired from the BBC, I did the usual lecturing and consulting stuff, but still without any plan to write books. Instead, when I stumbled across a scandal in my own family, I thought of it more as a film than a book. It was a chance suggestion by my wife that prompted me to match the screenplay, God's Triangle, with a book. Then a discussion with a journalist mate led to another screenplay and another book – this time about the moral challenges facing foreign correspondents and title The Mortal Maze. Now I’m writing a novel version of the first book.
      I have a few other possible books that I might produce, if I don’t get too distracted by writing for blogs and contributing too many postings on Facebook and Twitter, but if they don’t happen, too bad.
      If this all seems a bit flip, it isn’t intended to be. My message is that if you want to plan your life and career, go ahead. But don’t get upset if it doesn’t quite work out the way you hope. Instead, I suggest you let life roll on while grasping those opportunities that do come your way and make the very best of them.
      That’s my plan for a happy, disappointment-free writing life.

First published as a guest posting on the Alliance of Independent Authors Blog

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Talking to Bangladeshi Television

A very enjoyable chat the other night on Bengladesh television network NTV Europe with Talking Point anchor Syed Neaz Ahmad. Also enjoyable to meet network Chief Executive Officer Subrina Hossain and her very friendly team.

Neaz and I spent time discussing my book God's Triangle, which recounts the sad and true story of Australian Baptist missionary, Florence M. "Florrie" Cox, who was stationed in Calcutta, Mymensingh and Faridpur during the First World War.

We also chatted about my thriller The Mortal Maze, a morality story about a BBC correspondent in the Middle East and trapped into becoming a spy. Neaz was keen to know how my time with the BBC had shaped this story. The answer is "a great deal".

Another subject was my progression into print then broadcast journalism as a youth in my home country, Australia, before spending 27 years with BBC World Service radio and television in London.

For anyone interesting in the Talking Point discussion, click here: Part One  Part Two 
Part Three 

Read about Ian Richardson's visit to Bangladesh to research God's Triangle. Click here: Bangladesh Diary

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Death of Australian TV's Rosemary Margan

Sad to learn of the death, aged 80, of Rosemary Margan, one of Australia's best-known and popular all-round television entertainers. Rosemary was from my wife's home town, Bendigo, Victoria, and her sister used to do my wife's hair.

For a while, Rosemary was the "weather girl" on GTV9 Melbourne. It was during this time that she demonstrated that she was game for a laugh. Watch this weather report done in 1969: MarganWeather.

Somehow I don't see that happening on the BBC.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Dangerous Australia

Someone - I don't know who - came up with this amusing Aussie road sign. It is meant as a joke, but there is a significant element of truth in it. When my siblings and I grew up in the bush in south-eastern Australia, we learned very soon to be wary of snakes, particularly in the warmer weather. It was also in the age of outside "dunnies" (Australian term for lavatory/toilet/loo) and we knew to always check under the dunny seat to make sure there were no poisonous red backed spiders lurking there.

Later, when I moved to Melbourne, light aircraft sponsored by local radio stations kept a watch on hot days for sharks swimming close to the many local beaches, but at least Melbourne wasn't one of those parts of Australia populated by crocodiles happy to have a human snack.

This sign prompts me to link to my earlier posting about whether the land of my birth is relatively free of crime and other social problems. The answer in a word is "no". Read on to discover the proof of my claim: Godzone & crime

Friday, 8 September 2017

Where is my missing portrait by John Bratby? (update)

When I was a news editor with BBC External Services (later renamed BBC World Service), any mail for "Ian Richardson" would sensibly come to me, as there was no-one else by that name on the corporation staff. This mail would sometimes include fan letters for my actor namesake, who made a name for himself in TV drama, not least in the television adaptation of  John Le Carre's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, then later in the hugely successful TV series House of Cards. I passed on the fan mail to the other Ian Richardson, and over the years we exchanged a number of chatty letters. 

Late in 1982 I opened an envelope to find a letter from Royal Academy painter John Bratby, known as the innovator of "kitchen sink realism". It was an invitation to pose for an exhibition to be called The Individual in the Growing Egalitarian Society. I learned that the exhibition would include new portraits of the Queen Mother, Paul McCartney, Sir Alec Guinness, Sir Michael, Roald Dahl  and many other other prominent folk.

Clearly, the invitation was not intended for me, so I wrote back to John, saying how flattered I was, but the invitation was obviously for the actor and had been forwarded to him. This amused John and he thought it would be fun to paint both Ian Richardsons, so in March 1983 my wife and I went to his house in Hastings where I sat for several hours as he did the large portrait using a palette knife and oils.

Throughout the sitting, John and I chatted about all manner of things, mostly related to the role of the individual in society. His wife, Patti, brought me several coffees in an outsized cup and saucer -- plus a frequent supply of bacon sandwiches. She would take these opportunities to study the progress of the portrait, then would return a few minutes later to hand John her comments scribbled on a scrap of paper. Here are John, Patti and me posing with the end result:

A frequent comment from friends and family was that the portrait represented how I would look in my seventies. Well, as I am now galloping into my eighties, it is not for me to judge the accuracy of those comments. Here's a recent photograph to help you decide:

As John and I parted at the end of the portrait session, he gave me a signed copy of his book Breakdown. It was intended for his psychiatrist and already had a hand-written dedication to him in the fly-leaf, but John simply added my name and the date and handed it to me.

 I don't know how many copies of this book were sold, but I can't imagine the deeply depressing cover would prompt many to rush it to the bookshop tills:

My actor namesake initially agreed to be painted by John, but later changed his mind. He died of a heart attack in February 2007. As far as I know, my portrait never appeared among nearly 300 Bratby works on display at the exhibition at the National Theatre in London.

John offered to sell the portrait to me for £300, but I was so financially stretched at the time that I couldn't afford it. Later, after John had died and I was financially better off, I contacted Patti Bratby to ask if the portrait was still available, but she couldn't find it anyone among his collection.The problem is that he was a prolific artist, and there are many hundreds of his paintings held by various galleries and individuals. So, is it out there somewhere? Or did John decide to paint someone else over my portrait?

I hope to find the answer one day. If you think you can  help, please get in touch.

UPDATE (Sept 10, 2017)

Since my initial posting on this topic, I have been directed to a website that mentions an unpublished Bratby archive, held by a rare book dealer. It includes a note from Patti Bratby that "the wrong Ian Richardson" turned up, but she and John decided "not to let on". Not so. John and Patti were in no doubt that Ian Richardson (the BBC journalist) had been invited to their Hastings studio. Further, I had helped them get in touch with Ian Richardson (the actor).

Here's a photocopy of John's original letter to the actor but received by me at the BBC. As the quality is poor, the body of the letter has been re-typed:

Here's a copy of my reply:

John Bratby promptly replied, asking me to phone him:

I phoned John as requested, and as a result of this conversation and further exchanges of letters, a date was set for March 7 the next year for me to turn up in Hastings to have my portrait added to his collection. Before agreeing to this date, John wanted my thoughts on individualism, and this is a copy of the letter I sent him:

With the aid of the Internet I have been able to scroll through many of the hundreds of portraits done by John, and the inescapable conclusion is that I must have been just about the least famous person he painted.

Finally, although John and I had amiable and interesting written and spoken exchanges, he was not merely controversial but intensely disliked by a number of his associates.  Here's just one indicator, an article from the Royal Academy magazine in 2009:

And there is an unflattering more recent article here: http://dailym.ai/2y1Ppek