A poem by Jeffrey Cooper.
Life is more difficult now than it was a few years ago. More and more people have to work multiple jobs just to stay above water. Utilities cost more than they used to and money is losing value. By the time one receives their salary, it’s already spent. With high trade deficits and national debts, people have much less purchasing power. What is happening now that was not happening before? How have we gotten to this point? What conversations do we need to have to change things? How can there be more employment opportunities? How can the citizens live to work as opposed to working to live?
Alex Gall has produced a well-written account of everything people should be saying but will not. The language used in the book is strong but not abrasive and drives the point home effectively and firmly. The authors passion and commitment to the subject matter is commendable and infectious. I consider myself to be an average citizen, I read the occasional hot headline. But this book made me look a little further, and a little deeper, and find something that was shocking and appealed to the citizen in me. This book is delivered from the point of view of a concerned citizen painting a picture, a person who is inviting others to a well thought out and open conversation.
I would appreciated more references of source material because, as stated previously, this book will leave you digging for more information and getting more involved in politics. Some statistics or studies to back up the subject matter would have been appreciated. This book is well researched and is laid out in an easy to follow manner in a compact and readily available format. At times I felt the content a bit dense, or maybe the topics overwhelming. I had to put the book down and think about what I just read. This book certainly causes one to reflect. But once you come out of your reflection, once you put the book down, you will come away with an overriding need to do something.
There are some sensitive topics covered but the author uses a neutral approach which is inviting. His approach to the subjects is completely ‘take it or leave it’. This is one of the best qualities of this book. The fact that the author lays out his position without dragging people with him. The intensity of the book and the truth in the subject matter will carry you effortlessly.
This book does a fantastic job of starting a serious and necessary conversation. This is necessary for anyone who wants to be an informed citizen.
Pages: 260 | ASIN: B079YP7LGM
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“While Kenyatta initiated corruption, and made it a pastime for well-placed government officials, Moi institutionalized it and made it routine within all ranks of society.”
Looters and Grabbers, 54 Years of Corruption and Plunder by the Elite by Joe Khamisi is a detailed account of the historical and contemporary corruption plaguing the African country of Kenya. It details corruption from the highest levels of government down to average citizens. Each chapter is dedicated to a specific theme of corruption spanning from 1963 to 2017 and encompassing four presidencies; Presidents Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel arap Moi, Mwai Kibaki, and Uhuru Kenyatta.
I started this book thinking there would be some kind of a silver lining at the end, but there isn’t one. What you’ll find is a detailed account of the pervasive corruption that is literally everywhere in Kenya. Time and time again it’s shown how corruption is despised by all but is undertaken at every opportunity. It seems that anti-corruption is the political rallying call, but profit is always the underlying goal.
This is a historical book in that it does describe the rise of four of Kenya’s presidents, Kenya’s independence from Britain, and the development of Kenya’s modern government, but it does all of this with a focus on corruption; from it’s inception into it’s many manifestations in every part of Kenya’s government. One thing that I learned is how corruption in Kenya is not a local affair, but a global enterprise. European, Asian, and Western countries have had their turn profiting from corruption in Kenya.
One thing I did enjoy was how we get to see the country develop, through stories of corruption, into modern times. We go from President Kenyatta who is the first president when Kenya receives its independence from Britain, to president Uhuru who its noted as having a large Twitter following. At one point even mentioning Paul Manafort and his company helping the Kenyan President resuscitate his global image.
This is a good book for those interested in history, African culture, political science students, and most of all corruption. If you’re interested in learning how corruption is instituted, contributed to, and perpetuated, then this book is a master class in delivering specific examples.
What concerned me the most after reading account after account was that, as the author states, these are the corruption cases that we know about, and have been documented or reported on by the media. I’m sure there are plenty more that we don’t know about.
This book is exceptionally researched with a wealth of references. Joe Khamisi has done a fantastic job turning a list of corruption cases into a linear narrative that is compelling and thought provoking.
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If you’d like to know how people feel in a country different than your own, you should read collections of their thoughts. Century Sentence by Xu Xue Chun is just that: a collection of previously published thoughts from a man who lives in China. At a staggering volume of over five hundred pages, you will learn how Chun’s thoughts have impacted his life and how he feels about the state of the world. Available in both Chinese and English, for the purposes of this review we will be referring to the English version. Here, readers will be able to see inside the mind of a single citizen of China while learning how one man has taken his upbringing and applied his cultural views on various states and topics of global concern and turning it back again upon his own country.
This book is broken down into three key sections and the thoughts within are organized as such. The first section refers to a commentary on China. Here, readers will find the thoughts of a man who is not always at peace with the decisions of his country. Chun gives readers a glimpse at what his reality is and how he feels about this. He dabbles with philosophical ideas and his views on them. The second section is a commentary on Islam. Chun is not pleased with how things are developing around the world and within China on this subject. The final section is a commentary on Western and other countries. As a writer from a western country, it is interesting to see how others perceive my country from a completely different perspective. By sectioning off his thoughts like this, Chun makes it easy for readers to get into a flow.
As the author is Chinese and has limited English skills, by his own admission, grammatical and spelling mistakes are expected. It can be difficult to read this, however, because of how the translation was done. There is no flow and sentences can feel choppy and uncomfortable. Chun’s thoughts on western countries are fairly archaic. His thoughts on gender roles and how the world can resolve its incessant need to keep fighting itself are also alarming. There are several passages in the book where Chun makes reference to how men and women should treat each other and what Japan can do to be seen in a better light from his perspective.
If anything, Century Sentence by Xu Xue Chun is an exercise in seeing how a citizen of a country as large as China views the world around him. The thoughts are fairly well organized although the translation could use a bit of work. It is an exhausting read, however, and not one that would be easily recommended. This book could be useful for those who are studying international societies or for people who are looking for a wildly different perspective on world cultures.
Pages: 895 | ASIN: B01M8LIWBS
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The Game Changer revolves around the life of creative businessman Henk who finds himself in trouble after an art robbery takes place in the heart of Rotterdam. This book is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a romance, crime, and art history as well. Did you start writing with this in mind or did this happen organically as you were writing?
Thanks first for all the time and effort to read my book. This is a very good question and maybe therefore not easy to answer: it’s both in a mixture I would say. I started with some basic ideas and investigations, did some research on the subjects and meanwhile, on the other hand, write highly intuitive. Then I switch from these two mindsets every now and then, like in a loop that rolls forth until you get the feeling it’s almost finished. I certainly have no idea how it will end when writing and I am surprised at times about the direction the novel or characters takes… so then I change the research and idea’s to be able to go on a bit further. In the end, it takes a lot of editing, and in this process the book is also enriched a bit, blended.
The relationship between Henk and his daughter Julia is intriguing and risque. What was the driving ideas behind these characters traits and relationship?
Emancipation and seeking of one’s identity/freedom of Julia and maybe also the idea that world problems might need to be solved by women. But in this novel, it’s mainly about Henk, the businessman whom you might in some ways see as a Donald Trump kind of guy (thinking now of the open letter I read on the website of Michael Moore written to Ivanka Trump: ‘your dad is not well’, but it’s written after writing my novel). It’s about the chaos in Henk’s mind, the obsession of dominating, maybe caused by fear of women taking over power, confused with and entangled in the love for his daughter.
There is some fantastic art history in this novel. Was that intentional? Did you have to do research for this book?
Yes, I did quite some research, but in the intuitive writing process most of it is done for nothing probably, you never know for sure. The general idea I guess is indeed that art can maybe help us, it’s an investigation if so and if the answer is yes, how this can be done. What role can art play, seen from the viewpoint of the eighteen-year young Julia. She wants art to be decisive.
Why did you choose Rotterdam as the setting for this novel?
It’s close to my hometown, Vlaardingen, and plays a major role in the area where I live, historically and still from this day on, although the work in the harbour gets more automated nowadays. Furthermore, I would like to emphasize that Elias Canetti’s Auto-da-fe (‘Die Blendung’), written in 1935, was an inspiration for my novel, mainly regarding the atmosphere. As a tribute, I mentioned his name once deliberately within the novel in the middle somewhere, as well as using the term ‘stipendium’, which I came to know reading this novel and ‘Masse und Macht’. I consider this novel my personal and modern ‘die blendung’.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
The next book is all about Julia, Henk his artistic daughter. At this point in time I feel that it can still take a while before it will be finished, although there are more than 100k words written and severely edited so far. I tend to be rather ambitious regarding goals and ideas of a new book I guess, so to finish it, to pull it off is unsure: it might not work at all. Especially since the new novel will partly be science fiction, playing in 2050, I wonder if I will manage.
Sneak preview of the new novel:
The floating pavilion called The Game Changer, peacefully located between the landscaped garden and artistic attributes crammed with solar – panels, foils and conductive basins along the eaves – is virtually deserted, a rarity. As if Providence feels there is something special happening since I will, after all these years, speak privately with her. After several decades, the moment finally arrives. The ring gives an orange signal, I will have to do sport for half an hour the least, followed by a silent meditation to bring my blood pressure and pulse combination back to acceptable levels. The nerves vultures in my throat, my nasal breathing is irregular, but I consider it too late for intense exercise; I can at best apply a short-term yoga technique, click the ring signal back to inactive and start enjoying the view. In the distance I see a dot rising, it could be the amphibian taxi, one that brings her to this magnificent pavilion, two miles off the coast of Hoek van Holland situated in the North Sea, a sea largely transformed into a sea farm: one big floating habitat of many thousands of hectares. It remains beautiful to see how the east side of our integrated Maasvlakte has become a place for handling assembly of environmentally friendly products surrounded by renewables and encapsulated between tens of thousands of wind turbines, seaweed farms and solar generating systems with modern forms of salt mining. We are a leader in the world, people! Mom will not believe her eyes. In a country like the U.S.A., they are still jealous; they have looked with uttermost suspicion at our ultra-modern business, our activities that saved the planet and ourselves, mankind, from The Great Catastrophe.
Posted in Interviews
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Mervyn vs. Dennis is one of the funnest books I’ve read this year. Mervyn struggles with keeping his strange and intrusive boss out of his personal life. What was the inspiration for the relationship between Mervyn and Dennis?
Most of us have made a friend that we later regretted. I wanted to take that idea to its furthest extreme. Likewise, unless you’ve never worked or been extremely lucky, you’ve probably had a boss who made your life a living hell. Both of these situations are familiar comedy tropes but I wanted to combine them into something fresh. In both personality and outlook, Mervyn and Dennis couldn’t be more different. Mervyn is liberal and open-minded whereas Dennis is bigoted and mean-spirited. I wanted to explore whether two such disparate men could ever reconcile their differences or if they’d clash until the bitter end. During the writing process, this was something I was careful not to over-plan. I had some ideas of how their relationship would end up but I wanted it to evolve organically just like a real friendship or enmity.
What I liked about this story is that Mervyn is just trying to make it through life like many people. When you were building Mervyn’s character and background what was one thing you hoped came through in the end?
I wanted Mervyn to be likable, despite his flaws. Mervyn is extremely skilled at getting himself into embarrassing situations but I always wanted the reader to be on his side. Although he has moments of irrationality, I was careful to make his actions believable. Whether he makes the right choices is up to the reader but I wanted those choices to make sense, no matter how poor they might be. Mervyn has roots in picaresque fiction, British comic literature and modern sitcoms. He’s slightly too unhinged to be an everyman character but hopefully he’s relatable enough for the reader to become invested in his story. Comic novels, by their nature, tend to have eccentric characters. Sometimes this results in shallow personalities and caricatures but I wanted all the characters in my book to have believability and depth, especially Mervyn himself.
When Mervyn firsts meets Dennis he pretends to be racist so they can connect. Why did you choose that as the catalyst that propels their relationship?
Mervyn pretending to be racist is set up as a joke but nearly every event in the story is caused by that initial lie. Dennis is emboldened by Mervyn’s faux racism, showing how even a careless racist joke can cause a butterfly effect. Likewise, when Mervyn brings a swastika mug to work in an attempt to shock, it inspires Dennis to do something even more extreme. Although the novel is primarily a comedy, I wanted to explore the causes and consequences of prejudice. Alongside this, however, I was careful to avoid having a didactic message. It’s fairly common knowledge that racism sucks. People do need reminding sometimes but they don’t need it spelled out. What interested me most were the roots of Dennis’s hatred and the depths of his denial. In the wake of Brexit in the UK and the shadow of Trump in the US, racism is unfortunately topical right now, and there’s never been a more crucial time, in my life at least, to take a stand against it.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will that be published?
I’m currently rewriting three of my earlier novels. First off, there’s Grand Theft Octo, another comedy. It’s more satirical than Mervyn vs. Dennis, with less overt social commentary. It’s the story of Jonathan Doe, an entrepreneur of businesses the world has never seen including freelance taxidermy and (you better believe it) octopus teasing. Originally a 140,000 word epic, I’m on target to trim it by at least half. Next up, there’s The Papyrus Empire and its sequel The Black King. They’re dark thrillers that kick off a series about a global secret society. I’m hoping to have Grand Theft Octo ready in the next few months with The Papyrus Empire to follow. To keep up to date, please join my mailing list.
Deep in debt, Mervyn Kirby gets a job he doesn’t want by pretending to be racist. His new boss Dennis Lane thinks he’s found a kindred spirit. When Mervyn confesses he’s not really racist, Dennis thinks it’s just part of the act. Day by day, to Mervyn’s horror, Dennis worms his way into Mervyn’s private life. Despite his fears, Mervyn is torn: his new job pays well but he despises Dennis and everything he stands for. How far will Mervyn go to free himself? How far will Dennis go to become friends? Will they settle their differences or end up killing each other? And why are so many shifty people carrying pineapples around town?
Posted in Interviews
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