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A modern thriller set in the Middle East

Comments & Reviews "Ian Richardson has written a page turning thriller that screams to be turned into a blockbuster...

Saturday, 11 August 2018

John S. Richardson and the R34 airship

John Smith Richardson was my paternal grandfather, He was born plain John Richardson in Lanarkshire, Scotland in 1880, but his grandmother's maiden name, Smith, was added later. He was best known by his nicknames, Jock, Jake or Scotty. He married my grandmother, Elizabeth Mary "Bessie" McDearmid, in Glasgow in 1908, and they had two sons, my father, also named John Smith Richardson, and the younger Edward James "Ted" Richardson.

John was an electrical wireman by trade, but as work was in such short supply in Scotland, he set out for Australia on the HMS Osterley in 1913, leaving behind his wife and two young sons, in the hope that they could follow him once he got established. 

He worked for a time in Brisbane, Broken Hill and Wonthaggi, Victoria. The Great War broke out in 1914, and the following year he joined the Australian Imperial Force's 6th Battalion. 

In October 1915, John travelled on the troopship HMAT Nester to join other Australian troops camped just outside Cairo. He was then aged 36. Not long after his arrival he developed a series of illnesses that made him unfit for active service.

John recovered sufficiently to be transferred to England where he became a military trainer and was joined by his family.

Despite having a heart condition that continued to make him unfit for active service, he was judged fit enough to be transferred to munitions early in 1918. This involved in him being moved to Inchinnan, near Glasgow, to work as a wireman on the R34 airship being constructed by W. Beardmore and Company Limited for the British Navy.

By the time the R34 was completed and ready for service, the war was over. It was thought possible that there might be a commercial use for airships, so in July 1919 it gained fame as the first airship to cross the Atlantic in both directions. However, it was wrecked in 1921 after first hitting a hillside on the Yorkshire Moors then getting into difficulties in high winds after landing at Howden near Hull.


About the time the R34 was making its historic flight, John Richardson was returning to Australia on the the SS Bahia Castillo to be formally discharged from the munitions service and to look for work. He returned to Wonthaggi, where he was put in charge of the the electric pumps, fans and winches at at the State Coal Mine.

He was joined in Australia by his wife and family early in 1920. He worked on and off for the State Coalmine before finally being made redundant in 1932 as part of staff cutbacks at the mine.

He and his brother Jim had a private coal mine near Wonthaggi and at another time a laundry. Both proved unprofitable. In his spare time, he was a keen, but not very successful, gold prospector in the Dargo High Plain in south-eastern Victoria.

Eventually, John's poor health got the better of him and he spent his final nine months as a patient in the Caulfield Repatriation in Melbourne. He is buried in a war grave in the Wonthaggi Cemetery.


IAN RICHARDSON ADDS: I never knew my grandfather Richardson. He died before I was born, but I deeply regret that I failed to learn more about him when my father and my grandmother were still alive. He was clearly what could be described as "a character" and I feel there could have been much to say about his life.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Why readers enjoyed this thriller

 Comments & Reviews
The author welcomes comments on The Mortal Maze. They can be emailed to him here.

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The author brings his Australian cultural background and his professional life as a journalist into this brilliant read. The characters may be recognisable as a type within the broadcasting world - but these characters are everywhere - you don't need to know the BBC to recognise the workers, the grafters, the smooth talking bastards, the egotists, the ones who think that their job is more important than anyone else's, even if they know less than others! Once I started reading this book on holiday, I just didn't want to stop. I had no idea where the book was going and how it would end. I certainly didn't expect it to end like it did. Mr. Richardson had me hooked. No spoilers - just to say the characters were fleshed out beautifully. The gambling problem and the demanding mother added nice touches to the torment being gone through by the main character. And yes, as someone has already said, it would make a great film. - Amazon review by Brian Empringham.

"A labyrinthine tale with a blinder of an ending. Heart stopping stuff. I am glad you didn't tell me how it ended before I began reviewing it." - Jan Woolf, editor, London.

"A fantastic cracking spy thriller. Very realistic." - Book reviewer Rob Minshull talking to Steve Austin on ABC Radio Brisbane.

"I was deeply sad when I finished it [The Mortal Maze]. It is a fabulous book: a page turner, real people, fantastic background. I really did love it. It cries out for a sequel. And if you do one, don't clean up our hero too much." - email from former Fleet Street investigative journalist Eric Clark.

"Ian Richardson has written a page turning thriller that screams to be turned into a blockbuster film. It has all the ingredients and characters to make a box office success. A flawed foreign correspondent, troubled by a gambling addiction, a penchant for exotic escort girls and drinking whiskey from the bottle; his old, avenging school chum, who becomes the world's most wanted terrorist, and a duplicitous, immoral spymaster who manipulates the reporter with devastating consequences. Their personal epiphanies come far too late. To say any more would spoilt the plot." - Amazon review by Malcolm Brabant.

"Wow! What can I say - absolutely loved it! The story was so interesting and completely different to anything I had read before. The characters just came to life and the ending was completely unexpected and just brilliant! Congratulations." - email from Kevin Tavener, Bendigo, Australia.

"The Mortal Maze was part of my holiday reading - and a very good part it was! I particularly enjoyed the frictions and conflicts between the resident members of the BBC's news bureau team and the special correspondent followed by the relief manager who were flown in to work at the bureau. I also very much enjoyed the way the relationships between the members of the bureau team itself were portrayed. As well as these, I found Ian Richardson's storylines were most compelling... though some were more than a little sad." - Amazon review by Peter Udell, London.

"The Mortal Maze is entertaining, fast paced with well drawn believable characters, and is well worth a few hours of anyone's time. In fact, it's something of a page turner and difficult to put down; I read it in two sittings. Written by an author not unfamiliar with the troubles and tribulations of TV journalism in foreign lands, it has a genuine feel for the sometimes problematic relationships between journalists and diplomats as well as the demands of the editors back home and the realities on the ground. I had to smile at the groans from the journalist 'hero' and his irrepressible cameraman when HQ in London sends in the self important 'heavyweight' as the story develops in significance. I look forward to a follow up." - Ben A. Amazon review.

"I thoroughly enjoyed this well researched & very well constructed fast moving topical thriller. It is full of twists & turns & had me gripped from the start to the climactic finish. I would love to see it made into a film!" - anon, Amazon Customer

"A terrific fast-paced read! I was well and truly hooked from the start. I loved the feisty characters and loved loathing one or two of the BBC high-ups. A great insight into what goes on behind the news in dangerous territory. I recommend." - Carole Bentley, Amazon review.
"A well-plotted novel packed with incident and featuring sharply drawn relationships between some convincing characters, this lively and topical thriller fairly zips along from the start, gathering pace until the dramatic finale. 
The author makes the most of his journalistic background without overdoing the use of an insider's knowledge of technical detail and jargon." - T. Luard, Amazon review.

"Excellent thriller: rattling good yarn. Works on several levels; critique of hypocritical foreign policy, skewering of BBC bureaucracy, portrait of Middle Eastern country, deft characterisation." - Amazon review by Stephen Jessel, Paris.

"I really enjoyed The Mortal Maze, a vivid and compelling read. The settings and characters were powerfully evoked, and the narrative gripped me as it moved towards its climax. It was great to follow both the working and the personal lives of the characters. I was particularly entertained by the scenes in the BBC team's office, and by the interplay between the folk in the field and those at headquarters. I look forward to further adventures with Jackson Dunbar!" - Email from Steve Cockayne, UK.

"A fast paced novel, full of authentic journalistic references and fascinating detail about the Middle Eastern setting. Richardson weaves a complex plot with dexterity, interweaving carefully crafted characters' subplots and storylines to a thrilling climax." - Full review here. Beth Pevsner, Durham University, County Durham, England.

"I really enjoyed it [The Mortal Maze]. Having no knowledge of news agencies working in foreign countries, it was quite eye opening for me. Not having a HERO as such, rushing in to save the day was a nice change. The ending threw me, not used to that sort of thing happening in novels these days." - email from Max O'Callaghan, Alice Springs, Australia.

"A pacy and plausible thriller. It took me a while to get used to the present tense approach but I soon became absorbed in the plot. It would work well as a movie. - David McNeil, Amazon review.

"Good entertaining read and an excellent insight into aspects of the media that may not be apparent to the casual observer." - anon. Amazon Customer.

"I liked the storyline and the setting and fact that it was based on a fairly small tightly-knit group of people. I could imagine the office and the scenes where the mosque is blown up and the final bomb in the park were very vivid. I didn't find [Jackson] to be a sympathetic character. I liked other male characters who had life, especially Pete, Mack and Binnie (oddly enough)." - email from Ruth, London.

"The story was exciting and enjoyable and there were times when I didn't want to put the book down. It was a jolly good read." - Barbara Nash, London W5

"Fabulous!. I found it impossible to put down. I continued reading well into the night, always thinking to ' bookmark at the next page', but no, I read it to the end! A fascinating novel with an unusual and interesting series of plots that could only be authored by someone with a deep journalistic experience of the subject matter." - email from John Mole, Ringwood, Melbourne.

"The author's knowledge of broadcasting and of the Middle East sets the novel against a colourful and authentic background, making the startling twists and turns of the plot all the more believable." - Colin Emmins, University of the Third Age (U3A). Read full review.

"It was a thoroughly enjoyable and gripping read. Jacko is a plausible and endearing character and despite his human weaknesses you want to know that he'll be safe from the dangers he seems to be hell-bent on putting himself into. It was hard to put the book down and turn off the light!" - email from Gail Jones, Crickhowell, Wales.

"Fast moving and thoroughly enjoyable. An excellent insight into the way news works, some of the unpleasant people who work in it and the strong professional rivalries. Plausible plot - who are the Government spooks in the broadcast organisations? I was so hooked that I got through the last 20 minutes according to Kindle in 12 minutes because I wanted to find out what happened." - Amazon review by JRExelby.

"Fantastic. I absolutely loved it [The Mortal Maze] and found it hard to put down. I read it in three days and had to ration myself to how much I read at a time. Will there be a sequel?" - David McClure, Brill, England.

"Fast-paced and absorbing, this novel written in the present tense by a former BBC journalist who really knows his stuff, draws the reader in to the terrifying world of terrorism in today's world from the perspective of a BBC news team on the spot in an Arab capital under attack. The sometimes horrific twists and turns kept me involved right to the end. Hard to put down! It would make a great film." - Amazon review by musiga24, UK.

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Friday, 22 June 2018

The life of a clever urban fox

Fox News (not about the Murdoch TV channel but about foxes that live in London):

A local fox obviously got tired of jumping a fence in the London suburb where we live, so dug a tunnel under it. The neighbour on the other side of the fence responded by hammering some chopped-up tree branches into the ground to block its path. But a day later all the branches had been removed, dragged back through the tunnel and put in a neat pile. Obviously a very determined, very smart and very tidy fox!

Visitors to London -- particularly those living in rural areas -- are frequently surprised to see so many foxes nonchalantly moving about the suburbs, mostly after dark. A significant body of Londoners regard the foxes as most unwelcome vermin, but many others aren't that bothered. They certainly don't bother me, chiefly because they rarely cause trouble and almost certainly keep the rat population under control.

That said, where I grew up in a rural area of the Australian State of Victoria the foxes often caused havoc on the farms, killing lambs and "chooks" (the Australian name for domestic chickens). As a youth I used to earn 10 shillings (in old Aussie money) for every fox I shot, and I see that a bounty is $10 is still being paid for every fox killed in Victoria. 

The number of foxes sometimes roaming free on Australian farmlands is demonstrated by this photograph of dead foxes hanging on a farm fence. This may upset some people, but the brutal truth was that there were occasions when foxes -- introduced, along with rabbits, to Australia by the early white settlers -- reached plaque proportions.

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:

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