I graduated from Reading University, although that was nothing to do with me. Really. I started taking a US Studies major and British History minor at Bulmershe College of Higher Education. This is now a car park for a housing estate. But its first step along the road to oblivion was selling out to the more prestigious University of Reading the year I was due to graduate.
But no matter the prestige, the only jobs forthcoming back in the John Major years back in Leicester for me were in the Fresha Bread Factory or behind the bar at the Clarendon Hotel. I did both, then went to America. My old man pulled the only strings he had – his best man had worked his way to editor of a small town newspaper in the South and could put in a good word. And lo, I was appointed General Assignment Reporter for the Log Cabin Democrat of Conway, Arkansas. I wrote obituaries, weather reports and fetched biscuits for the real reporters. Then, also nothing to do with me, Bill Clinton was elected President and suddenly Arkansas was on the map.
But this new rise in prestige once more had no impact on my journeyman trajectory, and I duly landed my second proper job as a reporter at the Jacksonville Patriot in Arkansas, but now covering the world’s largest C-130 Air Force base and its 30,000 drums of Agent Orange that were seeping into the groundwater. This is where I became an award-winning journalist. Though not for the obvious Pulitzer-Prize story festering on my doorstep, but for the headline “Pot-belly pig proponents pass pork to politicians.” Arkansas AP Third Place Best Headline for Small Dailies 1995, oh yeah.
Other career highlights? I managed to last nine months at Voice+ The Magazine of Computer Telephony in Chester before hanging up (see what I did there?) and heading off to Japan. There I taught English at Berlitz until I could find a job in journalism. All I could land was a position at the Daily Yomiuri, the English language translation of the Japanese language Yomiuri Shimbun, the world’s best-selling newspaper (if you believe what you read in the papers, which you shouldn’t).
Then it was back to Blighty and stints as a sub-editor at the Birmingham Post, Nottingham Evening Post and Derby Evening Telegraph. It was there that I finally learnt how to write news copy, and also that working for the benefit of media moguls and megalomaniacal editors was not what I really wanted to do with my life.
So it was back to Japan to do something independent. Teaching English by day and writing by night fit the bill. And something strange happened. I started to enjoy writing again. Because I realised how liberating it is to write my own way and to seek an audience for my own work, myself, on my own terms.
And that's what I've been doing here since 2008, when this blog began. Though if you go trawling through the morgue, you'll find things have changed a lot round here since then. The blog started out, believe it or not, as an attempt to be the Matt Drudge or Guido Fawkes of Japan. But I quickly found I lacked the knowledge of the country or the interest in the daily ups and downs of breaking news to do my subject justice. Then I tried being the Private Eye of Japan, satire coming more easily to me than kanji. That was all very well, but somewhat pointless. I mean, satirising Japanese media and politics? Talk about picking low hanging fruit. And unpopular, slightly sour fruit at that. (The persimmons in your garden? — ed.) Really, I was just amusing myself, like a drunk rambling at the bar, oblivious to the forced grins of the locals and fixed gaze of the barmaid. Besides, the Twiterati's one-liners are so much better, faster and funnier than this old-time blog ever could be.
Then I found a new identity as an anonymous resistance fighter to the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown of 2011. I'm immensely proud of Quakebook and the lessons it taught me: that together we can do great things, even an ex-newspaper hack like me with a soft spot for bad puns and a preference for the half-light over the limelight.
But Quakebook taught me something else: I don't need to try to be somebody else. Since the earthquake, I'm finding my voice in book form, and I'm writing more the way I want to, rather than the way I think you want me to. I'm not completely there yet, but I'm getting more comfortable with what I write, and this blog is part of all that. It's less a trumpet for me to blow than a testing ground for my writing and you are more than welcome to drop in and see what works and what doesn't and leave a note to that effect. Or not. It's up to you.
But I hope you do find something worth dropping by for.
Oh, perhaps I should add a note about bias and ulterior motives. I am biased and opinionated, although I do strive to get it right and apologise when I get it wrong, in my eyes at least. I reserve the right to repurpose anything I've written here for future publishing projects. This appears to be a no-no to more fundamentalist journalists who give it the term "self-plagiarism". Well, I'm not smart enough to understand how you can plagiarise yourself. I do not do affiliate links or link to stuff to get kickbacks or favours. I do however link to books I have written with the express intention of getting folk to cough up cash, some of which might have a brief stay in my pocket. This blog is powered by 7-Eleven Chiliean red, and that does not grow on trees you know. If you want to contribute to the long-term financial well-being of this blog, I suggest you buy a couple of my books. If you don't want to, that's fine. But just so you know, that's the only way I'll ever try to squeeze any pennies from your pocket. Everything else you see here is purely for my amusement, or to subvert the status quo and bring about proletarian revolution. Kidding. That last bit was a joke.
As far as serious writing goes, I’ve written a novel and edited two anthologies about the Japan earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown and written a diary of a Japanese general election. I’m thankfully working on lighter-hearted projects now, including a second Hana Walker mystery, a textbook for English as a foreign language students and a collection of my own essays. I live in Abiko, Japan with my wife and daughters.
Oh, you might have problems finding any of my books at the moment as I'm in the process of re-releasing them under my real name. But I shall be setting up a bookstore here when I have something presentable.
That about covers it for now.