Thursday, 31 December 2015

The Books I Read In December

Non-Fiction
'The Origins of the Second World War' by A.J.P. Taylor
Initially reading this book I was pleasantly surprised by its strengths.  Though the version I read was published in 1964, it is still of value for anyone studying the history of this period today.  In some ways Taylor treats the reader maturely.  He does not include loads of dates and figures, assuming that you can pick these up from other places.  Instead he digs into explaining what happened and why.  I like the fact that he overturns many myths about the lead up to the Second World War which in most cases seem as prevalent today as they were in the 1960s.  He also shows how historians have come to certain conclusions.  Again, because these have proven persistent, his insights remain valid also.  Taylor highlights individuals such as MacDonald, Halifax, Benes and Bonnet who often get left out or wrongly interpreted even nowadays and it is good that he shines a light on them.  He also shows effectively the extent to which British policy and, in part, French policy was driven by a sense of 'morality' and doing what was 'right' rather than any strategic perspective.  Thus, even once Germany had invaded Poland in September 1939, British politicians and officials believed that they could hold an international conference to resolve the issues.  The British did not value the rights of different countries equally and saw the demands of Germany as of a far higher status than those of Czechoslovakia or Poland.  This does help explain the strange policies the British governments adopted, applying one principle until it was trumped by the other, but consequently divorcing them from any Realpolitik.

Taylor is, at times, refreshingly self-critical too.  In 1963 he added a new opening chapter to his 1961 book in which he analyses his own failings of analysis.  Few historians seem capable of doing this even now.  Before moving on to my difficulties with the book, I would note that it is far better than 'The Habsburg Monarchy' (1941) by Taylor that I read in April.  That book careered through the history in a frenetic way and if he had applied that approach to the events covered in this book then it would have been almost impossible to read.

Now, the problems.  Taylor criticises historians who have sought out the 'guilty men' of the lead-up to the Second World War, though smugly he says he believed Hitler should have been contested right from January 1933.  However, throughout this book he is imbued with perfect hindsight.  Whilst he might not portray those involved in the events as guilty he certainly repeatedly points to them as naive, foolish and vacillating as if the way events would turn out were visible to them and they simply ignored them.  This smugness becomes very difficult to swallow as the book goes on.

At the time of publication, Taylor was condemned as writing a book which was pro-Hitler.  Now, there are two reasons for this.  One is that Taylor does seem to give (perhaps grudging) admiration for Hitler for having one approach and sticking to it throughout.  He shows that repeatedly Hitler would not take the initiative if he could get another country to do it for him, hence the dangers of appeasement.  Taylor is right to show appeasement as advancing the Nazi agenda more effectively than Hitler himself.  Taylor cannot stand vacillation and as a consequence every other leading politician is shown in a poor light.  It is not that Taylor lauds Hitler it is because of the principle of one man seeming to step forward from a line because all the others have taken a step back.

The other complaint people had at the time but seems irrelevant now was that in showing that it took the bulk of Germany to bring about the Second World War, he somehow let off Hitler from responsibility.  This is a false impression.  Taylor simply aims to counter the view that Hitler was to blame for absolutely everything that was nasty about the Nazi regime, whereas in fact it required many thousands of men and women, not all of the German, for it to be effective in that respect.

There are some minor quirks that distort Taylor's book, some of which you see in others he has written.  One is that he does not believe that there was any German resistance to Hitler.  He cannot comprehend any of the attempts to halt or remove Hitler at any stage and is sneering about any reference to these.  He utterly dismisses the French and Italian armed forces as irrelevant.  The French military was utterly wasted in 1940 because as he identifies elsewhere defeatism had already debilitated the French state.  However, if used effectively it is clear now that the French military could have blunted severely if not indeed halted the German offensives against Poland, Belgium and France in 1939-40.  In Taylor's view that was impossible.  The Italian forces might have been weak but their advances in Greece and North Africa caused delays and casualties for the British and drew Germany into regions it might have otherwise avoided.

Another thing is that Taylor is so much a 'child' of the era of Keynesianism that he finds it impossible to consider any other approach to the economy as legitimate, ridiculing the deflationary policies pursued in Britain in the 1930s.  I am sure he would be startled if he returned today to find that for the past thirty years such economic policies have been the economic orthodoxy and Keynesianism is utterly forgotten even by the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats.

This book still has value for people studying the lead-up to the Second World War.  However, Taylor grandstanding with a very dismissive, arrogant attitude to almost all those involved in the events is very tiresome and detracts greatly from what he is trying to communicate.  This book is most useful for challenging many of the myths that still appear in popular histories of the period, notably the Hossbach Memorandum.

Fiction
'Tart Noir' ed. by Stella Duffy & Lauren Henderson
This collection of twenty stories proved to be a real disappointment.  I was enthused by the concept, i.e. female authors writing crime fiction with female protagonists.  The emphasis is on strong, sexually liberated women in control.  However, the stories contained really failed to live up to my expectations.  Perhaps I was wrong to have imagined that there would be more female detective stories contained in the book.  I do not think I was wrong to not expect fantasy stories to be contained within it.  In any collection written by multiple authors there will be stories that you find better than others.  However, for me the overall standard was too low.

Perhaps the stand-out story is unsurprisingly 'Metamorphosis' by Val McDermid which quickly conjures a sexual obsession and then the overwhelming need to get the person out of your life.  This was the kind of story that I expected throughout, but was sorely disappointed.

I do think they should have warned the reader that one story, 'Stormy, Mon Amour' features scenes of sex between a woman and a dolphin.  I guess I should have remembered the movie 'Max, Mon Amour' (1986) about a woman's sexual relationship with a chimpanzee which caused uproar at the time and is clearly being referenced by this story.  The resulting birth of a mermaid is simply fantasy but of a very dreary kind.  I almost abandoned the book at this point, but pressed on because I thought it might improve. 'Labia Lobelia' by Lisa Jewell is another fantastical story.  The protagonist calls up the ghosts of Judy Garland and Joan Collins.  If it had not been for the book's rules, I would have assumed she was a transvestite.  However, she turns out to be a woman with magic powers.  She turns her neighbours' flat into vast (and smelly) labia and a vagina. 'Talk Show' by Lauren Henderson has a talk show, unsurprisingly, but featuring Medea and Phaedra from Greek myths and Lady Macbeth.  It is better than a secondary school balloon debate or an Oxbridge skit.  Bestiality features once more but at a distance.  Overall, though, it is more an intellectual entertainment than a 'noir' story; it reminded me of 'The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul' (novel 1988; radio serial 2008) which features Norse gods in contemporary London.  I would almost put 'The Wrong Train' by Jenny Colgan into the fantasy category.  It is about an administrator at MI6 who gets on a train full of immigrants with TB being ejected from the country.  It turns out to be a government conspiracy story, but for much of it reads as if it is an offshoot of 'Neverwhere' by Neil Gaiman (TV Series 1996; novel & audio book 1996; graphic novel 2005; stage play 2010; radio play 2013).  It could have been scarier and better.

A number of the stories are about revenge.  The two most memorable are 'The Best Revenge is Revenge' by Chris Niles.  A touch light in tone at times, it seems credible in featuring a TV presenter getting revenge on the executive that sacked her.  In a short story, the relationship with male characters is handled well, a kind of push-and-pull between them.  The snobbery of the narrator is maintained well.  'Martha Grace' by Stella Duffy herself shows very skilled characterisation of the eponymous protagonist.  Like the best of these stories, it shows the unusual but without becoming unbelievable.  You want to see Martha in other stories. 'Africa' by Jenny Siler, does feel like an episode of 'Spooks' (2002-11; movie 2015).  However, it quickly builds up a complex story and portrays Morocco very effectively.  This is one story you would have liked to have seen developed further.

Some of the revenge stories feel as if they could have fitted into 'Tales of the Unexpected' (book 1979; TV series 1979-88) especially the televised versions which tended to be edgier than the stories in the book and the two that succeeded it. 'Enough was Enough' by Martina Cole fits that category.  It is a very capable portrayal of a wife drawn into her husband's sexual fetishes and then baulking against them. 'What He Needed' by Laura Lippman is of a similar quality and nature.  Not as good, but not too bad is 'The Man' by Katy Munger.  It is a straightforward revenge story with all the bodily fluids featured.  You could argue whether being a gigolo is worthy of revenge, but in this book it clearly is. Munger's description of the gigolo is very well done. Not about revenge, but with the twist beloved of the 'Tales of the Unexpected' is 'The Diary of Sue Peaner Marooned! Contestant' again has the bitch narrator.  The outcome is not unexpected and in many ways given how extreme these survival programmes are her behaviour does not seem too extreme.  This story does include cannibalism but it is passed over so lightly as not to really impact.  Like some of the other stories, the lightness naturally undermines the 'noir'.

Two of the stories are what I would term 'shotgun shack' stories.  They are noir in a different way.  In large part the woman is disempowered by the structures that the men in their lives create, leading to tragic outcomes especially for children, that seem unavoidable.  These two could appear in books simply about the lives of many women in modern USA and UK.  'Alice Opens the Box' by Denise Mina is the UK one and 'Necessary Women' set on the border of Alabama and Georgia.  In these stories murder is the only power the women have to survive; though you do wonder about their sanity.  These are bleak stories rather than true 'noir', primarily because the protagonists are so disempowered.

Some of the stories do have the detection element that I anticipated.  'The Convenience Boy' by Sujata Massey stands out because it is set in Japan with Japanese cultural perspectives whereas most of the other stories are set either in the UK or USA and all of them have the cultural norms of those countries as their basis.  This story is almost sweet rather than noir.  It is a nice peek into a different setting especially if you have not read crime fiction set in Japan either by Japanese or Western authors, though there is a lot more easily available in English these days.  'I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside' by Jessica Adams has a lightness about it.  It features a seaside clairvoyant able to detect crimes very easily.  It features many Brighton [UK version] tropes including a range of gay characters,  It was entertaining but not really 'noir' and Madame Romodo is not really a protagonist, more a spectator.  'Pussy Galore' by Liz Evans is set in London and rather erratically, but ultimately, effectively, switches between being cosy and sinister.  I found the old woman character credible, despite her great claims to a past in spying because in a part of London close to where the story is set I attended a discussion with former members of SOE, who like the character in this story retained some of the 'old skills'.

Some stories you feel 'so what?'.  'No Parachutes' by Karen Moline is in this category really simply detailing how the protagonist gets turned on by violence on an aeroplane, just as the author confesses she does at the end of the book.  'Take, for Example, Meatpie' by Jen Banbury is very much in this category about a woman who seduces a 16-year old schoolboy and introduces him to poetry and music before casting him loose again.  Yes, she might be in control, but there seems to be no real outcome so you are left dissatisfied.  'Queen of Mean' by Liza Cody is better, but is really simply a 'slice of life' story about a woman who with a mentor changes her life.  It lacks the necessary 'noir' but is interesting as a straightforward short story.

'Timequake' by Kurt Vonnegut
In theory, this book is a novel.  However, it is in fact more fitted to Vonnegut's short story and autobiographical books, 'Fates Worse Than Death' (1991), and 'A Man Without a Country' (2005).  This is a real mess of a book, really an assembly of fragments.  Some of them come from the first book he started writing called 'Timequake' which envisaged that in 2001 the universe reset by about ten years and everyone on Earth was compelled to live the preceding ten years again with no ability to change anything until the reached the starting point in 2001 once more.

Much of the book is a stream of consciousness about the author's career, members of Vonnegut's family and a number of fictional characters, notably Kilgore Trout who is a kind of older alter ego of Vonnegut's.  Little happens and the whole tone is like an old man (Vonnegut lived 1922-2007; the book was published in 1997) rambling on about things as he recalls them.  It encompasses themes that Vonnegut liked exploring.  He thought television was killing writing, reading and imagination though many of his statements could be used unchanged today for commentary on use of the internet and social media.  At times the book is juvenile in tone, especially when referring to sex and death, but maybe, despite his aversion to a lot in US society, Vonnegut is simply tied down by all the euphemisms that many Americans seem compelled to use, especially if they were born in the 1920s.  This may be in part to be humorous but it quickly becomes tiresome.

The decent part of the book is Vonnegut's discussion on the challenges of writing short stories, something he was able to live off for parts of his life.  By the 1990s he saw it as a dead art because of the dominance of television, not foreseeing its revival through self-published e-books and indeed free to view story websites.  You cannot make a lot of money off short stories but there are certainly numerous outlets across a massive spectrum of genres.  Vonnegut discusses the difficulties of ending a short story without killing everyone, a challenge I have encountered with my own short story collections especially when writing about war.  There is an implication that the short story must end with a 'big bang' even if it is simply a surprising revelation.  Amateur reviewers seem to insist on this, even arguing that a 'slice of life' story is not really a story at all.  One of Vonnegut's editors told him something along the lines of have the hero get on his horse and ride off into the sunset or an appropriate equivalent dependent on the context.  I do not know if that would satisfy many amateur reviewers who seem not to know what they want from a short story but certainly know what they do not want; some even see the approach as entirely illegitimate.  This is ironic given how much a boost short stories and episodic stories have received from e-book readers.  I would have liked more on this topic in 'Timequake'.

Overall this a very unsatisfactory book.  It would have been better if he had simply written a straightforward autobiography.  He could have discussed the same topics and even the same fictional characters as feature in this book, but it would not be the shambles that 'Timequake' is.  I can only imagine his age and standing in US science fiction were what meant a publisher would permit this book to come out.  It is really nothing more than a shabby scrapbook and the ramblings of a man whose talents had clearly dimmed.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Biscuit Blog: Lotus Speculoos biscuits

Given the bad reviews of my books with people feeling that English is not my first language; that I focus on the wrong aspects of history, my stories are too long/too short/not even stories and that my history essay collections are 'BORING' (to quote feedback), I have been advised to stop writing fiction and instead focus on other activities.  It has also been pointed out to me that with the bookshops filled with books written by vloggers, e.g. 'The Pointless Book: Started by Alfie Deyes, Finished by You' by Alfie Dyes [there is a sequel too], 'A Work in Progress' by Connor Franta, 'The Amazing Book is Not on Fire: The World of Dan and Phil' by Dan Howell and Phil Lester, 'Girl Online - Girl Online 1' by Zoe Sugg [a.k.a. Zoella - there is a book 2 as well], 'Life with a Sprinkle of Glitter' by Louise Pentland, 'Binge' by Tyler Oakley, 'Hello Life!' by Marcus Butler, 'All I Know Now' by Carrie Hope Fletcher and 'This Book Loves You' by Felix Kjellberg [writing as PewDiePie],  if I want to stand a chance of getting a book contract I would be better off starting online wittering on about stuff first.  The person suggesting that seemed to neglect the fact that I am not young, ditzy or glamorous enough to appear on the cover.

The suggestion was that I move my blog to being about biscuits.  These have an appeal right across the age range and you can express opinions on them without being attacked as a bigot or not 'understanding the real world'.  In addition, I lack the skills to cook food or make handicrafts, so sampling and reviewing biscuits made by others.  I am not sponsored by any company for this.  All the biscuits featured have been bought at my own expense and photographed by me.  This is not advertising because I am sure many of my reviews will be ambivalent, some even hostile.  However, given the range of biscuits out there, I hope I will enable customers to make the choices which are appropriate to them.

Lotus Biscoff Speculoos Biscuits



Given the time of year, it seemed sensible to start with a Speculoos biscuit.  I used the bastardised French term for them as is common in the UK.  They are know as Speculaas in Dutch/Flemish.  They are associated with the feast of St. Nicholas in early December.  However, you may be familiar with these biscuits from getting them on the side of your saucer in coffee shops.  They are medium-hard biscuits with a crystalised, 'sandy' texture.  They are lightly spiced though sweet and make a tasty counterpoint to coffee.

This particular brand came from Lidl.  You will find I buy quite a lot of my biscuits from Lidl as well as Asda, Co-op and Tescos.  In part this is because Lidl is cheap, but also because unlike the other three stores, they tend to stock a lot of products from continental Europe especially in the period around Christmas, which means you can break away from the standard British biscuit types common throughout the year.

These biscuits seem to fit the requirement for Speculoos biscuits perfectly.  They were not too sweet or too spicy.  They did not go soft too quickly and yet they were not overly sharp in terms of the sugar crystals.  Maybe it is beginner's luck, but I felt I had got off to an excellent start with my biscuit selection and had something that was ideal for the Christmas season.

Rating: 
*****

Monday, 28 December 2015

Out Of The EU. But How Far Out?

To me it seems probable given the high level of hostility in the UK to membership of the European Union (EU) that in 2016 at the promised referendum, a majority of voters will opt to remove the UK from the union.  I no longer mix with politicians but do come across middle and working class members of the public who seem happy, especially at this time of the year, to talk about politics.  They assume the EU is a bad thing and that leaving it will 'free' the UK from all its rules.  I was speaking to such a man just before Christmas and for me he summed up the next difficulty that the UK faces which the government does not seem to have considered, but I imagine (I hope) that civil servants are working on contingency plans for even now.

I said that the question of whether we left the EU seemed settled.  However, the question of what relationship we would have with it afterwards had to be hammered out.  I used the example of three countries which are outside the EU but have very different relationships with it: Norway, Morocco and the USA.  He dismissed this as any serious concern, because he said the referendum would simply be in/out.  I accepted that that was the case, but said that someone had to work out the precise details of the relationship.  I asked him what he thought the relationship would be like and he seemed to believe he could have his cake and eat it.

Norway is often cited as the model that Britain would favour, but it is a member of the European Economic Area (EEA) which means that while it has no right to vote on any EU legislation, it still has to accept the free movement of EU citizens into its country.  Now, the free movement of EU citizens is one of the key reasons why parties like UKIP and fellow travellers want to leave the EU.  Consequently the UK moving into the EEA would not remove that aspect.

Morocco is an associate member of the EU.  This might be the model most favoured by those seeking UK exit from the EU.  There are a range of associate agreements; they were started in 1961.  However, typically they allow the country to have access to specific markets, e.g. in agricultural or industrial goods or more recently free trade with the EU.  They have been focused on the Mediterranean littoral, the Balkans and Eastern Europe, but there are agreements with former colonies and states across the world.  Interestingly even this kind of relationship implies that the country works towards political, economic, trade and human rights reform to bring it in line with the EU.  Given that the UK is not a full democracy (the House of Lords is unelected as is the Head of State) and is seeking to abandon human rights legislation, we might find it difficult to get an agreement.  However, this one seems to be the status that people would favour, retaining the trade privileges without being bothered with the mobility of people or quotas.

The USA is friendly to the EU and has some bilateral agreements such as on extradition and on airline ownership.  There have been efforts at tariff agreements but anyone who has bought anything from the USA or tried to sell stuff there knows you get customs duties slapped on them at one end or the other.  It is the administration of these which is as painful as the actual cost.  If the UK wants to be out of the EU as much as the USA does, then this would be the model for selling even to France or between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, where much more stringent border controls would have to be introduced.  The UK could close its doors to anyone under this model just as the USA does and we could insist even daytrippers from France needed a visa if we so chose.

The thing is, no-one is yet speaking about the model that the UK will end up with, no doubt at the end of a lot of discussion.  You cannot simply walk out of an organisation you have been tied into for over forty years, especially if you want to keep many of the privileges that a majority of the anti-EU Britons seem to think are their right and not the result of that membership.

We spoke about the need to disengage from EU legislation in the British legal system.  The UK would be free from EU quotas on farming and fishing, but human rights legislation which is at the top of the list for many of those opposed to the EU, does not come from the EU, it comes from an often forgotten body, the Council of Europe which is entirely separate.  Unlike the EEC (the European Economic Community, the predecessor of the EU), the UK was a founder member of the Council of Europe in 1949.  The EEC was not established until 1957 and the UK did not join it until 1973.  The Council of Europe has 47 members; the EU only 28.  Thus, if we are to purge human rights from British law, the UK will also have to leave the Council of Europe and, as yet, that is not on the cards.

I asked the man whether he knew how difficult it is for people from outside the EU and EEA to travel to countries in the EU.  Anyone in the UK who has relations from Australia or South Africa or a host of other countries (though US citizens do not need a visa for tourism) knows how difficult it is for them to simply 'pop over' to France from the UK.  Generally it means 8 hours being interviewed at the French Embassy in London in order to be issued for a visa lasting 6 months.  The man said he was sure the French would not impose that on the British and surely we would go back to the situation in 1972.  I said that was making big assumptions about the willingness of the other EU states to tolerate the British leaving perhaps even the EEA but still making use of the benefits.  I also pointed out that the world of 2016 is very different from the world of 1972 in terms of protecting borders.  Given that those who want to leave the EU want to close the gates on EU citizens coming to our country, why can we assume the French and others will not simply do the same in return?

From this I moved on to how many Britons live outside the UK in other EU countries.  There are 761,000 living in Spain alone, probably augmented by about another 200,000 who live there for part of the year.  200,000 Britons live in France and again many others own property there; 115,000 live in Germany; 44,000 in the Netherlands; 28,000 in Belgium; 26,000 in Italy and 18,000 in Greece.  There are around another 48,000 in other EU countries.  This does not include UK students who study in EU universities; 9,500 UK students study in France, Spain, Germany and Italy.  Many of the Netherlands 41 universities have hundreds of British students.  With free movement of citizens Britons can apply to these universities and in some countries like Denmark have to pay no fees.  With numerous courses taught entirely in English (as these appeal to Chinese students as well) it is very easy to do.  However, once we leave the EU this will stop.  I know many who support the UK leaving the EU have no time for students anyway, but is is just another factor.  The man I was talking to said he did not think Spain or France would eject Britons resident in those countries.  I said: why not?  Given that UKIP has spoken of sending EU citizens home what is to stop these other countries doing the same in return?  An influx of over 1 million Britons being sent home, many of those from Spain being elderly, is going to be worked out.  Remember, before Greece joined the EEC it did not permit foreigners to own property in the country and Australia does not allow this either.

This is one challenge for those pressing for exit from the EU.  They assume that the rest of the EU will let the UK go quietly and to retain many of the privileges that it has in relation to those states, unchallenged.  No-one seems to be thinking this through and simply making assumptions that it will be all very nice for the UK and that EU states will not be resentful to Britain.  I know Britons think their country is special, but they have to recognise that other countries see it very differently.  The UK has long been a troublemaker in the EU and is exacerbating this situation at a time when the EU has enough to deal with handling terrorist attacks and the refugee situation.  The UK is making no concessions but in return expects the EU to just go on allowing tens of thousands of Britons to live, work and own property and to travel freely back and forth even when the UK is trying to stop that for EU citizens coming in.  To expect the rest of the EU to tolerate such treatment of their citizens and not seek a balance against UK people, is incredibly naive.  If we must leave the EU we need to be far better prepared for the consequences than is currently the case.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Animals - One Of Only Two Things That Will Get British People To Talk

A South African friend of mine who has lived in the UK for over a decade still complains about the lack of community in Britain and how that British people, even when neighbours, simply ignore each other.  I have lived in lots of different places in the past couple of decades from London to a rural Warwickshire village and many towns in southern England and some in the Midlands, somewhere in between in scale.  Aside from when I lived in Poplar in East London and that was in the 1990s, I have found her experience to be the same for me.  When people say 'they kept to themselves', in fact that goes for everyone in the street even the person the newspaper, radio or television journalist is talking to.  British people may gawp at their neighbours - I have had people literally standing in their front gardens staring at me but not acknowledging my greeting, most recently in the house I moved into this September, but they will not talk to them apart from in two exceptional cases.

This is in contrast to some other countries.  Yes, there is a fantasy of US suburbia where everyone talks.  I am sure my South African friend would find the community of her youth has now faded.  I have encountered it a bit in Belgium.  The pull by global society is always to be suspicious of your neighbour and have nothing to say to them.  The concerns about immigrants and terrorists, very often linked in people's minds, simply exacerbates this situation.  However, in some parts of some other countries, a basic level of communication has to be eroded.  In Britain, suspicion and silence come as the norm and it is only exceptional circumstances that shift this, not the other way around.

The first occasion when British people (and indeed anyone from abroad who catches on quickly) talk to each other, even those they may have been living next door to, is when something goes seriously wrong.  You need a whole spate of burglaries, not just a few, for the ice to be broken.  A murder or an abduction is usually necessary to really get people to talk to each other.  A big fire or a riot will have a similar effect.  There is a finite time for which this effect will last.  It is dependent on the severity of the incident and how long concerns about it go on.  The politician Tony Benn noted that when travelling on trains, people only began to talk to each other when the train broke down or was severely delayed.  Often once the journey resumed they returned to their silence.  Generally, if everything is going normally on public transport and you try to speak, people will distance themselves; will not respond and may even complain that you are a 'nutter'.

The tendency of crisis encouraging Britons to speak is probably declining itself as indignation, even fury, has replaced simply moaning as the UK's prime pastime.  These days I find it is mainly the elderly who speak during a problem; the younger people, even the middle aged, now simply text or tweet furiously about it or even shout into their phones, rather than complain about it with the people around them.

Twice over the past two years, I have discovered the other thing that will get British people to magically talk and that is animals.  It is said that the British love animals more than they love children and I think this is probably true.  While having a child can be a link to colleagues to strike up a conversation, an animal can do this with complete strangers, including your neighbours.  Two years ago I was renting in a room in a house owned by a Lithuanian family in South-West London.  They would often be out at work during the day and sometimes their bitch a golden Staffordshire bull terrier, who was very well kept and friendly and had the run of a large garden, would be whining to be taken for a walk when I got in, often hours ahead of the other residents.

One day to calm her I took her for a walk.  I had no experience in walking dogs except handling a friend's black Labrador for an afternoon about twenty years earlier.  In addition, I quickly learned that she only understood commands such as 'sit' and 'stay' in Lithuanian.  Lithuanian is one of the oldest languages in Europe which has not undergone much change except increase in vocabulary.  Proper nouns of all creatures including humans and dogs depending on whether they are the subject, object, being ordered, etc.  Anyway, with a gentle but firm hand I was able to walk the dog along the local river bank.  She was exceptionally well behaved, heeling and lying down if another dog approached.  The thing was that she was a key to suddenly a whole host of people talking to me.  Despite walking down the same streets five times per week, without the dog I was invisible; with her I seemed safe and worthwhile talking with to men, women and children of all ages.

A similar effect has happened now that I have returned to southern England.  As noted above, I have been renting this house since September, a little over three months now.  I have waved and tried to introduce myself to the neighbours in the close I live at the entrance to, to no avail.  No-one has given me their name or even responded to me walking up and saying 'hello'.  I know I look a little odd and people are particularly suspicious of middle-aged men, but the woman who lives in the house, who is younger than me, has had a similar reaction.  After three months, we have no idea of the names of any of the neighbours and apart from one man who drives a company van, no idea of what they do.  We have picked up scraps of information from seeing them coming and going, but nothing more.  If someone said to me that the person next door was called Mr. Smith and he was a local footballer or if they said he was Mr. Korzeniowska and he was a terrorist, I would have no idea if either of these statements was true or not.  I know he has two expensive cars, a blonde woman and small girl and a small dog, that is it.  I have not even seen his face in these dark evenings.

Now, this week something changed.  A cat decided that it lived in our house.  Every time we opened the front door it would run into the house and be reluctant to leave.  It is well tended and had a collar and bell but no tag.  We have been advised to check if it has a chip implanted but it is difficult to get her in our car and we do not know if we will have to pay to have this checked.  Given that this is a large housing estate with houses back-to-back and labyrinthine closes, she may have strayed off her usual patch and be confused how to get back.  She likes none of the food we have offered and keeps looking for toys we do not have.  The woman in my house went to everyone in our close and because it was about a cat suddenly they began talking.  It was none of theirs, but people who had ignored us repeatedly were suddenly giving their names and speaking.  Even the man who lives opposite who parks his van to block the exit of my car because he has lived in the close longer and feels he has that right, suddenly introduced himself when he saw us with the cat.  Putting up posters about her got complete strangers from neighbouring streets talking to us at random.  Our appearance has not changed; our behaviour has not changed, but abruptly we are perceived as people that can be spoken to.

 Dogs and cats like me.  Other people's dogs will often come to my heel or even get in my car.  However, personally I cannot stand them; they all stink.  Furthermore I think people who focus on cats and dogs lack an essential element of humanity.  Yet, it is clear now that they have an important use.  We are not allowed to keep any pets under our tenancy and we need to get this one back to the owner, who we fear may be abroad or away over the Christmas period.  However, in a couple of days she has done us a great service in making us appear acceptable and finally we have some of the communication we had wanted/expected.  How long we can 'milk' this opportunity I do not know.  However, I do recommend that if your British neighbours give you the silent treatment, borrow someone's cat or dog and it will change their view of you in an instant.  It is clear that buying a dog was the best thing the Lithuanians could have done to be accepted quickly in their particular suburb.  I have no understanding why this situation is the case, but it is something I have finally learned.  It does not make me a fan of either dogs or cats, but I can see their use.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

My Writing Is So Bad That It Makes People Uncomfortable

I have commented before on the reviews I receive of my books. The reviews are largely bad. Sometimes this is because I produce books that people do not want. Apparently my counter-factual history books cannot be in the alternate history section because I do not make firm enough decisions on what might have happened. My books of analysis are criticised for not being books of stories and ironically my books of stories are criticised for presenting the world as it might have been. Despite having 'Factual' and 'Counterfactual' sections in my books I apparently do not make the distinction clearly enough. My syntax is bad because my sentences are too long and also too fragmented. My books are 'BORING' as well.

Apparently despite my research, my portrayal of certain historical characters is seen as being speculative. I am apparently wrong to feel a victory for the Confederacy in the American Civil War or a US victory in Vietnam would be bad outcomes for the USA, though given the words of Donald Trump currently receiving such support I realise that I come from a very different planet to many Americans so it is inevitable that my views are different. A book featuring stories set in Britain is condemned because it is just about Britain. A story featuring the Mongols is apparently insufficiently pro-Mongol to have any credibility.

Some feel '[t]he concept is really clever. Unfortunately the writing is far from gripping.', possibly because not every story involves a huge battle. Even those who feel my books are 'interesting' will not give me better than the mediocre 3-star rating. Positive reviews present me as writing obscure stuff far away from the work of Harry Turtledove, though my books are pretty much like many of his collections, perhaps again I simply have insufficient fighting.

Nothing I do in my books, how I re-edit them or re-categorise them is enough to satisfy the majority of people who commentate on my books. I cannot find the right category for some people. I cannot write in the precise way certain readers want, though I spell check and grammar check repeatedly and revise again and again. I cannot write in American English though I have tried. I cannot turn myself into a Trump supporter and I know that there are enough books out there on Amazon in that style that fans of his have no need to come anywhere near my books. I cannot afford to use the copyrighted images that some people insist upon.

These are problems I have faced with my writing. The strength of feeling often surprises me; commentators take real offence at what I have dared to do. The attacks from so many sides make me want to abandon writing, which I know is the objective of many critics. Today's posting, however, is to indicate how much power I clearly have over people that I somehow 'lure' into reading my books. One has said that 'Even though I knew what I was buying, it just was not an enjoyable experience.' which makes my book sound like it is heroin and at least an enema. Indeed one commentator has said he found my book '[a]lmost painful'. As a writer I must be something like a venus flytrap. I am able to lure people in to buy my book and read it; not to return it for a refund as they can easily do, and yet write so badly that I make them really suffer to the extent that they cannot simply stop reading my book, but they have to utterly delete it from their e-reader.

I clearly have a weapon that maybe the British or perhaps the US government might want to pick up on. With training and practice it seems likely that I can write a book which is both so intriguing at yet so bad that it will kill someone. I know it is said that 'the pen is mightier than the sword' but had not realised how literal that the saying was. So far I guess I have produced books like a razor blade and with time I may work up to a stiletto and then a proper dagger.

Monday, 30 November 2015

The Books I Read In November

Fiction
'A Body in the Bath House' by Lindsey Davis
This is a book from the long-running Falco series of books, featuring the eponymous Roman detective active in the 1st century CE.  I read the first in the series 'The Silver Pigs' (1989) many years ago.  This is the 13th book of 20, published in 2001.  Davis has moved on to writing stories featuring Falco's daughter.

This novel was not at all good.  The books are written in the first person with Falco looking back on his life.  However, despite Davis's work in terms of ensuring historical accuracy, Falco's manner is far too late 20th century/early 21st century.  The complexities of Falco's family and connections are complex and add little to the story except for confusion and coincidence later in the story.

This story mainly focuses on Falco resolving issues at the construction of the palace at Fishbourne in southern England.  Thus, Davis puts in far too many jokes about unreliable builders and uses construction jargon from modern times.  The jokes are very feeble and not humorous if you have never had an extension built.  The key problem with the book is that it progresses with minimal direction.  Various people die whether from accidents or murders but there is little sense of urgency.  Ultimately murders both in Rome and in Britain are resolved almost by accident.  Overall this book seemed to be a waste of effort.  There were interesting components but they were assembled in a way which was listless and not engaging.  I am unlikely to read any more of Davis's books.

'The Time Ships' by Stephen Baxter
Down the years friends have often recommended me to read certain books.  Typically I have loathed the recommendations and as a consequence if someone suggests I should read a book, let alone says I 'have to' read it, then I go out of my way to avoid it.  This book was lent to me by a friend and running short of science fiction or fantasy books, I turned to it.  It is billed as 'The Authorized Sequel to The Time Machine'.  It is not clear who authorised it, but I imagine it was the estate of H.G. Wells.  As we know from the difficulties that 'The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen' (2003) movie faced in trying to feature the lead character of 'The Invisible Man' (1897), the estate guards these things very assiduously.  'The Time Machine' (1895) is a novella and at over 600 pages, I feel Baxter has lost some of the essence of the original.  The tone is pretty well replicated of a Victorian character written in the first person.  However, Baxter does tend to betray his own era especially in portraying the superstructures created by the advanced Morlocks and then the Universal Constructors that seem to be physical manifestations of the internet.  Baxter's problem is that he simply has too many ideas that he feels compelled to jam into the book.  This is in contrast to Wells who maintained a tighter focus, exploring a concept per book.

Wells's book first appeared as a magazine serial and it is ironic that because of the multiplicity of ideas that Baxter feels compelled to include his book ends up being very episodic.  Any block could have been a book in itself.  There is travel to the advanced Morlock society in which a vast sphere has been built around the Sun.  There is a brief episode in which the time traveller meets his younger self.  There is an alternate 1938 and 1944 caused by time travel and involving an enduring First World War.  This seems to have been caused by the Kaiserschlacht of March 1918 succeeding and an assassination of a leading Allied general in Paris, I assume Marshal Foch.  There is a return to the Paleocene era; a journey to an Earth wrecked by a perpetual ice age brought on by climate change from pollution and a return to the original future of Morlocks and Eloi envisaged in the original novel.  Any one of these would have been sufficient for Baxter to explore his ideas of parallel realities allowing time travel and changes to history shifting the traveller into an alternate rather than actually changing that line of history; plus the sense that humans are almost doomed to becoming Morlocks or Eloi in one way or another.  I am never happy with beneficent super-powerful creatures with vast constructs and Baxter manages to get two of these in.  The visits to the alternate mid-20th century and the prehistoric period are much more tolerable.

I enjoyed this book more than I anticipated.  However, I feel it is too long.  I feel that it should not be perceived as a sequel to 'The Time Machine' but something simply using the tone of that book.  It might appeal more to readers who are fans of 'hard' science fiction.  Steampunk fans may enjoy the middle element of the book.  However, this is clearly a segmented novel and ultimately it is less overall than the sum of its parts.  I have been ambivalent about Baxter's work and this hardly encourages me to seek out any more.  However, in contrast to other book recommendations I have received, I am not angry with my friend for proposing this book.

'The Daydreamer' by Ian McEwan
My book choices recently have proven to be so poor that I almost feel I should start up a separate blog entitled 'Books Not to Read'.  Given how harsh and dismissive a large portion of online reviews are, I feel at least I am fair in my portrayal of the books.  I do wonder, sometimes, how these people managed to get their books published.  As someone once said to me, it is clear that it is not the book which gets it published, it is the person.  This is one reason why established authors, let alone celebrities, get poor quality books out there and why sales of Robert Galbraith's book, 'The Cuckoo's Calling (2013) rose by 156,866% when it was revealed that they were written by J.K. Rowling.

As you can imagine from this lead-in, I was not pleased with 'The Daydreamer' (1995).  I bought it about the time I read 'The Innocent' (1990).  That was a gritty thriller set in 1950s Berlin; was well researched and engaging.  I was irritated with reviews of the 1993 movie of the novel, as there was criticism that Isabella Rossellini was told old to play Maria in the movie.  She was 40 years old at the time and the character is 36 in the book.  Critics made the lazy assumption that innocent had to be the female character rather than Leonard played by Campbell Scott.

That aside, 'The Daydreamer' comes nowhere close to the earlier book by McEwan.  It is a conceit.  It is supposed to be a book written for children that adults can enjoy.  It features a number of episodes from the life of Peter Fortune between the ages of 10-12.  He daydreams himself into a number of scenarios, quite a fair portion of which envisage him swapping bodies in order to learn a lesson.  Yes, it is written in language which could be comprehensible by children of that age and could be seen as a collection of modern fables.  However, even if you accept these aspects, it is highly flawed.

It appears to be as nastily autobiographical as Martin Amis's work and, as regular readers know, I think Amis is highly over-rated.  It is set in a world that only exists in the mind of Michael Bond.  Aside from the occasional references to computer games, it could be inhabiting that stylised third quarter of the 20th century; it barely scrapes into the fourth quarter.  It is as if white middle class southern urban England has been distilled to its fullest.  This is the kind of context that the grandchildren of Enid Blyton's characters would have ended up living in.  As such, this is more unrealistic than the fantasies Peter ends up in.  It would have been more refreshing set on a fantasy island.  I have no idea why McEwan wrote this book, it seems to have been an utter waste of his time.  I have been reminded of the lesson of not to fall into the trap of assuming that if an author can write one good or even decent book, that others they produce will come anywhere close.

I have another of McEwan's slim volumes on my pile which I will read, but then it might be time to give up on him entirely.

Friday, 20 November 2015

'What If?'s I Have Written About

Now that I have been publishing 'what if?' analysis books and collections of short stories for three years, I thought it might be useful to identify the topics I have explored and in which book. I intend to update this as I publish more, so it is a snapshot of what is currently available. My 'what if?' books divide into two categories, those which had chapters of analysis and those with fictional stories set in the alternative context.

'What If?' Novels
'His Majesty's Dictator'
'Provision: A What If? Novel of the Second World War'

Collections of 'What If?' Fiction
'Another World’s War: What If? Stories of the Second World War’
'From Another Infamy: What If? Stories of the Second World War'
‘Detour: What If? Stories of Americans’

'Taking the Detour: What If? Stories of Americans'
‘Déviation: What If? Stories of the French’
‘Diversion: What If? Stories of the British’
‘Route Diverted: What If? Stories of the British’
‘Umleitung: What If? Stories of Germany’


Books of Alternate History Analysis
‘Other Roads: Alternate Outcomes of the Second World War’
‘Other Roads II: Further Alternate Outcomes of the Second World War’
‘Other Roads III: Additional Alternate Outcomes of the Second World War’
‘In Other Trenches: Alternate Outcomes of the First World War’
‘In Other Trenches II: Further Alternate Outcomes of the First World War’
'Other Lives: Alternate Outcomes for Famous People in History'

‘In Another America: Views and Reviews of Alternate Histories for the USA in the 17th-20th Centuries’
‘Down Other Tracks: Alternate Outcomes of the 19th Century’
'Other Exits: Alternate Outcomes for Tudor and Stuart Monarchs’
'On Other Fields: Alternate Outcomes of the Middle Ages'
‘Other Earths: Alternate Outcomes of Geological Developments and Prehistoric Times’


In the following list, the date is the date of the divergence from our history. Some chapters reflect on a number of different divergences so you will see some repeated next to different dates.

An 'A' indicates that the chapter is analysis; 'S' that it is a story and 'N' shows a full-length novel. Very often I have produced a story to match a piece of analysis. The date in brackets after the 'S' or 'N' shows when the story is set. Some stories are set years or even centuries after the divergence in order to show how the world would have developed differently from that time.

The titles of the different books featuring a specific chapter should be obvious. The number after 'Ch.' is the chapter in the book which has that analysis or story.

Summary of Counterfactuals

4.54 Billion Years Ago: Earth's Axis at 0° to the Sun's Axis
– A: ‘Other Earths’ Ch. 01

4.54 Billion Years Ago: Earth's Axis at 90° to the Sun's Axis
– A: ‘Other Earths’ Ch. 01

4.54 Billion Years Ago: No Metal on Earth
– A: ‘Other Earths’ Ch. 02

3.6 Billion Years Ago: Inverted Earth – land as seas; sea as land
– A: ‘Other Earths’ Ch. 04

200 Million Years Ago: Pangea Did Not Break Up
– A: ‘Other Earths’ Ch. 03

100 Million Years Ago: Inland Sea in Australia
– A: ‘Other Earths’ Ch. 07

75 Million Years Ago: Western Seaway Remained in North America
- S (1817): 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 01

55 Million Years Ago: Greenland Farther South
– A ‘Other Earths’ Ch. 06

55 Million Years Ago: Horses did not Evolve
– A: ‘Other Earths’ Ch. 10

35 Million Years Ago: Antarctica Farther North
– A: ‘Other Earths’ Ch. 05

15 Million Years Ago: No Isthmus Developed Between North and South America
- S (1998): 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 16

200,000 Years Ago: Women are as Strong as Men
– A: ‘Other Earths’ Ch. 11

30,000 Years Ago: Dover Isthmus Continued
– A: ‘Other Earths’ Ch. 09 

5600 BCE: Crimea Became an Island
– A: ‘Other Earths’ Ch. 08

4000 BCE: Sahara Desert Remained Green
– A ‘Other Earths’ Ch. 12

323 BCE: Alexander the Great Lived Longer
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 01

52 BCE Julius Caesar Defeated and Killed in Gaul
- S (52 BCE): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 16

44 BCE: Julius Caesar not Assassinated
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 02 

9: German Tribes Defeated in Teutoberg Forest
- S (21): ‘Umleitung’ Ch. 03

62: Romans Expelled from Britain
- S (62): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 03

337: Paganism Persisted
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 01

520: Romano-British Rule Persisted in Britain
- S (801): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 03

732: Umayyad Forces Won at Poitiers
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 02
- S (1699): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 03

878: Alfred the Great Defeated
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 03
- S (879): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 13

1002: Burgundy Persisted
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 04

1020: Viking Colonies Established Around Chesapeake Bay
- S (1586): 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 15

1035: William the Bastard Did Not Become Duke of Normandy
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 03
- S (1041): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 13

1066: King Harold II Defeated at Stamford Bridge
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 05
           King Harold II Victorious at Battle of Hastings
- A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 06
- S (1088): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 14

1071: The Byzantines Won the Battle of Manzikert
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch.17

1098: The 1st Crusade Failed to Capture Antioch
- S (1098): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 04

1099: The 1st Crusade Failed to Capture Jerusalem
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 07

1135-47: A Different Anarchy
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 08

1181: Abu Ya'qub Yusuf I Lived Longer
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 19

1190: Friedrich Barbarossa Survived; 3rd Crusade Very Successful
- S (1193): ‘Umleitung’ Ch. 14 

1203: Duchy of Brittany Remained Independent
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 13
- S (2011): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 02

1204: The 4th Crusade Did Not Damage the Byzantine Empire
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 17

1217: Prince Louis of France Became King of England
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 09
- S (1686): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 05

1241: The Mongols Did Not Turn Back from Europe
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 12
- S (1272): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 06

1268: The Crusader States Persisted
- A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 11

1270: The Chinese Discovered the Americas
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 10
- S (1524): 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 09

1328: The English Won the Battle of Bannockburn
- S (1346): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 17

1346: No Black Death
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 14
          Black Death Killed a Majority of Europeans
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 15
          The French Won the Battle of Crécy
- S (1346): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 17

1376: The Black Prince Lived Longer
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 16 

1415: The English Lost the Battle of Agincourt
- S (1415): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 10

1422: England Won the Hundred Years’ War
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 16
- S (1432): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 11
- S (1649): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 20

1453: The Byzantine Empire Persisted
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 17

1475: German Explorer Discovered America
- S (1475): ‘Umleitung’ Ch. 06

1481: Sultan Mehmed II Lived Longer
– A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 18

         Christopher Columbus Sailed to the Americas for Genoa rather than Spain
- S (1512): 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 03

1485: King Richard III Won at Bosworth Field
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 01
- S (1783): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 13

1492: A Moorish State Remained in Iberia
- A: ‘On Other Fields’ Ch. 19 
           
1493: Refugees from the Emirate of Granada Settled in North America
- S (1493/1978): 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 18      

1502: Prince Arthur Came to the English Throne
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 02

1511: Catherine of Aragon Had a Surviving Son
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 04
- S (1534): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 10

1517: Martin Luther Died Younger
- S (1517): ‘Umleitung’ Ch. 08

1536: King Henry VIII Died in a Jousting Accident
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 05
- S (1536): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 06
          Anne Boleyn Did not Miscarry
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 05

1537: Jane Seymour Did not Die in Childbirth
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 06

1538: King Henry VIII Married Marie of Guise
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 07

1540: King Henry VIII Found Anne of Cleves Attractive
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 08

1553: King Edward VI Lived Longer
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 09

1554: Queen Elizabeth I Brought to the Throne Earlier
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 10

1558: Calais Remained English
- S (1790): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 02
          Princess Elizabeth Did Not Become Queen
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 11

1564: Queen Elizabeth I Married and Had Children
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 12

1571; 1578; 1583; 1586: Queen Elizabeth I Assassinated
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 13
- S (1573): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 16

1588: The Spanish Armada was Victorious
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 14 

1605: The Gunpowder Plot was Successful
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 15

1632: King Gustavus Adolphus Lived and Won the 30 Years’ War
- S (1635): ‘Umleitung’ Ch. 17

1643: Oliver Cromwell Killed in Battle
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 04
          King Charles I Won the Civil War
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 16
- S (1654): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 17

1650: A Constitution Introduced to Britain
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 17
- S (1717): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 08

1664: Nieuw Nederland Persisted
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 01
- S (1986): ‘Detour’ Ch. 05

1685: The Duke of Monmouth Victorious
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 18
- S (1687): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 11

1688: King James II Remained on the Throne
– A: ‘Other Exits’ Ch. 19 

1745: The Jacobite Rebellion Succeeded
- S (1749): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 02

1750s: No Industrial Revolution
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 01

1759: North America became Largely French
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 02
- S (1763): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 19
- S (1768): ‘Detour’ Ch. 13

1760: Prussia Destroyed
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 02
- S (1760): ‘Umleitung’ Ch. 01

1770s: Steam Car Racing Became A Sport
- S (1785): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 10

1777: George Washington Died at Valley Forge
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 05
- S (1778): ‘Detour’ Ch. 09

1778: The British Won the American War of Independence
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 03
- S (1983): 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 02

1787: Federal Convention Led to Independent American States
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 04
- S (1976): ‘Detour’ Ch. 16

1790: French Revolution Defeated
- S (1890): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 09

1792: Japan Opened Up to the World Earlier
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 10

1794: Napoleon’s Career Less Successful
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 03
- S (1794): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 07

1799: Napoleon Made No Impact on French Politics
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 05
          Napoleon Did Not Abolish Balloon Troops
- S (1810): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 15 

1803: Duke of Wellington Killed in India
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 06
- S (1811): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 06

          Louisiana Not Sold to the USA
- S (1992): ‘Detour’ Ch. 10

1805: France Conquered Britain
- S (1809): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 07

1812: Napoleon More Successful
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 04
- S (2000): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 12

          USA More Successful in War of 1812
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 05
- S (1815) 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 11

          USA Less Successful in War of 1812
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 05
- S (1814): ‘Detour’ Ch. 17

          Indian Reserve Preserved
- S (1828): 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 05

1813: Saxony Rather than Prussia Joined 6th Coalition
- S (1815): ‘Umleitung’ Ch. 13

1830s: Colonialism Did Not Catch On
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 17
            Otto von Bismarck Remained a Lawyer
- S (1872): ‘Umleitung’ Ch. 09

1839: Belgium not Created
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 06

1840: Napoleon III Executed
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 07
          Queen Victoria Assassinated
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 08
- S (1840): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 04

           Republic of Rio Grande Survived
- S (1863): 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 07

1842: Britain Held Afghanistan
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 09
- S (1963): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 12

1844: Henry Clay Became US President
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 07
          Congresswoman Elected in New Jersey
- S (1845): ‘Detour’ Ch. 12

1845: Texas Remained an Independent Republic
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 06
- S (1945): ‘Detour’ Ch. 15

1848: Hungary Broke Entirely from Austria
- A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 14
          King Friedrich III came to the Prussian Throne
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 18

          Mexico Remained Larger
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 08
- S (1996): ‘Detour’ Ch. 01

1852: Earlier American Civil War and Earlier Deseret
- S (1856): ‘Detour’ Ch. 06

1857: Deseret was Sustained
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 09
          The Indian Mutiny Succeeded
- S (1871): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 04

1858: Napoleon III Assassinated
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 07

1861: King Friedrich III came to the Prussian Throne
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 18
          The Confederacy Won the American Civil War
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 10
- S (1868): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 11

1862: Otto von Bismarck was Less Successful
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 08

1863: Abraham Lincoln Assassinated Sooner; Herbert Hamlin Died of Pneumonia
- S (1863): 'Taking the Detour'

1865: Abraham Lincoln Not Assassinated
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 07
- S (1867): ‘Detour’ Ch. 03

1866: Kaiser Wilhelm I was Restrained Less
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 13

1867: Hungary Broke Entirely from Austria
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 14
          Russian Colonies Remained in North America
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 11
- S (1940): ‘Detour’ Ch. 20

1870: France Won the Franco-Prussian War
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 15
- S (1871): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 17

1871: The Taiping State Persisted
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 11
          Italy not Unified
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 12

1878: War between Britain and Russia
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 16
- S (1878): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 14

          Kaiser Friedrich III Came to the Throne
- A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 18

1883: The Channel Tunnel was Constructed Earlier
- S (1883): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 19

1888: Kaiser Friedrich III Lived Longer
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 18
          The Boulanger Coup D’État Succeeded
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 19

1889: DC Electricity Used for US Supply to Homes
- S (1937): 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 20

1892: Winston Churchill Died Younger
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 02

1895: Extensive Monorail Network Built in Germany
- S (1909): ‘Umleitung’ Ch. 10

1898: France Victorious in the Fashoda Crisis
- S (1898): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 21 

1900: King Edward VII Assassinated
– A: ‘Down Other Tracks’ Ch. 20
          The Boers Won the 2nd Anglo-Boer War
- S (1902): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 18

1902: Japan Became an Ally of Germany
– A: ‘Other Trenches 1’ Ch. 04

1907: Stalin Died before the October Revolution
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 09
          The State of Sequoyah was Formed
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 12
- S (1927): ‘Detour’ Ch. 03

1910s: Oil Exploration in North Sea Began Sooner
- S (1941): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 08

1912: Theodore Roosevelt Re-Elected US President
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 13
- S (1915): ‘Detour’ Ch. 07

          Irish Free State Covered All of Ireland
- S (1913): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 15 

1914:
          Mussolini Remained a Left-Wing Journalist
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 11

          The First World War Never Occurred
– A: ‘Other Trenches 1’ Ch. 01
          Third Balkans War
– A: ‘Other Trenches 2’ Ch. 01
          Industrial Action Halted the First World War
- A: ‘Other Trenches 2’ Ch. 02
          Britain Did not Enter the First World War
– A: ‘Other Trenches 1’ Ch. 02
- S (1914): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 01

          Germany Invaded the Netherlands
– A: ‘Other Trenches 1’ Ch. 03

          The German Plans Succeeded
– A: ‘Other Trenches 2’ Ch. 03

          Italy Fought as Part of the Triple Alliance
– A: ‘Other Trenches 2’ Ch. 04

          The Ottoman Empire Remained Neutral
– A: ‘Other Trenches 2’ Ch. 05

          Germany Conquered Britain
- S (1941): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 15

1915:
          Germany Ran Out of Raw Materials
– A: ‘Other Trenches 1’ Ch. 05

          Unrestricted Submarine Warfare Introduced Sooner
– A: ‘Other Trenches 2’ Ch. 06
– N (1948): ‘His Majesty's Dictator’

          The Gallipoli Offensive Succeeded
– A: ‘Other Trenches 1’ Ch. 06

          Austria-Hungary Defeated by Russia
– A: ‘Other Trenches 2’ Ch. 07

1916:
          Russia Collapsed Earlier
– A: ‘Other Trenches 1’ Ch. 07

          Sustained US-Mexican War
– A: ‘Other Trenches 1’ Ch. 08

          Full Scale British-German Naval Battle
– A: ‘Other Trenches 2’ Ch. 13

          Germans Developed Effective Tanks
– A: ‘Other Trenches 1’ Ch. 13
- S (1918): ‘Umleitung’ Ch. 12

          Germans Captured Verdun Fortresses
– A: ‘Other Trenches 2’ Ch. 08
- S (1916): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 18

          Charles E. Hughes Won the US Presidential Election
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 14

          British Developed an Airship Force
- S (1916): ‘Umleitung’ Ch. 02

1917:
          Negotiated Peace
– A: ‘Other Trenches 1’ Ch. 09

          Austria-Hungary Defeated by Russia
– A: ‘Other Trenches 2’ Ch. 07

          USA Did not Enter the First World War
– A: ‘Other Trenches 2’ Ch. 09
- S (1923): 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 12
- N (1917): 'The Three Eagles' (forthcoming)

          French Army Mutinies More Extensive
– A: ‘Other Trenches 1’ Ch. 10

          British Army Mutinied Extensively
- S (1919): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 19

          The Bolshevik Revolution Failed
– A: ‘Other Trenches 2’ Ch. 10

          Treaty of Brest-Litovsk Less Extreme
– A: ‘Other Trenches 1’ Ch. 11

1918:
          Kaiserschlacht Sustained
– A: ‘Other Trenches 1’ Ch. 12

          French Developed Stormtroopers
– A: ‘Other Trenches 2’ Ch. 12

          Britain Did Not Impose Conscription on Ireland
– A: ‘Other Trenches 2’ Ch. 11 

1919:
       The First World War Continued
– A: ‘Other Trenches 2’ Ch. 14

1920: Treaty of Sèvres Enforced
– A: ‘Other Trenches 1’ Ch. 14
          Prohibition not Introduced
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 15

1924: Lenin Lived 10 Years Longer
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 10
         Hitler Deported from Germany
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 01
- S (1925): ‘Umleitung’ Ch. 16

1929: Gustav Stresemann Lived Longer
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 13
- S (1936): ‘Umleitung’ Ch. 07

          No Wall Street Crash
- S (1938): 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 17

1931: Winston Churchill Died Younger
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 02
          Stronger Chinese Resistance to Japanese Invasion
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 03
- S (1931): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 05

1932: Hitler not Granted German Citizenship
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 02

1933: Germany-Poland War
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 02
- S (1933): ‘Umleitung’ Ch. 04

1934: Franklin Roosevelt Overthrown by a Coup D’État
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 12
- S (1944): ‘Detour’ Ch. 11

          Mao Zedong was Killed
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 17

          Coup D’État in France
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 04
- S (1939): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 14

          Nazi Coup D’État in Austria Successful
– A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 01
- S (1934): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 10

           King Alexander of Yugoslavia Not Assassinated
- S (1943): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 15

1935: Mussolini Overthrown
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 11

1936: Edward VIII Remained King of the United Kingdom
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 14
- S (1955): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 07

          The Maginot Line was Built Along the Belgian Border
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 06

          Italy and Germany Did Not Become Allies
– A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 02
- S (1941): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 07

          Remilitarisation of the Rhineland Resisted
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 03

1937: The Republicans Won the Spanish Civil War
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 04
          The USA Joined Second World War from the Start
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 06
- S (1938): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 12

1938: Appeasement Succeeded in Avoiding War
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 05
- S (1940): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 07
- S (1948): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 14

          Neville Chamberlain was a German Collaborator
– S (1938): ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 03

          Germany-Czechoslovakia War of 1938
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 07
- S (1938): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 04

          Hitler Assassinated
- A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 18

          Mussolini Assassinated
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 11

          Stalin Debilitated by a Stroke
- S (1938/1941): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 19

1939:
         Allies Unable to Break the Enigma Cipher
- A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 14

         France Invaded Germany to Support Poland
 - S (1939): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 16

1940:
Jewish Refuge Established in Alaska
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 17
          Britain Invaded Norway
- S (1940): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 05

          German Invasion of Norway Defeated
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 08

          USSR Invaded Norway
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 07
- S (1940): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 13

          Japan Invaded the USSR
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 08
- S (1942): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 09

          Lord Halifax Became British Prime Minister
– S (1940): ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 05

          German Invasion of Belgium Halted
- A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 04

          German Invasion of France Defeated
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 09
- S (1940): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 01

          Anglo-French Union Formed
- A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 05
- S (1965): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 18

          The BEF was Eliminated at Dunkirk
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 10

          Charles De Gaulle Killed in an Aeroplane Crash
- S (1949): 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 08

          Italy Did not Enter the Second World War
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 09

          French Government Went to the Brittany Redoubt
- S (1940): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 13

          The French Government Relocated to Algeria
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 11
- S (1941): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 01
- S (1942): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 06

          Germany Invaded Switzerland
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 12
- S (1940): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 10

          Germany Invaded Spain and Portugal
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 15

          Spain and Portugal Fought Actively for the Axis
- A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 09
- S (1940): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 16

          German Invasion of Britain Failed
- A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 06
- S (1940): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 11
- S (1941): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 01

          German Invasion of Ireland
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 13

          Germany Invaded Iceland
- A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 10

          Italy Victorious in Greece
- A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 07
- S (1940): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 04

          Italy Invaded Palestine
- S (1940): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 03

          Mussolini Dismissed Earlier
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 11

          Poison Gas Weapons Used
- A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 17

1941:
         Franklin Roosevelt Only Allowed to Serve 2 Terms
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 16
- S (1951): ‘Detour’ Ch. 02

         Yugoslavia Remained Independent
- S (1943): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 15

         The British Held Crete
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 14
- S (1966): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 20

          Germany Invaded Cyprus
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 16

          Germany Invaded Bulgaria
- A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 11

          Soviet Response More Effective to German Invasion
- A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 08
- S (1941): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 19

          Latvia Became an Ally of Germany
- S (1943): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 12

          Vichy France Fought Actively for the Axis
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 12

          USA Concentrated on Fighting in the Pacific
- S (1944): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 09

1942:
Germans Won the Second World War
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 01
 - S (1968): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 20

          Japan Won the Pacific War
- A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 18

          Allies Unable to Break Shark Version of Enigma Cipher
- N (1943): 'Provision'

          Singapore was Better Defended
- S (1942): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 17

          Japan Invaded Ceylon
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 13
- S (1942): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 02

          Allies Invaded Norway
- A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch.12

          German Forces Reached Palestine and Iraq
- A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 13
- S (1942): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 03

          Germans Victorious at Leningrad and Stalingrad
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 16
- S (1942): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 18

          German Forces Captured Grozny
- S (1942): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 06

1943:
Japan Invaded India
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 13
          Allies Lost Battle of the Atlantic
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 15
- S (1943): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 09

          Allies Invaded Brittany
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 17
- S (1943): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 19

          Allies Tried to Liberate the Channel Islands
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 17

          Operation Mincemeat Failed
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 18

          Allies Invaded Greece Rather than Italy
- S (1943): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 15

          Italian Armistice Handled Better
- A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 14

          A Civil War in Hungary
- S (1943): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 14

1944:
         Germany Developed an Atomic Bomb
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 19
- S (1944): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 17

          Soviets Developed an Atomic Bomb First
- A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 20

          D-Day Landings in Pas-de-Calais
- A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 16

          France Became a Communist Country
- S (1945): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 11
- S (1974): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 08

          Hitler Assassinated
- A: ‘Other Roads 2’ Ch. 19
- S (1944): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 02

          Germans Used Numerous Jet Bombers
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 19
- S (1956): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 18

          Bridge at Arnhem Held by Allies
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 18
- S (1944): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 08

          Communists Won Greek Civil War
- A: ‘Other Roads 3’ Ch. 20

          The Soviets Aided the Warsaw Uprising
- S (1957): ‘Another World’s War’ Ch. 08

          No US Atomic Bomb Built and Invasion of Japan
- S (1946): ‘From Another Infamy’ Ch. 01

1945:
         Morgenthau Plan Implemented
– A: ‘Other Roads 1’ Ch. 20

         Bakker-Schut Plan Implemented
- S (1956): ‘Umleitung’ Ch. 11

1946: Joseph McCarthy not Elected a Senator
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 18

1948: More Alert US Foreign Policy
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 19

          Britain Became Part of the USA
- S (1952): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 16

          Thomas Dewey Elected US President as Expected
- S (1950): 'Taking the Detour' Ch.10

1950: USA Defeated in Korean War
- S (1950): 'Detour' Ch. 18

          USA Used Atomic Bombs in Korean War
- S (1985): 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 14

1952: Robert Taft Elected US President; Nixon, Vice-President
- S (1963): ‘Detour’ Ch. 08

1956: British Victorious in Suez Crisis; Invaded Libya
- S (1956): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 12

1960: Richard Nixon Won the 1960 US Presidential Election
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 15

1961: Charles De Gaulle Assassinated
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 16
- S (1961): ‘Déviation’ Ch. 05

          The Beatles were Convicted
- S (1961): ‘Umleitung’ Ch. 05

1962: USA Invaded Cuba
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 20
- S (1967): 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 04

          Tactical Atomic Weapons Used by Cuba
- S (2003): ‘Detour’ Ch. 19

1963: John F. Kennedy not Assassinated
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 21
          East Germany Invaded West Berlin
- S (1963): ‘Umleitung’ Ch. 18

1966: Mao Zedong was Ousted from Power
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 17

1968: Robert Kennedy not Assassinated
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 23

1969: USSR-China Third World War
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 22

1974: Lord Mountbatten Became Head of a British Junta
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 19
- S (1975): ‘Route Diverted’ Ch. 05

          Richard Nixon Remained in Office
– A: ‘In Another America’ Ch. 24

1977: Hans Schleyer’s Kidnappers Found
- S (1978): ‘Umleitung’ Ch. 15

1980: Ronald Reagan Fiasco in Broadcast Debate
- S (1980): 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 19

1981: Ronald Reagan Assassinated
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 20
- S (1987): ‘Detour’ Ch. 14

1984: Indira Gandhi Was Not Assassinated
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 18
         Margaret Thatcher Assassinated
– A: ‘Other Lives’ Ch. 21
- S (1984): ‘Diversion’ Ch. 09

2000: Al Gore Confirmed as US President
- S (2009): 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 06

2003: President Al Gore Assassinated
- S (2009): 'Taking the Detour' Ch. 06