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Welcome - The International Writers Magazine - DECEMBER 2008
writing from across the globe.

Editorial: December 9th
My God - that Chinese curse 'May you live in interesting times' never sounded so relevant.

It’s quite a shock to read that the LA Times and the Chicago Tribune are bust. (More correctly going into Chapter 11 (bankruptcy protection) administration after the owner/CEO Sam Zell who also owns KTLA-TV Channel 5 was unable to make interest payments on nearly $13 billion of debt.) Sam Zell bought The Tribune using leverage from his property empire and we all know what happens to empires…

Although I have no affinity for The Trib, I do for the LA Times over the years and even on-line (although to be honest there is no symbiotic relationship with a digital version). I used to like getting into training to lift the weighty Sunday edition and it took at least two days to get through it all – perfect for a procrastinating writer. It was a slimmer version I read in Vancouver (a city without a decent Sunday paper).

But on reflection I guess it shouldn’t be a shock at all. (I’m guessing the guy who owns these papers isn’t a newspaperman, he’s a gambler, a property speculator who has come a cropper and this was just like some people who own football teams, an investment, but not something he ‘loved or nurtured’). Newspapers are something you love, can’t live without, but that too may be a last generational thing. I am now in that vast wasteland my fifties and considered ancient. My students look at me with horror when I ask them to read newspapers, especially quality papers such as The Times, Guardian, Telegraph and of course the LA Times. I don’t exactly go down on my knees to encourage this, but I try to show that it should be important to be informed in detail. Getting your headlines from your iphone or USA Today is a poor substitute, watching Fox News is the opposite of knowledge, but worse, just being totally disinterested in news, events, politics, environment, anything is nothing short of a disgrace and we are talking about media students, creative writing students who wants JOBS on papers and magazines when they graduate.

I try to point out, if you don’t read them why should they hire you? If you don’t read them, they may not be there when you need them and still they don’t get it.

So I guess the LA Times and The Trib will suffer that fate of ever-downward spiral as advertising revenues fall and content suffers, journalists fired. Want to know something, Google it. No need to buy a paper. I realise now that what I have been teaching for twenty years ‘that everything you know will be superseded, most everything you thought was fixed in the universe will change or be disproved, everything you care about will disappear,’ is coming more true by the day.
The New York Times is going to have to sell 58% of it’s headquarters to stay in business according to The Times and that’s pretty serious. We are in danger of losing all the serious papers in the next five years and although I will care, a whole generation behind me won’t miss them one bit, they don’t even know they are there.

The recession could kill off anything that’s valuable, venerable and vulnerable. The web will eat it all.

Yes something new will emerge and some of it will be good, breathtaking even, but just as Facebook proved that we have a generation of kids who care nothing for privacy, I believe they unwittingly lay themselves open to the menace of ID cards loaded with personal (but hidden information), control by a extreme paranoid government (New Labour has set in motion a law that will let them read all your emails and listen to all your phone calls).

I happen to love newspapers, always have and my life will be diminished by the lack of them in the future. You could say adapt, and I can see the potential of the Sony Reader for example in storing 300 books at a time, but it’s not paper or bendable or even chuck –awayable in disgust when you don’t like it. (Delete just doesn’t cut it).

I shall continue to read newspapers until they all go bust and even as I write this I hear rumours that ‘The Independent’ in the UK may fold in early ’09.
Joy to the World huh.

December 6th:
It’s your duty to go out there and spend says our PM, and so says George Bush and Obama, president–elect. All well and good if you have just lost your job or it feels under threat. Pretty much impossible if you work in Woolworth’s (Going Going nearly gone) or countless other major retailers, all grimly hanging on till Christmas. You wouldn’t want to be running a factory in China either as all the retailers go under in Europe, American and the UK. Even Dubai is feeling the pinch!

So, for those of you still with electricity and a web connection I want you to know I have just done my bit for the economy. Plonked my cash down for a deposit on a new car.
ARE YOUR CRAZY? You say. They will be giving them away for free in the New Year. You’ll get your pick of GM vehicles for practically nothing; add Chrysler and the rest after that.

I walked past the Dodge showroom as it happened last week. I just can’t believe how truly ugly their cars are right now, how so completely wrong they are for the market. For the record I am keeping Fiat in business. They offer me a new vehicle with roughly $7000 off the price, a five-year guarantee, 65mpg, air con and good design. Please note PM that I expect a knighthood for this self-sacrifice. Hell I don't even need a new car.

OK the power steering is a tad overdone and I couldn’t feel the road much when test driving, but it’s a bargain. I was a bit upset to discover I had to pay for the paint however, and wait two-three weeks for delivery but even so, it’s still a bargain and road tax is just £35 and there’s free parking in the Isle of Wight if I am ever stupid enough to want to go there.

I note that it isn’t just newspapers that will disappear. I am just about to buy this Fiat and in The Times 9th Dec 2008 they say they may not survive the recession and what then of the ‘Five year’ guarantee that comes with the car. Not the best selling pitch I feel. I bought a car now because I have a feeling that in five years time buying one may be illegal or the only choice will be electric and the government will decide when I can drive it and where I can go and tax me by the mile. We are rapidly moving towards the paranoid schizophrenic future envisioned by Philip K Dick.

Now you’re gnashing your teeth as you plan your Christmas beans on toast with just one party hat between four. But look I have done my bit. I have supported the economy. Well alright I’ve supported the Italian economy but I couldn’t afford the car I really wanted… (A Mini) they cost just too much and I would hate to see it repossessed. I am less likely to get attached to the Fiat.

Quite how long I will still have a job is interesting. I teach, the world isn’t running out of kids – yet. So OK I’ll never be rich but then again, at least with luck I won’t be standing outside the school with a small box of possessions anytime soon like so many others leaving offices, banks, factories. (I’d need fifty boxes I have so much in my office).

I have been wrong before of course and buying a new car might well be a truly stupid thing to do. I remember predicting economic collapse way back in January 1999 when Hackwriters started. We got nearly eight years straight of economic boom instead. It may be that I am wrong again in suspecting that by mid-2009 things will get better. But why should they? After all, all these businesses closing surely must have some long-term effect. Right? It will be hard to start them up again, find the premises, generate a loyal staff, never mind customers. Credit is hard to find.

But just at the end of my road someone is building ten houses. Madness? Or a clever strategy. In Portsmouth a whole slew of apartment blocks are coming to completion. Bargains or dead weights?

In the USA thousands are flocking to foreclosure sales (vultures they may be) in the hope that today’s bargain can be flipped in a year or two years time.

But here is a cautionary tale. It concerns my grandfather, long dead. He never owned a house. He lived almost ninety years. He lived well. Owned race horses and er lost lots of money on them. But aside from that and er and the mistress … a good forty-six of them he lived in a grand house with six bedrooms and elegant lawns. He owned cars from the day they were first invented until he couldn’t drive no more. His rent went up just twice in all that time. He was offered the house for just £1000 in 1950 but he said it was too expensive. His rent was less than fifty pounds a month then and even in 1960 it was the same. From 1920 to 1939 it was just £20 a month! From 1940 to 1966 the most it got to was fifty.

That same house went for £395,000 in the boom back in 2007 and is back on the market at £200,000 right now. So who had the best of it?

What if we are in for a long flat depression. Owning might well be a bad idea again. Foreclosure price or not. Sure I just blew money on a car, but I know that will be worthless by the time the guarantee runs out. I won’t be shocked. However I have a sneaking suspicion that my house will be too and that doesn’t cheer me up at all.

'You have to be wrong, Sam,' you say. 'Population is rising, pressure on spaces, the Government will force the banks to lend, house prices will leap up, jobs will reappear, all will be well.'
Maybe. Maybe not.

But I saw that image of nearly quarter of million unsold Mercedes Benz on the docks in the USA and if I had cash I’d be shorting Germany right now. Same for Japan. Sub-prime did for the world economy what Al Qaeda have been trying to do for ten years. They can create mayhem in India but confidence is all in a world economy.

Since I wrote this interest rates have come down further, car sales have dropped off a cliff, houses sales also and yet, still the shops are crowded with people buying 'stuff' for Christmas. Hope they know what they are doing.

I buy a car today ‘believing’ the five year guarantee will be honoured, but what if Fiat, like possibly GM, Chrysler and Suzuki and Nissan and aren’t there in a years time. The lack of a guarantee will be the least of my problems. It will be hoping it doesn’t get burned out, it will be where do I buy bullet proof window shutters, which is the safest food line-up…Mass unemployment will not be a pretty thing and I really really hope that I am utterly wrong – again. But just because we have all been indoctrinated that ownership is good – what if it isn’t? What if there is something beyond consumerism? What if we could be fulfilled another way. (Way too radical I know – stick to cars Sam, go see a movie).

Darn it, I was going to write something cheerful, it being December an' all.
Ah well, enjoy the festive season. Drop a bottle of something around on your neighbour, they might be pleasantly surprised.

© Sam North -December 9th- Editor 2008

The UK economy is fast falling over the edge of the cliff by registering a GDP contraction of 0.5% in the 3rd quarter with the expectations of a fall of between 0.5% and 0.7% for the fourth quarter which would put the UK officially in recession. With worse to come during 2009 and all of the governments golden rules now well and truly busted following the bank bailouts, Gordon Brown has now thrown caution to the wind so as to meet the primary goal at any cost to win the next election for which the June 2010 deadline looms

If you want to help Hackwriters keep going, buy my new book Mean Tide. A young adult ghost story set in Greenwhich, London.
All profits go into the magazine.
Published Summer 2008 - Mean Tide by Sam North
'Extraordinary novel about a child's psychic awakening'

Lulu Press - ISBN: 978-1-4092-0354-4
Review: 'An engaging, unusual and completely engrossing read'
- Beverly Birch author of 'Rift'

Sent to live with his spooky Grandma by the river in Greenwich, Oliver (12) discovers a whole world of disturbed people who are probably even crazier than the ones he left behind. When he finds a dog with its throat cut on the beach, everything changes.
Age range 12-16 and adult

Meanwhile, are you worried about your health? Read my book 'Another Place to Die'' . If you have the slightest worry about how to survive the coming flu pandemic, you need this book and all the proceeds go to keep Hackwriters going. See the review from Calvin Hussey

The Curse of the Nibelung - A Sherlock Holmes Mystery
by Sam North

ISBN 1-4116-3748-8
$19.98 Retail - 300 pages - Lulu Press USA

'Chocolate will never be the same again' - Sunday Express
Buy from your favourite on-line retailer

Amazon UK
Amazon USA
Barnes and Noble
& Waterstones

Diamonds - The Rush of '72
By Sam North
ISBN: 1-4116-1088-1

Buy now from
'a terrific piece of storytelling' Historical Novel Society Review

Also printed in the UK and available from
& Waterstones

We at Hacks are self-supporting and if you want to support us, buy Sam's books - All the funds from the sale of the books go back into the site. If you live in New York they can be ordered at the Mysterious Bookshop at 58 Warren Street. These titles are all able to be ordered at Amazon who keep stock see below and can be ordered from Waterstones all over the UK and Hatchards in London and for less cost direct from in the UK and USA
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