This is selfie I am a native of Edinburgh: that says much, but not everything. I studied Modern Languages at Aberdeen University and at the University of London wrote a post-graduate thesis on the German Radical Reformation. Having returned from exile in London many years ago, I now live in Edinburgh and worked until quite recently for Midlothian Council.
Throughout the long days of my working-life, I was a software engineer and database designer by trade ... Ah, but by night ... I am a barely tolerated writer of slightly dodgy fiction, and will talk about my writing to anyone who makes the mistake of sounding politely interested.
I write because I can very rarely find a good book to read; between times, I worry about the state of humanity, and wish my writing could change the world.


Seek guidance DOWN BELOW Contact?


...then click here Bibliography?



I was at first rather excited by the number of visits to my web-site made by people in Thailand: Volapük and railway-building had clearly made it big in S.E.Asia! (Elephants were a given) Alas, I then stumbled across the truth, which was the existence of freelance journalist Andrew Drummond, who was until recently based in Thailand. His investigations have made him a lot of highly-placed enemies and he has now been forced to relocate himself and his family to safer ground. Anyway, if you have strayed by accident into the wrong web-site, please feel free to stay and browse; but if you're in a hurry, click here to visit Andrew's web-site - and goodbye again. Come again soon.


Writing - a distraction, or a weapon?

You have to ask, when you look around the current literary scene, just what it is that allows writers of good conscience to keep strictly to irrelevancies. All around, the world is going to wrack and ruin. The Middle Ages, to some extent, have returned to the Middle East - and that's being harsh on the Middle Ages in the Middle East, which were a bright beacon in the darkness of human history, full of writers, scientists and artists. Anyway, I digress... The leaders of the world seem incapable of resolving the utter hell they have introduced to Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan; are completely out of their depth when it comes to runaway climate-change; and more interested in short-terms popularity gains than long-term fixes. Still, that's 21st century capitalism for you. Meanwhile the writers of the western world (and for all I know, the eastern world as well) continue to churn out cosy little murder-mysteries, novels exploring bourgeois angst, divertimenti of one sort or another. Is it not time for authors and publishers to grow up (and I include myself in that sweeping condemnation)? In the past, writing has shown itself to be a force for good, a weapon in the right hands. Will no one speak for the millions who suffer under the barbarity of world politics and a skewed economy? Is there a readership who might be interested? Will today's books have any meaning at all if sea-levels rise and the remaining dry land collapses into some kind of Apocalypse?
I'm only asking...

Blurbs...and honesty?

I saw in the shops the paperback edition of Andrew Davidson's The Gargoyle. This is not the place to put forward my view of the book - we authors should stick together, even if we are appalled by each other's works. Suffice it to say that I was much astonished and greatly amused to read on the back of this edition an extract from a review from The Observer: 'Wildly imaginative...It's bound to be an international bestseller.'
Great blurb.
The only problem is that the original review in The Observer read as follows: '...undoubtedly a wildly imaginative collage of stories, but it is almost certainly one of the worst pieces of writing you will come across this year.... A truly pedestrian effort that would have benefited from some serious editorial debridement. It's bound to be an international bestseller.'
It does make you wonder, doesn't it? Or am I just naive? (Don't answer that)

BOOK REVIEWS - sorry, to be clear: books I have reviewed...

... and for which I (may) have been paid a pretty penny. Click on the arrow of any of the books below to read my profound and unbiased thoughts.
SternFritz Stern Gold and Iron: Bismarck, Bleichröder and the Building of the German Empire. (Dec 1977). An appreciative review of a book about the role of bankers and capitalists in the consolidation of the German Empire in the 19th century. (Labour Review, Vol.1, No.7 (New Series))
FreshMark McNay Fresh (May 2007). There’s drugs, violence, coarse language, and a bit of rough in it. Dear me, I thought... (Scottish Review of Books)
Rubashov the GamblerCarl-Johan Vallgren Documents Concerning Rubashov the Gambler (Oct 2007) This book is a disappointment... (Scotland on Sunday)
GargoyleAndrew Davidson The Gargoyle (Nov 2008) Disappointingly, The Gargoyle does not cohere, it has no character-development, it ultimately goes nowhere: it left this reviewer flat. (Scottish Review of Books) (And anyway, see 'Blurbs...' above)
Jacob de ZoetDavid Mitchell The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (Dec 2010) It is always best, I find, to judge a book by its cover or by its title. What a grand title! And the contents more than rewarded my reprehensible superficiality. (The Scotsman)
Shandy Laurence Sterne The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy (2012). Although not paid, I was at least invited ... to contribute an appreciation of my all-time favourite novel to a blog run by the late Norman Geras, emeritus professor of Politics at Manchester. My book of choice was, of course, Laurence Sterne's The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, which should be required reading for all adults. My short notes can be found here...and also, indeed... also here. Should either of those links fail, then try clicking here ...



Novels Short Stories History/Biography

... from German
Das Kapital • Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels - Letters on Capital (New Park, London 1983) Rote Fahne
• Oskar Hippe - And Red is the Colour of Our Flag (Index Books, London 1991)
• An essay by Udo Gehrmann: Trotsky and the Russian Social-Democratic Controversy over comparative revolutionary history In: Brotherstone & Dukes (eds), The Trotsky Reappraisal (Edinburgh University Press 1992)
• Thomas Müntzer: Selected Writings (Amazon 2024)
... into Volapük
• Binob-li Smalik?. Translation of : Am I Small? by Philipp Winterberg (Amazon 2022)

Articles/essays on...
... Thomas Müntzer and the German Reformation
Click to openThomas Müntzer: an Early German Revolutionary. In: Labour Review, Vol.1, No.4 (New Series), 1977
Click to openRadicals of the Bourgeois Revolutions. In: Labour Review, Vol.1, No.9 (New Series), 1978
Click to openThe Taborites: Central European Communism. In: Labour Review, Vol.2, No.1 (New Series), 1978
Click to openThomas Müntzer and the Fear of Man. In: The 16th Century Journal, Volume 10 (No.2), Minnesota 1979
Click to openThe Divine and the Mortal Worlds of Thomas Müntzer. In: Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte, Volume 71, Gütersloh 1980
Click to openBrother Martin, Comrade Luther. In: Labour Review, Vol.7, No.7, 1984
Click to openReview of Peter Blickle's 'The Revolution of 1525'. In: Labour Review, Vol.7, No.6, 1984
... Sir Thomas Urquhart and Universal Languages
• Sir Thomas Urquhart and Universal Language Schemes in the 17th century. In: Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty: 400th Anniversary Conference papers (ed A.F.Thomson), Cromarty 2011
• The Regular Enumeration of Things. (Universal Languages of the 17th century) In: History Workshop Online, January 2024
... Victorian schemes for Scottish railways
• The Garve and Ullapool Railway. In: Far North Express, Issues 75 (Sep 2018) and 76 (Jan 2019)
• 'A Railway Terminus on the Moon'. Far North Express, Issue 79 (Jan 2020)
• Ingenious and Interesting Schemes. In: Highland Railway Journal, Vol.9, No.132, Early 2020
• The Ullapool Railway. Publication of the Ullapool Museum, 2020
... Maurice Benyovszky
• Wikipedia and the Hungarian Pole from Slovakia. In: History Workshop Online, September 2022
... the Napier Commission of 1883
• Crofters and Cottars in the Highlands and Islands. In: Scottish Local History Journal, Issue 112, Summer 2022
• The Napier Report. In: History Workshop Online, April 2022
... other interesting things
• What's in a Name? (the Anglicisation - and similar - of foreign names). In: History Workshop Online, May 2023
• Debosched Horneris and Contemptuous and Seditious Assemblies: The Life and Times of Charles Ferme (1566-1617). In: Scottish Local History Journal, Issue 116, Autumn 2023
• The Horse of Knowledge and the Human Kangaroo: Menageries and Circuses in Scotland in the Edwardian Era. In: Scottish Local History Journal, Issue 117, Spring 2024
• Co-authored with Michiel Roscam Abbing: Dr Blair and the Elephant (Parts 1 and 2). In: History Scotland, Vol.24, 2 + 3, February + May 2024 (Part 1 text without illustrations is available here ... and ... Part 2 text without illustrations is available here)


My publisher persuaded me to do a short promotional video for the Quite Impossible book. My wife Annette directed it, I played with the train and screamed a lot during multiple takes. To view this oddity from 2019, click here.

And then in 2021, I was asked by the Ullapool Book Festival to do an online talk/discussion on that very same Quite Impossible book. With impressive technical assistance from Ullapool techie, Martin Gilligan, and some lovely background music by a local young musician, it came out decidedly well. To settle down and spend a happy hour, click here.

And as if that wasn't enough in 2021 ... The prize-winning Gairloch Museum beamed out a recorded talk of mine, dealing more specifically with the utter failure of the proposal for the Achnasheen to Aultbea Railway (aka The Loch Maree and Aultbea Railway). It can be viewed here. (And, yes: I disgraced myself by consistently mis-pronouncing 'Aultbea' - should have been as Ault-bay...' Well, I know now!)

In celebration of the 500th anniversary of the German Reformation in 2017, the BBC kindly offered me 15 minutes of valuable air-time to talk about Thomas Müntzer. The resulting podcast can be heard just here...

I was interviewed, by email in 2006, by Jim Henry of the Esperanto movement in the USA - click here to read the interview.


If you are truly, truly desperate to discuss matters relating to International Language, Tie-Collections, Railways, or Elephants (carnivorous and otherwise); or are one of Mrs. Cochrane's insulted descendants; or if you wish merely to take strong exception to my short-stories; then you may e-mail me.

My email address...
to fool those nasty spamming cyber-bots : take

Or by the Penny Post
You may be able to contact me through the publishers of my earlier novels and the Impossible Railway book, Birlinn