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




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



[1] http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2011/10/who-first-called-gold-a-barbarous-relic.html

[2] https://gold.to/how-much-gold-in-the-world/

[3] https://www.gold.org/research/latest-world-official-gold-reserves

[4] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/markets/7884272/Secret-gold-swap-has-spooked-the-market.html

[5] https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1999/spring/nazi-gold-merkers-mine-treasure.html

[6] http://hitlernews.cloudworth.com/nazi-gold-lake-toplitz.php

[7] http://therealasset.co.uk/nazi-gold-bullion/

[8] http://www.mexicolore.co.uk/aztecs/ask-us/how-much-gold-did-the-conquistadores-get

[9] http://latinamericanhistory.about.com/od/theconquestofperu/p/The-Treasure-Of-The-Inca.htm

[10] http://www.miningweekly.com/article/the-gold-mining-legend-of-king-solomons-mines-2012-06-22

[11] http://www.creationmoments.com/content/accounting-king-solomon%E2%80%99s-gold

[12] http://info.goldavenue.com/Info_site/in_arts/in_civ/in_civ_romans.html

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

[14] https://www.ancient.eu/article/214/

[15] http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2011/07/06/137627235/some-22-billion-in-gold-diamonds-jewels-found-in-indian-temple

[16] http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/266-kg-of-gold-lost-from-temple/article6893987.ece

[17] http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/sociopolitica/es1/p_sociopol_fed05e.htm

[18] http://www.forbes.com/sites/jimdobson/2015/11/13/a-one-trillion-dollar-hidden-treasure-chamber-is-discovered-at-indias-sree-padmanabhaswam-temple/#6746c68621eb

[19] http://www.messagetoeagle.com/incredible-padmanabhaswamy-temple-and-its-ancient-treasures-hidden-in-vaults-guarded-by-serpents/

[20] http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2012/04/30/the-secret-of-the-temple

[21] http://www.24hgold.com/english/contributor.aspx?article=4249489564G10020&contributor=Tim+Iacono

[22] https://www.lrb.co.uk/v25/n22/chalmers-johnson/the-looting-of-asia

[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).

[25] https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1243&dat=19920203&id=LVYPAAAAIBAJ&sjid=j4YDAAAAIBAJ&pg=4782,3870408

[26] http://www.silverdoctors.com/gold/gold-news/dollar-valueless-about-to-crash-170000-tons-of-gold-held-in-secret-hawaii-vault-world-bank-whistleblower/

[27] http://www.numismaticnews.net/article/Gold_all_there_when_Ft_Knox_opened_doors

[28] http://www.thenewamerican.com/economy/economics/item/21212-has-the-federal-reserve-sold-the-gold-at-fort-knox

[29] http://www.newsmax.com/finance/Ed-Moy/Fort-Knox-gold-bar-audit/2014/06/06/id/575519/

[30] https://www.treasury.gov/about/education/Pages/fort-knox.aspx

[31] http://www.marketoracle.co.uk/Article14996.html

[32] http://www.angelfire.com/pa/ImperialRussian/news/179news.html

[33] http://zeenews.india.com/news/india/tirumala-temple-has-4-5-tonnes-gold-report_1643780.html

[34] http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=99928

[35] http://www.nytimes.com/1995/08/06/books/they-couldn-t-take-it-with-them.html

[36] https://socioecohistory.wordpress.com/2016/02/04/jim-willie-death-of-petrodollar-and-return-to-gold-standard/

[37] http://mindbodypolitic.com/2015/04/23/how-rothschild-looted-tsar-nicholas-romanov/

[38] http://www.renegadetribune.com/tsars-gold/

[39] http://disc.yourwebapps.com/discussion.cgi?disc=234999;article=2369;

[40] http://demonocracy.info/infographics/world/gold/gold.html

[41] http://goldminershq.com/vlad.htm

[42] http://siberiantimes.com/other/others/features/where-in-siberia-is-the-last-tsar-of-russias-missing-gold/

[43] http://www.readingthisbook.com/2012/05/sean-mcmeekin-historys-greatest-heist.html

[44] https://www.goldbroker.com/news/above-ground-gold-stock-how-much-is-there-why-does-matter-546

[45] http://www.mining.com/from-russia-with-gold-54907/

[46] https://www.bullionstar.com/blogs/koos-jansen/how-much-gold-is-china-importing-and-does-it-still-correlates-to-sge-withdrawals/

[47] http://barbarousrelic.net/

[48] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/Households-hold-950bn-gold-in-India/articleshow/10987660.cms





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 WordPress.com. 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 buffer.com 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 goodreads.com, 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…



Off to the Races

30 Nov

ferret-files-cover-smlWith the final set of tweeks out of the way we’re off to the races. The Ferret Files will be available to purchase from your usual friendly ebook retailers by the end of this week.

A quick check of Amazon and its already there.

Now, how do I sign the first edition of an ebook? All suggestions gratefully received…




Use your Common Sense

18 Oct

break-the-rulesI’ve always believed that rules are there to be pushed and bent rather than followed to the letter. The responsibility for this lies with my father. When I was growing up, if someone told him he couldn’t do something I guarantee he’d be straight on it. For instance, he once bought a piece of land that adjoined his rear garden and in the process of deciding what to do with it, a hostile neighbor told him there was no way he’d let my dad fence it off. Well, that one rather rash statement set in motion a series of events not unlike the recent Russian escapade with Crimea. My dad, my brother & I started digging holes at 5am one Saturday morning and inserting fabricated concrete posts. Over the course of the morning we were joined by a series of mates and friends on what we jokingly termed ‘Operation Stalag Luft Drei‘ (a reference to the film The Great Escape).

By the Saturday afternoon, the posts were fully in place and were shortly joined by fence panels. As we had a gang, the irate neighbor didn’t dare issue a direct challenge, but we did spot him later on with a tape measure, making sure that the fence in question was within planning regustalag-luft-iiilations. My dad was a loose cannon, but he wasn’t stoopid. Or more to the point, despite his healthy disrespect for the law, the one thing he didn’t want was PC Plod knocking at the door and asking to see the fence. Our neighbor cut off diplomatic relations with our family after that and issued sanctions, such as refusing to take parcels while we were out and telling my dad he wasn’t to park in front of his house. In the UK, the road kerb in front of a house is a public highway, so the neighbor had no right to issue such an ultimatum. Parking hostilities weren’t on my dad’s radar until the neighbor told him he not to do it. Red rag to a bull. After that, every once in a while my dad would park outside the neighbor’s house overnight as a wind up. Unlike me, he used to enjoy a fight before breakfast.

Growing up as a teenager it all seemed like harmless fun. My dad must have been a nightmare neighbor for that one poor guy. However, he was as nice as pie to all the other neighbors, fetching shopping for the elderly, etc, which obviously infuriated the man next door, as he was unable to get anyone else on his side. What I took from this debacle and many others is the following: every street has an a-hole. Now I’m an adult, I’d like to add that if you can’t spot them, it might just be you…


Based on my experiences of growing up in a world with rules that were there to be bent, I’ve gone on to develop a healthy disregard for the Nanny State. They say you can’t legislate for idiots, but this doesn’t stop the powers that be from trying. When someone figures out how to bypass a rule, more rules spring up to try and plug the hole. It’s like Hercules fighting the hydra!  One of my colleagues once told me that at his school they had only one rule: use your common sense. Apparently, the governors figured that if they had a set of formal rules, a smarty pants would soon come along and exploit a loophole. The end result would be a weighty tome of donts instead of a page of guidelines.  So they distilled every rule they had down to a single statement which covered all eventualities and also taught the kids to use their brains instead of referring to a rule book.  This I applaud and my father agrees. If only common sense wasn’t so uncommon these days…





Version 1.0

14 Sep

Here’s a question for yoversion-1u: how many versions of a document / manuscript does it take to create a Version 1.0?

To clarify, V1.0 is something that you the author are happy to publish and distribute to the world. On the cover, after the title, in large, friendly letters, it says:


Document Name

Author: YOU

You will be judged on the content, the grammar, the spelling and the layout. If it’s a work of fiction, add the plot and characters too.

halberdPart of my day job is authoring design documents, which are subject to internal review prior to being published. Hence I’m used to criticism. The most complex design doc is the High Level Design, or HLD. I reckon on 4-5 iterations by the time v0.1 goes out for comment. I then expect to go through another 2-3 versions before final publication. I’m really happy if v0.3 is the final version before v1.0, which gives 8 versions in total. If a document reaches v0.5, I start minor increments (v0.51). Once we get to 15 versions (v0.56) , I’m chomping at the bit to get the damn thing out the door. At this point, between me and success there’s always a pedant who won’t be moved because he/she doesn’t like a particular paragraph or requirement definition. All the time I’m boiling away inside, feeling personally slighted and wishing for a medieval weapon.

For The Ferret Files, I tried to follow my tried and tested methodology. It took six revisions to create v0.1. I figured v0.3 should be it. I was wrong. We’re finishing up on v0.53. Where I went astray was my estimation for how long it would take. I thought perhaps weeks. Try two people full time for four months. The final version of Ferret is revision 13. I was not happy with this figure to begin with. Recently, I saw Jeffrey Archer being interviewed on TV. He said that on average it takes him 17 revisions to get a manuscript right, all hand written then typed up. He neglected to mention that he has a secretary to do the dirty work. So by his estimation it takes two people full time for nearly a year to produce a best seller.  Suddenly, I’m feeling much happier.

My copy editor asked me why I was on v0.53 and not v0.8. Well, it all harks back to my first serious job, working for Commodore computers, who made the C64 and Amiga. One day, I met Frankie, a big shot engineer over from California, who was auditing the UK’s manufacturing processes. We got on rather well – he was a solid, no crap kinda guy at work, a hoot down the pub., which is where he told me about a recent chip manufacturing saga.

chip-03“Have you ever looked at what’s stamped on the top of a chip?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said. “It’s the chip catalogue number.”

“And after the serial number?”

I’d never paid much attention to the last set of figures, which on most chips was ‘-01’ or ‘-02’. Occasionally, there was a ‘-03’. Frankie explained that in order to blow a chip, the engineer must first create a mask. The final set of figures was the mask number. Given that each mask cost $100,000 (in 1982), the engineering department obviously preferred a ‘-01’. Frankie then pointed me to a chip that had ‘-05’ on it, which, I remarked, had  presumably cost a cool half a million dollars to get right. Frankie laughed. The engineer who been tasked with making the mask didn’t know his ass from his elbow. By the time he’d reached ‘-07’, this was obvious to all and sundry. Except nobody stopped him, so on he went creating new masks and muffing it up. Each time, his boss figured he’ll get it right soon… if I just give him one more chance… And so on. Eventually a working chip appeared with the suffix ‘-33’.  It had cost months of messing about and $3.3m to make.  To avoid public humiliation, the suffix was immediately changed to ‘-05’. This was followed by an enquiry, during which the engineer responsible was reassigned and told never to work on chip masks again, and his boss was fired. Presumably into orbit.

The moral of the story for me is quite simple: keep your version numbers low, preferably below 0.5. If you get to 0.5, panic and start the cover up. Management can’t tell the difference between 0.5 and 0.54. They can. however, tell the difference between 0.5 and 0.9. If you’re covering up, don’t leave it until 0.7, as this grabs too much attention. Finally, if it takes 33 revisions to get something out the door, perhaps you’re in the wrong job…





Libel or Bust

31 Aug

I’m still stuck in Edit Hell – the 7th circle to be exact, which is populated with pedants and grammar Nazis. Trust me, you do NOT want to run into the comma Brownshirts – they’re the worst!

While working through the comments I’ve received from beta readers, I was asked to consider whether the following paragraph is libelous:

Led-Zeppelin According to Emerald Room hearsay, the hippy had begun selling weed back in the day, when it was still exotic and difficult to obtain.  Legend had it he’d bumbled his way into a sound check one day and with a combination of charm, cheek and a bag of very good marijuana, secured himself a job working for Led Zeppelin as their new dealer, their old one having been busted with a K of Morocco’s finest down his pants the night before.

That was Woody’s story and he was sticking to it.


Tell me what you think in the comments below. Does it constitute libel in your country? If you want to know what I think regarding the UK laws, keep on reading…

In an earlier draft of the novel two incidents were picked up during copy edit as potentially libelous. In the first incident, Ferret says some horrible things about David Icke, then repeats a bunch of facts about Icke’s life, which when checked, were not entirely true. In the second incident, Ronnie Wood pockets a wrap of cocaine. Being of sound and belligerent mind, I had to go check things out. I found the following article to be a very good summary of the UK libel laws, it’s definitely worth a read: http://www.urban75.org/info/libel.html

In the case of Icke, the horrible things that were said are fine. Calling him a ‘shell suit wearing conspiracy nut’ is permitted, as it’s simply an opinion. Relating facts about his life that are untrue – that’s libel and depending on the damage to his reputation, may result in compensation. In the case of Ronnie, a quick search of the internet reveals he was a bit of a party boy back in the day, so it’s definitely something he might have done. However, he’s recently cleaned up his act and become a dad again.  As The Ferret Files is a contemporary novel, Ronnie’s act of pocketing drugs might well have happened yesterday.  One of the reasons I included him as an incidental character is because I once met him at an exhibition of his paintings and he was a thoroughly nice chap. However, I don’t wish to damage his reputation (or mine), so out went the pocketing of marching powder.

Now, onto the Led Zep paragraph. Woody is talking about the early 70s. A quick search of the internet reveals that the Zep were out of control in those days, and a few spliffs was nothing compared to the rest of the well-documented things they were up to.  In context, Woody saying that he became Zep’s dealer, without specifically saying what he dealt, or to whom, at a time when the band were allegedly out of hand on a combination of drugs and alcohol,  whilst entertaining groupies of a questionable age is hardly going to damage their collective reputations. Plus, it’s a story told by a character who, once we get to know him, is not entirely reliable.  Hence, in my opinion, the paragraph stays as it does not constitute libel.

Now, back to Edit Hell. If only I’d brought a ball of string with me and unraveled it on my way in…


Crazy Vignettes

11 Mar

Well, I finally finished editing Ferret to my satisfaction and during the read through noticed that the illustrations are not as well spaced as they might be.  Cue a mad panic and a half dozen vignettes, which I must say have turned out to be rather splendid.  So much so, I thought I’d post a couple for your delectation.

Cyrano in flight - cropped

One of those ‘oh, oh’ moments…


Centurion - cropped

Tristan goes bonkers…

The (In)competent Secret Society

20 Jul


I’ve been fascinated by secret societies ever since I read a book called ‘The Holy Blood & the Holy Grail’, back in the 80s.  Dan Brown took the fabric of this investigative piece of work, added a plot and called it the Da Vinci Code.  If you happen to be a fan of the secret society genre, you’ll find that the Knight’s Templars, the Freemasons and the Jesuits are pretty much responsible for everything that’s happened behind the scenes from the twelfth century onwards.  In fact, the more you read, the more brain knots you’ll end up with, as each author argues persuasively that it was their favourite society who were responsible for this or that event, and not another author’s.  Fast forward to today, and the vast array of secret organisations attempting to control the world are mind boggling, including in their number the Trilateral Committee, the Knights of Malta, Skull & Bones, Bilderberg, etc.  All of these societies are presented to the layman as totally omnipotent, in control of our lives from the day we’re born.  Occasionally, member’s lists sneak out, and lo & behold – everyone who’s anyone is a member of them all.

Before I go any further, let me state that I am not and never have been a member of any secret society, although obviously, if I was, that’s exactly what you’d expect me to say.  D’oh!  I was once a member of Round Table, but that’s: a) not a secret club, and b) a charity organisation.  What I discovered from that experience is when you throw a load of successful businessmen in a pot, add a framework for the purposes of imposing order, and stir, what comes out the other end is not necessarily as successful as its constituent parts.  This is mainly thanks to infighting and vested interests.  The same can be said of Parliament and the Senate – MPs and Senators do what is right for them and their backers, not the people who put them in power.

Back of the US one dollar bill.

Back of the US one dollar bill.

Given that this is how things work, I have to ask whether the idea of the all-seeing, all-powerful secret society that cannot be beaten and never makes a mistake is fact the truth.  Perhaps that what they want you to believe, because the truth would shatter their carefully concocted image.  Certainly, if everyone who’s anyone is a member of every society going, then their vested interests will conflict between societies, causing proceedings to grind to a halt.  Plus, the Anyones will never have any time to do any real work, because they’re so busy with their secret society schedules, they can’t fit the day job in.  Just a thought, but it’s one I like very much – the incompetent secret society that blunders its way through history, screwing up every major deal it’s involved in.  When they try to hint how powerful they are, even that continually goes wrong, with the result that they’ve never been mentioned in print for the whole of their 200 year history.

City of LondonWith most of the protagonist Vs Secret Society plots, the hero is desperately trying to outwit the bad guys and solve a mystery before their men get him.  Now flip that on its head.  What if the protagonist is a member of an incompetent secret society who find it difficult to recruit new members because no-one has ever heard of them.   The only thing they’ve been able to do is infiltrate the world of finance (City of London), and they’ve made a massive dog’s dinner of that, thanks to corruption, vested interests and plain stupidity.  This is the world in which Ferret finds himself – he is that protagonist.  And he’s had enough of taking ridiculous orders, he wants out.  What happens when one tries to leave an incompetent secret society that has a habit of handing out concrete flippers to those who want to leave?


Purchase Ferret

You’ll have to read the novel to find out.



Hurrah for Consultants

1 Jun

Firstly, in order to remove any confusion, the consultants referred to in the title of this piece are of the Management variety, and not their more respectable surgical cousins.  I’m sure they both share many characteristics – that’s what the comments section is for.

I’ve spent many years working in corporates and the echelons of government, both as a consultant and an employer of consultants, so when I say that the chief characteristic of a great consultant is the ability to charm your pants off, you better believe it.  You know you’ve met a mediocre or poor consultant when at the end of a meeting you still have your pants fastened firmly around your waist.  The great consultant leaves with two pairs of trousers, and you’re so befuddled you don’t even realise until you get home that you rode the tube in socks and underwear.

smileWith great charm comes a great smile.  It’s that smile that acts as an anchor to the feelings you had during the first ever meeting with your new consultant chum, so much so that as soon as you see them, you take your own pants off and hand them over, along with your jacket and wallet.  With a wink, the great consultant hands you back your tube pass.  The mediocre consultant, meanwhile, is still trying to figure out how the hell the really good guy has a different suit for every day of the month.

Great consultants need great hair.  This is more a guideline than a rule, as it’s possible to make it as a baldie, but here’s the inside rip: you have to have a really nice shaped head.  One consultant pal of mine had lost a lot of hair, and if he let it grow even for a couple of days, he became invisible in a crowd.  Shaved right down, he had the IT factor in bunches.  His trick was not so much the collecting of pants, as the collecting of bras and frillies, although truth be told he was so smooth, he undoubtedly had a wardrobe full of client’s pants too.

A great consultant dresses the part.  Not over-the-top $10,000 suits like you find in banking circles, all that does is serve to alienate them from the average client .  A great consultant working in media dresses down, wearing smart casual.  The same great consultant working in advertising wears a nice fashionable suit.  The great consultant working in banking comes home with three of four $10,000 suits on their first day in the job, setting them up for the remainder of the week.

Finally, like all consultants, a great consultant speaks a proprietary language comprised of grandiose, highfaluting technical and business terms that sound utterly believable when they purr them out, but somehow manage to turn into utter twaddle when you try to repeat them in the lunch queue.  The ability to utter choice phrases as though your very pants depend on them is a confidence thing, something the mediocre consultant can’t grasp and mere mortals swoon over.

tubeI can’t claim to be a great consultant myself, on the grounds that I’m still buying my own trousers after twenty years.  But I am good at giving solid advice.  FYI – the type of advice not to give is: ‘your dress will look great on me’, even if it’s the truth.  During one charm offensive I did once swap clothes with a female client in an office with the shutters down, but that led to all sorts of horrible complications when she left to get coffee and didn’t come back for an hour.  She went on to join a top consultancy by the way, and still has my suit to this day.  I call her occasionally and ask for it back.  She tells me to pop over, which I tried the once.  Kindly, she let me keep my tube pass.

Anyway, the point of this article is to say hurrah for consultants.  Love them or hate them, the world would be a much more boring place without them.  So much so, that I’ve taken all the great consultants I’ve ever met and rolled them up into one character called Ferret.  A wayward consultant who’s great at his job but is gagging to become a detective.  Let’s call him a detecting consultant.  He has a wardrobe full of pants and a collection of frillies.  Nothing can possibly go wrong for him.  That is, until the day he loses his charm…


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