My Books - an Abridged Introduction

Set out below are the books that I am sometimes proud to call my very own. The first six are those which have seen commercial paperback publication, the last few are some minor amusements which have been published digitally or self-published in paperback. Squeezed in there also, an advert for my sprawling mass of short-stories, for an evening's entertainment.

NB Just books below - long things. But if you want to check on a multitude of published essays and shorter things as well
...then click here Bibliography?


The Dreadful History and Judgement of God on Thomas Müntzer

Müntzer bio cover 'The princes are nothing but tyrants who flay the people; they fritter away our blood and sweat on their pomp and whoring and knavery.’ These were the words of Thomas Müntzer at the head of the massed ranks of a peasant army in the year 1525. Ranged against him were the might of the princes of the German Nation. How did Müntzer, the son of a coin maker from central Germany, rise in just a few short years to become one of the most feared revolutionaries in early modern Europe?.
This book contains a full biography of Müntzer's life against the historical background to the German Reformation and the German Peasants' War; I set out an analysis of his religious beliefs and how these gradually turned him towards social revolution. Also included is a survey of how Müntzer has been treated in historical studies for the past 500 years.
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I started writing this book in 1988. In turn, the book was based on research conducted in 1976/77. My hope in 1988 was to have the book put out by some philanthropical publisher, in time for the (supposed) 500th anniversary of Müntzer's birth (1489). That was not to be. The manuscript languished in a drawer until early 2021, when it was dragged out, protesting, into the sunlight, dusted down, brought up to date and offered once more to the world. Is 35 years from start to finish some kind of publication record?


A Quite Impossible Proposal

A Quite Impossible Proposal - click here to see why In the 1890s, the people of north-west Scotland grew tired of Government Commissions sent to consider a railway to Ullapool. Despite rock-solid arguments in favour of such a railway, neither government nor the big railway companies lifted a finger to build one. In 1918, history repeated itself with another Commission and another failure to build the railway.
This book tells the whole sorry tale of the attempt to improve transportation in the north-west Highlands, set against the region’s economic and social problems, civil unrest in the crofting communities and the resulting government enquiries. Drivel is how one local man described the official government enquiry reports. Few disagreed.
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Why not take the opportunity offered by railway strikes, Covid restrictions, cost of living increases - indeed, any excuse at all - to undertake a virtual journey on the Highland Railway's luxurious and extensive network, covering the length and breadth of northern Scotland. It beats North Coast 500 by a country mile! Click here to book your tickets and depart!


The Intriguing Life and Ignominious Death of Maurice Benyovszky

The Intriguing Life of Maurice Benyovszky - click here to be misled In September 1771, a vessel of uncommon appearance limps into safe harbour at Macao. On board is a ragged crew of half-starved Russians and one Hungarian. They have all escaped from exile in Siberia and claim the most extraordinary voyage of discovery in the North Pacific. But all is not what it seems. "His story is a little suspicious," observed one bemused gentleman in Macao. Here is a story with much bluster, a surfeit of perfumed romance, plenty of derring-do, and an immodest helping of scheming and plotting.
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Meanwhile, over on Wikipedia, admirers in Slovakia, Hungary and Poland battle it out over the slightly dubious privilege of calling Benyovszky their very own national hero. It is all rather perplexing.


Novgorod the Great

Cover of Novgorod the Great - click to read about it The paths of two lonely travellers cross in the ancient and run-down Russian city of Novgorod the Great. It is 1833, and the last huzzahs of the Napoleonic Wars still echo back and forth across Europe, South America and Russia. When the two travellers are invited to keep an old man company on his short approach to death's door, they pass a night of reminiscence - their own, the old man's, his nurse's and those of a supporting cast (whose members are not always alive). Here, you can read of lusty troubadours, South American elephants, squirrels, rhubarb and, not least, pickled eggs.
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"No Blanket - a Great Oversight in a Siberian Winter"


Elephantina

Elephantina: a tale of elephants and posterity... Just outside Dundee, in April 1706, an elephant sighs forlornly, topples over, and drowns in a ditch by the side of the road from Broughty Ferry. Foiling almost all the energetic attempts of the citizenry to make off with large chunks of meat and other elephantine trophies, local surgeon, botanist and anatomist Dr Patrick Blair embarks on a mission to be the first in Britain to dissect an elephant and to complete a pioneering scientific study of the dead animal's internal organs and skeleton.
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I was interviewed by the Dundee Courier at the time of publication (May 2008) of this short novel. The full-page spread was printed under the banner headline The Elephant Man...


A Handbook of Volapük

Cover of A Handbook of Volapük - click to read about it In April 1891, two matters greatly excite the inhabitants of Edinburgh: the decennial Population Census; and the Annual General Meeting of the Edinburgh Society for the Propagation of a Universal Language. The General Secretary of this Society, Mr. Justice, is a militant champion of the highly-popular language "Volapük"; but he is locked in a battle for ascendancy with Dr. Bosman, shameless apologist for "Esperanto".
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I am delighted to learn from a respected linguist in the Netherlands that an article has been created about me in the Volapük version of Wikipedia: click here to read it...


An Abridged History

Cover of An Abridged History - click to read about it This tells, for the first and last time, the story of the construction of a railway-line between Garve and Ullapool in the north of Scotland. The hero, Alexander Auchmuty Seth Kininmonth, has dreams of finding personal happiness, fame and fortune on this project. Alas, he finds that the combined forces of a Scottish climate, ignoble finance-capital and an assortment of feuding millennarians conspire against him.
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This novel was short-listed for the 2004 Saltire Prize for the First Book of the Year.


The Books of the Incarceration of the Lady Grange

The Lady Grange... In the year 1739, the Cherub of Desire wrecks her glorious ship upon the remote island of St Kilda. She wades ashore in an understandable fury. Her mood is not improved when she stumbles across a wild-haired woman who insists on engaging in endless conversation. This is the Lady Grange, the unfortunate but loving wife of one of Scotland's political elite, kidnapped from Edinburgh by her husband's allies and deposited neatly out of sight upon the island. In a fit of unaccustomed charity, she agrees to carry to Edinburgh some letters in which Lady Grange begs her friends to rescue her.
Her journey to the capital does not go well.
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Much has been written of the unfortunate wife of Lord Grange, imprisoned on St Kilda through no fault of her own. Here is her tale, told from a slightly different perspective.


A True Discourse Concerning the Useful and Excellent Inventions of Ingenious Artificers in the year 1669

1669... A diver after wrecks and the diver's mother, a linguist and the linguist's greatest foe, a footpad and a time-traveller, a burglar and a courtesan, a man who flies through the air and a female mechanic armed with a very sharp knife. Not to forget – as many do – an expert in the causes and cures of the Mnemonic Plague, at that time ravaging the land. All converge on Knaresborough, in The True Commonwealth of South Britain. Some are invited; others, less so.
But the people in Knaresborough are not all that they seem. Who is misleading whom? Why has The Last Thulean Pike been built? Why is the lady from the Office of Hazards and Misadventures summoned to the scene of a tragedy? Why did the Prophetess and Witch not foresee domestic upheaval?
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It is the year 1669. Cromwell has been overthrown, but the Stuart monarchs have not been restored to the throne. Instead, a civil democracy has been founded by a new and noble nation. The Commonwealth is booming, a place, certainly, for men and women to thrive – and invent – as never before.


Brigadoon Revisited

Brigadoon, Brigadoon... All is not well in Brigadoon. Barely sixty years (or maybe a week) after that happy day when two Americans stumbled upon it, young lovers have drifted slowly apart.
But the troubles of the villagers of Brigadoon have only just begun. Their village has popped up again, bang in the path of a new motorway being built around Aberdeen. And they have arrived in the 21st century just as the votes in the Scottish Independence referendum are being recounted for the third time. A political stalemate threatens the United Kingdom, until it is realised that the villagers also have votes....
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The story took as its premise a close tie in the Scottish referendum of September 2014. As it turned out, it was indeed close - but not as close as that. Better luck next time, I suppose.


The Last Trump

The Last Trump sounds for a keen golfer. On a golf-course arguably close to St Andrews in Scotland, strange events occur. Not just beavers chopping down trees, either. Arms and legs of corpses appear from under the ground, some holding golf-clubs, but many simply trespassing. This is highly disturbing, not least because there is an International Golf-Tournament due in a few days. But it will get far, far worse...
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There is, of course, no relationship between the title of this book about newly-built golf-courses, and some temporary American President who likes to build golf-courses. Is that clear?


Stories

Scribbling stories: unpublished gems and otherwise from the home of oddities... Take a few minutes to read some of my unpublished stories. They have been accumulating for several decades. Some are well past their use-by date, others should never have had a use-by date in the first place. But - what do I care? - I'm paying for this web-site, not you, so why shouldn't I?
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The original idea for my story about Big Horace and his tie collection came from a stray email from Belgium; now, however, the most excellent Museum of Corporate Neckties (late of California, now expanding into Arizona) has adopted Big Horace: their site rewards a visit... We hope for further sponsorship in these straitened times!


A Littel Read Book

The Revolyushun of the Turckyz "turckyz is for lif not for krismis!"
In a fit of pre-Christmas panic, the turkeys have taken over the farm. It all went very well, and so the Fowl Revolution spreads to neighbouring farms and other members of the Fowl Race. Soon the whole land is up in arms.
Long liv the Revolyushun!

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It will be argued that these Turkeys cannot spell, and therefore should have no voice. Not so! Anyone can read what they have written. How difficult can it be?