Accountants

Sometimes I get asked why my protagonist, Jenny Parker, is an accountant when most thrillers are written about members of the police force or private detectives. My answer is simple. The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

This legislation has changed the whole dynamic of criminal activity. Previously, the job of a criminal was to rake in as much cash as possible while avoiding the police and the taxman. After 2002, the business became a whole lot more complex. No longer were the bruiser, the enforcer and the hitman the arch-criminal’s most important ally. A new regime evolved in the criminal fraternity. The accountant came to the fore. Without one, organised crime syndicates were lost. Having huge piles of cash became a liability rather than an asset. Converting ill-gotten gains into legitimate money that could actually be spent was the new priority.

I also believe that any plot that can be resolved using violence leaves a lot to be desired. Who’s got the biggest muscles or largest calibre weapon doesn’t do it for me. Jenny has to survive in a world of danger with only her wits and determination. Nor does she have the safety net of an institution like the police force.

So that’s why Jenny is an accountant.

There’s a fourth Jenny Parker novel, Exit Strategy, that is scheduled to be published in December 2016. Although I say it myself, it’s the best one yet. I invite you to catch up with the others while you’re waiting.

I enjoyed reading this particular review of Due Diligence because it reflects the way that the money laundering regulations affect every one of us.

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful

5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing Read, 5 Jun. 2013

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This review is from: Due Diligence (Jenny Parker Book 1) (Kindle Edition)

I couldn’t put this down. So glad I wasn’t reading this on a bus or train because at times I was near to crying in frustration at the cruel fates suffered by the protagonist Jenny. I could easily empathise with the “Kick me when I’m down” life she is experiencing. May say more about me than the book! Minor, occasional suspension of belief (see other reviews) is a small price to pay for a thoroughly absorbing novel, which after all is a work of fiction to entertain, not a treatise on money laundering.

(Have you tried to open a bank account recently? I couldn’t open an account to pay in a cheque from the Inland Revenue because it was in my old married name after I had reverted to my maiden name following my divorce. I’d tried paying it in to an existing bank account but they returned it saying I had told them I was the only resident in my property when actually there were two people – yep, me -married name, and me -maiden name. Caught by the money laundering rules for £1500 from the tax man! You couldn’t make this up.)

Anyway, this novel is entertaining, absorbing, gets your sense of injustice working overtime and is just a very good read.

photo credit: Bank of England Fan of £50 notes via photopin (license)

An Encounter with Jenny Parker

I always get caught out by flight times. 8 am sounds like a reasonable time to fly but it’s not. They say I have to be here two hours before, it takes an hour to drive and I need at least half an hour to shower and get ready. Counting back brings getting out of bed time to 4.30. Half past FOUR!

It’s hardly worth going to bed.

Add in the stress of travelling, of tossing and turning in bed worrying about the trip, being scared that the alarm won’t go off or the motorway will be closed.

They say to get here two hours before flight time and I always obey. There’s an automatic response built into my emotional make up that gets very scared at the prospect of being even a few minutes shy of the deadline. As usual, though, I’m through security and waiting in the departure lounge wishing I’d used the 90 minutes I have to wait here for extra sleep. Six am would have been a much more civilised time to roll myself out of bed.

I sit on the hard seat wondering if my dignity would allow me to lie down and have a nap like many others have opted for. It won’t. No surprise there.

A lady comes over and sits next to me. This is doubly disconcerting as there are lots of empty places where she could be in splendid isolation, as I hoped to be. She also looks a bit familiar, as if I should know who she is. I think hard but I can’t pick her out from the checkout assistants and CBeebies presenters that spring to mind.

‘You don’t recognise me do you?’ She says unhelpfully.

‘Erm, it’s early, I’m still half asleep.’

‘That’s no excuse,’ she says, ‘I’m Jenny Parker and you’ve written four books about me.’

‘You can’t be,’ I say.

‘Because I’m a fictional character?’

‘Yes.’

‘Because I’m the product of your imagination?’

‘That’s right.’

‘So where does you imagination get its ideas?’

‘I really have no idea. Thoughts just pop into my head and I write them down. Sometimes I don’t even know what I’ve written until I read it back.’

Jenny smiles but it’s not a warm kind of smile, more of a long-suffering kind. ‘What makes you think that you’re any more real than I am?’

That’s a good question and not one that is easy to answer even for someone fully in possession of their faculties. ‘I’m a writer, you’re a character. You depend on me for your existence.’

‘If I didn’t exist then you’d have nothing to write. Then where would you be?’

I begin to think about the consequences of her turning up in the flesh. What if my so-called imagination is just recording something that’s actually happening? I’m always telling people that my characters, especially Jenny, never seem to do what I intend. That they seem to have a will of their own. I can’t help feeling responsible for the extremely hard time she’s been having, though. ‘Maybe I should write something good about you. Give you a nice easy life from here on in. Would that help?’

‘It’s a bit late for that now,’ she says.

‘What about I change the ending of the latest book?’

‘That would only confuse matters. Why not just let things be as they are for a change? Leave me to get on with my life without all the dramatisation.’

She stands up, ‘that’s my flight,’ she says. ‘I don’t want to miss it.’ Then she merges into the crowd and disappears through Gate 27.

‘You won’t,’ I say. I imagine she’s going to London to negotiate a rather important deal involving Russian Oligarchs and the Italian Mafia. I do hope she keeps her wits about her.

Being Precious

If the world were perfect, this is what I’d look out upon from my writing desk.

In reality, it’s more like this:

Waiting for things to become perfect before I write would mean waiting forever. The myth of that perfect time and place being out there is one that we writers often delude ourselves with. I know, because I do it all the time. In reality its just another way of putting off getting down to work. Because writing is hard work and none of us like hard work, do we?

I used to think that I couldn’t possibly write anything meaningful until I was older. The age at which I would suddenly blossom into the next Vonnegut or Banks was always unspecified. My best option was to wait until I got there and then start writing otherwise what I wrote was bound to be rubbish.

I was, of course, deluding myself. Don’t make the same mistake. Nor should you ever feel that life has passed you by and that starting now will be too late. These are only excuses for not writing so don’t be taken in.

We are writers. We have to write in order to live our lives the way we are meant to. It doesn’t matter one jot whether we are critically acclaimed or even read and enjoyed. These are bonuses that few of us are blessed with. What matters is that feeling we get when we’ve written something.

Off you go. Get writing. Don’t let me distract you.

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photo credit: ‘Rainy Streets’, United States, New York, New York City, East Village via photopin (license)

Phlogiston

In 1703 a scientist called Stahl put forward a theory that combustion involved a substance called phlogiston.  Wood, for example, was  a combination of ash and phlogiston. When it burnt the phlogiston was released and the ash left behind. Metals could be made by taking a metal compound and adding phlogiston. Soot, or carbon, was almost pure phlogiston, which explains why heating it with a metal oxide yields the pure metal.

Phlogiston remained the dominant theory of combustion until the 1780s when Lavoisier demonstrated the existence of oxygen.

Why am I telling you this?

Well, phlogiston is a stupid theory when viewed from a position of ‘superior’ knowledge. Yet it was accepted as scientific truth for decades. What I’m wondering is how many of the things that scientists hold dear today are equally insane. Most of them, probably.

Yet, almost every idea is met with the rebuttal that it hasn’t been scientifically proven. Like phlogiston.

Get my drift?

I’m currently researching the life and work of Richard Feynman, an intellect on a par with the likes of Einstein, for my SF novel, Voyager. Feynman makes the point that science can only ever demonstrate what is wrong and can never be relied on if it decides that something is right. Even if observations and experimentation confirm a theory (or a guess, as he prefers) future refinement may easily demonstrate that it’s wrong. Like Phlogiston.

So, when they tell you that Homeopathy or energetic healing or Tai Chi or Yoga or healthy eating haven’t been scientifically proved to be beneficial then breath a sigh of relief. Make your own personal observations. Make up your own mind. Remind yourself of science’s limitations and track record.

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