Ukraine

As I write, all hell is about to break loose in Ukraine.

Part of the second Jenny Parker novel, Proceeds of Crime, is set in Ukraine and I have a lot of sympathy for the plight of the Ukrainian people. In the book, Jenny befriends a Ukrainian girl who has found a husband in the UK through a ‘Romance Tour’ or ‘find a bride service’. Her twin sister hasn’t been so lucky, though. She’s gone missing after a similar attempt to get to the prosperous West.

The situation highlights the disparity in wealth between the Ukraine and the UK. The Ukrainians are often so desperately poor that they will do anything to get to the UK. And I mean anything.

The recent events, the protests in Kiev, the shootings and the ousting of the Russian-friendly president are all a result of the Ukrainians being desperate to improve their economic situation. Many of them feel that this will be achieved by establishing closer ties with the EU. The Russians don’t want this to happen.

I hope and pray that the situation will be resolved peacefully and that good sense and humanity will prevail.

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National Crime Agency

The NCA became operational in October 2013.

This may not mean much to you but I’m a crime writer and I’m getting pretty excited about this new organisation. It appears to be the UK equivalent of the American FBI which has provided a rich source of stories and characters for us writers.

Remember Clarice Starling in Silence of the Lambs? Since the mid 1930’s and J Edgar Hoover, the FBI has been at the forefront of novels, film and television.  The arrival of an UK equivalent is a momentous event in crime fiction history.

As a novelist writing stories set in the present, I can’t ignore current events and still retain credibility. If the local police force turn up to investigate and the reader knows full well it ought to be the NCA it’s not helpful to the plot. As both Due Diligence and Proceeds of Crime involve organised crime, which is the remit of the NCA, I’ve been following its inception and formation for several years. I’ve read extensively, watched Keith Bristow, the NCA Director General, appear before the Parliamentary Home Affairs Committee, made sure I’m up to date with developments.

I discussed money laundering over lunch with a senior NCA official who then asked for copies of both Due Diligence and Proceeds of Crime so that they could check them for authenticity. I also suspect that they were very interested by some of the things that Jenny Parker gets up to. So don’t go copying her for heaven’s sake, you’re bound to get arrested.

It’s all part of the craft of crime writing, though most readers won’t realise how much research has to be done in order that we present them with a believable story. Which is how it should be. My novels aim to excite and entertain. If they’re also informative, that’s a bonus.

Here’s a sample review of Due Diligence:

5.0 out of 5 stars Thumping good thriller

By SallyP-B

Format:Paperback|Amazon Verified Purchase

For a debut novel this was fantastic, more please! I read this in 2 days and really felt for Jenny. Life has a habit of kicking you when you’re down but she survived all of it. Gripping and full of action, secret recordings, punch ups, dodgy dealings,fast paced, well written and as a thriller reader this kept me turning the pages. Please though give the poor woman a decent brew!!!!!

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Bankers

Bankers should be spelled with a capital W.

If you haven’t worked out how our financial system works, let me assist. You put your money into a bank or another financial institution such as a pension provider or investment company. These brilliant, exceptional, essential, amazingly well paid people we call bankers look after it for us. They ‘invest’ our money, or, to put it another way, gamble it on some financial horse race.

If they win, they win. They get loads of money.

If they lose, we lose, they still win, they get loads of money.

If they do something really stupid and bring the whole financial world to a collapse, we lose our jobs, we’re subject to austerity measures and they get bailed out by the government using our tax money.

If they do something illegal like this:

http://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/dec/04/banks-rate-rigging-libor-euribor-rbs-citigroup-jpmorgan

They get fined and we pay the fine, either as customers or through our pension funds or because our taxes have bailed them out.

Why? How come this ridiculous situation is allowed to prevail?

It’s our own fault. We’re greedy, just like the bankers. Even though deep down we realise that for every pound we gain someone has to lose one, we cling to the hope that we will be the ones who win.

Also, the system is made to appear so complex that even governments are taken in by it all and are afraid to upset the financial institutions in case something bad happens again and they get the blame, again.

What can we do?

These are some of the things that the government and the bankers would find most inconvenient:

1. We could make more use of a barter system. You know, I paint your living room, you give me a hand maintaining my car in return. (By the way, this isn’t an offer, merely an illustration.) Maybe even set up a system of local credit for payments in kind.

2. We could start to use a new system of money all together, one that bankers and governments can’t control. Things like these:

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/nov/28/bitcoin-alternatives-future-currency-investments

3. We can look to bank more locally, use mutuals or credit unions.

4. We should stop believing that growth is the answer and realise that careful use of resources will serve us all better than grabbing everything we can get. Having more doesn’t mean being more happy. We all know that already but we need to remind ourselves constantly because the media are always telling us different.

5. Most of all we can be kind and helpful to each other, lend a hand, lend money, trust people rather than bankers.

In Due Diligence, Jenny Parker finds herself part of the less savoury aspects of the financial system. There are times she has to rely on the greed of others in order to survive. Fortunately for her, there’s plenty of greed about.

Lots of people have said some very kind things about Due Diligence, here’s one review picked (more or less) at random.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful

5.0 out of 5 stars Thumping good thriller

By SallyP-B

Format:Paperback|Amazon Verified Purchase

For a debut novel this was fantastic, more please! I read this in 2 days and really felt for Jenny. Life has a habit of kicking you when you’re down but she survived all of it. Gripping and full of action, secret recordings, punch ups, dodgy dealings,fast paced, well written and as a thriller reader this kept me turning the pages. Please though give the poor woman a decent brew!!!!!

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photo credit: Byzantine_K via photopin cc