Catch of the Day (Update)

25 Sep

Editing a manuscript is a lot of hard work. In many ways, it’s harder than writing a novel in the first place. It’s the point where you fix all the things that are wrong with the first draft and produce the story you wanted to tell in the first place. I’m now on iteration #3. The story has improved with each telling. Part One – 1973 is now in a very good place. Part Two – 1974 still requires a bit of work.

I once heard Iain Rankin give an interview, where he claimed he didn’t who the villain of the novel was when he was writing the first draft, and only discovered once he reached the end. I know that feeling. All great heroes need an enemy. For the story to work, the enemy has to want the same thing as the hero. Both must remain steadfast in their pursuit of this thing. I thought I knew who the enemy was at the outset, but as I came to know my characters it was obvious that my initial choice of enemy was wrong. He was annoying lad – an idiot even – but he was a little too divorced from the action to be the real baddie of the piece. The real enemy made himself known as the story unfolded, and he wasn’t who I thought he was. This was both confounding and delightful.

Once I knew who the real enemy was and what he’d done to my main character throughout the story, albeit hidden from view, I was able to build all this into the second draft. Every move that the enemy makes is plotted and in the open, but also invisible. By the time that Pogsy, my young hero, gets his first real slap to the face – the enemy’s plans are well under way. The depth of duplicity is both joyous and sickening. Joyous, in that I love it when a plot comes together, and sickening because I hate giving my favourite characters a hard time. It’s necessary though. A character cannot grow if they have it easy. The one thing that has held Pogsy back throughout his young life is a paralysing fear of public speaking. Ultimately, he discovers that the only way he can overcome his enemy is to overcome his worst fears.

With each act of bravery by the hero comes an act of skullduggery by his enemy. It escalates to a point where something really serious is coming and the reader knows there’s no way it can be avoided. The astute reader will work out from the clues what’s coming well before Pogsy, and this makes it even worse. It was gut-wrenching to write, but also very satisfying.

Overall, I’m happy with what I’ve produced. The last few months have been pretty haphazard as far as progress is concerned. The whole thing has taken far longer than I ever imagined. I thought it would by 9 months at most. It’s taken nearer 15. Whilst I enjoy creative writing, it doesn’t pay the bills. Cyber Security does that.

It’s time to go back to work.


To Plot or to Pants?

27 Jul

It’s the great question of our times. When I’m writing my novel should I plot it out to the Nth degree, or just get on with it (fly by the seat of my pants) and see what happens?

When I wrote my first novel I plotted it out to the Nth degree. The main reason I did so was because I hadn’t done anything quite like it before, so I figured I needed as much help as possible. Think of it as akin to being a kid and riding a bike with stabilisers. Something that’s plotted out in detail gives you a very good framework to write to, and you always know exactly where you are. That is, until a character does something you don’t expect. If you’re working with paper-thin characters, then you can just beat them over the head and tell them to get back in the box and do as they’re told. They play second-fiddle to the action. However, I found that once my characters had developed character, they took on a life of their own and started dictating their own terms. Orders to get back in the box no longer worked. The next problem you encounter is having let a character get away with misbehaving once, they won’t stop. Before long, your carefully plotted story-line has gone by the wayside and you’re in uncharted territory. And that’s exactly where I ended up, two-thirds of the way through novel #1. This time, with novel #2, I decided I didn’t need the stabilisers and instead I was going to pants it a lot more.

Pantsing is great fun, but you have to be able to trust yourself to get to the end at the right time, with the characters and story still intact. This time I only knew the rough story in advance. I knew it involved a 10-year old boy trying to figure out what life was all about, and why was it that grown-ups insisted on making simple things complicated. I knew that he didn’t understand girls, but had fallen for the new girl in class. I knew that he had a gang who were going to get in trouble. I knew that his dad was involved in black-market shenanigans, and that this too was going to cause trouble. I knew the dad was a Tory/Republican and the mother was a Labour/Liberal teacher. I knew that the boy was going to be continually presented with two points of view and he was going to have to decide which parent was right without upsetting the other. Finally, I knew that one of the gang was going to become our hero’s sworn enemy and cause him a lot of trouble in the last third of the book, resulting in him getting thrown out of the gang unjustly. The framework I chose for the story was a school year. This gave me some rigidity whilst also allowing flexibility.

By allowing myself a lot of leeway I was able to develop the characters and go with them. By not being so rigid with the plot, the story developed very organically. At the outset, I thought that the gang of kids was going to encounter bigger gangs of kids and have to fight them, in a sort of computer game ‘big boss’ set of scenarios. After the first gang encounter, I realised I’d put quite a lot of work into developing the character of JJ, the rival gang leader. He really was a chaotic and nasty piece of work. Hence my solution was as follows: in the background, he moves between gangs, taking them over, so that when our hero encounters the different gangs he keeps on running up against his old nemesis. This becomes a much scarier proposition than fighting an unknown. To my mind, this is the ideal mix of plotting and pantsing. I was able to allow my characters to develop their own personalities whist ensuring that all the key events happened at the right time. I also had the added flexibility of being able to change who did what to whom. This allowed me to keep the palette of characters to a minimum, which in turn meant more screen time for my favourites.

The key point is enjoy your writing. If you have to plot in order to do that, then plot. If you have to pants it, then pants it. There’s no one-size-fits-all when it come to art. Be the best writer you can. Go and produce the best work you can, using whatever method works best for you.

Catch of the Day

27 Jul

I’m extremely happy to have finally completed the first draft of my second novel ‘Catch of the Day’. The working title was always Pornofish, but I realised fairly early on that this wasn’t going to fly. The main reason for this: porn was not a recognised term in the early 70s! During my research I discovered that pornography in the film sense was referred to in this period as Stag films or Blue movies. The terms hardcore and softcore porn didn’t come into regular usage until much later. I remember my dad having nuddie books and nuddie calendars, which as kids we often called mucky books. In the early 70s, it was Playboy and Penthouse. Later on, once the Danish publishers got going, all sorts of filth started to appear.

As my novel is set between Sept 1973 and August 1974, which in the UK is a school term, the original title had to go. I’m a little miffed about this, although I can see that it might limit sales. Catch of the Day is much more subtle.

What am I writing about this time? In a nutshell, growing up in a northern fishing town in the UK in hard times. In the novel, Pogsy (the protagonist) is aged 10 going on 11, I remember this age as a sweet-spot, when the world of imagination was beginning to fade and the world of realism was taking over. Timewise, Pogsy’s transition into an adult happens to coincide with massive worldwide upheaval. In the summer/fall of ’73 we had the Second Cod War with Iceland, and war in the Middle East, which initiated an oil crisis, which in turn caused the price of petrol to skyrocket. Edward Heath’s government soon came under pressure from the Miner’s Unions who wanted more money, and caused power shortages / blackouts in order to get it. The government response was to declare a three-day working week and petrol rationing. There was a flour shortage and later a sugar shortage. But people got by and made do. Having a sense of humour helped.

For Pogsy, this is a very exciting time to be alive. The reduced working week means less security misters going about their business. With the help of his gang, he’s able to build the greatest den in the history of dens, hidden away in a secret location – until a new kid in class threatens everything he’s built. With no cameras or mobile phones, and a lot of relative freedoms, we get to take part in all of Pogsy’s adventures and confrontations, sharing in his ups and downs, and one of the great mysteries of life: why are grown-ups so stupid? Pogsy discovers that his dad has a side-business dealing in fish, which is the main currency of the town’s underground black market. He notices that with the end of the Cod War, there is less fish to go around. When Great Britain joins the Common Market on 1st January 1974, and all the UK’s inland fishing grounds are opened up to French and Spanish trawlers, the repercussions for the town are catastrophic. Dad is soon forced to find a new currency, which is acceptable to all the traders he has to deal with. Pogsy sets out on a quest to discover what it is.

First draft completed, let the editing begin…


Head Down, Back to Work

7 Feb

It’s been a while since I last wrote anything Ferrety, mainly because I’ve had my head down in the day job keeping the country secure from foreign interference.

I work in cyber-security and at the moment everyone wants people with my skills. It’s nice to be in high demand, but it doesn’t half soak up the bandwidth – leaving me with little free time to write. Sure, I’ve been banging out reports for the last three years but it doesn’t satisfy in the same way that plotting the ins and outs of a story does. Anyway, I’ve reached the point where I’m a bit frazzled and I need to do something different.

Three months of freedom coming up!

The question is – am I going to write the follow up to Ferret, which involves all my favourite things such as computer games, hacking and a loony conspiracy, or am I going to write the novel that the missus has been badgering me to write for the last 20 years?

At the moment the missus is winning, which means Pornofish is winning. What’s a Pornofish I hear you ask? Well, it’s a made-up word. The novel is a story about fish. Specifically black market fish and the hidden fish economy of the town in which I grew up, until all that nonsense came to an end in the mid-1970s thanks to the second and third Cod Wars. There’s some porn in it, but only in passing – which means in terms of priority it should be called ‘Fishporn’… but somehow that doesn’t really work. I’m sure David Attenborough has a ton of the stuff, but what he does in his spare time is his own business. Hence Pornofish wins. Pogsy is the protagonist of the piece. He’s a ten year old boy whose ambition is to become the leader of the gang rather than always be number two. However, the leader of the gang isn’t going to give up his position that easily. So a story of self-discovery and ambition, set against a backdrop of the Cod Wars, the Three Day week, political turmoil, inequality and power cuts.

I’m going to be blogging at rather than here, so pop on over and give me a follow. You can also find me on Facebook.

Saving the Packhorse Inn

3 Apr

The Packhorse, South Stoke, BathApproximately 18 months ago I became involved with a campaign to buy back and restore the only pub in the village in which I live. The role I carved out for myself was running the social media campaign to keep the Packhorse in the news. Although I work in Cyber Security by day, it seemed to me to be a fairly good fit for what I’d been doing in the publishing world – not only did it give me the opportunity to use and hone the skills I learned when pitching and publishing the Ferret Files, I also had the opportunity to expand my circle of contacts within the media. I should add that the project to bring the village pub back to life was a community effort, with many hundreds of ordinary folk pitching in their time and skills for free. Over the course of a year and a half, thousands of people-hours were put into the garden alone. For the strip-out, we filled 25 skips with rubbish. When the call went out for a local stonemason to assist with the reconstruction of a (c)17th fireplace that was discovered behind plaster, an ex-lecturer from Bath University, now living in France, gave up a week of his time to lead the restoration work. From an insider’s point of view it seemed that the wind had our backs, and whenever we needed a specialist the right person with the right skills and attitude came our way at the right time.

The end result is a testament to what can be achieved by a small group of dedicated individuals who refuse to take ‘no’ for an answer and believe that they are capable of succeeding no matter what the odds. At the outset, the neersayers were many; we simply got on with the task in hand and left them in the dust, raising just over £1m in funds, which allowed us to purchase the pub, complete renovations and open debt free. If you want to read more about the project and the history of the pub, which is 400 years old this year, then have a rummage around the website: As resident PR bod I wrote most of the content.

The Packhorse Bath Opening Day March 18th 2018

The Packhorse Project Team – I’m far left

On the day we opened, it snowed heavily overnight. By 9am a team of 15 shovellers of all ages and sexes had assembled and together we dug out the village. We’d waited six years to reopen the Packhorse and there was no way a little bit of snow was going to call a halt to proceedings! The BBC covered the event and broadcast footage over two nights. More importantly, the story was soon picked up online by the Daily Mail, followed by the Mirror, the Sun and every other UK national. The feelgood story continued trending at number #1 for the Mail Online and was only knocked off the top spot by news of Putin’s reelection later that evening. The next day we featured in every single national newspaper, and over the following week appeared in publictions in South America, China and Germany. Requests for interviews followed and were duly answered. I did my first ever radio interview for BBC local radio. In retrospect it appears that our feel good story was one that the world wanted to hear, and perhaps due to the situtation we find ourselves in globally right now, was in dire need of.

The message that this story contains is pretty simple when you break it down. What appears impossible on your own becomes much easier once you have the right team in place. If you believe in your project and ask the Universe for help when you need it, help will appear. This is how we accrued our stonemason, our lead gardener and our interior designer. Most of all, by committing to take part in a community minded venture and expecting nothing in return, I ended up with a whole load of media experience and an immense feeling of pride in a job well done. Oh, and I now have a pub that serves great food and an unbeatable range of craft beers and real ales within spitting distance of my front door.

That’s what I call a job well done!

Here are the links to the various publications we’ve been featured in. More are being added all the time.

Bath Echo

The Guardian

Bath Magazine




Ali Vowles radio story (starts 20:24)

The Observer

The Sun

Daily Telegraph

Daily Mail

Daily Mirror



And again in the Metro

Bath Chronicle

Bristol Post

Good Housekeeping



Somerset Live


360 TV


And the international links:




Spanish (it’s actually Russia Today!)

Czech Republic





China / Chinese language



Ferret the Paperback hits the Airwaves

11 Sep

It’s taken me a lot of page wrangling to get there, but finally Ferret is coming out in paperback!

The release date is set at Friday 15th September, available on Amazon.

This is the same version as the e-book, with the exception of a single pesky comma that shouldn’t have been there. As a perfectionist, I saw the opportunity to remove it and did so. The biggest issue I had with the e-book was that the illustrations were not inline with the text as I originally envisaged them. To my (uncultured) mind this spoiled the flow of the story somewhat. That’s now fixed. As a bonus there are 7 x vignettes which aren’t in the e-book. They’re not exactly new as they’ve all been extracted from the full page illustrations. Overall, in my opinion, they add to the Ferret feel.

Personally I’m truly delighted with the finished article. It does justice to Richard’s crazy artwork in a way that the e-book didn’t.

Enjoy the read – it’s an awesome adventure!

Phillip Legard



The Perils of Print-on-Demand

9 Aug

I’ve always loved reading, be it comics or novels and from a young age I could often be found lying in the corner of the lounge, head in the pages of a book. My mum was an English teacher, so Enid Blyton was strictly verboten – as in her work was not allowed in the house.  Everything on the home bookshelf was game, including my dad’s many volumes of very rude Rugby Songs, some of which my brother and I learned and then recited in public, causing much parental embarrassment. My early leaning was always towards science fiction, thanks mainly to Gerry Anderson; as a teen, I moved into fantasy, powered by the discovery of Michael Moorcock, Tolkien and Dungeons & Dragons. Sometime in the mid 70s, I bought the Lord of the Rings as a three volume set, having begun reading it around a friend’s house. It was the first printed book I’d ever held in my hand that totally blew me away. If you search Google for ‘LOTR book cover’ there are hundreds of images to choose from, covering many reprints in many languages. The set that I had was similar to the illustration here – simple, understated, yet profound in its symbology. When I held the book in my hand, moving my finger around the one ring and the Dark Lord’s incantation, it felt as though the novel was possessed by an arcane power.

The second novel I encountered that had a presence was Terry Pratchett’s ‘The Colour of Magic‘ and shortly afterwards ‘The Light Fantastic‘. In both cases, it was Josh Kirby’s artwork that initially hooked me. Pratchett’s writing was fresh and funny, it blew away the cobwebs of traditional fantasy, which had become trapped within its own framework of stale plots and staid characters. As I read both books, I felt as though I was holding a complete package that oozed magical charm. [As an aside, Harry Potter has never done it for me, but I have a couple of friends who had a similar experience with some of the hardback editions to the point where they couldn’t put the books down!]

When I set out to present The Ferret Files, I did so as an independent author with full control over the internal artwork, the contents and the cover. I was intent on creating something that spoke to the reader before the pages were ever turned. Why then, as a massive consumer of paperback and hardback books for most of my life, with a vision to create something truly awesome, did I opt to publish Ferret as an e-book only? That’s a question that’s not only haunted me for the early part of 2017, but it was also the most asked question by my readers. One of the primary drivers for going digital was a fear that the original artwork wouldn’t scale down for print. Richard’s full page drawings are A3, and they’re very detailed. Astonishing, in fact. Hence I shied away from producing a physical print version because I didn’t want to create an inferior product. What I didn’t know when I set out on my journey is that one of the limitations of digital is that images cannot be embedded in with the text. As a result, the e-book didn’t fully realise my dream.


Having worked in IT for most of my life, keeping up with trends as they emerge, I decided it was time to dip my toe in the water and remedy the situation with a Print-on-Demand (PoD) version of Ferret. I mean, how difficult could it possibly be? The question was posed on a Friday afternoon three weeks ago. I now have the answer…

PoD is exactly what the title suggests. An electronic copy of your work is uploaded to a central location and when a customer presses the button to buy, a copy is printed off within the country of purchase and despatched within a few days. I figured this was likely to be expensive, but as it happens I was wrong. As a printing methodology PoD is cost effective up to around 50 copies of a book. After that, traditional print wins the day. I had a quick look around Amazon to see what other authors are doing, and two options became immediately obvious. There’s Amazon’s own offering called CreateSpace and there’s Ingram Spark. As an Amazon subsidiary, I decided that CreateSpace must be pretty good so they made the cut. Ingram Spark, as an independent author platform also ticked all my boxes – the downside being that it costs $$$ to create a title (unless you happen to be a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors, which I am). I came across a third option, a site called Lulu, which I also wanted to explore. A comparison of the three options suggests that Lulu is the more expensive of the trio in terms of the cost to print a book, with CreateSpace and Ingram Spark costing roughly the same. On the plus side, the Lulu site has a lot of help to offer, as well as some very useful and active forums. Most importantly of all, I found and downloaded a free A5 template with instructions (go here: and click ‘Download Template’). Once you have this piece of the jigsaw puzzle, everything else becomes so much easier. I wish I’d found this link at the beginning, rather than two weeks in.

Lulu allows you to format the book and cover, do some basic checks and then you’re off to the races. It’s very much down to you, with no human checks performed. Ingram Spark inserts a human check at each of the major stages of production, so is a little bit slower. CreateSpace follows the same format. Both of these services aid in preventing mistakes around the formatting of the interior and the cover, which believe me are easy to make.

I’m not going to go into massive detail about everything PoD related, but here are the basics.

The Interior

  • The cost of a printed book is determined by the number of pages it contains and the weight of the paper used. If it’s in colour, then it costs more than black and white. The addition of b/w images takes up page space but doesn’t affect the overall cost.
  • A page must have margins top & bottom and left & right. There’s also a gutter margin, which is where the spine is located. The Lulu template shows pages side by side, with mirror margin set. This is very useful when determining what a book will look like. The minimum margins all around are 0.25″ (6.33mm), but it’s usual to use 0.5″ (12.66mm). This is what I settled on. The size of the gutter margin is determined by the total number of pages in the book – the more pages, the thicker the spine overall, the larger the gutter.
  • It appears that different countries have different standards for retail book sizes, so your template will be determined by where you live in the world. CreateSpace likes a 6″ by 9″ template, which is standard for the USA but also applies to the UK and Europe. Ingram Spark and Lulu also operate in these countries but want me to print using an A5 template (5.9″ by 8.51″). Fortunately, the Lulu template allows the page size to be changed with ease, and the book insides adjust accordingly.
  • As a tip, always use a page break to break between pages, and not hard returns – otherwise changing the page size may catch you out. Page Break Odd / Page Break Even proved very useful with the large illustrations.
  • The choice of font is down to you. Times New Roman is a favourite, but anything that’s San Serif will do (Lulu lists the standard options). Ideally, the text should be set to 11 or 12 point. The smaller the text, the less pages you’ll have and the cheaper your book will be to produce. However, going down to 10 point will make the finished article very difficult for seniors to read. As an example, A5 format Ferret with 12 point Times New Roman clocks in at 420 pages. Cutting the text size down to 11 point results in a novel that’s 356 pages. The difference in Lulu production costs between the two is £1, or £6.79 vs £7.80 to me. CreateSpace uses a 6″ by 9″ template, which is slightly larger than A5. Here, 12 point Times New Roman produces a book with 356 pages.
  • Images can be added onto a page and embedded in the text, but they must be 300dpi. For Ferret I embedded the 9 x vignettes in with the text and then set each of the 4 x large illustration on a page on their own, with a blank side on the rear. The large illustrations have the margins set to 0.25″, which allowed me to scale them as large as possible. A massive tip if you’re using Word: size your images in the drawing package of your choice at 300dpi then import the image without adjusting its size. Any size alterations made within Word will reduce the image quality down to 72dpi.
  • All three services require the interior to be in PDF format. Lulu and CreateSpace accept Microsoft Word and will happily do the conversion for you. Ingram Spark requires a PDF. However, as I soon discovered, not all PDF convertors are created equal. I messed about for a couple of days experimenting with Lulu and finally concluded that the optimum results with embedded images are obtained by using the Word ‘Save As’ function, and selecting PDF. The fonts must be embedded in the document, which is an ISO save option. Allowing Lulu to do the conversion results in the large single page illustrations being rendered unviewable.
  • Finally, as part of the distribution data you’ll need an ISBN number. You can obtain one yourself which costs $$$, or allow Lulu / CreateSpace to allocate one for you. The disadvantage of a free ISBN is that it is not transferable between services, so I’d recommend purchasing your own. If you’re also going to create an ebook, you’ll need a separate ISBN, as the number is media specific. In the UK, it’s cheaper to buy a pack of 10 ISBNs than to purchase just 2. Whichever option you choose, the ISBN must appear on the inside cover, on the copyright page.

The Cover

  • All three services have the capability to create covers for you. As I already have some rather nifty artwork for the front cover, I opted to upload it. I messed about for a couple of days trying various settings – initially I tried to upload just the front cover and use Lulu’s inbuilt templates for the back cover and spine, but matching the colours proved to be impossible. In the end I had to download an evaluation copy of Adobe PhotoShop and edit together a full wraparound cover. The end result is very pleasing, but if maths makes your brain hurt I suggest you either: a) get someone else to do it for you; or b) use the auto-build templates as provided. The CreateSpace and Ingram Spark editors looks very snazzy, but I didn’t go there on the grounds that I’d already taken the decision to make a full A5 jacket.
  • If you’re using your own artwork for the cover, it needs to be slightly larger than the printed page by 3.3mm per side (this is called the bleed and will be cut off in the manufacturing process). The full wraparound cover for Lulu’s A5 (148mm wide by 210mm high) version of Ferret is (151.3mm + spine + 151.3mm) by 216.6mm. The width of the spine is based on the number of pages the completed work contains, so cannot be accurately calculated until the page count is known. For Ferret this works out at 20.4mm. The size for Ingram Spark is identical.
  • The spine is intended to bend where the covers meet, so has an area each side of the fold that should not be printed on. A gap of 0.0625″ (0.15875mm) either side of the spine must be left blank. This caught me out with CreateSpace, who flagged up the Ferret logo as being too large. As I was unaware of this potential issue until it was brought up, I’m pretty sure that the proof copy I ordered from Lulu is going to be wrong (update – it’s arrived and it’s out by about 0.5mm, which I can live with – yippee!).
  • If you intend your work to be available to resellers, then it requires a barcode on the back cover, which contains the ISBN number. CreateSpace and Ingram Spark will helpfully add this for you when you upload the artwork or use their cover creator. With Lulu and a full wraparound cover, you have to follow the links to create a barcode which must then be cut & pasted onto the back cover.

Once the uploads are completed, all that remains is to order a proof copy of your work and wait for it to arrive. Mine turned up yesterday and there are a couple of small amendments that need to be made (my name is ever-so-slightly wonky on the spine and I discovered a missing ‘‘ in one of the later chapters), but otherwise we’re good to go. All in all, my experience of PoD has been really good if somewhat drawn out, but then I enjoy learning new things so it’s not a hardship. Plus I have a genuine enthusiasm for creating printed works, so the roadblocks thrown up in front of me were only ever going to be driven over. I’m really pleased with the results and unless an earthquake strikes Ferret will be out as a POD novel by the end of August.

If you have a project that’s underway and you need any encouragement I’m happy to hear from you…











Exciting Times…

28 Jul

One of many items on my agenda for this year is to produce a print-on-demand copy of Ferret. I used a third party company to assemble the e-book, mainly because my head was full of other things at the time and I didn’t have the space to learn yet another way to format text. With hindsight, I wish I’d explored all of the options available and done it myself, because one of the things I’ve always found exciting is holding a finished, quality document in my hand, even if it is virtual. We are where we are, as the saying goes.

For the record, I have no issues with the quality of the e-book; I do, however, have a few issues with the format, the biggest of which is the (non) placement of graphics inline with the text.  I’ll cover the whole print-on-demand experience in a follow-up article, as I learned a lot of tricks that I’d like to pass on.

For now, here’s a preview of the finished cover:

I have a proof copy winging its way through the ether. Hopefully everything will be just fine and I’ll be able to make Ferret available in printed form within the next few weeks. I’m really excited to see the finished article as the e-book didn’t do justice to the artwork. Fingers crossed that those big pictures aren’t one messy splodge!


10 Gold Hoards You Need to Know About

15 Feb

inca-image-1Most modern economists have little good to say about gold, naming it as a ‘barbarous relic’ [1]. Funnily enough, although the economist John Maynard Keynes is credited with this observation, his criticism was leveled at the gold standard of the day and not the metal itself [47]. Whilst gold is shunned as a modern investment in the West (President Nixon cancelled the convertibility of dollars into gold aka ‘the gold standard’ in 1971), the yellow metal is still preferred by much of the rest of the world for international trade settlements and as a store of wealth, mostly thanks to local currencies that don’t keep their value. Despite all the negative connotations that surround gold in the mainstream media, the thought of finding a cache of the yellow metal makes my blood race and my heart beat like billy-o. I don’t know about you, but personally I can’t get enough of reality shows like Gold Rush, which feature big boys’ toys and hardy prospectors eking out a living from the land. The piles of gold they produce each week tap into the animal spirit in a way that paper money can’t. Gold has this ability to send people crazy with yellow fever and once they get that look in their eyes, there is simply no coming back.

It is no surprise that our nations’ nuclear secrets are highly classified, but it may come as a shock to discover that everything surrounding official gold holdings is highly classified too. Although figures for gold holdings in metric tonnes are relatively easy to obtain for every country in the world [3], once we start digging into what is really going on behind the scenes, we find that things become deliberately opaque. For instance, a nation may lease or swap its gold with another entity [4], without any official announcement, which means it is not possible to truly know who owns what. As to where our gold is stored and the numbers and types of bars held – funnily enough, this is a state secret too. What this means is that while most of the figures in 10 Gold Hoards are verifiable, others are guesstimates. When I began my research, I foolishly thought that all the quantities of gold under scrutiny would be stated in imperial tons (gold is weighed in troy ounces). No such luck. Some values are in $$$, correct at the date of publication, while other weights are in kilos, ounces or metric tonnes. I’ve converted all of the hoards into metric tonnes, as this is the figure which is used when stating international gold reserves. If a hoard is valued in $$$ and it contains silver, then the silver is discounted from the total.

For the record, the internationally recognized standard for gold bars is the 400oz good delivery bar. A tonne of such bars easily fits into a single drawer of a filing cabinet. As an infograph paints a thousand words, follow this link [40] for a representation of how much space various tonnages of gold take up.

Aztec Gold (<1 tonne)

hernan-cortesI’d always assumed that the Spanish conquistadors under the command of Hernán Cortés plundered massive quantities of gold from the Aztecs before killing most of them in a series of pitched battles. A quick dig and we soon find out that this is not the case. Although Mexico is home to some of the world’s largest silver mines, compared to Columbia, Ecuador and Peru it has very little gold. The hoard that King Montezuma II had accrued filled only a single room and this was gifted to the Spanish by Montezuma’s envoys in 1519 without the slightest hint of violence. For ease of transportation, the golden objects were melted down into 1kg ingots. The largest single treasure was a golden sun, the size of a cartwheel, valued at 10,000 pesos [8]. Today this artifact would be priceless. Here, we run into trouble with our calculations, as Cortés valued the same piece at only 3,800 pesos. As 20%, or a Royal Fifth, of the 200 odd items that the conquistadors acquired were gifted to King Charles V of Spain, it wasn’t in Cortés’ interest to be accurate with his accounting.

tenochtitlanIn 1520, Cortés mounted a raid on Montezuma’s treasure stores within the city of Tenochtitlan, figuring that the Aztec king was lying about the true size of his hoard. Unfortunately there are no surviving records regarding what was taken, as soon afterwards the Spanish pushed the Aztecs too far and had to flee the city under cover of dark, losing most of their plunder in the process. The escape during La Noche Triste (the Night of Sorrows) was made all the more tricky by Cortés’ prior destruction of all the rope bridges into and out of the city.

As a good stack of Spanish gold was plundered by the English pirate Sir Francis Drake before it reached Spain, and yet more was lost in a series of shipwrecks, it is almost impossible for us to know how much gold the Spanish looted from the Aztecs. On paper, it appears to be less than a ton – but as with all things gold related, we’ll never know for sure.

Inca Gold (11+ tonnes)

pizarroIn sharp contrast to the Aztecs, the Incas had bags and bags of gold. They’d been mining and refining for centuries when Francisco Pizarro and his band of around 160 seasoned warriors rocked up in northwest Peru in 1532, hell-bent on conquest. The Spaniards were mistaken for the god Viracocha and his entourage, which goes someway towards explaining why they weren’t immediately disemboweled. Pizarro had visited Peru on two previous occasions, but what he found this time was a country in turmoil from a combination of European smallpox and a civil war of succession. By the time the Inca emperor Atahualpa realized that the Spanish were evil thieves, it was too late. Two thousand of his unarmed Incas were massacred by Spanish gunfire and cavalry charges, and he found himself taken prisoner. In bargaining for his release, Atahualpa offered to fill a large room (22ft by 17ft by 8ft) with gold and twice over with silver.

cuzcosacPizarro netted 13,000 pounds or 5.9 tonnes of 22 carat gold and 12 tons of silver, delivered as statues, cups, plates and jewellery. The entire hoard was melted down into ingots, destroying many priceless artifacts. Later, after Pizarro reneged on the deal and sentenced the emperor to death for treason, he headed off to the Inca city of Cuzco, where he was warmly welcomed by Atahualpa’s brother – the loser in the war of succession. The Spanish immediately set about sacking the city, accruing at least the same amount of gold and silver as the emperor’s ransom haul, the most prestigious item being a throne of gold. Most of the cultural relics were smelted into ingots [9].

News of Pizarro’s wealth spread far and wide and over the next 120 years many European explorers set sail for Peru, determined to seize their own slice of Inca gold. A rumor circulated that the Inca had escaped into the Amazon basin, making off with far more gold than Pizarro had accrued. Thus began the search for Eldorado, the fabled city of gold – a search that continues to this day.

Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple (380+ tonnes)

sri-padThe citizens of India love their gold! While it is estimated that some 18,000 tonnes of the yellow metal is held in private hands across the whole Indian subcontinent [48], the largest hoards are to be found in the Hindu temples of southern India, where, over the centuries, rich devotees and royalty have deposited large amounts of precious metals and jewels. The Tirumala temple in eastern Andhra Pradesh state, for instance, is reported to have 4.5 tonnes of gold [33]. This pales into insignificance when compared to the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, which is acknowledged by the Guinness Book of Records as being the richest in the world.

Any donation which is made to a temple becomes the property of the deity who resides within – in the case of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple this is Vishnu, the supreme Lord. The story of how the temple came to be audited under the instruction of the Supreme Court of India is rather convoluted [20]; suffice to say it began with a complete denial that any kallaras or treasure vaults existed underneath the temple, and ended on 30th June 2011 with the opening of Vault A and the discovery of approximately $22 billion in precious metals and gems. This valuation is by weight alone [15], and allowing for a gold price of $1,800 at the time of valuation, this gives us approx 380 tonnes of the yellow metal. It took 15 men 12 days to empty and inventory the vault, which many devotees said should not have been opened due to a curse [19]. The items of interest, in summary are: 800Kg of gold coins dating to 200BC; 100,000+ gold coins from ancient Rome; a gold sheaf weighing 500Kg and 1 ton of rice trinkets. Some of the gold was sent to be melted down and purified, ending in a scandal when 266Kg went missing [16]. Rumor has it upwards of another ton has been stolen, possibly through a secret passage [18].

sree-pad-cobrasOf the 8 vaults so far discovered, 3 have yet to be opened. When the assessors tried to open Vault B, they found one of the locks was jammed. A locksmith was called, but the attempt was abandoned when it was claimed in court that the spiritual integrity of the temple would be damaged [20]. Later, a ritual was performed to ascertain the will of the Lord, which revealed that any attempts to open Vault B would cause divine displeasure. To this day, no further attempts have been made to enter. The entire wealth of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple is recorded on a set of 10,000,000 leaves, which are yet to be audited [20], but based on what has been discovered so far, the contents of Vault B are estimated at $40 billion (approx 690 tonnes gold). This assumes that no further sub-vaults are discovered. Legend has it that beyond Vault B lies a chamber with walls made of solid gold, which contains the largest treasure vault in the history of the world [18].

King Solomon (500+ tonnes)

kstKing Solomon was the third king of Israel and a key figure in the Old Testament, ruling between roughly 970 and 931 BCE. Under his leadership, the kingdom of Israel grew from little more than a city state to an empire that dominated the Middle East. Aside from being a wise and powerful ruler, Solomon also had a love of gold in all its forms. According to legend, he had drinking cups, candlesticks and tables made from pure gold, along with 300 shields of beaten gold, a gold and ivory throne and last but not least, the Ark of the Covenant. Technically speaking, gold is quite a soft metal, so it is likely that this was 22 carat gold (91.6% pure – the standard for jewellery and coins in circulation). Solomon had the First Temple in Jerusalem decorated with precious metals, copper and gems; it is estimated that by the end of his reign he’d accumulated over 500 tonnes of the yellow metal [10]. In one year alone, he is alleged to have collected 666 talents of gold in tribute (1 talent = 67 pounds, so around 20 tonnes). When Solomon died, his kingdom split in two. The First Temple was later sacked and the riches stolen. Much of the gold most likely found its way to Egypt, taken away by King Shishak [11], although there are some who say it remained hidden until it was discovered by the Knights Templar.

kingsolomonsminesOne question which has perplexed archaeologists and historians for the last 4,000 years is where all this gold came from. Records tell us that one of King Solomon’s besties was King Hiram of Tyre, which is located in present day Lebanon. The pair dispatched expeditions of Phoenician sailors (the marine corps of their day) to the mysterious land of Ophir to gather all the gold they could find. No records survive regarding Ophir’s location, which is hardly surprising given the secretive nature of the gold industry. Nevertheless, treasure hunters have spent the last twenty-five centuries hunting down the legendary mine. The Victorian imagination was fired by the adventures of Allan Quatermain in Rider Haggard’s 1885 novel King Solomon’s Mines, which placed Ophir in central Africa. For a while, no self-respecting dinner party was complete without a new well-thought-out mine theory. As we now know, the Phoenicians were expert deep water sailors who navigated their way around the Cape of Africa. Modern day speculation places Ophir in West Africa, East Africa, Arabia, Asia and even South America! All we can say for certain is that if the location of Solomon’s mine has been discovered, those that found it remain very tight-lipped.

Nazi Gold (740+ tonnes)

nazi-goldWhen the Third Reich came to power in 1933, gold was still the means by which a nation’s financial clout was determined. It is pretty certain that Hitler had spent nearly all of the German gold (23 tonnes) by 1939, buying raw materials from abroad as part of his rearmament campaign. Handily, neither Austria nor Czechoslovakia complained when their gold reserves were annexed between 1938 and 1939, thus replenishing the coffers. During their march across Europe, the Nazis stole gold from the central banks of every country they occupied. Later they confiscated coins, jewellery and even teeth from hapless civilians. The requisitioned gold was estimated at $772 million [34] (gold was $36.20 a troy oz in 1940, therefore 740 tonnes). It was shipped off to Berlin, where it was smelted down into bars to help bolster Reichsmarshall Goering’s expense account.

By 1943, things had gone seriously wrong for Hitler, forcing the Berlin Reichsbank to ship its gold to branches throughout Germany. An estimated 91 tonnes was secretly moved to Switzerland, to be squirreled away by the Gnomes of Zurich. Only 3.6 tonnes of this was ever recovered. According to some sources, the Vatican got their mits on a fair chunk, although this is still denied with much wailing and shaking of heads. Neutral Portugal was a supplier of armaments to the Nazi regime and they demanded payment in gold, having previously been ripped off with forged currency. Generously, the Allies allowed them to keep it after the war. During the summer of 1945, the US Army began a serious hunt for what remained of Hitler’s gold. Approximately 230 tonnes was recovered from various Reichsbank vaults. The largest single hidden haul was discovered in Merkers Mine [5], 200 miles south of Berlin. merkers_mineIt included: 8,198 one kilo bars; 55 boxes of crated gold bullion; hundreds of bags of gold items; over 1,300 bags of gold Reichsmarks, British gold pounds and French gold francs. After WWII, the Tripartite Gold Commission set up a gold pool to repatriate 10 million ounces (347 tonnes) to its rightful owners [7]. Estimates of the total quantity of looted gold vary, with experts divided. It is generally agreed that over 700 tonnes was stolen, centralized and later dispersed [34], which is why Nazi gold hunters continue to comb continental Europe to this day in search of missing Nazi treasure [6].

The Roman Empire (1,650+ tonnes)

britain_gold_roman_coinsThe Empire of Rome has a special place in the history of gold, for it was the Romans who first introduced the widespread use of a struck gold coin with a standard size, purity and weight. Although gold coins had been in use previously in Greece and Turkey, there was never enough gold to support an economy and hence silver was the monetary metal of choice throughout the region. As the Roman Empire expanded into Egypt, Spain and Romania, its access to gold increased. Indeed, the conquest of Syracuse alone yielded 2,700 pounds or 1.22 tonnes of gold. Once the Romans got up to speed, it is estimated that between the years 100 and 300 AD they mined around 10 tonnes a year [12], using mechanized production methods that remained unrivaled until the Industrial Revolution. Unlike other civilizations, rather than turn all that gold into jewellery, the Romans minted coins.

roman_coin_02aThe standard Roman gold coin was the aureus, which was 22 carat and weighed 0.23 troy ounces. It was the standard pay for a legionnaire for a month, and in Britain would buy 29 gallons of cheap wine or 200 pounds of flour [12] – which is more than enough alcohol and pies until the next pay day. The gold hoards we’ve examined so far were static, as in gathered in one place. This is great if you’re a greedy monarch, but gold in storage is useless for an empire built on conquest and trade. Hence the Roman gold hoard was distributed around the empire, except for what remained on deposit at the central bank of Rome, which held around $30 million at 1927 valuations [13]. Gold was roughly $30 a troy oz back then, so this equates to a million ounces, or 35 tonnes, which was a fraction of the estimated 1,650 plus tonnes that the Romans mined.

After the Roman Empire divided into the Eastern and Western Empires around 285 AD, gold supplies began to dwindle. This was accompanied by a debasement of the currency driven by rising costs, which saw both the gold aureus and the silver denarius became mostly cheap filler metal. We’ve seen a similar situation with the British money supply during the 20th century, as silver coins were gradually taken out of circulation and replaced with nickel and zinc discs with no intrinsic value, in order to finance wars (WWI & WWII). A lot of Roman gold found its way East, to India and China, as payment for luxury goods [20], a situation which is echoed today, as the gold vaults of the west are being systematically emptied by the Chinese and their insatiable appetite for gold [46].

The Persian Empire (2,500+ tonnes)

lydian-lion-head-solonAt its height, the Persian Empire extended from the Balkans to the Indus valley and included Egypt and parts of the Arabian Peninsula. The Persian rulers had a liking for gold and silver, which they accrued in their ceremonial capital, Persepolis, which was founded in approx 518 BCE. Some thirty years earlier, the Persians overran the kingdom of Lydia, which lies in modern Greece, adopting the country’s coinage without changing the style or technology used in production. The Lydian Lion is recognized as the world’s earliest coin – it is cast from electrum, an alloy of silver and gold. Although the Persians used some of their silver and gold in coins, the majority of their gold was hoarded by the rulers.

How much gold did they have? Well, this is a tricky question to answer. They certainly took a large amount of the yellow metal from Egypt as a yearly tribute, which as we’ve already seen, originally came from King Solomon. During peak looting, the Persians took around 40,000 pounds (16.5 tonnes) a year, which was stashed away in the vaults. The biggest clue we have to the size of the Persian hoard comes from a combination of Plutarch (46-120 CE) and Diodorus Siculus (90-21 BCE), who both claim that during the sacking of Persepolis by Alexander the Great in 330 BCE, 20,000 mules and 5,000 camels were needed to carry off the loot, which included upwards of 2,500 tonnes of gold [14]. Records indicate that 1,120 tonnes of gold was deposited in Susa, now in modern day Iran. Once fully sacked, Persepolis was raised to the ground as revenge for the destruction of Athens in 480 BCE.

atg-gold-2Alexander turned the majority of the 12,200 tonnes of silver he stole into coinage, which he then used to pay his troops, persuading them to follow him all the way to India. Although Alexander introduced some gold into circulation, it doesn’t account for the 1,380 tonnes of gold which didn’t make it to Susa, which is presumably why the hills of Asia Minor are full of adventurers looking for buried treasure.


We’re now seven hoards down and ready to tackle the big three. One of the issues with researching modern gold stashes is that we have to verge outside of mainstream news sources to discover what’s happening. With a little basic maths the historical stuff was relatively easy to wrap our heads around. For what’s coming next we need to prep our tinfoil hats and remember to take everything we read with a pinch of salt and a dose of good old fashioned humor.

Fort Knox (4,582 tonnes)

fort_knoxThe USA has the largest stated gold reserves of any modern country, weighing in at a hefty 8,133 tonnes [3]. Of this, 4,582 tonnes are stored in Fort Knox, which is arguably the most famous bullion depository in the world. Given that it is located on a US Army base, it is also one of the most secure. According to mainstream sources [30], the bullion inside Fort Knox is a mix of ‘good delivery’ bars (400oz – as defined by the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA)) and also coin-melt bars, which were created from bullion coins handed in by the public after President Roosevelt banned the public ownership of gold in 1933. As a result of Executive Order 6102, the Federal Reserve’s stash of gold increased from $4 billion to $12 billion, necessitating the construction of a secure depository in which to store the country’s gold reserves. Construction of the thirteen vaults was completed in 1936 and the gold was transported to its new home in 1937 using over 500 train cars. At the outbreak of WWII, many European nations shipped their gold reserves to the US for safekeeping; at its peak in December 1941, Fort Knox held 649 million ounces (22,200 tonnes) of gold [29].

fort-knox-vaultBut is the gold still there? Apart from a visit by Roosevelt in 1943 and a press visit in 1974 to allay fears that all the gold had vanished after Nixon took the US off the gold standard in 1971 [27], no member of the public has ever been inside the vaults. The gold was last physically audited in 1953 (only 5% of the gold was assayed by a non-independent source), with all modern audits only checking the vault seals and not their contents [28]. Naturally, conspiracy enthusiasts have concluded that something is indeed awry with the nation’s gold. In true Doublespeak fashion, the claim that America’s gold is ‘held in deep storage’ is reinterpreted by some to mean that Fort Knox is empty and America’s gold is underground, waiting to be mined [39]. According to one source, the vault seals were all replaced in 2010 [28], which coincides rather neatly with a story that began doing the rounds a year earlier concerning the discovery of 60 tonnes of good delivery gold bars in Hong Kong that were salted with tungsten [31]. Tungsten is cheap and happens to be approximately the same density as gold, meaning that it can’t be detected by weight or x-rays. The only way to ascertain whether a gold bar is 99.99% pure is to either melt it down or drill it out.

tungsten-gold-barChinese officials later played detective and allegedly discovered that 1.5 million 400oz tungsten inserts were produced and plated with gold during the Clinton administration; 640,000 (8,900 tonnes) of which were shipped to Fort Knox and New York to replace the nation’s gold which various administrations had illegally stolen. The balance of the bars found their way onto the international market [31]. As with all things that involve a tinfoil wrapper, it is impossible to know for sure how much of the story is true. Suffice to say that the Chinese amended their gold purchase strategy shortly afterwards so that gold bound for the Shanghai exchange is now melted down and recast before being added to the inventory.

Romanov Gold (4,600+ tonnes)

nikolai-alexandrovich-romanovFollowing the death of Tsar Nicholas II In 1918, the New York Times reported that the Romanov family had been the wealthiest in the world, with an estimated fortune of $9 billion. Prior to the Russian Revolution, they governed an empire that covered over one sixth of the Earth’s surface and according to journals of the time had the largest strategic gold reserve in the world. Getting to the bottom of how much gold the Romanov’s had, where it was stored and where it went is a rather tricky business and it takes us a long way away from the traditional safe-spaces of the internet. What is certain is that everything they had was plundered by the Bolsheviks, who were assisted by the Western banks, and had vacated Russia by 1921.

I once heard an interview with Dr Jim Willie, in which he claimed that Baron Rothschild had approached Tsar Nicholas II with a deal to lease 12,000 – 15,000 tons of gold and, once Rothschild had the hoard, rather than repay the loan the Romanovs were murdered [36]. If the entire $9 billion fortune of Russia’s Imperial family was held in gold, at 1918 prices ($20.67) this gives us around 15,168 tonnes, which fits the profile. However, according to the World Gold Council, the total quantity of gold that had been mined worldwide by 1920 was 30,000 tonnes, with only 11,000 tonnes held in reserve by central banks [44]. As the $9 billion wealth fund likely included estates and land, we should be suspicious of the 15,000 tonne claim. We must, therefore piece together the size of the Romanov hoard from other disparate sources.

gold-in-national-bank-in-kazanOne figure which we can lock onto is the 1,600 tonnes of gold that were sent east under the guardianship of Admiral Kolchak prior to the Bolsheviks kicking off the Revolution. This was apparently 73% of the total gold reserves held in St Petersburg [42]. This gives us 2,192 tonnes of gold held in the capital, with perhaps 100 tonnes held elsewhere. Kolchak’s gold later went missing, which has prompted many treasure hunters to search for it ever since, with the most likely site for its final resting place being the bottom of Lake Baikal [32] [42]. According to other sources, once the Revolution started, the Tsar ordered $1 billion worth of gold to be shipped to Remington in the US to finance the purchase of weapons to quell the upstarts. At 1917 prices, this equates to 1,685 tonnes. Given that America lies to the east of Russia, I’m inclined to believe that this is the same gold shipment that Kolchak was entrusted to guard.

Another source [37] claims that Rothschild liberated $700 million in gold from Russia (1,180 tonnes), with US banks holding onto $900 million (1,492 tonnes) and European banks keeping safe a further $427 million (750 tonnes). As gold was the only real money in the early 20th century, it is likely that these bank deposits were initially made in gold, which may then have been used to purchase paper (stocks, shares & dollars/pounds/francs). This is backed up by a chart of US gold reserves, which shows a jump of 1,500 tonnes on deposit between 1900 and 1918 [21]. This leads us to conclude that 2,300 tonnes of Romanov gold was held abroad. Baron Rothschild’s haul consisted of what remained in the St Petersburg vaults, along with an extra 600 tonnes pillaged from private citizens [35], probably taken out of the country on four ships stacked with bullion [38]. romanov-gold-coinIn his book History’s Greatest Heist, historian Sean McMeekin outlines how the Bolsheviks went crazy for anything of value that wasn’t nailed down and sold it off to help pay for the revolution [43]. Although the governments of the world initially refused to recognize Lenin and disallowed the sale of Russian gold on the open market, the Swedes were not so circumspect. Covertly, the Swedish mint smelted down revolutionary gold and stamped the bars with the Swedish hallmark [43], thus facilitating its sale on the global market.

A gold hoard of 4,600+ tonnes is certainly feasible. A quick flick through the history of Russian mining [41] reveals that at a conservative estimate 2,100 tonnes were mined in the pre-Soviet era, with an average of 200 tonnes a year produced today [45]. Throw in Alexander the Great’s gold which went missing in Russian territory, along with gold captured in various military campaigns over 300 years of Romanov rule and it soon adds up.

Yamashita’s Gold (5,450+ tonnes)

yamashita-goldThe Yamashita of the title is Japanese general Tomoyuki Yamashita, who was nicknamed The Tiger of Malaya. During the Japanese invasion of Southeast Asia in late 1941 / early 1942, his job as commander of the Twenty-Fifth Army was to loot as much gold as possible from the captured territories and stash it all in Singapore, with a view to transferring the hoard to the Japanese mainland. The story goes that General Yamashita was assisted in his endeavor at the highest level by a secret task force assembled by Emperor Hirohito, which included in its ranks yakuza gangsters. The operation was codenamed Golden Lily and it was certainly a clandestine affair which is only paid lip service in serious history books. Those that do pick up the trail usually dismiss the story as a hoax. At best they’ll concede that General Yamashita had away perhaps a few tons of gold. However, Sterling and Penny Seagrave, who have authored a pair of books on the subject [23] [24] argue differently.

What we can say for certain is that much like India, Southeast Asia has a lot of Hindu temples and those temples were loaded with gold before the Japanese invaded. By the end of the Second World War they were empty. The Emperor’s task force allegedly captured around 5,450 tonnes of gold from Nanjing during their assault on the Chinese mainland in 1937. Later on, once Southeast Asia fell, they plundered with abandon. Gold was assayed, melted down into ingots and sent to the Philippines on hospital ships. This came to an end in 1943, thanks to an outbreak of American submarines. According to the Seagraves, it was at this point that Golden Lily began stashing their loot in hidden underground locations such as bunkers and caves. In all, 175 imperial treasure sites were created and those who assisted with burying the loot were entombed with it. After WWII ended, a crack team of US investigators located 15 of the hoards by torturing Yamashita’s driver. They found piles of gold ingots higher than their heads [22]. General MacArthur was informed of the finds and President Truman hushed everything up, intent on using the loot to fund off-the-books CIA activity. imelda2Ferdinand Marcos, later the ruler of the Philippines, got in on the act and recovered gold worth $6 billion from a sunken Japanese cruiser and $8 billion from a tunnel [25]. Allegedly, Marcos discovered the whereabouts of five more sites and appropriated their contents. Like Goering before her, his wife Imelda spent the loot with abandon on a luxury lifestyle that included thousands of pairs of designer shoes. Later, a lawsuit was filed against Marcos by a treasure hunter who accused him of stealing $22 billion in gold at gunpoint. This was reduced to $13 million on appeal, with newspapers declaring that Yamashita’s gold had finally been found and this was an end to the matter.

Except of course it isn’t. If we spend a bit of time searching the internet for Yamashita’s gold, we soon discover a rabbit hole of immense proportions. Some sources claim that the Marcos’ fortune was nearer to $1 trillion and they had in their possession over 60,000 tonnes of gold from the Golden Lily hoard, which actually totaled a million tonnes [17]. Given that the World Gold Council estimate that around 165,000 tonnes of gold have been mined in the whole of human history, of which the central banks store 33,000 tonnes [2], something is clearly not right. Is the World Gold Council mistaken? Has the US really got a secret stash of 170,000 tonnes of ‘recovered’ gold in Hawaii as a whistle-blower claims [26], or is this controlled misinformation to cover up the fact that Fort Knox is empty? I’ll leave that for you to decide. Meanwhile, let us raise a glass to the thousands of treasure hunters who descend on the Philippines every year in search of Yamashita’s gold. The best of luck to you all.

Two gold wedding ringsWhat have we learned from this waltz through the great gold hoards of history? If you stash all your gold in one place, someone will eventually come along and plunder it. Then, once the perpetrator thinks the hoard is safe, someone bigger still comes along and takes it again. Gold is the ultimate store of wealth and the ultimate recyclable. Every year hundreds of tons of jewellery and gold bars are melted down and recast. That gold coin your granddad left you, or perhaps your gold wedding ring might just contain a small part of an Inca hoard purloined by the Spanish conquistadors, or perhaps some of Alexander the Great’s loot stolen from Persia, which in turn came from ancient Egypt as a tribute, but originated in King Solomon’s mines, wherever they may be.

If you enjoyed this article why not try out Phillip’s latest novel ‘The Ferret Files’ – available now on Amazon















[13] Tenny Frank “An economic history of Rome” sec. edition 1927.










[23] The Yamato Dynasty: The Secret History of Japan’s Imperial Family (2000).

[24] Gold Warriors: America’s Secret Recovery of Yamashita’s Gold (2003).





























How to Launch a Successful e-book in 10 Easy Steps (parody)

13 Jan

dollar-signsI’ve recently been engaged in launching an e-book and despite reading many useful tips and techniques, I’ve still managed to write the manual on how not to do it properly. In order to assist those who wish to follow in my footsteps, I present how to launch a successful e-book in 10 easy steps.

  1. The starting point for our e-book is an accumulation of text we’ve written. The objective is to make $$$, so under no circumstances will we employ a proof-reader or an editor. Our time is the most precious commodity we have, so we’re not going to edit the text ourselves, we’ll simply go with what we’ve got. If in doubt about the readability of our manuscript, we’ll sprinkle it with random, additional commas. It’s impossible to have too many. There’s no need to bother with character arcs, a killer first chapter or a killer ending, as around 20% of downloaded e-books are never even opened. Of those that are opened, around 70% are abandoned before the end. Our e-book must be priced enticingly, so we’ll set the price at $0.49. We’re in the quantity box-shifting game, but at the same time we have no interest in people actually reading the book. In my experience this price break nets us some $$$ whilst asking for minimal commitment from the easily distracted reader. If writer’s block is an issue, we’ll have to think about plagiarizing someone else’s work. We’ll borrow from the bowels of the Interweb as we don’t want to make the same mistake that The Verve made with their hit single Bitter Suite Symphony. They leased the melody from a little-known instrumental track by The Rolling Stones and they thought no-one would notice. Bands like the Stones have armies of lawyers and they’ll pursue you to the ends of the earth for fifty cents.
  2. We need a title that’s short, snappy and attention grabbing. We can’t use Short and Snappy, that’s been done. For this exercise we’ll use Jizz! Books by well-known authors feature their names in huge letters on the cover, with the book title in slightly smaller script. In our case, as an unknown author, the title will be huge and our name relatively small. One of the reasons why the title needs to be short and sweet is that it must fit on a single line. In the world of reduced attention spans, calling our e-book My Viral e-book that will Take-over the World is a no-no. Most people will get bored before they even reach the third word. One additional piece of advice: we don’t want our book title to contain a word which is spelt differently in the US and the UK. This will simply wind up the Grammar Nazis, and they’re harder to shake off than Rolling Stones’ lawyers.
  3. Next, we require a pseudonym. This is our fake name, or if you want to get all author-y, it’s our pen-name. This is important, because should the crap hit the rotating device big time, we’ll need to vanish sharpish. We’re not going to use our real name, even if it’s Steve Smith. Instead, we’ll choose a name that sounds female, implausible and slightly offensive. Lady Bigflaps and Titty McMammogram are both taken, but Victoria BJ is free. As the ultimate objective of the campaign is to turn our e-book into a viral sensation, we’re not going to use the name of our worst enemy (even if they’re called Foxy Cox). Sure, they’ll get their 15 seconds of infamy, but they’ll also boast about it for the rest of their life and that’s intolerable.
  4. Our e-book needs a cover. We could spend hours fretting about look and feel, but honestly who cares? What’s your favorite jizzcolor? Sorted. There’s over 6 billion people on the planet and a good proportion of them will like our choice. Next, fire up Google, type in ‘free book cover’ and we’re off. We won’t waste too much time choosing the background as the title will take up most of the cover space. The title font is our most important sales tool. It has to lodge in the brain of the casual browser and give them a screaming headache. Once it’s jammed in the grey matter, they’ll be compelled to buy our book just to stop the pain.
  5. A blog is a must. We can set one up for free at It doesn’t really matter whether we blog using our author name or our book title. All of the functionality we’ll need is built-in for free and it’s easy to configure a good looking website. Don’t buy a funky custom template or a custom domain name. Both cost money. It might look professional, but the only people who pay attention to such trivia are other authors and techies. We want to make sure it’s possible for other bloggers to follow us. Also, we need the subscribe button enabled, to allow non-Wordpress users to receive email updates. Our customer list is our most important sales tool – it’s our funnel to our followers and we need to collect as many as possible. This way we can annoy them remotely with incessant posts and emails until they eventually give in and buy the damn book. Remember: it’s only $0.49 and it’s a life-changer.
  6. We need an Amazon account. Once we’ve created one, we can upload our manuscript and Amazon will convert it for free. We’re not going to bother checking the formatting, because if we find a mistake we might fret about getting it right, and that costs time. See how I’m saving us money. Every expense is spared. Once we’ve uploaded the cover art, we’re nearly ready to go – all that’s missing is a description of the book. They say that sex sells, so let’s make sure that the description is liberally peppered with the word sex. Let’s settle on: Sex on a bus. Sex on a plane. Sex… sex… sex… Want some? Read Jizz! now! Get all the sex… sex… sex you deserve! Blimey. I want to read it already.
  7. We now need a pair of Twitter accounts – one configured as the title of the book and one that matches our author name. In the book account profile, we’ll use the c

    [Rude sofa]

    over picture with a description: Sex… sex… sex… For the author account we require an out-of-focus picture that’s vaguely rude. This will make our punters curious. We must embed the Amazon URL in both profiles. Next, we’ll spend 24 hours a day following everyone under the sun from both accounts. We’ll need a big jar of coffee and a packet of strong caffeine tablets. From the book account, we’ll like random posts and retweet random tweets often, until we have 10,000 followers. At this point, we’ll switch into promote-the-book mode. We must be ruthless and dedicated to the cause. We’ll use a service such as to schedule our tweets for free. Ten an hour is about right. Every tweet should claim our book is a 5 star read and contain the hashtags #ebook and #sex. We’re looking to wear the b’stards down through repetition. We don’t tweet a thing from the author account. This gives the appearance that we’re one of those ladies of ill repute who want to get down and funky before formal introductions. This is our secret stealth sales tactic. Guys will follow back under the assumption that we have a webcam loaded with extreme filth, ready to be streamed straight into their porn parlor. When guys follow, we’re going to send a Direct Message (DM) plus URL to promote Jizz! They’ll immediately think we’re a cunning little vixen and download the book, anticipating tons of sexy pictures. Job done. In the worst case scenario, they’ll complain loudly and often via Twitter. That’s what the BLOCK function is for – we don’t need that kind of negativity in our lives. We must avoid any protracted conversations once we’ve got a sale, as we don’t want to end up on the TV show Catfish.
  8. Facebook is invaluable, which is why we’re going to create a pair of Facebook pages that are managed from our regular Facebook account. It’s important to use a page as this gives us more functionality and management capabilities than a standard account (such as promoting posts and paid advertising, which BTW we’re never going to use). We’ll call our first page Jizz! the book.  For the sake of legitimacy, we’ll call the second page: Victoria BJ Author. This stops anyone else pretending to be us, which is important for the scheme to work. We don’t want to accidentally appear on any TV shows before we’re ready, especially if the manuscript is plagiarized. We’ll link each of the Facebook pages to the respective Twitter account, so that anything we write of Facebook is auto-tweeted. Now we’re ready to start boasting about how successful our book sales are. We’re going to make stuff up. We’ll tell the world how many copies we’ve sold in the last hour. It’s important that everyone thinks we’re doing great. More importantly, we need to convince ourselves we’re doing great, as this is the key to being a successful author. How we feel about ourselves is far more important than actual sales.
  9. While we’re getting up to speed on Twitter and Facebook, we’ll take some time to get reviewed on Amazon. If we’re going to spend any $$$ on the campaign, then paid for reviews are the way to go. five-starGoogle is our best friend here. With a bit of effort, we should be able to get 100 x 5 star reviews for $25. Amazon is trying to clamp down on this kind of activity, so we may need to make our book free for a day and then get our friends to download it. Once they’ve registered as a customer they can add a 5 star review. It’s worth making sure there’s at least one 4 star review, so as not to raise suspicions. The 4 star review can say: cracking read, but a bit too much sex for me. See how we’ve turned a negative into a positive. If we manage to get Amazon on our case for posting fake reviews, we’ll resist loudly and tweet our indignation and disgust, as well as letting Amazon have both barrels on Facebook. We’re after total attention, because attention equals sales and sales = $$$.
  10. The final piece of the puzzle is to accumulate Facebook likes. This is where our friends come in again. We’re going to like both of our pages as ourselves and then encourage our trustworthy friends to like those pages too.  The objective is to legitimize our activity. We have to impose on our trustworthy friends and ask them to share our Facebook page with messages of support – we must make that sucker move. Without paid advertising, it can be slow to gain traction on Facebook, so what we’re going to do is to borrow some tasty cat videos from around the web. We’ll post them on our Facebook e-book page with the comment: Want some pu$$y? Read Jizz! and provide a handy link to Amazon. Let’s not be shy and stop at one cat video. People love cats, so we’ll spread that cat love far and wide.  To ice our cake we’ll follow some ‘C’ class celebs and bombard them until they give us repeat tweets. Remember: persistence always pays off eventually.

If we implement each of these steps with panache and a sense of humor, the $$$ will roll in.  Experienced authors might complain that we need to get registered on sites like, but that’s the last thing we want to do, as someone might actually read the damn book. The ultimate objective of the game is to push the boundaries as far as possible until something snaps and we get found out. This is where fame and fortune lie. In the process of following the 10 steps, whether we like it or not, we’ve become expert bloggers and social media whizzes. Once we’re outed, we can either fess up (play the hero) or be fudick_dll of spite and indignation (play the villain). Whichever role we choose, we’re going to make a lot of noise and that means exploiting our new found social media skills to the full, and with the help of local news channels and podcasts we’ll become the great author we already know we are. With enough badgering, someone somewhere will give us a nice little paycheck to tell our story, and that’s when we get to publish our real best seller: Jizz! The Fairytale, which is all about how we tricked the world into buying a $0.49 book that no-one actually read. Naturally, we’re going to employ a ghost writer as we’re going to be far too busy with the partying and fast cars to do it ourselves.

Disclaimer: this article is obviously tongue-in-cheek and there is no way that I as a professional author condone plagiarizing the work of others. May you burn in the bad place stipulated by your religion of choice if you do so…



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