All posts by tony

For Better or for Worse – Being a Writer

Please tell us about the latest of your highly sucessful Jack Hamma books: Miss Marple Struts Her Stuff is the latest of the successful Jack Hamma books it is a relentless and, dare I say it, humorous thriller where every move is a false start and every clue is a red herring. Private eye, Jack Hamma, faces the Hong Kong Mafia, better known as the Triad, and gets mixed up in a deadly turf war where knives and cleavers are the order of the day. Engaged to protect a beautiful Chinese girl, February Ling, daughter of the Triad Dragon Master, Jack fouls up big time, can he pull everything together and sort out the mystery or will the Triad’s infighting see the end of our indomitable hero.

So what I and your readers would like to know is when did you decide to become a writer? I have always written. As a small boy, who couldn’t read or write, I used to write pirate stories. These stories happened in my head and as I didn’t know words or how to write them I used to make up words by combining letters, any letters from the alphabet or I’d go to books and take words and copy them out. The teachers would have found my stories strange to say the least, if I read them now they would seem surreal.

What genre do you write in? When I read a book I like it to move not to plod along so I call the books I write electric. I want books to be alive, I want them to race along and at the same time give the reader the feeling that they are there, that even if the story is not happening to them, they are standing in the wings watching. To put it more conventionally I write factual books such as my book on cider, humorous whodunits, romantic travel adventures including Sex Sardines and Sauerkraut and my latest series of slightly humorous action adventures, Shakespeare on the Roof and In Bed with Jane Austen.

What inspired you to write in this genre? I think ebooks need to move and be fast paced, they shouldn’t be overblown, now that publishers are taken out of the mix books don’t need to be any longer than they need to be, all a book needs is to introduce the characters and to tell the story with style and flair.

How long do you take to write a book? I don’t like writing long, long books so I write about 150 pages plus and that can take me up to six months. My books may be relatively short but they are packed full of life, action and dialogue, I don’t spend pages describing irrelevant things.

Do you put aside a special time to write each day? I believe that if you want to write you first have to live otherwise you won’t have anything to write about. A writer shouldn’t be a nine to fiver with set work patterns but should go out there and live life and then write about it. So yes, or should it be no, I do not have any set patterns. I write the book inside my head and then sit down and get it down on paper or the PC as is the modern way.

Do you work to an outline or plot when you write? I like to get an idea for a situation and a character or two and that is my starting point. I develop a vision of where the whole thing is going and then I start writing letting the characters have their own voice and the situations develop organically.

Any advice for aspiring authors? The main trick to being a writer is not to talk about being a writer but to sit down and write. I think if you have just finished school or university then really you may be able to put pen to paper but will it be interesting? First and foremost you have to develop the person within, get some life experiences and then you can write something interesting, pertinent and your own. My other piece of advice is to find a good editor, a good editor will turn the ordinary into a masterpiece.

You mentioned you’re writing a new story. How about a teaser? My latest story is Hi Jack. It’s the fifth Jack Hamma action adventure and is being edited right now. Here’s a little bit from Chapter One of Hi Jack:
I was out cold until I hit the water. It was freezing and I immediately awoke. My senses had no time to figure out what was going on, I was in the sea, it was cold, I was heavy and sinking fast. I desperately needed to breathe and before I could take control of myself my mouth automatically opened and in rushed the sea. I coughed and spluttered, if you can do that under water, the sea raced up my nose and ran down my throat. Drowning, it is said, is a lovely way to die, believe me it isn’t. My throat was retching painfully, I felt like I had swallowed a glass of tiny pins. I was dying, I was lost and there was nothing I could do. I had a chain attached to something heavy and also attached to my legs and my hands were bound tight, there was no solution to my dilemma, I was sinking and I realised that I would sink forever. I kicked and kicked and kicked out anyway, it was hopeless but I kicked some more.

Who is your favorite character in your book and why? Jack Hamma is one of my favorite characters possibly because he is a laid-back Australian. Jack never takes anything seriously, not even dying, and he often looks death in the face. Jack is a bit of a rebel, he doesn’t get on well with authority, he’s fair minded and doesn’t like to jump to conclusions. He’s also a sucker for a pretty face which gets him into trouble along the way. In one story, Miss Marple Struts her Stuff, he even gets hijacked by February Ling the daughter of a Triad mobster.

Do you have any tips you’d like to recommend to aspiring writers? I believe writers need to develop their own style. I guess mine is direct, electric, fast moving, first person, with rapid-fire dialogue. I wasn’t taught this I developed it, you can’t be taught how to write you have to find it from within.

You come up with so many ideas and characters in your stories where do you come up with them all? First I get an idea for a character and a situation. Sometimes from talking to people, sometimes from watching people in a café or at a market, I guess I watch and listen and absorb influences from the world and then scribble them down to create my stories.

What do your fans mean to you?
My fans are the core support system of who I am as a writer. I write to be read and a fan is someone who loves what I write so fans are a great ego boost and we all have egos that need boosting. To put it simply my fans are my best friends, I owe them everything.

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The Food we Eat

photo King Cole 2

Sue has just read an interesting book by Nina Teicholz The Big Fat Surprize, and in it she states that the LOW FAT DIET is a fraud and is causing all sorts of health problems and in fact we should be eating saturated fats, full cream milk, cream, fatty meat, eggs etc. It’s probably a pretty good idea as that is the sort of food Sue and I eat, Sue leaves out the meat and we don’t eat sugar, and everyone can’t believe how slim we look.

There is another book Pure White and Deadly by Englishman John Yudkin and he believes that the worst thing we eat is Sugar, not a message everyone can swallow though.

My own belief is that if we eat what people have eaten throughout time especially before the industrial revolution, do a bit of exercise and keep our mind active then we will be healthy.

I was going to add a picture of our cookbook but I failed so I’ll just tell you about it briefly: It’s called Sugar Free Cooking in Sue’s Vegetarian Kitchen and is available as a book or as a download on Amazon check it out.

Cheers Tony

– Continental Drift – Sex Sardines & Sauerkraut

Travel can be a fantastic adventure, a slow boat down the Yangtze Kiang in China or taking the trans- Siberian railway across Russia. It can also be a not so fantastic adventure, gun battles in Israel, the brothels of Bangkok and food poisoning in sight of the Pyramids in Egypt. These three books have it all in delightful spoonfuls.

But we mustn’t forget the characters. A mob of interesting people inhabit these pages, Polish refugees escaping communism, ex members of the Irish Republican Army, a drunken Franciscan friar, a deaf and dumb Greek farmer who took on German paratroopers in World War Two and an eccentric American professor who believes that we were all descended from the same fish.

And that’s just some of the men, there are a whole menagerie of interesting and exciting women. Texas the feisty American girl who is saved at a border crossing in India, the beautiful and frenetic Frenella, an expert in foreign languages, who wants to be loved for her mind, capitalistic Saffire with her blue lipstick and finger nails, the ambitious tour guide Adelaide who leads a merry dance through the Holy Land and not to forget the Curly Wurley Sex Machine, Curls to her friends, with her glorious trusses.

You will enjoy meeting the heroes of these romantic travel adventures. Axel is dominated by his mother and has tentative experiments with sex, entrepreneur, Jonathon Marvel, is the youngest self-made billionaire in the world and Ash, something of a recluse, learns to cope with the world because if he doesn’t it’s going to walk all over him.

These books form a trilogy of travel adventures through the world and back again. Travel was never like this, one commentator wrote but yes it is, as all these books have a large slice of autobiography to add to the delicious pie that you will taste as you dip into these glorious tales.

M&H Front cover

SSS Front cover

The Eccentric Detective

The Eccentric Detective

Arthur Conan Doyle started it all with his highly successful and extremely eccentric detective Sherlock Holmes. If you read the Sherlock Holmes stories, I hope I am not treading on too many toes by saying this but quite frankly they are not very good! So if it’s true that they are not too brilliant how come they are so successful? ‘Elementary my dear Watson,’ says Holmes, although I don’t think Holmes ever said that. What makes the Sherlock Holmes stories so popular is not the plot line or the stories but the character of Sherlock Holmes himself. It was the violin playing, drug taking, master of disguise, intense, meticulous and utterly methodical and amateur, but inspired amateur, detective that captured the popular imagination. Holmes could work out who killed who simply by the wear on a left foot shoe or the slight piece of dust on the lapel of a dinner jacket and this spellbound the readership. This sort of attention to detail was new and so was the art of detection, throw in a deerstalker hat and a funny pipe, both added later, and you have a character that the reading public and later the film and TV going public can visualise, admire and love.

Strange interesting detectives sprang up in many books in the early twentieth century. Lord Peter Wimsey a frivolous, languid and decadent aristocrat spent his spare time solving intricate murders in the Dorothy Sayer murder mysteries. There was also Chesterton’s Father Brown starring a short, fat, priest who wore a cassock and a funny hat and used lateral thinking, or thinking outside of the square, to solve complex mind boggling riddles of crimes.

Then there was Agatha Christie. She created two eccentric detectives destined to become superstars on a par with Sherlock Holmes, the funny little pedantic Belgian detective Hercule Poirot with the silly moustache who is full of his own importance with his little grey cells and is really a bit of a pain and Agatha Christie’s other famous detective the gossiping old lady Miss Marple who misses nothing and has a rather severe view of human nature. After creating these two eccentric sleuths Agatha Christie went on to become one of the most read writers in the world. When I was a boy people read Agatha Christie when they went to the beach as a holiday read but she was considered very low brow, today her status has improved but really she is not a great writer so why is it that she is so popular?

I put Agatha Christie’s popularity down to basically one thing, she didn’t write detective stories so much as puzzles, and puzzles of one form or another are immensely popular. Agatha Christie’s approach to a story, as in Murder at the Vicarage, is to introduce up to a dozen characters from all walks of life and to set up a situation where any one of those characters could have done the murder. There is a murder, the police arrive and the eccentric detective takes over, the clues are set out, a few red herrings are thrown in for good measure, the police get nowhere and then the eccentric detective unravels the puzzle. Agatha Christie writes clearly and concisely so the books are easy to read and easy to follow and all the time the reader is kept guessing, and clearly the reader enjoys the guessing game, the reader enjoys pitting their brains against Agatha Christie’s, they enjoy trying to outsmart the eccentric detective.

The other quality that Agatha Christie has, and this goes hand in hand with the puzzle format, is the ability to create a dozen or more quite distinctive stereotype characters, the priest, the retired soldier, the interfering old lady, the lethargic young girl, the love struck boy, the energetic but rude police detective, the self-possessed artist, the unloved wife and so on. Agatha Christie’s ability to create a mob of energetic and individual stereotype characters enables the reader to follow her puzzles with ease. Finally the eccentric detective is a draw card in itself and the weird little man, Hercule Poirot, is a real draw card every bit as famous as the great Sherlock Holmes.

Another quality Agatha Christie has is the ability to present interesting stage sets for her murders, a famous train in Murder on the Orient Express, a river boat in Death on the Nile, an archaeological dig in the middle east, a holiday resort on an island, a famous hotel in London and she also uses the English grand country house and the typical quaint English Village and so on. She is also very good at throwing in the odd amusing line. The following two quotes are from The Murder at the Vicarage:

I do hate old women they tell you about their bad legs and sometimes insist on showing them to you.

There is no detective in England equal to a spinster lady of uncertain age with plenty of time on her hands.

There is also a whimsical side to Agatha Christie, she even satirizes herself in the form of the novelist Ariadne Oliver. Hastings is yet another of her fun characters, the loveable Hastings is a send up of the average middle class English gentleman come fuddy duddy military intelligence officer. If you peruse Murder at the Vicarage the maid, Mary, is a character of pure fun, Agatha Christie sends up the hired help, in the form of cook and girl of all trades, she can’t particularly cook, isn’t much good at cleaning, is surly with both guests and her employers alike, but they won’t say anything to her as they don’t want her to get any better, they are worried that she could find more lucrative employment elsewhere if she wasn’t so bad at her job.

An interesting point about Miss Marple, the busy body old lady detective, is that she quite often doesn’t take part in the stories to any great extent, she is more a Greek chorus sitting in the background commenting on the action. Take At Bertram’s Hotel, she is more like an avenging angel helping to guide providence than a real detective, she lets the police do ninety percent of the work. Hercule Poirot or the other hand likes to take control and he is a rather annoying creature full of his own self importance someone should write a whodunit where he gets shot. Miss Marple has met her Waterloo in the book Miss Marple Struts her Stuff however, I know this as, in fact, I wrote the book! It’s coming out soon try it.

Cheers Anthony E Thorogood July 2015

I also wrote

In Bed with Jane Austen

About to start In Bed with Jane Austen woohoo looking forward to Jack Hamma’s next case.

An awesome book! It’s really funny and you’ll just love the book.

The Action Adventure Hero Grows Up

The Action Adventure Hero Grows Up

One of my favourite genres in literature is the Action Adventure. This genre goes way back to the beginning of literature with Homer’s Ulysses (The Odyssey) and Apollonius of Rhodes Voyage of Argo or Jason and the Argonauts. Many of Shakespeare’s plays have the aura of the action adventure about them and to me Robert Louis Stevenson’s two books Kidnapped and Treasure Island are two great action adventures.

Just before World War One the action adventure came into its own with two of my all-time favourite books The Riddle of the Sands and The Thirty Nine Steps. The Riddle adds three new features to the action adventure: romance, the spy story and the detective story. The hero of The Riddle of the Sands, Davies, meets a girl and falls in love but the girl’s father is a German spy so Davies is in a dilemma, he has to do the right thing by the girl and at the same time he has to do the right thing by his country. Patriotism was a new feature of the action adventure and has been a big component ever since but personally I do not think that it is an essential element. When I write my action adventures old fashioned drum bashing patriotism is left out, I write more about the people, as in my first action adventure Shakespeare on the Roof. Jack Hamma is the all singing and dancing hero but he is much more than that and Kashmere is the beautiful but at times over zealous heroine. In Bed with Jane Austen, another Jack Hamma adventure features Anastasia, she is a girl in the process of becoming a woman, and I tell the story of Jack, Kashmere and Anastasia through the action.

One element that is very important in the action adventure is the hero. He (read he/she whichever you prefer) must be credible, a good guy, at least at some level, and an action man. The hero doesn’t need to go around shooting people but he must set the plot spinning. Richard Hannay, in The Thirty Nine Steps, is one of the greatest heroes of action adventures, he is resourceful, rugged, has incredible stamina, he can fight, he leads the charge and in later novels he even gets romantic, slightly.

The Thirty Nine Steps is a patriotic pre World War One adventure but after this time writers, in the shape of Sapir with his hero Bulldog Drummond, wrote about the collapse of society as a result of the psychological damage done to the fabric of society during World War One. Sapir, to me, fails for two reasons. One, the best action adventure such as The Thirty Nine Steps and my own Jack Hamma series, set their hero in incredible landscapes and the geography and location play a significant role in the story, not so Bulldog Drummond, the stories are set in a rather flat landscape. The second weakness is that to continue to write the Bulldog Drummond books Sapir lets his villain escape every time and, to me, this is just a little bit limp.

Action adventures have the ability not only to dovetail into the geography of the location but also into the politics of the day. So when the Nazis took over Germany Eric Ambler was inspired to write his spy stories that involved international politics and of course German spies. Ambler’s heroes have changed, they are no longer super heroes but ordinary people caught up in world events. In the book Appointment with Death the hero is a rather ordinary engineer who has a rather ordinary wife back home, he gets into a tight spot, through no fault of his own, and gets out by the skin of his teeth, a sort of everyman type hero.

After World War Two the Nazis were beaten and a new enemy arose for our action adventure hero to fight. The communists, Russians and the KGB were now the enemy and a powerful enemy they made. This political situation, The Cold War, called for an especially brilliant super hero and Ian Fleming’s naval commander James Bond took up the challenge. James Bond represented all that communism was seen not to be, he was resourceful, he was a playboy, he was a go getter who enjoyed all the pleasures of western civilisation as against the ruthless but rather dreary Russian spies.

Both the action adventure and the spy story, which had been closely allied after The Riddle of the Sands, suddenly faced steep competition from a fairly new genre, the whodunit. The whodunit became so popular that the action adventure heroes became private eyes and policemen. The action adventure hero has also headed off into space, isn’t Doctor Who an action adventure? And the action adventure has also returned to the world of fairies and myths, The Lord of the Rings is an action adventure par excellence. The action adventure has come full circle, it emerged from mythical tales of super heroes and has re-immersed itself in a mythical world of super heroes.

So where is the action adventure going now? The answer is that today the patriotic hero who risks all for king and country is dead, the modern hero has to be a caring sharing free thinking, good looking, fit and ready for action, action man. He has to be considered a bit of a hunk by the ladies but the James Bond sleaze bag is long dead. We live in a world where loyalties transcend national boundaries, the action adventure man has to be the defender of a united humanity rather than the patriot fighting bad people from a bad country. The action adventure hero is no longer fighting for the status quo, no longer defending the ruling classes, he fight for the poor and down trodden, he can be an environmental warrior or he may defend an individual against an intrusive and all powerful government. In short the modern action man, such as my hero Jack Hamma in Shakespeare on the Roof, is a complex character with contradictions and weaknesses, he is of the common man and the defender of humanity. The action adventure hero has come of age.

Creating the New Book

Creating the New Book

This blog is actually about me, sorry about that, and about what I am trying to do, not as a businessman-slash-writer, but as an artist. Do remember that even if your main goal in writing is to make money you are also a representative of a fine old tradition of story-telling that goes back to the beginning of mankind.

The Play’s the Thing

I started writing crazy plays when I was at university. It was very hard to get my plays staged but that didn’t worry me, I formed a small theatre troupe and staged my plays myself. I wrote short snappy comedies and the audiences laughed, cheered and applauded. Even though my plays worked, it was just about impossible to get theatre companies interested, all they staged were the classics or rather dull drawing room dramas.

Foxtrotting Along  

At the time I was working all night as a waiter, to get a little nest egg together, and then one day I packed my bags got on an aeroplane and went travelling for six years. During my travels I wrote my first novel A Foxtrot Through India inspired by a trip to India. I entered Foxtrot in a competition for novels in England, I didn’t win, but at the presentation night I was told by the judges that my book was the best but it was too short. Of course it was short, it was snappy and to the point with no long descriptive passages! The presentation night was a  weird experience, the judges spent the whole night talking to me and ignoring the winner of the competition.

Cider Drink it

It took me twenty years to perfect Foxtrot. Eventually I found a publisher but when they accepted my book they wanted to change it so much that I refused to let them publish it. Disillusioned with publishers I decided to publish my books myself. I started with Cider Drink It Make It Cook with It, which sold out quickly, and I followed that up with a cookbook, that also sold out and then a book of plays Noahs Nuclear Niche and finally A Foxtrot Through India. All my books were well received, sold well and made a profit but self-publishing is an expensive past time, involving a large outlay of funds, so when a German publisher approached me I jumped at the chance.

eBooks

My next foray into publishing involved a German publishing company. They approached me and asked to publish my books, the least said about this experience the better. Don’t get me wrong, I like German people very much but the myth that Germans are very efficient and craftsmen was destroyed by actually working with them. So when the opportunity came for me to self-publish eBooks on Amazon Kindle I jumped at the chance. Basically, I see a writer as an artist, and in order to develop their art they must get published in some form or other, so eBooks are a great invention for writers, They also help foster creativity, give writers exposure and help a writer develop, and writers need to get exposure to develop.

Comedy Capers

Writing comedy in eBooks however is very difficult because the reader has to work at it as well as the writer. Comedy is easier on the stage, the actors can create the mood with the audience, but when comedy is written for reading, it is the reader who has to create the mood and the modern reader is often not prepared to put the effort in to actually laugh. Writing comedy is often poo pooed, as if it is easy to write, but in fact it is harder to write than romance or horror. To be successful at writing comedy the writer has to engage the reader and make them drop their natural inhibition to laugh, the problem is that the modern urbane, educated, sophisticated reader looks down their nose at comedy. I faced all these problems but took the bull by the horns, so to speak, and decided to write a series of comic whodunits. A series of four books, Death in the Australian Outback, was born. The action is driven by two crazy detectives, Bigfoot and Littlefoot, but I threw in a serious minded female policewoman, Sergeant Elizabeth West, to keep the beer swilling, loud mouthed men under control. The other thing I did was to go for uncontrolled comedy, the comedy, or craziness, is none stop and what I am trying to do is make a comedy that pushes the boundaries of the genre to new heights, or lows, as the reader may decide. Comedy is not the only driving force in these whodunits however I wanted in each story to present a new and interesting problem, new and interesting characters and to present a view of mankind where people are there for each other, a sense of community you might say.

Action Adventure

If writing crazy whodunits wasn’t problematic enough my style is also new and perhaps ahead of its time. Being ahead of your time, believe me, is not a comfortable place to be. I write with an electric style, fast moving with no long overblown prose, no baggage hanging off the side. I let the story race along and tell itself. I have been particularly successful at this in my Jack Hamma books especially In Bed With Jane Austen. I wrote In Bed giving the reader not even a pause to breath and the book, I think, is a particularly successful personification of my ideas of what a book should be, a passionate flow of words that force the action along, faster moving than even a movie. One thing I like to do is write books that are so fast paced that even movies and television seem slow.

Putting Passion Back into Books

I moved from writing plays with punchy dialogue to writing comic whodunits, where I just let the comedy roll, not stopping even to tell the story and then I moved into fast paced action adventures where I don’t even give the reader a toilet break. I believe that I have only just begun to experiment with the form of the written word. One of my goals is to beat the television, youtube, Facebook and the rest of the electronic media at their own game. I want to fight no rear guard action for the book but to reinvent the way books are written and most of all put passion, guts, invention and creativity back into literature.

Anthony E Thorogood

Comedy Capers – the background to Bigfoot Littlefoot and West

Teach Yourself to Laugh

 Brain Storming: What is comedy? These are just a few thoughts to help me, and you the reader, understand what this most difficult of all the styles of the written word actually is. If I brain stormed the idea I would put down such words as absurd, juxtaposition, the unexpected, the stupid, slap stick, patter, satire, a romp and taboo. There are probably heaps more I could write down but that will do for now.

Tradition: Comedy is often defined as a domestic situation with ordinary people doing ordinary things, especially falling in love, and the definition states that comedy does not have to be funny. Well personally I think the above definition is crap, if a book or a play doesn’t make me laugh, or attempt to make me laugh, then for me it’s not comedy.

Let go: One interesting thing about comedy is that it means different things to different people. In my Death in the Australian Outback series I went the whole hog, the comedy comes first, then the story line, but when people review the these books some write that they are really really funny, others state that they are not funny enough and others say that they are not funny at all! This leads us to the fact that comedy, like sex, has a problem, you have to be in the mood. I think people are afraid of real comedy as they find it confrontational. They have to laugh at things which they have become comfortable with so they stiffen up and go po-faced and when this happens they can’t see the funny side, as my old mum used to say. Perhaps the reader of comedy should get half drunk before reading.

Translating from the Greek: If we translate the word comedy from the original Greek it means village revels and really that is a great description of what comedy should be: an unsophisticated gang of people having fun. We have all been in the situation where you are half drunk with a bunch of friends, having a bit of a chin wag or a sing song and everything but everything is funny. Charles says ‘soup’ and everybody laughs, Mary says ‘shoes’ and everyone cracks up laughing, for no real reason the laughter just rolls on. Real comedy is tied to laughter and we sophisticated, Western, educated, urbane, intellectuals would rather sit around being trendy and smart than give off a good belly laugh.

Infectious: Laughter, however, when it does happen is infectious so a comedian on a stage, if he can relax his audience and make them start laughing, has won the battle. So having seduced ones audience, got them drugged up on their own laughter adrenalin, and laughter does create joy releasing happy chemicals throughout the body, how does the comedian maintain this state of being? What are the weapons in his arsenal? This question takes us right back to my original brain storming.

Absurd: This is perhaps the same as silly or stupid and a stupid character saying stupid things is usually very funny. This is another point, comedy revolves around the human condition, so it needs people for us to laugh at whether they are government employees being officious about bits of paper that nobody reads or two half-witted blondes trying to change a punctured tyre on a car. Good comedy relies, to a large extent, on a bunch of stereotyped characters doing stereotyped things and yes stereotypes can be interesting and can evolve.

Juxtaposition: Juxtaposition is a big word and it means putting things together that don’t normally go together. Can I think of an example, perhaps a very tall thin man trying to kiss a very short fat woman, already this concept brings a smile to your face!

Well Rounded Phrase:  I would have to reread PJ Wodehouse’s Joy in the Morning for an example of this, if you want one, you know where to find one. I try to use the well rounded phrase in my Jack Hamma series, (See Shakespeare on the Roof) the well rounded phrase beautifully states the absurd and there we are, back to silly again, have to look deeper into silly if I get time.

The Unexpected:  The unexpected is a great comic tool. What the comedian does here is lead the audience down a fairly well-trodden garden path and then throws everything out of kilter by finishing with the opposite idea to the one the audience’s common sense logic has led them to. This is a great device, it jolts the audience and makes them sit up and think. It’s a device I often use, set up a subject, add a bit of matter, end up with a twist and the audience will not only be slightly shocked but amused.

Limericks: Limericks are rhyming versions of the unexpected, the last line of a limerick has to have an element of the unexpected or the unconventional, I use limericks in my book Murder Mayhem and Madness often you don’t even need the last line as the audience work it out for themselves and if it is a bit rude it can be very funny if not stated too explicitly. Rhyming works in limericks as it helps soften up the listener’s brain for the punch line. Music and dance are also useful tools in the comedian’s tool kit so light opera, such as a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, are perennially popular the world over. As I said music and dance soften up the brain and often act like alcohol releasing good fun vibrations and overcoming the modern person’s reluctance to enjoy themselves.

Stupid: The stupid character, saying and doing stupid things, is great in comedy as the audience quickly cotton on to the fact that this character is stupid and they are more than ready to laugh at them. The stupid character brings out another point, human weakness, stupidity, vanity, blindly in love etc, comedy takes advantage of human weakness and laughs itself to death at them. We have to face the fact comedy is malicious! In the old days people laughed at Jews, Arabs, black men, Chinese, women, the mentally retarded, even people slipping on banana skins, let’s face it comedy is often not one hundred percent nice. Audiences like to laugh at someone else’s expense so perhaps the cultural police should declare comedy illegal.

Slapstick: Slapstick, to put it in a nut shell, is people tripping on a banana skin, falling onto their bum or rough physical humour. I don’t know one single person who, at some stage, hasn’t laughed at a friend or relative when they have fallen over. As I said before we humans are malicious. We seem to find people bumping into things, dropping things, getting hit over the head with large German sausages, getting thumbs stuck in car doors and the like funny. Maybe there is something wrong with humans but if there is, laughing at ourselves would be the cure.

Patter: There is a bit of famous patter called Who’s on Third performed by Albert and Costello. If you understand a little about baseball it’s quite hilarious, it combines misconception, word play, and downright stupid characters who we laugh at but the patter, the repetition of the comic word formula, builds the whole sequence into a painful to listen to crescendo. Comedy at its best can be quite painful, as in the Fawlty Towers episode with the deaf old lady, Basil in this episode, ties himself into a painful series of verbal knots.

Satire: Satire is political comedy, or comedy of current affairs and current trends, usually satire takes a current politician and sends them up. So how does satire work? Often the audience has decided already that, mention a particular person’s name, and it, the audience, will laugh. So in England in the 1980’s a puppet satire on television often featured a Margaret Thatcher puppet and it was very funny. Basically people had already agreed to laugh at any jokes about Margaret Thatcher, and society does this, it agrees to make fun of certain people, however time moves on and thirty years later it’s hard to see what the joke was.

This brings up another point about comedy it can become dated. Comedy is often about the here and now, and things we find funny today are not necessarily funny to a new generation. Having said that comedy about perpetual themes can be laughed at by generation after generation such as Benedick and Beatrice in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. A man and a woman mutually repelled and mutually attracted to each other is one of the greatest of comic themes, look at Pride and Prejudice for a good example.

A Romp: When I was a mere boy, television was full of slightly sexual romps, men with their trousers around their knees chasing big breasted women in bikinis. A quick innuendo: you have got a lovely banana there or what a lovely bunch of coconuts and then the chase.  This type of humour is not popular today, especially with the cultural police, but it is actually essential to the comedy or the village revel and the first comedies were full of sexual innuendo and men with big dangling phalluses. So somehow, somewhere, sex is funny and we love to laugh at it, sex is one of the cornerstones of a comedian’s tool kit, don’t ask me why, perhaps it’s related to our next word: Taboo!

Taboo: Taboo, or we mustn’t talk about this, or say that word, is an area that is full of good possibilities for the comedian. Bodily liquids such as sperm and urine and bodily functions such as going to the toilet, farting, and not to forget having sex, are taboo in many cultures and the fact that they are taboo seems to make them funny. The words fuck, cunt, and mother fucker are some of the most taboo words in the English language today but fuck is used so often nowadays that it’s losing its impact. Still people often say fuck in the hope of raising a smile, to say the slang word for a woman’s vagina doesn’t seem to get the same laugh, perhaps there are taboo words and then there are taboo words, or perhaps the word cunt is very very taboo!

Ineptitude: So, strangely enough, no matter how civilised we are, we like to laugh at peoples ineptitude. Certain things comedians are allowed to make fun of and certain things they are not. If you can make up a joke about a white Anglo Saxon man you are on a winner, the whole world will laugh with you, but most other ethnic groups and sex groups are off limits, having said that the blonde joke is still very much alive and well and the Irish joke is impossible to kill off. In spite of the cultural police we still like to laugh at others.

Laughing Yoga: Laughing is an interesting phenomenon, you can actually do it without any jokes being made. In a therapy called Laughter Yoga people just get together and laugh and the laughter becomes infectious and each time the people get together it becomes easier to laugh and the laughter becomes more infectious and when the laughter is over the people feel good. So, we can listen to music, sing, dance, take drugs, get drunk or go to laughter yoga to chill out, but what about sitting down with a good humorous book (Death in the Sydney Opera house for example) taking a deep breath and then laughing and when you have taught yourself to laugh then you can begin to read, enjoy and relax.

All of the above: In my series of books Death in the Australian Outback I used all of the above Technics and more to create humorous situations but the problem is the reader has to play his or her part comedy is a live art form even as written word the reader has to be in the right frame of mind and ready to laugh, horror works the same way if you are not ready to be scared then a horror story won’t work for you. Word of mouth is a great tool if you recommend this book to someone and say: It’s very funny, then if that someone read it they are much more likely to laugh the problem is to get the reader to lighten up in the first place, as Bigfoot says to Sergeant Elizabeth West in the series Death in the Australian Outback: Chill out West.

Have a laugh on me

Cheers Anthony E Thorogood