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Research costs money. When it comes to writing books, that money often comes from the advance paid by a publisher based on what the author claims the book will say. The problem is that until the research is done, there is no way of guaranteeing that there actually is the evidence to back up the claims that the author used to sell the book idea to the publisher. What if all that time tracking down participants in historic events and poring over paperwork in the National Archives fails to come up with the promised goods? Quite often the author cannot afford to repay the publisher's advance, which was not only spent on the research but also on day-to-day living costs. All too many writers might be tempted to package the thin evidence to make it look more substantial than it is and hope that enough readers don't notice the con and that his or her reputation is not too seriously damaged. I suspect that too many reviewers, often authors themselves, cut the errant writer too much slack when it comes to exposing the research flaws and inadequacies of books to potential readers.

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With Wellington in the Peninsula is moving up the best seller list again. Sadly, I suspect this is because most books these days have a very short shelf-life at full price. So, I'd been fooling myself if I thought this increase in sales is due to the reading public finally realising what a gem of a military memoir I put so much effort and expense into bringing back before them after just under 200 years of undeserved obscurity. This sales boost is more probably price driven and due to discount sales. But I'll take it. I had under-estimated my own desire to do the best job possible. The modest amount of further research requested by the publisher took me in some new and unexpected directions. I spent more money and time on the project that I'd budgeted for. I could have shut down the fresh avenues of research and done less than my best. Many professional writers would have paid more attention to harsh economic realities and got away with it. But professional pride got the better of me. I used to joke with a former work mate that I might take home a bigger pay cheque than him but he got more per hour, thanks to the amount of unpaid overtime I was working. Some people never, ever, learn. But back to With Wellington in the Peninsula: I recently found it being recommended on an internet discussion forum called AskHistorians.

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It's hard not to feel sorry for the Australian government. The price of hosting a South-East Asia leaders's summit was allowing the odious Aung San Suu Kyi onto their soil. Decent people in Australia demanded that Aung be arrested for her part in the ethnic cleansing and murder of Muslims in Myanmar, as the country was rebranded from the old name of "Burma" by the military thugs she partners with in ruling the Buddhist-dominated land. Sadly, this apology for a human being enjoys diplomatic immunity. It might have better if all the other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations had refused to share a room with this one-time poster woman for democracy. Actually, in way she perhaps is still a paragon of democracy.  The majority of Burma's population approve of the Muslim population of the country being burned and murdered out of their homes and forced to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh. It's democracy in action. And the 600,000 - 700,000 Muslim Rohingyas in the Bangladeshi refugee camps aren't ever going home again. But back to the conference. The Australians had to cozy up not only to the odious Aung but to many other local leaders who actually have human rights records which are not much better, if not worse, than Myanmar's. What is they say; keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Actually, the Australians are trying to cozy up to these creeps because they may be useful in curbing Chinese ambitions in South East Asia.

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I was surprised to see one of the big Canadian newspapers was recommending a seriously flawed book to readers - at least recommended according to the sticker on the cover in my local bookshop. It took a while to track down the review that the supposed recommendation was based on. It turned out to state that the central claim in the book was not-proven but praised what the reviewer thought was the pioneering archival research. The reviewer was unaware, I know because I asked him, that the same information had appeared in another book published two years earlier. In fact, it was the opening chapter of the other book. So, no new information at all. Just a chancer taking two and two and claiming that makes five - something no-one had previously discovered. And, as I said, the reviewer had actually expressed reservations over the central claim in the book and was only praising what he thought was some new information contained in it. So, how did the book in question end up with a "A ------ Recommended Book" sticker? That was down the the publisher's promotions department and a very misleading extract from the newspaper review. You give these folks an inch of praise to work with and they turn it into a mile of unrestrained recommendation.   

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I wonder if human beings can and do pick up radio signals. Sounds crazy, I know. And maybe it is. But I remember as a child that there was an old Pye record player in the house which was capable of recording onto an LP size brown disc. And if we put our fingers on the "recording" needle when it was slotted onto the playing arm we could hear radio signals. I'd love to say that by moving our arms around we could tune to different stations. But that would not be true. The only time the record player put out radio programmes was when a human being put their finger on that needle. Now perhaps there was some weird freaky set-up inside the gubbins of the Pye that meant it could function as a radio, of which even the manufacturers were unaware, and us kids were simply acting as an antenna. I've often wondered what it was all about.

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