A collection of comments, views and snippets that inform my writing...

Friday, October 14, 2016

Bob Dylan and the Nobel Controversy

Bob Dylan – Literature or Not? The debate rages, but my view was set way back in 2008 during an argument. I said that he was the greatest poet of the 20th Century. She thought I was mad and said Khalil Gibran. For me the key phrase there is 'of the 20th century'.

If you look at some of the great 20th century poets (at least I think they're great) such as Muir, Sassoon, Betjeman then much of Dylan's work definitely bears comparison.

War - e.g. Edwin Muir - The Horses was post-apocalyptic. Compare that with 'Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall’, ‘Talkin’ World War III Blues’. Vietnam and the military-political complex – ‘Masters of War’ says it all.

Masters of War

Then there are the themes of Civil Rights – ‘Oxford Town’. There have been so many injustices done to racial minorities in the US and, for example, ‘Hurricane’ paints this theme well.

People get hung up on his musical style(s) and his voice certainly doesn’t help, but it is the words that matter – the poetry. Certainly the musical form requires some repetition in choruses, but BD is well known for varying the chorus.

Many of his early songs were formed around stories he uncovered by reading newspapers in small town libraries. Therefore he is, I believe, one of the greatest chroniclers of the 20th century’s dominant themes - at least in the US. OK he missed WWI which, sadly, is where Sassoon’s chronicle ended, but Dylan is definitely a poet of our times.

But then, who am I to comment - I barely passed Eng Lit at O level? I leave comments to the citation of the Nobel Committee.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Christmas is Coming and Putin Plays Chess

Putin plays chess, but does everyone know that? Right now his geopolitical plan is nearing a crucial move.

 I quote the popular Russian joke from Tyler Durden over at zerohedge.com

“What’s it like playing chess with Obama?” asks a top aid of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Putin replies: “It’s like playing chess with a pigeon. First it knocks over all the pieces, then it shits on the board, and finally it struts around like it won.”

Putin opened with the annexation of the Crimea then allowed the downing of a Dutch airliner in July 2014. Western response: hot air.

In 2015 his APT28 / FancyBear group of hackers almost destroyed the French TV network TV5Monde.

Recently he bluffed with the ceasefire in Syria, then moved an S-300 anti-aircraft system into Syria, purportedly to defend the naval base at Tartus. From what? From an offensive move which may be triggered by his next series of moves. It’s a precaution, building a defensive flank and at the same time resolving the Syria issue as Aleppo is completely destroyed.

There is a vacuum period approaching in US politics, the critical phase in the current game, as the US moves into the short strokes period of the Presidential election. Obama is lame and both of his likely replacements have major weaknesses.

And now the US has solid evidence that Putin and Fancy Bear has been interfering in the Presidential election process, hacking the Democratic campaign management systems - even probing the systems used to collect the votes. How serious can it get?

This is all against a background of continuous probing of UK air defences by long range bombers. Who knows what his submarines are up to?

The overall picture is one of preparations for a major thrust and his next moves will be crucial as he capitalises on the US political vacuum. Where will the spearhead of his attack be?

Christmas will be interesting this year.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Sword of Allah eBook Giveaway

To promote the launch of Sword of Allah I am giving away 100 eBook versions (Kindle & iTunes/mobi). This is a time limited offer, so get your fix of suspense and thrills now at


Monday, October 3, 2016

Goodreads Giveaway - Paperback Copy

I'm giving away 10 paperback copies of 'Sword of Allah' on Goodreads. Signed or unsigned as you wish. Offer starts October 3rd 2016 and runs through to October 24th. Limited to readers in the US, UK, Ireland, Australia and Canada. If you are outside these countries then follow me here and watch for my forthcoming Kindle/iTunes giveaway.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Sword of Allah by James Marinero

Sword of Allah

by James Marinero

Giveaway ends October 24, 2016.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Friday, September 30, 2016

Are Hard Drives Dead?

No, I don't mean 'hard drive' in the sense of a Star Trek ship drive, but in the most common sense - that of computers. Now, researchers have discovered that a nitrogen-vacancy (NV) defect in diamond can be used to create a magnetometer that can measure the broadband magnetic fields generated by hard-disk write heads at a resolution of 2 nanometres. So what? How about Terabit drives in smartphones then?
Photomontage of a diamond and a hard-drive head. (Courtesy: I Jakobi) from Physics World
Moore's Law works for solid state devices, but the bit density on hard drives has been increasing exponentially too, for many years. I remember back in the day when I saw my first IBM PC hard drive - 10 MB and it was amazing to me. Nowadays, laptops are shipped off-the-shelf with multi terabit drives.

'Areal density'is the measure of the quantity of information bits that can be stored on a given length of track, area of surface, or in a given volume of a computer storage medium (wikipedia), and this is currently about 1.34 Tbit/in²,about 600 million times that of the first (2,000 bits/in²)from IBM in 1956. This new research (including a team from Seagate Technology) promises resolution at the 5-10 nanometre scale - a huge leap in areal density, offering the tantalising possibility of Tbit drives in smartphones. Full story at Physics World

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Smartphones are for the Smart or...?

A recent Deloittes survey shows 4 out of 5 UK adults owns a smartphone.Now that's saturation. But what does it really mean?

Corollary: 1 in 5 UK adults is smart enough not to need a smartphone...

Or, 1 in 5 UK adults is defeated by the technology...

Source: BBC, credit Grinvalds, Thinkstock

Judging by the usage patterns measured, 4 in 5 UK adults must be very boring. Sent from my desktop as my new smartphone recharging - I dropped the other one in the sea (accidentally)...

The BBC reported the story here...

Monday, September 19, 2016

Sword of Allah Launched Today!

Well, I got here much more quickly than I expected and I'm delighted to say that the launch is now firing on all cylinders and formats! Here's the press release for Sword of Allah:

If you get it now at Amazon you can settle down to a long night of suspense...

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A New Direction for Nuclear Weapons?

Do you know what a hohlraum is? To save you the trouble of a lookup, Wikipedia says it's 'a non-specific German word for a "hollow area" or "cavity" '.

It's at the heart of peaceful (?) nuclear research at Lawrence Livermore Labs in the US (one of their directives is 'to enhance national security'), where it's a gold container smaller than a sewing thimble.
A hohlraum' is also at the heart of a WMD in the hands of Islamist terrorists in my latest action thriller 'Sword of Allah'. There's plenty of suspense and action at Amazon available to pre-order (launching Monday 19th Septemeber). It's also available at iTunes and at B&N, and in paperback at all good bookstores.

Friday, September 9, 2016

North Korea Announces 5th Nuclear Test

Well, their test program continues. Announced this morning, their largest test so far was measured at 5.3 on the Richter scale - about 10 kilotons - and they claim it has demonstrated that they can instal the weapon on a missile. CNN reports that:

State media said the warhead could be mounted on ballistic rockets and would enable North Korea to produce "a variety of smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear warheads of higher strike power."

It's a big step from a successful test to the productionizing of the weapons and missiles, but nevertheless it's a worrying development.

What possible link could North Korea have to Islamist terrorism? Find out in my latest thriller 'Sword of Allah', launching on September 19th.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Sword of Allah - Video Trailer

Somewhere along the road to the book launch of 'Sword of Allah' I forgot to post the details of the viseo trailer. You might have heard the music in my previous post. Anyway, I hope that you enjoy the trailer.

Sword of Allah - Theme Music

My thanks to Peter Baker and his team at songnet.co.uk for permission to use 'Anthem of Peace' as the theme track for my 'Sword of Allah' video trailer. The techno-thriller launches on September 19th.

When music becomes reality

The music is a superb track and very relevant to my thriller, which is based on the initial premise of a North Korean nuclear fusion weapon test - they did actually claim a successful nuclear fusion bomb test in February 2016. There is doubt that it was really a fusion weapon, but no doubt that it was nuclear. The rest of the plot revolves around WMD in the hands of Islamist terrorists.

Upgraded missile technology

Whether my novel is a flight of fancy or not, we have to deal with reality. Just this week North Korea is once again raising the stakes with reports that its Redong / Nodong missile is capable of carrying a detachable warhead. This greatly increases the difficulty of interception. With their paraleel advance in underwater launched solid fuel missile technology this is a worrying development. Some commentators are saying that Kim Jong-un is 'unhinged'.

Bigger submarines

It is also known that they are getting ready to build much larger submarines, with a new construction facility. In July 2016, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly reported that it had analysed images which showed that North Korea was building two 490ft shelters at its Mayang-do base. North Korea’s current Romeo-class vessels are only 250ft long.

Great music

Anyway, check out the music. 

My techno thriller 'Sword of Allah' is available in paperback and and all ebook formats. Check out Amazon where you can pre-order.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Something to be Said for Heavy Breathing

No, not down the phone or in your lover's ear. Although they say a dog can detect the odour of lung cancer on a patient's breath, this is not about individuals. This story is about macro-scale breathing. Yes, a bunch of people in an enclosed space - a cinema. Scientists have been and smelled it, tested it and pronounced on it.
Photo credit: Physics World

In a way it's disturbing. I mean, my breath is my own - until I breathe it out. Then it's everybody's. And before that, what am I breathing in? Ughhh. You can catch a cold in a cinema. On the other hand, do these scientists have the right to collect my breath, even if it is mixed in with that of others, the smell of popcorn and maybe even secret gin? And of course, the SBDs (you know what I mean, silent but deadly, say no more).

They measured the way in which the air content changed as the film unrolled. Interesting stuff. Full story in this month's Physics World.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

North Korea Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile Enters Japan's Air Defence Space

North Korea just tested another submarine-launched ballistic missile, #SLBM, attracting international condemnation. There is a question about whether the missile test was wholly successful, but what is certain is that the missile entered Japan’s air defence space. South Korea is carrying out increased public safety and air defence drills. I write about it in ‘Sword of Allah’ launching September 19th.

What will China do? North Korea is a useful lever for China, because it gives China something - leverage - which it can trade with the West. The issue of the Spratly Islands - over which China recently lost a case in the Court of Arbitration - is a case in point. So, freedom of the high seas or North Korea toeing the line. Get the picture?

SLBMs and a claimed nuclear fusion bomb test on February is raising the stakes in this sensitive region. Full story at CNN

Friday, August 19, 2016

Chinese Launch Mozi Quantum Communications Satellite

China has just announced the launch of a 600 kg test satellite in the mission called 'Mozi' (after the Chinese philosopher). Potentially uncrackable cryptographic communications could be the result of this research. The project budget is said to be in excess of $100 billion, but how many satellites that means is unclear. What is disturbing is why they feel the need for such expensive communications infrastructure. I've long been concerned about Chinese global ambitions, and wrote about them in 'Gate of Tears', 'Sicilian Channel', and now 'Sword of Allah' (launching 19 September). What on earth would the Chinese have to do with Islamists? How about Africa?

China's quantum communications satellite launches
Photo credit: Jin Liwang/Xinhua/Eyevine

More here at the New Scientist ...

Saturday, August 13, 2016

'Sword of Allah' Book Cover

At last, the cover for my next thriller 'Sword of Allah' has been finalised. Book 2 in my 'Maghreb Trilogy' it is bang up to the minute - and beyond - building on the amazing political and military events of the last six months - and of of course on events in 'Sicilian Channel' - the first in the Maghreb Trilogy.

Launching September 19th!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

What's Happening between China and North Korea?

Well, what is happening in the Far East? The South China Morning Post reports today that a senior North Korean diplomat (that's an oxymoron) has made a sudden visit to meet the Chinese President.

Chinese expansionism is one of the themes of my novel 'Gate of Tears' and also 'Sicilian Channel', and North Korea also comes into the picture in my thriller 'The Sword of Allah' due for release in the autumn this year. In January 2016, North Korea claimed the successful testing of a hydrogen bomb. The jury is still out on this but the verdict is expected to be 'false claim' - but what if the claim really did hold merit?

It's clear that China sees Kim Jong-un as an ally (keep your friends close etc.) but must be somewhat teed off by his F you attitude to much of the rest of the world. Just how long the Kim family can keep the lid on the hotpot of North Korea is anyone's guess, but Xi Jinping (who looks like a nice guy) must be getting sorely fed up with this lot in Pyongyang.

Watch out for my take in 'Sword of Allah' later this year, and be careful what you wish for!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Monty Python and BBC Bias

The BBC is starting to undergo change as a result of commercial and other pressures. I did think that 11,000 food recipes was over the top – that particular cake was over-egged , so to speak. Nevertheless, there are other reasons for change, and one of the arguments has been that the BBC is biased.

One of this morning’s Radio 4 items was almost Python-esque. ‘What has Brussels done for us?’

Today it was ‘Clean Sea Water’. Now I admit I haven’t heard the whole series of broadcast pieces, but this piece dredged up Margaret Thatcher’s battle with Brussels over sewage in our sea water.

Clean sea water is an admirable achievement, but do we really believe that if we had not joined the EU we would still be swimming in sewage, and that bathers would be ‘going through the motions’ in today’s UK seas? After all there is an international convention against dumping at sea (!) Joking aside, despite the EU, the city of Milan is still struggling to reduce pollution of the River Po.

Given the current pre-Brexit referendum fervour, I am wondering whether there will be any balancing news items in the next broadcast.

So, apart from clean sea water, what did Brussels do for us?
  • Shaped our bananas?
  • Renamed our ‘manholes'
Yes, they may be myths, but the debate about BBC bias is surely not a myth - arguably!

How to Make a Book Video Trailer

I've had some great comments about my latest book video trailer for 'Sicilian Channel', so I thought I'd share the process with you. I've written about it on my author website here

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Is China Rebranding Itself?

Source: South China Morning Post
I keep an eye on events in China - Chinese expansionism is one of the underlying themes of 'Gate of Tears' and 'Sicilian Channel'. So, I read the South China Morning Post from time to time. The SCMP used to be one of Rupert Murdoch's organs but is now owned by the Alibaba Group - one of the world's largest internet conglomerates.

Why did I check the ownership? I checked because today's edition is doing a 'drains up' on the Cultural Revolution, which started 50 years ago, and I wondered why the SCMP would dredge it up. The SCMP is Hong Kong based - that is, within the People's Republic. The story included the fact that 1.7 million Chinese were killed during the 10 year upheaval (official death toll). The SCMP has interviewed former Red Guards and rebels for the story.

So, is this story driven by Jack Ma (founder of Alibaba and a very rich man) or is it driven from elsewhere - i.e. within the Chinese Government? Let's face it, they both need each other - Alibaba was founded on providing a sales portal for Chinese business, and China needs the trade to fuel its growth. Symbiosis. Therefore, one cannot but help conclude that the current Chinese Government is disowning the Cultural Revolution in a very big way.

Today's issue also reports a speech by China’s President Xi Jinping, saying that "Academics must remake Marxism for 21st century".

It is clear that China's rebranding of itself is continuing apace, and although its growth has slowed to 6% it will surely overtake the US in the next decade. The forecast for 2016 from the IMF is that China will have  a GDP of $12 trillion, as against $19 trillion for the US.

Watch this space!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Sicilian Channel Now Launched!

10th May was hectic, getting all the launch details sorted. At least this time I have developed a book launch plan (MS Project 2010) - 200 tasks! Next time should be easier - and the launch of 'Sword of Allah' is not that far away - 110 days and counting...

Just one scary hiccup today - with all the recent online activity, press releases and publicity, some b##### piggy-backed my email and started spamming, causing a temporary site suspension. If you have been troubled, please accept my apologies.

If you are reading 'Sicilian Channel' then here's another picture I took while in Tabarka, Tunisia, from the mediaeval Genoves fort: