Friday, December 16, 2016

Traditional Scottish ‘Loaded’ Sausage (Meat) Stuffing Recipe

Ready to put in the over... perfect every time.

Whether it be for the traditional Christmas dinner, or for the American Thanksgiving, there's no doubt that the choice of stuffing is high on the agenda.

For me, who's been a voracious meat-eater since a wee boy, I've always leaned towards the "it simply has to be a meat stuffing" camp.
This recipe is based on my own mum’s meat stuffing recipe, which I took, re-vamped slightly and in-doing-so hopefully improved. Containing some fruit, it tastes mildly sweet, juicy, yet still retains the solid ‘meaty’ consistency of traditional sausage meat stuffing.
Obviously your own tastes will not be absolutely in step with mine, so if you want to drop an ingredient, or add one, feel free to do so. As long as you don’t alter the consistency too much, it’ll cook fine. I’ve heard of people adding or substituting cranberries, crushed pineapple, or even walnuts.
Beware though, the eggs are kinda essential to bind/hold it all together while cooking, and the breadcrumbs both soak in flavor from the other ingredients, and dry out the main mix, important for the final product. Without the breadcrumbs, it’s rather goopy.

Here’s my ingredients…

1 lb Pork sausage
1 lb Turkey sausage
1 Large onion
1 Large apple
1 Large pear
½ lb Brown bread breadcrumbs
2 eggs
2 Teaspoons of chopped garlic
Large pinches of salt and pepper

Kitchen items; Large casserole dish, mixing spoon.

Method; Chop the onion, apple, and pear into small pieces, (I use a food processor) and mix ALL ingredients together. There’s no real correct order. I even shred my breadcrumbs in the processor; by far the best way to get them uniform.
(TIP: do the breadcrumbs first, when the food processor is dry... that way they won't stick to the sides)
I then mix the whole mixture by hand, there’s nothing like getting your hands dirty for the process... it's a kind of ritual.
When evenly mixed, I usually build a ring of mix around the edge of the casserole dish (see pic above); this not only ensures even cooking, but also makes it easy to run off any fat given off from the sausages.
You will probably have to drain the fat halfway through cooking. For best results, I’ve even turned the mix upside down about halfway through. (Tricky operation, but the all-round crispy edge is worth the effort)
Stick in the oven, gas at 350F, and cook for a good 90 mins.
Good luck, and I hope you enjoy...

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Avenging Steel... Scotland's Own "Man in the High Castle".

Scotland under Nazi rule! October 1940... 
When German troops march triumphantly along the streets of Edinburgh, James Baird feels drawn to watch.
At 20 years old, James is a student at Edinburgh University, and is ashamed he has done nothing in the defense of his country.
Behind him the high ramparts of iconic Edinburgh Castle are festooned with garish red swastika banners. Sickened by the music and swaggering Nazis, James takes refuge in the Edinburgh University Union bar, determined to drown his sorrows before returning home. 
As his new role in German-controlled Edinburgh is revealed, he is determined to fight the new oppressors in any way he can... but how much can one man do?

Avenging Steel 2
Alternative History. April 1941... 
German troops have conquered Britain.
The Royal Family, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and most of Britain's troops have retreated to Canada; the only front the 'Allies' are fighting is in the deserts of North Africa.
Edinburgh native, James Baird, is determined to fight the battle the only way he knows how. He is drawn into the depths of the British Resistance, his fate molded by the organization called the S.O.E..
But the Nazi’s have a list; a file containing the names of men for immediate arrest… scientists working in Edinburgh University’s Engineering Department, men vital to the allies war effort.
James and his girlfriend, Alice are drawn into the web of intrigue as a game of nuclear cat and mouse begins…

Avenging Steel 3
In our world of Alternative History, it is now May 1941...
German troops have been Britain's conquerors for over nine months.
James Baird and girlfriend Alice, are drawn deep into the depths of the British Resistance, their footfalls decided by the still infant MI-6. 
In this latest chapter, James discovers that men in Edinburgh University are vanishing without trace. He investigates, only to find that men 'eager to fight' are disappearing from the streets in large numbers all over Scotland.
Are they leaving to join the war effort? Or is reality far more complex and sinister than he could ever have imagined?

Avenging Steel 4
Nazi-controlled Edinburgh, Summer 1941... 
James Baird and his girlfriend Alice are newspaper editors by day and SOE agents by night. James has a vision; he will create an underground newspaper (The Tree of Liberty) published all over Britain, bolstering morale and supporting British resistance against the Nazi regime.
He pushes the idea ‘upstairs’, and begins to organize its launch, only to find himself drawn into a larger political theatre.
As the reins of his pet project slip from his hands, James and Alice’s lives change forever in one lightening trip to London. On their return, events in Edinburgh drive the SOE cells to desperate lengths… lives are on the line, their very existence threatened.
The sound of bullets and grenades rip through the dark night. Another great adventure set in the swastika-strewn streets of Edinburgh.

Avenging Steel 5
It is October 1941... 
German troops have held Britain for over a year. James Baird, a 21 year old student has joined the SOE and has proven his worth in the resistance against the Germans in Edinburgh. Unknown to James, his superiors have plans for him. It is time to expand his training; the SOE are sending him to Canada's Camp X. For the first time in his life; James is going overseas. He has the vain notion he's going for a medal ceremony, to meet Churchill or something equally glorious... What he doesn't know is... he's about to enter the most rigorous six weeks of his life... and that's just the beginning of his adventure. James soon finds out that getting out of the country is the easy part…

Avenging Steel 6
Stranded thousands of miles from home, James Baird has a lot of walking to do, and all of it through enemy-territory. From North Africa through Nazi Europe, he weaves a trail of personal vengeance.
His life has never been more threatened, but his discoveries have never been more monumental. His returning home no longer is just a personal necessity, it has become a matter of national urgency... the fate of the world lays in his hands.

"This is wonderful stuff... Old-fashioned adventure written in a delightful style..." Sean Cafferty
"Scotland's own 'Man in the High Castle'... great escape from the hum-drum..." Geo. Bingham 

AVENGING STEEL is available as a bumper eBook , paperback, or in individual volumes...

Avenging Steel 1: The Fall of Edinburgh
Avenging Steel 2: The Nuclear Option
Avenging Steel 3: The Final Solution 
Avenging Steel; The First Collection
(Available in budget paperback and eBook... contains all first three novellas.)
Avenging Steel 4: The Tree of Liberty 
Avenging Steel 5: The Man From Camp X
Avenging Steel: 6 The Long Way Home
Avenging Steel: The Second Collection
(Available in budget paperback and eBook... contains the second three novellas.)

Monday, July 18, 2016

A Hibernian Fan's Footsteps to Easter Road...

Hibernian's Famous Five, champions of the world in the 1950's

The Fan's Footsteps...

(This is a section of my new book, Avenging Steel 3: The Final Solution, Alternative WW2 History, so some references may seem odd... read on regardless!)
The fan’s journey to the ground begins with him decking himself in his team’s colors.
I had a Hibernian scarf of my own, but I dug in the walk-in closet for grandad’s old green and white woolen one; grandma had knitted it herself. It was the first game for a while, and I wanted to wallow in my own memories. Wrapping it round my neck over my jacket, I could swear I smelled his old tobacco oozing from the worn green wool.
I almost cried.
I opened the door onto the street, the noonday sun hitting me, and making me shield my eyes and squint. Turning left, I soon got onto Bruntsfield Place and took off down the hill. I remembered grandad’s words as I walked, my scarf the only green I could see on the street. “You’re the rain on the moor, the first water that oozes out of the ground, looking for a stream to take you down to the sea. You’re alone, but you know there’s more. The ground is oozing green, son; Hibernian green.”
He was a wordsmith, my Grandad Baird. Maybe that’s where I take it from. We’d played the game many times, walking to the ground, looking around for the next drop of water.
NAKED TRUTH; Andy Murray with Hibs' Scottish Cup

At Tollcross, I spied my first green scarf. At the same time, he spied me, and we shared a common wave across the street; two water droplets heading in tandem for the sea. On Lauriston Place I found myself catching up with two more, a father and son. The father carried his scarf in his hand, the boy, no older than ten, wore a green and white woolen hat, green pom-pom bouncing as he walked. I slowed my pace to walk behind them, wallowing in my secret companionship.
At Forest Road, two men stumbled out of the Doctor’s Bar, both proudly twirling their own scarfs round their necks. Seeing us they waved at their new companions, and set off, leading us past Sandy Bell’s, where we’d abducted poor Leutnant Derwall, just months ago.
As the two men turned down into Chamber’s Street, I realized the ‘burn’ had begun, the old Scot’s word for a small stream. On the Bridges, we picked up a few more ribbons of green, and a few disappeared into the open arms of the many pubs lining the route. Regardless of the charms of the eager ‘boozers’, by Leith Street, the stream had grown.
I caught my breath; it was time for my first stop.
The Black Bull was the pub that grandad met up with his friend; one-o’clock, every Saturday. I checked the time as I walked down the small steps to the door. Always crowded on Hibs home game day, the small ‘snug’ was a magical childhood reminiscence of smells and sounds. I fought my way to the bar and ordered a pint of mild. Turning, I lifted the glass to my lips. “Here’s to you, old man,” I said fondly before downing the beer as only a thirsty man can; three large tasty deluges into a parched throat.
The Proclaimers hit "Sunshine on Leith" is sung every game
Back out onto Leith Street, I walked down the hill, rounded the corner, and ploughed straight into the second stop; The Conan Doyle. This was a bar of large open rooms, lots of men, drinking, looking at Saturday newspapers, checking horse results, looking at the greyhound races planned for that night at Powderhall. With a tear in my eye, I toasted a different Baird. “Here’s to you, Dad. Wherever the heck you are. Scots Greys!” A couple nearby caught the end of my toast. “Seaforths!” they cheered proudly. “K.O.S.B.’s shouted an old-timer, white haired enough to have fought in the last war. He grinned toothlessly and waved his pint glass at me. Many more took up the proud call. I took a drink at the mention of every regiment, and there were many. My glass was empty in no time, and still the toasts rang round the room. I bought a second and wallowed with my new temporary comrades.
Once done, I crossed the busy intersection and walked along Picardy Place, passed the statue to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, green and oxidized from the winter’s attentions. I almost laughed at the warm beautiful sunshine hitting the back of my neck.
Fish, solo and lead singer for Marillion is a huge Hibs fan

With The Playhouse on the opposite side, I got onto Leith Walk proper. Hibs green was now on every fifth person, all walking in the same direction, flowing downhill. “It’s the river, son. Feel it around you.” The old man’s words made me cry openly, enjoying every second of the experience. I was a raindrop, now mingling with many others, heading downstream in a youthful torrent. I wished my grandad were here to share the memory, or even dad. I crossed the road at the top of Elm Row, just up from the German radio station, and onto London Road. Now the river of green was there for all to see. Bobbing heads on the arrow-straight street as far as your eyes could see.
“It’s the river son,” I remember his pipe clenched tightly in his false teeth as he spoke. “As wide as the Amazon, son, as straight as a die.”
I never ever found out what a ‘die’ was.

And the river had slowed. With so many people, there was neither the room nor the need to pass. I slowed to the pace of the masses, and let myself flow to the top of Easter Road, savouring every minute of being part of the swell.
Hibs fans, maybe famous now because of their message...
The last stop. The Claymore.
Grandad’s last stop. A wee dram ‘for the road’. I copied his actions to the last, sipping the expensive draft, loving every minute of it. If I’d thought London Road was slow, the narrow street of Easter Road was worse. Almost every head faced north, we were in a queue for the turnstiles hundreds of yards away. The sluggish river had reached the sea.
Considering the Germans had organized the competition, the gates were incredibly busy, the terraces packed. Inside the stadium, I didn’t see one single German uniform, and for a whole ninety minutes I completely forgot the war. For a few seconds in the second half, it began to drizzle, but I don’t think anyone cared much.
When the referee blew the final whistle, the cheer and release of tension was palpable. I jumped up and down on my spot for many minutes, cheering the teams for their efforts in such times.
In my mind I could see the headlines on Monday’s back page; Hibernian Two, Brave Alloa Nil.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

U-234, Hitler's Last U-Boat... The Hail-Mary Pass to Japan

Crew from the USS Sutton board the U-234 in May, 1945

On April 30th, 1945, the bodies of Adolf Hitler and his new wife, Eva Braun, were placed in a bomb crater and doused with petrol. Trusted guards were stationed to ensure their bodies were burned beyond all recognition.
In the wake of Hitler’s suicide, Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz assumed the position of head of state. Among his first orders was a radio broadcast for all submarines to surface and surrender.

“My U-boat men, six years of war lie behind us… you have fought like lions… U-boat men, unbroken and immaculate, lay down your arms after a heroic fight…”

Few knew the impact his simple statement made in the war against Japan.
U-234 being 'tugged' into Portsmouth, USA

In the middle of the Atlantic, on May 4th, German submarine U-234 first received a garbled version of Dönitz’s message. After much deliberation, six days later, they surfaced to affirm the news. Captain Johann-Heinrich Fehler assembled his crew and passengers, telling them of his intention to surrender to the Americans in Portsmouth.
The only objection to their surrender came from two Japanese Naval officers, Lieutenant Commanders Hideo Tomonaga and Shoji Genzo, who re-stated the U-boats mission; to sail to Japan and deliver essential cargo and weapons. To the Japanese officers, surrender was not an option. Once the decision was made to surrender the submarine, German guards found the two officers on their bunks in full uniform; they had taken poison.
A Henschel HS 262, 'cruise' missile

U-Boat U-234 was a modified mine layer, and the largest German submarine still in service, but for her last mission she had been turned into a cargo vessel. Packed into every section of the hull were goods destined for the defense of Japan…

  • A fully functional ME 262; the world’s first jet fighter.
  • A Henschel HS 293 guided missile; the world’s first cruise missile.
  • Parts for building a V-2; the world’s first intercontinental missile.
  • Several tons of blueprints for every weapon built, designed and considered by Germany.
  • 1200lbs of Uranium 235 (about 20% of the amount required for an atomic bomb).
(Sailors laughed when the Uranium was taken aboard, labeled U-235, they thought they had got the number of the submarine wrong)
ME-262, the fastest plane in the world

Unknown to most of the world, the war had taken a sharp and decisive turn.

As far back as July 1943, the Japanese had one stumbling block to their own Nuclear-bomb project; they could not get enough U-235 to provide them with ‘critical mass’ (the phrase used to denote the amount of Uranium needed to create the chain reaction powering the explosion). Three Japanese submarines had almost got back to Japan with their crucial U-235 cargo, but all were sunk in the attempt.
After the surrender of the U-234, and hearing of its strangely-labeled cargo, Robert Oppenheimer himself searched the Submarine.
The US Uranium enriching plant was situated at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Here, the German uranium was processed, and included in the Manhattan Project’s critical mass.
Three months later, in August 1945, the Americans bombed the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
In a material so rare on the earth, it is inconceivable that German Uranium, once destined for Japan's own nuclear program, was not used in the American bombs.
History…. You just can’t make this stuff up.

A couple of my related books... browse or buy at your leisure.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Dunkirk 2: The Untold Story. Operation Cycle & Operation Ariel

British and French troops, rescued, on their way to Blighty... 13th June, 1940
How many of you readers have heard of the Dunkirk evacuation (Operation Dynamo)?
The black-and-white movies, Churchill’s plea to the nation, the flotilla of little boats, the miracle of rescuing a third of a million men from certain Nazi capture.
The fact remains that from May 28th to June 4th, 338,000 helpless British and French troops were rescued from appalling conditions as the Dunkirk beaches and port were strafed by Messerschmitt’s and dive-bombed by Stukas. It truly was a terrible experience, and the ‘miracle of Dunkirk’ will continue to be one of the reasons that Britain could continue fighting the war.
But its miraculous tale does overshadow the second stage of the troop embarkation.
From the silence which usually follows the word, Dunkirk, many assume the Battle of France was over, the guns silent, Hitler’s triumphant march into Paris heralded by the noise of crickets in the cool summer morning.
But this image is far from the truth.
Millions of men were still fighting.
When the Germans renewed the fighting on the 5th June, they met staunch resistance from French and British troops, including General De Gaule’s Tank Division. The RAF flew from bases south of Paris, the French Air Force, also rejuvenated, took to the air against the Luftwaffe.
But it was a rearguard action. Soon British, French, Polish and Czech forces retreated to the Normandy ports.
SS Guinean. conditions aboard were extremely cramped

Operation Cycle (10th – 13th June, 1940) was immediately put into action.
British forces cut off from escape at Dunkirk, terribly disorganized and ill equipped, fled westwards along the coast, making for Le Havre. The 51st Highland Division, assisted by General De Gaule’s tanks fought a bloody rearguard against Rommel's 7th Panzer Division. With the port of Le Havre suddenly cut off, the allies fled to St Valery-En-Caux where Operation Cycle was ready to embark them.
There would be no flotilla of little boats this time. Under air cover from the RAF, the troops were transferred at the port onto destroyers, and civilian ships, commandeered for the purpose, and ferried off the beaches. From 10th-11th June, 2137 British, and 1184 French were rescued from St Valery before the 51st Highland Division finally surrendered.
The men who had managed to reach Le Havre fared better. From the 10th – 13th June, over 11,000 British troops were rescued.
And the relentless Germans pushed onward, rolling British and French troops further westward.

Operation Ariel (15th – 25th June, 1940) commenced.
Despite the lessons learned at Dunkirk, Operation Cycle had shown that large-scale troop embarkation onto large ships could be accomplished. On June 15th, a flotilla of Royal Navy and Merchant Marine ships converged on the ports of Western France. The ships were supported from southern French bases by five Royal Air Force (RAF) fighter squadrons which were further assisted by squadrons from England. The task was to enter the major sea-ports of St Nazaire, and Nantes and rescue British, Polish and Czech troops who had been directed there.
Under Luftwaffe attack, the ships loaded troops and equipment, but disorganization made figures inaccurate.
On June 17th the Luftwaffe sank the Cunard liner HMT Lancastria in the Loire estuary. The troopship had just embarked thousands of troops, RAF personnel and civilians. It is estimated that at least 3500 died in the sinking.
To conform to the terms of the Armistice on June 22nd, the evacuation of Operation Ariel officially ended on June 25th.
Over 191,000 troops were rescued in Operation Ariel, mainly British, Polish and Czech personnel, although accurate figures of nationalities are not known.
In all, Operations Ariel and Cycle rescued over 200,000 troops, including RAF ground crew, ancillary staff, and tons of equipment. Not quite the dramatic rescue of Dinkirk’s flotilla of little boats, but not a drop in a bucket either.
Considering the amount of men deployed, and the amount of men rescued, British deaths in the battle France were only 10,000, and that figure includes the 3500 from the HMT Lancastria.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Atomic Bomb Makers on Scotland’s Streets

German troops gather on the Esplanade at Edinburgh Castle

Historical Fact; in 1939-1940, there were a significant number of Scientists, including German Jews in self-exile, working in Edinburgh University; Physicists and Mathematicians who were investigating sub-atomic particle physics at the Kings Buildings campus on the southern edge of Edinburgh.

Historical Fact; in 1939, it was realized in British Universities that a nuclear bomb would win the war. A Committee (M.A.U.D. Committee) was set up to investigate both the direction of research, and the materials and time required to complete the bomb.

Historical Fact; from the two reports given to him by the M.A.U.D. Committee, on 30th August, 1941, Winston Churchill officially authorized further research, and became the first world leader to authorize and approve a nuclear weapons program.

Historical Fact; in 1940, as Adolf Hitler contemplated the invasion of Britain (Operation Sea-Lion), he had a ‘hit list’ of British scientists, miscreants, and political figures who were to be rounded up and incarcerated in the first few months of Nazi occupation.

These are the historical facts behind the second volume of the Avenging Steel WW2 Alternative History series.
Our hero James Baird, a Philosophy student at Edinburgh University, is secretly a member of the S.O.E. (Special Operations Executive), the forerunner to both MI6 and the CIA. He is ordered to infiltrate the Physics students and help spirit them away to safety. With his girlfriend Alice at his side, James begins the most dangerous mission of his short ‘master-spy’ career.

The action is fast and furious as they try to stay one step ahead of the Germans as they whisk the crucial scientists away from the Nazis. Avenging Steel 2: the Nuclear Option, is the second in a growing series set in 1940’s Edinburgh; the city streets and buildings are vividly cast almost as characters themselves. Reading the book places you in the action, running the streets, riding the trams, dodging bullets and counter espionage agents.
Volume three ‘The Final Solution’ is hoped to be completed in the summer of 2016.
Take a look inside the book, courtesy of Amazon Kindle.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Edinburgh News! George Heriot's School Captured by German Troops!

The gateway... draped with the conquering symbols.
The German staff car drove through the arched entrance, its Mercedes engine purring, its occupants three high-ranking German officers. Few witnessed the invasion; the schoolchildren of George Heriot’s School were at morning lessons. The scattered boys out on the playing fields gave no notice, engrossed in their games. When four grey trucks followed suit, their attention was guaranteed.
The short approach road to the main building was walled on either side, not meant for large vehicles. The staff car in front, swept through the archway of the imposing building, and on into the ancient cobbles of the inner courtyard. Following suit, the trucks behind fanned out, braking loudly, their engines roaring in grizzly echoes between the four high walls. Suddenly a thousand faces were at windows, looking down as the trucks disgorged their human cargo; a hundred of Germany’s finest, jackbooted and coal-scuttle helmeted. As they spread out, their machine guns held at the ready, they looked cold and imposing.
The iconic image of Edinburgh Castle, 

The officers filed into the main entrance, their grim-faced soldiers behind.
“I am Captain Schoenberg. You have an hour to empty the building.” His expression did not expect protest. The generals behind him smiled in anonymity, looking smugly around. The soldiers were already filing into corridors on either side, and up wide staircases. The headmaster, roused by the commotion, soon made his way to the entrance, only to be buffeted outside into the courtyard. “What do you think you’re doing?” he protested, only to be nudged heartily in the ribs by a machine gun butt.

The haloed halls echoed with men’s guttural orders, their stereotypical brevity made no less forceful by the pupil’s and teacher’s understanding. “Raus! Raus! Schnell!” The boys had been brought up to Capt. W. E. Johns’ Biggles adventures, but now the cries were here, in their classrooms and hallways, forcing them out of classes and out into the courtyard.
Schoolboy cries soon joined the German ones, protests, screams, the plaintive cries of the younger boys.
It made no difference… just a thousand yards from the battlements of Edinburgh Castle, the infamous George Heriot’s School building had suddenly become the German headquarters in Edinburgh.

 Avenging Steel 1: The Fall of Edinburgh

Avenging Steel

As a writer, it's quite strange when a story takes over your imagination and writes itself. The above was one such case.
In my new Avenging Steel Alternative History series, I had decided that my character was going to George Heriot's School to a clandestine meeting. He walked past Greyfriar's Bobby on Forrest Road, and turned the corner onto Lauriston Place. I was remembering the imposing entrance to the school, thinking of its tall railings, the school grounds, the playing fields, the wonderful square baronial building with its interior courtyard... then the words just appeared on my page... the German trucks rolling through the archways, the noise in the courtyard, the jackbooted terrors kicking the pupils out onto the street... it made perfect sense... George Heriot's building would make the perfect Headquarters building in Edinburgh...
My character would have to make his clandestine meeting somewhere else.

Avenging Steel; available as an eBook and paperback, everywhere good books are sold.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Avenging Steel: The Fall of Edinburgh... "Scotland's own 'Man in the High Castle'."

Avenging Steel 1: The Fall of Edinburgh... the finest in Alternative History.
It is October 1940... 
In the last seven weeks, the German invasion of Britain, begun by a few thousand paratroopers, has swept the British Army to another 'Dunkirk'. Snatched from Oban, Ullapool, and a hundred islands, a quarter of a million of Britain's finest now rest in Canada.
For the moment, Britain is lost.
Churchill makes one valiant speech from the combined houses of the Irish Parliament, then he too is spirited away.

… let us not consider this a retreat, not a farewell to our homeland, but as a gathering for a new offensive. And let me make this promise to Herr Hitler; we will prepare, we will return, and we will never surrender…
Winston Churchill, October 7th, 1940, Dublin, Ireland

When German troops march triumphantly along the streets of Edinburgh, James Baird, a young philosophy student, feels drawn to watch. He is a student at Edinburgh university, and is ashamed he has done nothing in the defense of his country; watching the parade is his self-inflicted punishment.
1940, Princes Street, Edinburgh. People await the Nazi parade.
As he stands on Princes Street, looking down the deserted tram lines, he waits for the conquering heroes to arrive. Behind him the high ramparts of Edinburgh Castle are festooned with garish red swastika banners. Sickened by the music and swaggering Nazis, James can soon stand no more. he flees the scene and takes refuge in the Edinburgh University Union bar, determined to drown his sorrows before returning home.

Like Paris, three months before, troops march in Edinburgh. 

The new oppressors bring changes to his life that he cannot foresee. As his new role in German-controlled Edinburgh is revealed, he is determined to fight the new oppressors. In long novella parts, we follow James's story as a proud nation begins to rebel against the pressure of Nazi jackboots.

Thus begins, Avenging Steel, a new Alternative History series.

The title is taken from a verse in The Tree of Liberty, by Robert Burns, Scotland's famous national bard.

By her inspired the new born race
Soon grew the Avenging Steel, man;
The hirelings ran — her foes gied chase
And banged the despot weel, man.

Robert Burns

Described as "Scotland's own 'Man in the High Castle'."
Now available as an eBook series; parts two and three completed.

To be honest, it felt kinda good... I've never been compared to Philip K. Dick before...

Monday, May 16, 2016

Cockney Rhyming Slang... Sneaking into Modern Colloquial English

 Dictionary of British Slang

Cockney Rhyming Slang is a form of English slang which began in the East End of London; a true 'Cockney', is a person born within earshot of the Bow bells.
To create a 'secret' language, Cockney Rhyming Slang replaces normal words with rhyming phrases.

eg; "I'm going out with the trouble and Strife tonight." (I'm going out with the wife tonight.)
"I'm looking smart tonight, got my Kylie Minogues on." (I'm looking smart tonight, I've got my brogues on)

The idea soon spread over the English-speaking world, and since those ancient days many non-Cockney phrases have been added.

Cockney Rhyming Slang has three distinct variations, each rarer than the other…

1st degree Cockney Rhyming Slang… By far the most commonly heard and used (when the rhyme is essential).
Example; “He went up the Apples and Pears.”
Meaning… He went up the stairs.
(Cockney Rhyming Slang for ‘stairs’, is ‘Apples and Pears’)

2nd degree Cockney Rhyming Slang… Less common, but thought to be more true to the 'secret' original form (when the rhyming part has been dropped)…
Example; “He kicked me in the Alberts!”
Meaning… He kicked me in the testicles (balls).
(Cockney Rhyming Slang for testicles (balls) is ‘Albert Halls’, but in this case the rhyming part (‘Halls’) is dropped, leaving the user with a brand new slang term)

3rd degree Cockney Rhyming Slang… Very rare. When the original rhyme has been dropped, and the other part of the original phrase has also been dropped, to be replaced by another word associated with it.
Example; “Calm down, mate, keep your Elvis.”
Meaning… "keep your hair on".
(Cockney Rhyming Slang for ‘hair-on’ is Aaron. But the original Aaron has been dropped being replaced by Elvis, an obvious associated word, although ‘Elvis’ was never in the original rhyming slang.) 

1st degree Cockney Rhyming Slang is pretty easy stuff; let's face it.... it rhymes!
However, when the rhyme is dropped, and you don't know the original phrase, you might be lost on the actual meaning. Even I was surprised how many of these phrases I used, never knowing or thinking they were originally Cockney Rhyming Slang!
See how many you recognize, some more complex than others… (I’ll use the abbreviation CRS for Cockney Rhyming Slang, and {r/w} for “rhymes with”).
Most are 2nd degree CRS.

He’s a bit Haigs…  (CRS- Haigs Dimple, {r/w} simple, ie; not that clever, dim.) (Haigs Whisky bottled a brand of their brew in a dimpled bottle, and the name stuck)

He just blew a raspberry at you...  . (CRS- Raspberry Tart; {r/w} fart.) 

Let’s have a butchers then…   (CRS- Butcher's Hook {r/w} look.)

Look at him, he hasn't got a Scooby... (CRS- Scooby Doo; {r/w} Clue.)

I don't like them, I'm a bit Listerine... 3rd degree... (maybe even 4th...) (Septic Tank; {r/w} Yank. Anti-Septic means anti-Yank (anti-American). Listerine is an anti-septic.

Look at him, he’s Brahms…   (CRS- Brahms & Liszt; {r/w} pissed, drunk) Brahms and Liszt were classical music composers.
 Available in eBooks and paperback
Available in paperback or eBook

He talks funny; he’s a bubble…  (CRS- Bubble and Squeak; {r/w} Greek.) Bubble and Squeak is a fried dish made with potato and vegetable leftovers.

That fellow’s a bit ginger…  (CRS- Ginger Beer; {r/w} Queer, Gay)

I’m all on my Jack today... (CRS- Jack Jones; {r/w} alone’s, on your own.) Jack Jones was a singer in the 60's.

I’m off round the corner for a Jimmy... (CRS- Jimmy Riddle; {r/w} widdle, pee)

He can't hear you, he's mutton... Technically 3rd degree... (CRS- Mutt & Jeff; {r/w} deaf.) Mutt & Jeff were cartoon characters from the 1940’s.

I’m off down the High Street for a Ruby...  (CRS- Ruby Murray; {r/w} curry) Ruby Murray was a Belfast singer from the 1950’s.

Cops are coming, we’d better scarper... (CRS- Scapa Flow; {r/w} go.) Scapa Flow is a harbor in the Shetland Islands where the WW1 German fleet was scuppered.

I’m on my Tod today... (CRS- Todd Sloane; {r/w} alone, lone.)

He’s wearing his Lionels… (CRS- Lionel Blair; {r/w} flare, flared trousers) Lionel Blair was an actor/singer/dancer in the 60’s 70’s in the UK)

Don't be stupid, use your loaf... (CRS- Loaf of Bread; {r/w} head)

I’m a bit Boracic (Borrassic) this week... (CRS- Boracic Lint; {r/w} skint, broke, penniless) Borassic Lint was a gauze substance put on wounds in the old days.

How’s it going, me old China?... (CRS- China Plate; {r/w} mate, friend)

What a fine pair of Bristols... (CRS- Bristol City; {r/w} titties, breasts) Bristol City is one football team in the English seaside town of Bristol.)

Listen to him spin that Porky... (CRS-Pork Pies; {r/w} lies)

Oh, now that’s a nice whistle.... (CRS- Whistle and Flute: {r/w} suit, three piece suit)

My book The Ridiculously Comprehensive Dictionary of British Slang has over 200 pages of slang definitions, available in paperback or eBook.

Monday, May 9, 2016

SOE: Churchill's Spy School that Spawned All Others

SOE camps in Britain and abroad were the model of all spy-craft for years

Many books have been written regarding this one department, that it almost does not need repeating, and yet, although its influence cannot be calculated, the SOE manages to remain relatively obscure in the minds of most of the world’s population.
The SOE alone did not win the war, but its organization, training camps, instructors, training methods and gadgetry were used in every single theater of the war. Many of Churchill’s ‘Secret Armies’ were trained under SOE jurisdiction, and most of the world’s spy networks modeled on their mold.
Without doubt, the SOE was Churchill’s greatest creation.
An examination of all of Churchill's 'Secret Armies'.

Initially formed to combine all of Britain's fractured Military Intelligence Services, it did far more; it provided a training regime that served not only the allied spies and counter-espionage agents, but all Special Forces too. From its early days in July 1940 until the end of the war in 1945, the SOE schools in Britain and the training techniques they had developed were used on a massive scale. The Commandoes, the SAS, the Paratroopers, SBS, Cichociemni (Polish S.F.), US Rangers, Canadian Devil’s Brigade, Jedburgh’s and many others were trained in the SOE’s 50 plus locations in Britain.
Later coined as "the school for mayhem and murder", the deep-background preparation, the variety of subjects, the attention to detail, and the hardy regime were used as the blueprint of every single spy organization in the modern world today.
When Churchill came to power, at least four different intelligence agencies vied for power, and did not share techniques, information or personnel. It was Churchill alone on his first days in charge who set up the ambiguously titled Special Operations Executive (S.O.E.), and detailed their mission; ‘to set Europe ablaze’. You can see Churchill's footprint from the inception of Britain's structured military intelligence; had been in the cabinet when Britain’s first Military Intelligence agency was set up in 1909. In the landings at Gallipoli in 1915, he had personally witnessed the disaster that could strike the largest of military operations if the intelligence was not accurate or up to date.
When he took charge in 1940, he was determined not to make the same mistake twice; to beat the Nazi menace, Britain’s military intelligence service would have to be the best in the world, and would train and operate to standards far exceeding the expectation of both its founding members and the enemy.
"If you have to search a prisoner, kill him first..."

Of all the allied forces, the USA followed SOE guidelines more than any other. The Office of Strategic Studies (O.S.S.) continued Churchill’s penchant for ambiguous titles, and from its inception, the OSS trained their operatives in the SOE camps in Canada. Within months of entering the war in December 1941 they had begun construction of their own camps in Maryland and Virginia. The largest were at Prince William Forest, near Quantico (near the Marine base and FBI Headquarters) and Catoctin Mountain Park, (now the location of Camp David).
At the close of the war, the OSS went on to become the CIA, and is still active today.
Churchill's Special Operations Executive may not have won the war on its own, but it shortened it by many years, and saved millions of lives.

Take a look inside Churchill's Secret Armies...

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Winston Churchill's Ungentlemanly Side

Was principled gentleman Winston Churchill also the master of dirty tactics?

You bet he was!

With his back to the wall in 1940 and invasion from the Nazis imminent, not only did he use every trick in the book… it turns out he "wrote the book"! I've covered it all in my latest release:

 Churchill's Secret Armies War Without Rules: The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare by Ian Hall

Monday, January 11, 2016

Two Old Farts Writing Science Fiction: Dennis E. Smirl & Ian Hall

Two Old farts writing Science Fiction.... what could possibly go wrong?

Can you remember when real Science Fiction was Asimov’s Foundation, or Herbert’s Dune? When Heinlein wrote Starship Troopers, and Clarke did 2001: A Space Odessy?
Yeah, so can we.
So, fed up with the dark matter of today's SF market, Dennis and I got together to write some of our own. We didn't want to wallow in depression, though, we decided to write some old-fashioned Science Fiction, you know, the stuff with blasters and aliens, rockets and ray-guns, the type of SF from a more buoyant age, stuff that we’d like to read. No more cruel, dark, Dystopia, no more end-of-the-world scenarios, each dimmer and more depressing than the last, and no Zombie apocalypse.
We decided go go back to the good old days of optimism, the eager look to the stars that once kindled longing in our childhood.
It wasn’t quite the dip into the age of Dan Dare, or Flash Gordon, but it was a definite vision into a time where the whole of mankind would rally together in the face of an alien foe, rather than wallow in fear in an age of terrorists and bomb-plots. It was a trip back to the day when the phrase ‘dirty bomb’, just meant one that had been rolled into a muddy puddle. It was a time of rockets to the Moon, then Mars, times when NASA actually launched rockets, not lectured about it.
Book 2... Things are heating up for poor Seth

Dennis and I began with a universe containing a small human federation of planets; the Fellowship. Then we gave everybody a corporate entity to universally hate; BIG SPACE.
The MacCollie Company owned space travel, having invented both drives to take us to the stars. They allotted franchises, they literally controlled the very nuts and bolts of getting out to the stars. It gave us a good feeling to give the humans an enemy of sorts, but then again, things change bloody quick up there.
3... Seth has a new crew mate... a woman!

So, to our story… the STAR-EATER CHRONICLES. MacCollie (with their new FTL drive) have sent 1000 Survey-Scouts to the edges of the galaxy to map it for mankind… well for MacCollie to collate the findings and sell it to mankind.
Seth Gingko is one of those Scouts. When he reaches the edge of the galaxy, his contract is over, as payment for his five year mission (yes, it was a five year mission, Star Trek fans, an homage, we did it on purpose) he takes ownership of his one man Scout ship.
But being an owner-operator was never going to be easy. Seth discovers an invading fleet, and must warn Earth of the impending doom.
4. More aliens than you could count!

Thus begins volume one in the STAR-EATER CHRONICLES, A Galaxy Too Far; Seth’s first solo adventure. We’ve worked so hard, we've finished book 9!, And we’ve raced right into book ten. We’ve put them on Amazon kindle, on Nook, iTunes, Kobo and in paperback.
It proves to be a great ride, but you better hold on to the safety bars, ‘cos it’s about to get real bumpy out there… real quick… and don't expect us to be "Politically Correct" about it.
And that's on of the good things about being... just Two Old Farts....
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