Our inglorious leader David Cameron has recently been on the offensive with ideas to slash the benefit budget and in particular, has targeted the long-term unemployed and the provision of housing benefit for those under 25. Now as people who regularly read my blog will know, I’ve been a Tory voter all my life but for various reasons, that came to an end when Cameron walked into number 10. But on this he has my full and total support. Indeed I’d actually say ‘about fucking time’ because like many tax payers in this once wonderful country of ours, I’ve had enough. Enough of propping up people who’s idea of contributing is to society is to vote on X-Factor, enough of supporting some lazy bastard with no interest in working, enough of funding the lifestyle of some addict who can’t be arsed to take the help being offered to him and enough of being the sole provider to an unmarried mother with three kids by three different blokes. That’s not where I want my hard earned taxes to go and it’s certainly not what the benefit system was designed for. The liberal left of course would argue the opposite but then again they would. It’s what they do. Yet what they fail to see is that because of the scroungers who have come to infest our society, the people that the system was actually built for are being squeezed as hard as anyone. How for example, can it be right that someone who has worked hard and saved all their life has to sell their home to pay for care which is provided freely to someone who lives on benefits? How can anyone argue for a system which requires that? It’s a national scandal. The left inevitably avoid such questions and instead argue that rather than attack the benefit system the government should instead be going after those who avoid paying tax. And whilst I certainly agree with that, it is for a totally different reason. They want it because in their world fairness is an alien concept and if we take more money from the rich it would allow us to continue along the ‘funding the feckless path’ they seemingly so admire. I meanwhile, want it to help rebuild the damage done by labour and ease the pressure on the already struggling working people of this country. But I also know that if you have a financial problem, the first thing you do is not try to increase your income, it’s to reduce your outgoings and in that sense what Cameron has said is not only a wake up call for the government, it’s a wake up call for the tax payer. As a consequence, not only should we be backing Cameron, we should be demanding that he go further and take a long hard look at every benefit from Job Seekers to Motobility. Both of which are horrifically abused and which cost us billions every year. And that’s the key word; us. Never forget that as tax payers we are the ones who fund this country and it’s about time that those who steal from us, be they rich or poor, were dealt with in just the same was as any other thief. After all, as I have said many times before, if someone came into your house and stole £65 a week from your wallet you’d be onto the Old Bill like a shot. What pray tell, is the difference?
As a writer who doesn’t exactly shy away from contact with the outside world, I receive a steady stream of emails from people asking me questions. These range from requests for advice on writing to comments about books and all points in between.
All are welcome, all appreciated and all replied to. After all, if someone has taken the trouble to mail me, it’s usually because they have taken the time to read something I’ve written so the very least I can do is respond. Time is, after all, the most valuable commodity any of us have.
However, there is one particular question thrown at me, and on a fairly regular basis, which always provides a warm glow of satisfaction; ‘what’s the next book about?’
The great joy of this question is that it provides both affirmation and confirmation in equal measures. For it provides proof that not only is my work liked, it’s anticipated! Could any author ask for more than that?
What makes it even more special is that my back list isn’t just varied, it could even be described as manic. I certainly can’t think of many authors who’ve published books about subjects as diverse as racism in football and farting although I’m sure there is much a decent psychiatrist could make of that!!
Yet as many people have told me, the eclectic nature of my work is part of the attraction. I am, as one reader put it, the Forrest Gump of lad-lit. I think that was meant as a compliment, it’s certainly how I took it anyway!
This ‘box of chocolates’ reference inevitably leads me onto another oft asked question, how do I pick the subjects for my books? The answer to that is simple, or at least it was.
Like most authors, I have a list of books I intend to write at some point. Some are based on personal experience, a few on a passion for something and others which stem from a simple nugget of an idea I have locked away in what passes for my memory. This list has always been fairly flexible and it’s fair to say that it contains books which will never, ever get written for no other reason than I simply don’t have the required skill to pull them off. And before anyone asks, yes, my autobiography is on there and no, it won’t ever get written. There are lots of reasons for this but ‘no one would ever believe half of it’ and ‘guilty your honour’ are two.
But in the past the underlying reason for the subject matter of a particular book was always purely and simply what I could persuade my publishers to print. A process which all too often was incredibly time consuming and frustrating involving arm twisting, deviousness and even grovelling. Indeed, it is a fact that Billy’s Log, which remains one of my personal favourite books (and is also one of my biggest sellers!) was only published at all because I insisted on having it tacked onto the contract for Barmy Army. But that process took two long years!
However, since the move into eBooks and the speed with which that allows me to both write and publish, things have changed immeasurably. For with the decision on what to write and when being mine and mine alone, not only am I in total control but I can be much more reactive to what my readers are telling me. The astonishing success of both The Crew and Top Dog since they went online (and however you look at it, almost 8 months at number one on both Amazon and iTunes is an astonishing feat) is a case in point. For with Wings of a Sparrow almost complete, I had already taken the decision on what to write next but such has been the volume of requests for a third book in that series, that has now become my next project.
That said, only yesterday I had a ‘bolt-of-lightning’ moment which got me so excited that I had to pull over and send emails about it from a lay-by on the A1 so it might be that things change again!
But that’s the joy of epublishing over traditional publishing. It allows me that flexibility which as a writer, is incredibly liberating.
And as long as my readers are happy to indulge me, I’m only too happy to continue along my meandering path.
God bless ‘em all!!!
One final thing I have to say. Just prior to EURO 2012, the BBC aired a documentary which made all kinds of accusations relating to the potentialfor racism and violence in the Ukraine and Poland and featured amongst other things, former England international Sol Campbell claiming that he thought some black and Asian fans might come home in coffins.
As I write this, it is the morning of the England vs Italy quarter final and without wishing to tempt fate, there has not been a mass outbreak of mass racism at a single game nor has there been a single England fan arrested.
We are all used to this type of media fed hysteria ahead of major tournaments but that does not make it right and it most certainly does not make it acceptable. Surely the time has come for the FA to make a stand against this ridiculous, insensitive and above all insulting style of sensationalist reporting and let it be known that it won’t put up with it any more.
But above all, Sol Campbell has done a huge disservice to his country and the many black and Asian England fans who stayed away from the tournament because of his ridiculous assertions. He was also incredibly insulting to the tournament hosts.
Thankfully, the England fans have already let it be known what they think of him with the brilliant ‘coffin parade’ in Donestsk but if he had anything about him, he’d have the balls to come out and admit he was wrong.
I won’t however, be holding my breath.
So, it’s underway. Thus far the games have all been great and thankfully we’ve seen barely any of the racism that was so feared pre-tournament.
What we have seen however, are sporadic incidents of violence but of course that was always going to happen wasn’t it. After all, why else are we seeing so many riot police on the streets of the host nations?
And this of course begs the question; why so much talk of one potential problem and so little of the very real one? After all, there have been thousands of inches of print and hour upon hour of television expended on racism whilst the very real threat of hooliganism has received barely a mention in comparison despite the fact that far more people are at risk of being caught up in violence than of being racially abused.
The reason of course, is that the pre-tournament media needed to fill space be it on paper, on line or on air and racism fits the bill perfectly. It is in many ways, the perfect story because we all understand it to be wrong which means that they can say pretty much whatever they like and hype it for all it’s worth sure in that there is no one to provide any kind of contra argument let alone complain.
Conversely, no one cares that some Ukrainian nutter is spewing forth dire warnings of what might happen should any Englishman dare step onto their soil because we all know that such threats are laughable, the media more than most. But they are also well aware that going into hoolie-mode might well attract the wrath of both the FA and the government and why risk that?
No, hooliganism is only news when something happens and then it’s suddenly big news. Occasionally, very big and very bad news.
In many ways, that’s why today is the big test for this tournament. We talk a lot about the Poles, the Ukrainians, the Russians, et al, but thanks to history and our domestic football culture, the English will inevitably always be at the centre of any discussion about hooliganism. They will also be the target. Not just for the local hooligans (and for ‘local’ read Poles, Ukrainians, Russians, Croatians, etc, etc) but for those who seek to soil our nations reputation and undo all the good work that has been done to change the negative perception of our travelling support.
That to me is a real worry. Let’s face it, there are plenty of journalists who would be happy to do whatever it takes to hand Mr Platini our collective heads on a plate and there are certainly enough policemen out there willing to help them do the job. With UEFA hardly being our biggest fans, finding ourselves standing in the dock in front of them is not an attractive proposition.
Don’t get me wrong and make no mistake, England might not travel abroad looking for trouble these days but there are plenty of lads amongst their number who won’t back away if it kicks off. However, those lads are also old hands who know the score and they are well aware of the bigger picture. They know better than anyone how to read an atmosphere but the problems arise when they are placed in a situation where backing off or chilling out isn’t an option left open to them.
As I write this, the majority of the England fans are in place, the sun is shining, the beer’s already flowing and the Police are twitchy. As the day progresses, it may well get more nervy and with our game over early, the fans will have a long evening ahead of them.
Oh yes, tonight is the first real test for this tournament. It’s also a huge test for our reputation. Let’s hope everyone passes it.
So, EURO 2012 is upon us and as is routine, it has been preceded as much by talk of potential off-field activities as it has by those we hope for on the pitch.
I don’t even know where to start with any of this because as most of you who will be reading this will know, it has, in the main, been bullshit. Indeed, I’ve had journalists from both Ukraine and Poland contact me almost apoplectic with rage about some of the things being said or inferred about their country these last few weeks.
It’s not like we don’t know that both countries have hooligan and racist elements (as does every country on the planet) or that when tournaments come around, everyone from hotel owners to prostitutes will be seeking to make a pound or two. That’s certainly not unique to Eastern Europe as anyone in Eastern London will know!
Yet the level of scaremongering here has been appalling and worst of all was Sol Campbells assertion that black and Asian fans risk coming home in body bags.
Now we all know Sol is a sensitive soul and that he’s never been adverse to kicking up a public fuss when fans have had the temerity to call him a nasty name or two but this was a step too far for all kinds of reasons (although I suspect it had more to do with his desire for a post-playing career on the anti-racism/media gravy train which continues to chug along quite nicely).
The problem of course, is that when it comes to issues such as racism (and football fans generally) the media and the anti-racist groups can say pretty much what they like sure in the knowledge that they will remain unchallenged. Fear has always been both the anti-racists biggest ally and their most powerful weapon for the tag of racist is one which is easily applied and difficult if not impossible to remove. Ask Ron Atkinson.
Yes, of course, racism is abhorrent in every way shape or form but having come so far in the battle to defeat the racists, the time has surely come when the population of this multi-cultural country ours of has the right to actually begin to question some of the things being said but we will only ever be able to do that once we can actually speak up free of fear. Because until we can do that, then we run the risk of allowing things to be said which are not only counter-productive but potentially extremely dangerous and that is what we have here.
The reaction to the Panorama documentary in both Poland and Ukraine has been one of extreme irritation but more importantly, those minority groups seeking to make names for themselves will now be well aware that the game and the world will be watching and if they want to make a statement, they already have everyone’s attention.
Thanks for that Sol.
Since I released my backlist online at the back end of last year, The Crew has spent an unbroken 30 weeks at #1 on the Amazon UK sports (free) chart, the Amazon US soccer chart and the iTunes soccer (free) chart whilst Top Dog has been in the top 3 (mostly at #1) on the Amazon UK (paid) football chart. In addition, all of my other titles are selling well on Amazon and if you look at the iTunes soccer charts, most weeks the top 50 will feature at least 7 (usually 8) of mine.
Now, whatever way you look at it, that is not too shabby a record and to say that I am both delighted and humbled by the fact that it is mine gives new meaning to the word understatement.
Somehow, writing has become my career and that is entirely down to my readers who for some reason seem to like my books so not for the first time I would like to thank everyone who has ever read or downloaded any of them and let you all know that I value every single one of you.
However, there is a specific reason why I mention this here and it is not simply to be boastful. You see the other day I was accused by a very well known sportsman of being a ‘wannabe’ writer.
Now I will admit that I had been winding this bloke up a little and it became fairly obvious from the childish way he began using his ‘award-winning’ autobiography as some kind of weapon that he was unused to hearing anything other than sycophancy. But whilst I laughed it (and him) off, it did get me thinking about the literary establishment in general and more specifically, my position within it.
Many years ago, I wrote that those of us who wrote in the so-called ‘hoolie-lit’ genre were not just regarded by the literary establishment as being at the bottom of the literary ladder, but as the rubber bungs on the feet. Sad to say that nothing has changed.
I, for example, despite the fact that I’ve been pumping out work for 16 odd years and have sold a fair amount of books, have yet to receive a single invite to any literary festival or event. I’ve never even been asked to attend the British Sports Book Awards despite the fact that I would guess I outsell pretty much every author there.
Now, it would be foolish to say this doesn’t irritate me at times because it does. However, what I find more irritating is that with increasing numbers of the ‘hoolie-lit’ books being put online and making their way into the charts, by refusing to acknowledge those of us who write about football culture it infers that those people who buy our books don’t really matter. That is incredibly disrespectful.
The only reason publishing exists at all is because people like to read be it in book or electronic form and it doesn’t matter if they’re reading Dan Brown or Chris Brown, every single person who spends money on a book is as important as the last. Lose sight of that and the whole thing will come crashing down.
Personally, I have always kept my focus on my readers but then again, I’ve always tried to understand my market and aimed to give it what it wants. Therefore chart positions have always been more important than invitations because it means books are selling and readers are happy.
Sadly, not everyone seems to think like that preferring instead to court only the opinions of those who can get their names into the papers. On which note, the ‘award-winning’ autobiography by the household name I mentioned previously isn’t even in the top 100 sports books and can currently be found in a remaindered store somewhere near you.
Which kind of says it all.