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A modern thriller set in the Middle East

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Friday, 11 December 2015

What's in a name? Rather a lot!

I have just done a guest posting on the Triskele Books blog. I was invited to write about the very tricky topics of names for new companies, choosing a book or play title, and creating names of fictional characters in screenplays and books. Also considered is the importance of choosing the right name to get the most from the Internet for your new book or screenplay.

You can read the full posting here.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

The Mortal Maze -- some thriller publicity in my former hometown

A welcome article in a newspaper covering the Australian town where I grew up. Read The Mortal Maze reviews here.

Books: a penny bargain

I recently discovered that a second-hand copy of my book God's Triangle was available on an Amazon site for just one penny, plus £2.80 p&p. A penny? How could that be?

The answer, I found, was here in the New York Times Magazine. This article is worth reading, but to sum up it tells us that there are companies that make their profits not on the books they sell, but on the post and packaging.

A member of my family who works for a charity shop in London confirmed the New York Times story. He said that charity shops often get far too many books for them to sell individually, so most are sold in bulk to companies that then choose the best ones to sell for as little as a penny -- plus, of course, the inflated p&p charge.

I never knew that. Did you?

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Charity fund raisers: doncha just hate 'em!

The other day I phone a friend in Australia from London. She hung up before I had a chance to say a word. So I rang her again. This time she answered and when she realised who I was, she explained that she had initially thought she was the recipient of yet another begging call from a professional charity fund raiser.

This happens to me quite often when I ring friends and relatives in Australia or New Zealand, usually in the early evening, their time. It is becoming a serious irritation. More and more Aussies and Kiwis are installing call monitors. As a result, calls from abroad show up as "private number", "number withheld" or "number unobtainable". The person being called assumes -- with some justification, sadly -- that they are in danger or being pestered by a smooth-talking telesales person or criminal displaying all sorts of inventive ways or relieving that person of some or all or their hard-earned cash.

My mother, who died aged 95, was a particular target in her later years for charity beggars. Being a polite woman, she would always hear the callers out and would try to explain that she was an old woman and already gave significant sums of money to charity. As I tried to explain to my mother, this information encouraged, not discouraged, the fund raisers who were almost all working on a commission of one sort or another. It was quite shameful the way they tried to exploit her good nature.

In a related matter, I have recently been receiving calls from a particular UK number that is almost certainly using auto-call phone software.I tracked it down to a charity I have supported for many years. I have now withdrawn my support in protest.

Words that are misused or unnecessary

Some German friends recently asked me to edit a letter they were writing to their neighbours about a matter of mutual concern. Their spoken English is excellent, but they were worried that their grasp of the written word was not so good. As I suggested changes, I realised that some of them would have been made were I editing a similar document written by a person with English as a first language. This took me back to when I was a journalism lecturer and produced for my students a simple guide to some of the errors that irritated me. You may find it of use:


Calm but tense (and tense but calm)
A nonsense. It can’t be both.
Tiny little village
Villages are, by definition, tiny and little.
Personal friend
Friends are, by definition, personal. But close friend is okay.
…given birth to a baby boy/girl
What else could they be but a baby?
At this moment in time
What’s wrong with “now”?
Head up
Light up
Meet up with
Up for sale
For sale
Rising up
…in two years time
In two years.
Consult with
He/she refuted the allegation
Refute means disprove by argument, not reject/dismiss.
Completely destroyed/wrecked/flooded
Destroyed/wrecked/flooded are self-standing. But partly is okay.
War/flood/fire/conflict situation
Passed away/passed on
Collateral damage. Neutralise. Take out.
Military euphemisms aimed at hiding the brutal reality of war.
High-speed police chase
“Why high-speed? This is implied by it being a chase.
Rushed to hospital by ambulance
What’s wrong with “taken to hospital”?
Outside of
Razed to the ground [by fire]
“Razed” means levelled. A brick/stone building is unlikely to be razed.
You imply in a statement; those listening to/reading it will infer.
Less for quantities; fewer for numbers.
Amount of people/houses etc
Number of…
Try and…
Try to…
Assisting police with their enquiries
An unnecessary euphemism for “being questioned by police”.
Why “pre-”? Planning is always in advance of an event.
Fierce fighting
Fighting usually is fierce.
Very unique
I’ve got
I have.  Got is an ugly word that usually isn’t needed in a sentence.
Closed off
Closed is usually sufficient.
Finishing/finished off
Centred around
Centred on.
It means soon, not currently. Or it used to.
Mitigate against
No. Don’t confuse mitigate with militate.
Trained up
Must off
Must have.
Comprised/comprising of
Concensus of opinion
Bored of
Bored by
A lazy comment. Use only when someone/something really is awesome.
Loved ones
Family and friends is more neutral and accurate.
[I feel] humble
Are you sure you don’t mean proud?
Hiding out

For more thoughts on the use of words, visit the Guardian style guide:
and the BBC guide:
and the Daily Telegraph style book:

Ian Richardson’s website and email address:

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Book publishing: typos and other dumb errors

When I published my first book -- a non-fiction story, God's Triangle -- it was edited by one person and beta-read by four other people. As far as I know, it contains no errors. However, my new thriller, The Mortal Maze, has been professionally edited and proofed at some expense by two people, been edited again (free of charge) by a third person and checked for errors by at least six beta readers. Yet when the book proofs came back from the printers earlier this week we still found a significant number of typos. How come? What's so different with this book? Is it because several of the readers told me they got completely carried away by the story, thus failing to note errors? Or could there be some other reason? Anyway, the book is now available error free (I hope).

Friday, 17 July 2015

Planning a trip to Australia (Oz)? Better learn some Strine! UPDATE

The first 30 years of my life were spent in Australia and ever since moving to London, I have made at least one trip every year to the land of my birth. But despite the frequency of my visits, I am increasingly finding it difficult to understand the language.

 It now seems that most descriptive names in Australia are reduced to words ending in “o” or “ie”.

Over the years I have become  accustomed to “arvo” (afternoon), “tinnie” (can of beer or a small tin boat) , cossie (swimming costume) “rellie” or “rello” (a relative) and being referred to as a “journo” (journalist), but what was I to make of a headline in the Australian papers about a man’s leg being chewed off by a “saltie”? 

I found that answer only by reading well down into the story and learning that a “saltie” is a salt water crocodile. I also noted that the man with the chewed leg was in a critical condition in “hossie” (hospital).

On one recent trip, I was challenged by a large illuminated sign over a highway “Have you renewed your rego?” My immediate response was to shout: “Well, I might renew it if I knew what it was”. A friend later enlightened me. “Rego” was short for car registration, the Australian equivalent of the UK’s road tax. 

Some of this word reduction and slang is amusing, and I couldn’t help smiling when I learned some time ago that “carked it” meant that someone had died (i.e. become a carcass). 

I also love the much-used “hoon”, the short form of hooligan, and “rort”, the term most frequently applied to phoney expenses and rip-offs by politicians (“pollies”).

What surprises me is how the slang has been adopted in recent years by Australia’s mainstream media. 

It is common, indeed usual, for Australian newspapers to refer to “firies” (firemen), ambos (ambulance drivers) and “schoolie” (drunken end-of-school-year party).

Scanning the Australian papers on the internet the other day I also came across “tradie” (owner of a small business), “boatie” (someone with a small boat), “yachtie” (a yachtsman) and “servo” (a motor vehicle service station).

And then there are the slang words that pop up in emails and social media postings from my friends (“mates” is preferred) and relatives (sorry, rellos) in Godzone (Australia): There is “bowlo” (member of a lawn bowls club), “sando” (sandwich) and “trannie” (no longer a transistor radio; now a transexual). Also, a friend reported that their child had a "tantie" (tantrum).

Finally, I should tell you about a recent email in which a women friend heaped praise on her “gynie”. No doubt, by now, you will have decoded this to be a reference to her gynaecologist.

And how did the Aussie accent come about? Here are some suggestions: