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Cold Roses cover

My second novel, Cold Roses, was published last week.

There’s something of a sense of achievement in publishing a first novel, and I’d wondered what it might be like second time around. Well, it was a little easier to get through the publishing process knowing exactly what to expect. And now I feel like a real writer! Not just one book out there but two.

Not that I’m going to stop at two. The third is already written, with negotiations over publication to come, and I’m now well into writing number four.

But for now, let’s stick with Cold Roses. It again features Detective Inspector Adam Ralston of Strathclyde Police’s elite Murder Squad. He returns to face a new and baffling case:

“DI Adam Ralston is no stranger to the dark side of human nature, but when a young art gallery worker is discovered in her South Side flat, brutally raped, her throat slit, and a single red rose laid upon her corpse, he is thrown into a bloody maelstrom of violence and suspicion unlike anything he has known before.

“Haunted by the death of a prison officer on a previous case, (see Calling Cards) Ralston must also battle his own personal demons and hold his family together as tries to track down the killer – a killer who leaves no clues, who grows bolder with each killing, and who seems to be able to strike at will.

“Time is running out. And the body count is rising.”

So if psychological thrillers are your thing, why not check it out? It’s not for the faint hearted! I’m glad to be contributing to the growth of Glasgow Noir with another novel set in the city. The locations are all true to life, even if the plot and the characters are products of my lurid imagination.

The e-book version for all of you technophiles is now in the Kindle store. It can be downloaded from the following link:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cold-Roses-Gordon-Johnston-ebook/dp/B00ZY8QEJO/ref=sr_1_1_twi_1_kin?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1434915513&sr=1-1

And those of you who prefer good old fashioned books can order directly from Ringwood Publishing here:

http://ringwoodpublishing.com/forthcoming-titles/cold-roses-by-gordon-johnston/

It will also be available very soon in all Scottish branches of Waterstones and other good bookshops.

So if you’re heading off somewhere hot over the summer, what better than a book to ready by the pool or on the beach?

I was delighted by the reviews that my first novel Calling Cards received. I look forward to hearing what you think of the second in the series.

And thanks to all of my friends for their support!

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It may seem a little odd to be writing about what might happen after the general election several days before polling day. But as it has long looked almost certain that nether of the main parties will secure an overall majority, speculation has been going on for a fair while anyway. And it is possible that some of the remaining undecided voters may well take such calculations into account when casting their vote.

So let’s assume a set of results and run through some scenarios of what might happen next. There are 650 MPs to be elected on Thursday, so in theory 326 votes are needed to secure a parliamentary majority. The number might actually be slightly lower, as the 4 or 5 likely Sinn Fein MPs will not take the oath required to sit as an MP and will therefore not be entitled to vote.

Here’s a possible outcome to give us some numbers. It’s not necessarily a prediction, just some figures that appear reasonable based on the polls, and with numbers that make the maths easy. Labour or the Tories may end up with a few more seats than the other but unless there is a massive swing it actually doesn’t change the arithmetic too much.

Labour: 275
Conservative: 275
SNP: 50
Lib Dem: 30
Others: 20

We begin on Friday morning with David Cameron still Prime Minister. He remains in office for now, even if his party has fewer seats than Labour, and can still try to form some sort of coalition. Who with? Well, from the numbers it seems he won’t be able to command enough votes with his current partners the Lib Dems, even if agreement could be reached – just 305 on these figures. The SNP have said they won’t deal with the Tories and the only Others who might be interested are some of the Ulster Unionists and any MPs that UKIP might secure. But he would, it seems, still be well below the majority required.

So David Cameron is unable to form a coalition. In theory he could still present a Queen’s Speech to parliament and wait for the other parties to defeat it. Or he could simply admit defeat and resign.

In formal terms, he would now go to see the Queen and hand in his notice, advising her to turn to Ed Miliband next. There is a massive issue here about the role of an unelected hereditary head of state in all of this, but that’s one for another day. Note that Miliband could, in this situation, be asked to attempt to form a government – he doesn’t have to have any sort of deal put in place in advance.

But could Labour actually form a government that commands majority support in the Commons?

Well, a coalition again looks unlikely based on these numbers. Even if a deal could be reached with Nick Clegg (assuming he is still leader of what’s left of the Lib Dem parliamentary party) we still get to 305. And if we add in the likely 3 or 4 SDLP members they are still short of a majority.

That brings us to the Nationalists in Scotland and Wales. We know Ed Miliband has said that he won’t do a deal with them. So if we assume he will stand by this, a Labour led coalition that secures the support of a majority of MPs simply can’t happen.

Again, Labour could, as has actually been suggested, go ahead and present a Queen’s Speech to parliament. The SNP and Plaid Cymru block of 50 or so MPs would hold the balance. Support Labour and they would win the vote. Vote against and they will lose. Abstain and it would come down to whatever the Lib Dems might decide to do.

Now this is where politics rather than arithmetic makes it all very interesting. The calculations for the parties involved would be complex. Would a second election be best for their party? How might voters react to being asked to go to the polls again? Might they apportion blame for failure to produce a government?

How would the SNP thinking go? Would they support a Labour government in principle and then try to amend its legislation to make it more to their liking? Decide to abstain, staying out of the argument entirely? Or vote against the formation of a Labour government and hope that another election might be to their benefit?

It’s a difficult one to call. Given that the SNP is presently on a high and likely to win the vast majority of seats in Scotland it could hardly believe that another poll would offer increased opportunities or too many extra seats. But it could argue that its position would be stronger in relation to Labour as it had proven the only way Ed Miliband could become PM would be with their support. Or would the SNP be accused of risking another Tory led government if it voted down a potential Labour one?

But then the opposite side of that coin is to consider the position in England – would some voters in a second election become more likely to support Labour if it argued that it had acted in the UK’s best interests rather than its own by refusing a deal with the SNP? So by not supporting Labour the SNP could actually strengthen Ed Miliband’’s hand and make a majority Labour government more likely in a second election.

Gets complex, doesn’t it?

The salient fact to remember though when it comes to working out what the SNP might decide to do is that its primary interest isn’t what happens at Westminster. Its one political goal is Scottish independence and everything else is viewed through the prism of what makes that more or less likely.

So what might that tell us? Would the SNP feel that backing a Labour government and seeking to influence its plans might be seen as a responsible move, one that would produce political capital down the line? Or would they believe that forcing a second general election would help to show the UK political system is a bad light – after all, minority government was made to work in Scotland?

Whatever happens on Thursday evening, and well into Friday morning, will only be the beginnings of the story of this general election. It will be days and perhaps even weeks before it is clear exactly which party, or parties, will govern. And – if there is no formal coalition in place – any new government may struggle to get its legislation through. No overall majority could mean defeats on its budget or on key bills. That could trigger a no confidence vote.

So, whatever might happen on Thursday, don’t bet against there being a second general election long before the one currently scheduled for 2020.

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Well it’s 2014 – and a Happy New Year to all.

The turn of the year marks a time to look forward as well as back. To reflect on the good and the bad as well as to ponder on what might be to come.

And in the UK it also brings the annual ritual of the Honours List. This Ruritanian remnant from the days of empire involves the monarch rewarding those who have pleased the establishment with a collection of absurd medieval titles. And to add a bit of good PR, the little people are also involved, with some pretty baubles being thrown to those who have done good works.

This medieval pageantry of lords and ladies, dames and knights, titles and medals, belongs in a past long gone rather than in a nation that likes to think of itself as modern and forward thinking.

At the top of the honours tree are the many civil servants and senior MPs for whom an honour is simply an expected fringe benefit. They are not rewarded for excellence or even competence, but simply because they have held a certain position for the requisite period of time. Then there are those who serve the so called Royal Family: the doctor who delivered the latest addition to the Civil List, the Queen’s cabinet maker and her Swan Marker are all included. Yes, there really is someone whose job is to mark swans. He even has a uniform:  a bright scarlet blazer, with brass, crested buttons and sparkling white trousers, with a swan feather in his white cap, if you’re remotely interested.

Then there are are those from the worlds of television, film and theatre who receive awards, generally for having long careers. The business people, many of whom (purely by coincidence I’m sure) have also donated money to the Tory Party. The sports stars who have excelled. The academics with worthy titles. A DJ as a bit of a sop to yoof culture. And then the ordinary people: the campaigners and fund raisers.

It is instructive to have a look at some of the titles involved in this farcical costume drama. At the top are the Members of the Order of the Companions of Honour – a royal club limited to 65 members who have excelled in politics or the arts. There are no real benefits to membership other than the letters CH after your name and a medal.

Further down come the Knights Commander of the Order of the Bath. Founded in 1725, investiture into this order used to involve an actual bath for purification, although I don’t think this is still carried out. The Order Of Bath is commanded by the sovereign and ruled by its Great Master and Principal Knight – a position currently held by her eldest son. For all the talk of chivalry and nobility, the odd mistake has been made here, and those who have been thrown out of the order include Robert Mugabe and, more recently, Vicky Price, the wife of former Cabinet Minister Chris Huhne, after she was convicted of taking speeding points for him.

And at the bottom are the Medallists of the Order of the British Empire, the BEM. Although recipients of the medal are not formally part of the Order of the British Empire they are closely associated with this piece of medieval nonsense that commemorates the days of yore when Britannia ruled the waves, or something.

The press has made great play about the majority of this year’s honours going to women. 51% apparently, a suspiciously engineered figure perhaps? But does the awarding of damehoods to actresses Angela Lansbury and Penelope Keith do much to advance equality? Does a CBE for The Apprentice’s Karren Brady, who is apparently being wooed as a future Tory MP, mean much to the women of Britain?

The entire notion of a hereditary monarch dispensing titles and medals to her subjects is surely one that is out of place in the year 2014. It’s time this whole outdated costume drama was consigned to the dustbin of history.

 

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2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 62,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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