Are you a slave?

A thought-provoking extract from After, book 1 of the Inspector West series.


The bus arrived at his stop in the city. He got off and ambled towards the bank. No point in rushing in for another routine day in the world of banking.

Paul started his day, like he did most mornings, sharing a cup of coffee with Henry, his team leader for the last two years. It was an opportunity to sort out the day’s priorities and discuss the state of the world before they got down to the serious stuff.

‘I look at the people working here, Paul, especially the ones that have been here for twenty years or more, and wonder how anyone can work in a place like this for that long and be satisfied with a basic clerical position.’

‘I think I might know why. It’s called economic slavery.’

‘Slavery?’

‘Think about it. The first workers anywhere were slaves. I mean, who built the Pyramids or the Great Wall of China?’

‘I thought it was the emperor.’

‘Well, he got the credit but who actually did all the work? The slaves and all they got for it was food and lodging. The emperor lived in luxury while the ordinary working man slaved away building the great whatever.’

‘But you can’t be serious about slavery in today’s world.’

‘It’s more subtle these days. In the past, the rich could buy and sell slaves on the open market. They can’t do that anymore and they don’t have to. We turn ourselves into slaves. Think about it. The rich still own the means of production. They make all the things we need and want. They advertise all their wonderful stuff, which we can buy in their shops with money they will lend us, provided we agree to sign a mortgage, a bill of sale or credit card and work for them for minimal wages to pay it all off.’

‘Paul, you’re having me on, aren’t you?’

‘Henry, what’s stopping you from resigning this morning? It’s such a neat system most people don’t even realise they’re slaves, until it’s too late.’


One of the fun parts of writing crime fiction is you can tackle any social issue within the context of the story. Who knows how many others I slipped into this one?

Peter Mulraney is the author of the Inspector West and Stella Bruno Investigates crime series.

Racked by Sue Coletta

Racked is the fourth book in Sue Coletta’s Grafton County series, based on the lives of crime writer Sage Quintano and her husband, Niko, the Sheriff of Grafton County.

I imagine being the wife of a sheriff would be trying enough but, somehow, Sage Quintano manages to bring more excitement into her life by attracting people intent on doing her or her family harm.

The story in Racked centres around the unsolved disappearance of five boys and Sage finding out they were all given a similar item prior to their disappearance – a stuffed animal like the one someone has mysteriously given her two-year-old son, Noah.

There is plenty of tension, much of it generated by the actions of Sage, who takes things into her own hands – despite her husband reminding her that she’s the writer and he’s the sheriff.

It’s a page-turner. It’s one of those books where you want to know what happens, even though the main character is driving you nuts with her impulsive behaviour. 

But, be warned, It’s not your usual police procedural. Sage Quintano is an amateur investigator who thinks the State Police and her sheriff husband aren’t doing enough, so expect a bit mayhem. I enjoyed it.

You can find out more about Sue Colettta and her books on www.suecoletta.com.

Your Journey to Becoming Unskippable

This is sort of a business book. It’s full of business case studies and marketing advice. But, it’s also a book about encouraging you to think bigger.

Kukral sings the praises of what he defines as unskippable people and businesses. These are basically people you can’t ignore and firms you want to do business with.

The purpose of the book is to inspire you to become someone who can’t be passed over or to transform your business into one that attracts people.

I found the book both inspiring and depressing at the same time.

The inspiration comes from the stories and the advice on how to go about becoming unskippable. All good motivational and personal growth stuff.

The depressing part is Kukral’s reading of the state of society and its descent into intolerant tribalism, especially in its use of social media. Unfortunately, international readers can’t take much solace from the fact that his analysis is largely USA based. 

Kukral’s marketing message is to focus on the tribe that sees the world the way you do. He urges you to stand for something and stop wasting your time and energy trying to be generic – you’re never going to appeal to everybody, so choose which customers to pitch to, and pitching to people who share your values is the way to go.

It’s an interesting and thought provoking read with a message to get away from relying on the toxic world of social media and start getting back to dealing with real people, face to face.

You can find out more about Jim Kukral and buy links for the book on www.JimKukral.com 


Peter Mulraney is the author of the Everyday Business Skills series and My Life is My Responsibility.

Writing Mystical Journey

The initial working title for this book, when it was still an idea, was Field Notes for Pilgrims. At that stage, I thought I’d be taking a similar approach to sharing information as I’d followed in Field Notes for Writers. 

But, as the idea transformed into the book and the content started to fall into place, the title morphed into A Mystic’s Toolkit before finally becoming Mystical Journey: A Handbook for Modern Mystics.

By the time I’d finished writing, the book was more than a collection of tools for modern mystics. It told the story of how I became a mystic and explained how being a modern mystic was different to how mystics were in the past. That required a few reflections and a modern definition for the mystical journey.

When I first started looking into mysticism, I was under the misapprehension that mysticism was a special kind of calling to devote your life to God. That’s how the ancients saw it, and they often removed themselves from the world and retired into seclusion in monasteries, ashrams or the hills.

There are still people who do that, but I discovered mysticism is no longer restricted to such people. And, that’s what I wanted to share with you.

We are all called to be mystics, people who make space for the divine in their lives, but it’s often a difficult call to hear.

In the West, we are living in what are called secular times, where the influence of the major religions is falling away. Our churches are mostly empty and, yet, people are still searching for something that will give their lives meaning. They feel a yearning, a restlessness. They know they are missing something but they’re not quite sure what it is. 

That’s how the call often first shows up and, when we hear it, some of us throw ourselves into changing the external world. We seek our fulfilment through saving the planet, alleviating poverty or fighting corruption. 

Others stumble upon the inner, mystical journey and come to realise they first have to remember who they are, before they can effectively change the external world in which they are living their human lives.

And, let me warn you if you’re tempted to think being a modern mystic is a form of escapism – it’s also a call to change the world. Modern mystics are called to engage with the world; not hide away in sacred seclusion.

Mystical Journey: A Handbook for Modern Mystics is for those of you who have stumbled upon the inner way. Reading it will help you navigate your way along the path to self-discovery and wholeness. 

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Scrublands

If you’re looking for a good read, take a look at Scrublands by Australian author Chris Hammer

Scrublands is set in Riversend, an isolated town in regional Australia, where people are barely holding on through a prolonged drought and coping with the after-effects of a tragedy.

The story follows Martin Scarsden, a journalist coping with his own problems, who has been sent from Sydney to write a feature story on the anniversary of the tragedy. 

What sounded like a fairly straight forward assignment to Scarsden, soon develops into a complex, twisted adventure as the truth slowly leaks out and events overtake his story and the people of Riversend.

You’ll meet some interesting characters, get a taste of life lived in the middle of nowhere, and see through a window into a town coping with drought, tragedy, and the loss of opportunity.

I picked up a copy from the book tent at Adelaide Writers’ Week and thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Reading Twisted Justice

There are times when it feels like taking the law into your own hands is the only option you have for obtaining justice. Fortunately, most of us resist the temptation to act on that impulse and put our trust in the justice system. Sometimes, though, people take the other option.

The opening story in Twisted Justice explores what happens when Trent Mitchell takes that option and administers the justice the system refused to give him. 

I’m sure very few people take that option lightly, and Trent is no different. He’s agonised over his decision for years but there are only so many sleepless nights and tormented dreams a man can endure.

If you keep going over the same story in your head, it’s like reliving the story every time you tell it. If you blame someone else for what happened, you can come to believe you must take action so they pay for your loss. This is where Trent Mitchell is when we meet him. He’s planning his first execution.

If you’ve read the earlier books in this series, you’ll know there will be more than one crime story and the stories will somehow be connected. The second story involves car thief, Ian Holden. I think you’ll like the way I introduce him into the story.

Ian’s a man with a different problem. He’s part of a car-stealing gang and he’s just been caught with the goods. There may be honour among thieves but that doesn’t always translate into trust, and this is where Ian Holden’s real problem lies.

When Twisted Justice opens, DI West’s team is investigating a car-stealing racket that seems to be doing the impossible. Then, Trent Mitchell strikes, and Carl has to divide his attention and resources to solve both cases.

This is a bit of a different read, where you know who the killer is right at the start and get to ride along with the team as it works out who he is.

You also get a look into how the team uses incremental steps to build the case against the mastermind of the car-stealing gang. Wayne seems a little obsessed with this one.

And, of course, there are a few twists and turns. Let’s face it, logical people often make irrational decisions – and that’s what makes crime so interesting.

Twisted Justice is available from a range of online retailers.

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Computers and Crime

Have you noticed that every time a device comes along to make life easier someone always finds a way to us it against us? 

Electronic banking was supposed to make moving money around easier and more secure. Now there’s more theft – and it’s not only money they’re stealing. Although, ultimately, it’s always money they’re after. It might not be your money but it could be your identity they want to use to get someone else’s money.

Relax. It’s not my intention to deter you from shopping online. There are plenty of safeguards in place. You know the drill – keep your internet security software up to date, shop on secure sites, and don’t click on links or open attachments from suspicious emails.

What I want to share, from a crime writing perspective, is an insight into the impact of computers on police work – an entry from the other side of the ledger.

Continue reading “Computers and Crime”

Life or Death – Michael Robotham

Why would a man break out of prison the day before he was due to be released?

This is the question driving the story of Audie Palmer in Life or Death by Michael Robotham.

It’s certainly a question that kept me turning the pages in this well-constructed riddle, and I was a long way in before I picked up the clue that exposes the reason behind Audie’s apparently mindless act.

Life or Death is an intriguing story with an interesting cast of players, including Moss Webster, Audie’s only friend when he was in prison, who gets dragged into the hunt, and FBI Special Agent Desiree Furness, who wants to get to the bottom of what’s really going on.

Of course, there is another group of characters who only want Audie dead, so there is more than enough action to keep you wondering whether Audie is going to end up dead or not before you find out the answer to that initial question.

Good read. I can recommend this one.

You can find out more about Michael Robotham and where to buy his books at michaelrobotham.com

Reading Whistleblower

Whistleblower: someone who informs on a person or organisation engaging in unlawful or immoral acts. 

We hear about the more sensational whistleblowers, like Edward Snowden, who take their stories to the media. Most public service whistleblowing is nothing like that. It’s routine and done behind closed doors far away from the media spotlight.

Whistleblower starts with the routine reporting of a suspicion that something is not quite right in the Office of State Supply. However, the whistleblower makes a mistake that alerts those involved and puts him in harm’s way.

The story explores a simple premise: the whistleblower has his own secret that leads to his death after he lifts the lid on the secret dealings of the Office of State Supply.

But, as anyone who’s read the other books in this series will know, it won’t be that simple. You will find several stories wrapped together in this tale of murder and intrigue. Continue reading “Reading Whistleblower”

Factfulness

Think you know a thing or two about the way the world is?

Ready to have some of your facts challenged?

How would you feel if I told you a chimpanzee choosing answers at random scores better than most of us when it comes to answering questions about the state of affairs in the world?

That’s a claim made by the authors of Factfulness: Ten Reasons We Are Wrong About The World – And Why Things Are Better Than You Think.

The lead author is Hans Rosling, who spent a major part of his life studying data. Hans is supported by Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Ronnlund, co-founders of Gapminder.

Take the Gapminder test and see if you do better than those chimpanzees.

After doing the test, buy yourself a copy of Factfulness to discover why we get things so wrong when we think we know the answers, and explore the tools and resources on Gapminder – where you’ll find a lot of useful information.

I think you’ll find this book is an eye-opener, and I’m happy to recommend it as a worthwhile read for anyone who wants to become aware of how good things are in the world today.


Peter Mulraney is the author of My Life is My Responsibility: Insights for Conscious Living and Beyond the Words: Reflections on I Am Affirmations.