Education and Employment

As you’ve probably noticed from my photo on the Home page, I celebrated my twenty-first birthday many years ago. I grew up in sunny Southend in south-east England and went to study economics at the London School of Economics. It was the late sixties (yes, I was there and I do remember parts of it) and times were interesting for a while. Student revolution was rife, and I recall being in the main lecture theatre one edgy morning watching an anarchist holding aloft a sledgehammer in front of the stage, waiting for students to vote on a motion that would allow him to demolish substantial chunks of the capitalist behemoth. It never happened and I never rose to any great heights in the revolutionary hierarchy, preferring to be boring and spend time in the library to study for my degree. But one night  I was delegated the crucial task of guarding the cigarette machines in the bar during the student occupation of the building – heady days.

My studies over, I scoured the mean streets and offices of London for employment. But my potential career in the burgeoning computing industry was cut short when I managed to fail the aptitude test at a leading company by a “significant margin”, and it’s probably best not to dwell on the other interviews where I bombed.  Eventually I found gainful employment teaching economics in schools, then in a further education college, and finally at the University of Abertay in Dundee, Scotland. I taught and researched economics there for a quarter of a century, and enjoyed my time with students and staff.  But the fateful day dawned when I realised I wanted to write fiction rather than fact, so I left my job to work on 500 Parts Per Million.

My Career as an Economist

Before I took the plunge to be a fiction writer I worked as a university economist. Hundreds of students managed to pass their exams in spite of my cockney accent and confused ramblings, and I even found time to publish a modest number of academic papers in an eclectic range of subjects.  If you’re interested, you can see the titles of most of them by following the link below:


I enjoyed teaching and researching economics, but there’s no doubt that the “dismal science” as Malthus once termed it has acquired many detractors over the years. How could this be otherwise when the media presents us with a procession of economic sages pontificating gloomily on house prices, interest rates, quantitative easing, Eurozone woes, financial crises, unemployment, oil prices, the cost of living and so on? This is a pity, because I like to think of economics as a subject which illuminates the fundamental question of how to use our scarce resources wisely, rather than the narrow box of free markets and economic growth that many politicians and business people have wrongly consigned it to.

In this sense, thinking about the environment, how we harm it and how we protect it, should be an important focus for the economist. For my part I became very interested in global warming and the business risks associated with it, and published two papers related to these topics which you can access from the following links:

Business Risk and Climate Change: a regional time series analysis, Journal of International Business Studies, Vol. 38, No. 3, pp. 474-480, May, 2007. (http://www.palgrave-journals.com/jibs/journal/v38/n3/pdf/8400266a.pdf)

Time series modelling of global mean temperature for managerial decision-making, Journal of Environmental Management, Vol. 76, No. 1, pp. 61-70, 2005. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/03014797/76/1).

Mental Health Warning: many of these papers contain varying amounts of maths and stats. Definitely not for the faint hearted!

Monetary Health Warning: depending on where you work, you may be able to download some of these papers for free. If you choose to pay for one of them, please be aware that none of the money goes to me, but passes straight to the publisher of the academic journal and stays there. Believe it or not, academics don’t get paid for the papers they publish in academic journals. In any case, I’d much rather you paid to download my novel:

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Going Green

I’ve had a green tinge for over twenty years, ever since the realisation sunk in that we’re in serious danger of screwing up our beautiful planet. I can’t say I’m an eco-warrior, more an eco-worrier, but I’ve tried to do my bit. I was fortunate to live near my work, so I cycled or took the bus, and I have a car, very old, which I use as little as possible.

I’m very keen on the 3Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle) and I served as chairman of the board of trustees of the Tayside Foundation for the Conservation of Resources (or Tayside Recyclers as it’s known locally) from 1995 to 2009. It’s a social enterprise operating in a cavernous old jute mill in Dundee and undertakes a variety of activities, including selling donated household items – furniture, carpets. PCs, TVs, white goods etc. – which might otherwise have ended up in a skip.  I’ve taken part in a number of environmental demos and protests and I’ve followed the genetic modification (GM) debate closely since the early 1990s. I’m firmly in the anti-GM camp, taking an active part in local and national protests over GM crop trials.

Age has blunted my capacity for these activities, and I now spend most of my time hunched in front of my PC, dreaming up characters and plots.  Occasionally I wander down the road to our allotment, where I till the soil and hack back the weeds, and marvel at how difficult it is to grow anything edible, especially after the last two dismal summers.


Publishing an eBook



It would have been nice to land a traditional publishing deal, but it just didn’t happen for me.  After a year spent trying to find an agent (not a particularly long time so I’m told), one near miss and a long string of rejections, I decided to throw in the metaphorical towel and hang up the gloves. If I was a younger man I might have stayed in the ring and slugged it out, but tempus fugit and so does my patience. With electronic publishing you have a chance to put your work out there straight away, bypass the agency gatekeepers and let the reading public be the judge. It was too good an opportunity to miss, so I took it. And from a green perspective it avoids churning out more glue and paper for the hardback and paperback markets, as well as all that shelving to store them on. Of course, there’s an environmental footprint from using eBook devices like Kindles and the associated data storage, but over their life cycle I can’t believe their footprint is any bigger than physical books, and possibly it’s much smaller. Time will tell.

If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download the novel onto an iPad or iPhone by using the Kindle app.