The Making Of The October Men

Well, not exactly. But I have been asked a few times what set me off writing ‘The October Men’.

I like to give an expansive answer that starts with “I was enjoying a particularly large gin and tonic in the bath…” That ends to have them nervously glancing at their watch. But the truth is relatively prosaic and summarised in the first sentence of the novel: Have you ever noticed how many documentaries about World War Two now seem to be in colour?

Although a lot of colour footage was shot in the latter stages of the conflict, especially when the Americans brought their cinematographic skills into the theatre of war, there are a few ‘colourised’ films purporting to the ‘World War Two in Colour’. If I may express an opinion on that, I think colourising film is dishonest. And clunky.

From the simple premise of colour footage of the 1940s, I then went off on a mental tangent asking myself whether or not people were going back in time to take this footage. Did this constitute evidence of time travel?

A few long drives (work took me all over Europe and beyond) with the radio off and the kernel of an idea took shape. Time travel would have a multitude of effects at all levels of society – finance, security, gambling, politics – and it would be something of which knowledge would have to be strictly limited to a few. And if the news got out…

So I decided that I would write the novel from no one person’s perspective. It would be a mosaic of stories which would all come together to form a coherent arc. This would place the reader in the unusual position of protagonist and it would be he or she who would have to make sense of it all – especially in the early stages of the novel.

I hope you enjoyed it.

Stock market fall

The use of the word ‘fall’ here is a horrible pun.

What is it about the autumn and the sudden impulse for stock markets to just fall out of bed? The October Fund referred to in the novel ‘The October Men’ is an acknowledgement that this is a risky time of year for anyone with anything invested in the markets. Here’s a quick overview of the biggest shakes-ups of the last 100 years or so (September / October falls highlighted in orange – please excuse me fudging it a bit!):

Oct 1907 Panic of 1907 (USA) Lasting over a year, markets took fright after U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt had threatened to rein in the monopolies that flourished in various industrial sectors, notably railways.
24 Oct 1929 Wall Street Crash (USA) Lasting over 4 years, the bursting of the speculative bubble in shares led to further selling as people who had borrowed money to buy shares had to cash them in when their loans were called in. Also called the Great Crash or the Wall Street Crash, leading to the Great Depression
Jan 1973 UK Stock Market Crash Lasting 23 months, dramatic rise in oil prices, the miners’ strike and the downfall of the Heath government.
19 Oct 1987 Black Monday (USA) This followed the Great Storm in the UK (which happened on a Thursday night) shutting the London Stock Exchange down on the Friday. By the time the NYSE had woken up, this may have been the final straw for an over-inflated market at a time of galloping bank interest rates.
13 Oct 1989 Friday the 13th (Mini-crash  USA) Caused by a failed leveraged buy-out of United Airlines
27 Oct 1997 Mini-crash Global crash caused by an economic crisis in Asia
10 Mar 2000 Dot-com Bubble (USA) Although this sector’s bubble burst, it took a lot of other sectors down with it. The value of equities as a whole took a haircut
11 Sep 2001 9/11 Attacks This caused a short-term fall as insurance stocks saw a massive hit
9 Oct 2002 2002 Downturn Downturn in stock prices during 2002 in stock exchanges across the United States, Canada, Asia, and Europe. After recovering from lows reached following the September 11 attacks, indices slid steadily starting in March 2002, with dramatic declines in July and September leading to lows last reached in 1997 and 1998.
11 Oct 2007 US Bear Market Till June 2009, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Nasdaq Composite and S&P 500 all experienced declines of greater than 20% from their peaks in late 2007
16 Sep 2008 Financial Crisis (USA) This was the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the sub-prime scandal, the bank bailouts – total financial meltdown

So, as I discovered in 2007, don’t go off on holiday on a remote beach in Turkey thinking that all is right in the world. It appears the Big Animals of the City take their holidays in August and come back to work in a bad mood. Obviously the reasons for stock market crashes are more complex than senior traders’ holidays as the table above shows but it does seem to be an extraordinary coincidence nonetheless.

The other thing one has to remember is that a falling stock market is an investment opportunity. The worst time to buy shares is when the market is high; you can only lose money really despite the confidence that a nice, high market can give one.

As I write, the pundits are all predicting a crash. No one is saying where it’s coming from – China? Russia? North Korea? – but the fact that equities have been buoyed up ultra-low interest rates coupled with ‘quantitative easing’ (i.e. free money) means that, when the taps get turned off, there will be a correction.

If I could predict when the crash will come, I wouldn’t need to write a book for a living! (Okay, I did it because I wanted to as well…)

What is time anyway?

Here’s a thing. This is a novel about the evidence of time travel.

By its very nature, this implies that ‘Time’ is a dimension by which you can traverse. It is often referred to as the Fourth Dimension. And that seems rather silly to me for a number of reasons:

  • We have three dimensions that we move about in as a matter of course and they are all measured in feet, inches, metres, miles, whatever
  • Why would a fourth dimension be measured in anything else – such as seconds?
  • And how is it at right angles to the current three dimensions we used to build houses?

Physicists get rather exercised by time. It’s a quantity that pops up regularly in all sorts of calculations and equations and yet, when you want to pick it up or look at it from round the back, it’s not actually there.

We measure the passage of time as it gives context to our lives. If we didn’t, how would we know when to celebrate our next birthday? The movements of the planets mark out our days, nights, seasons and these all give rhythm to what we eat, where we go, whether we are more likely to get depressed, etc.

There’s lots of research that is presented by tabloid journalists as time travel (e.g. worm-holes, near-light speed travel) but it’s not actually breaking the time-space continuum. And anyway, this is all about going forwards in time at a different rate to everyone else. For a general overview of this you could do worse than read Paul Sutter’s excellent blog here.

As for going back in time, my philosophical position is that it makes more sense as there is a Past to go and visit whereas there isn’t a Future one can go to and come back from. (I should add that I’m not a physicist; I studied chemistry at university but I’ve had a few drinks down the pub so I feel amply qualified to expound generously on this subject.)

Nonetheless, I shall leave the last word on this matter to Professor Stephen Hawking who devoted a fair bit of his excellent book ‘A Brief History of Time’ to Time Cones and backwards and forward travel as it related to the expansion of the universe. You might need a stiff gin to get through this, but it’s a beautifully written and argued piece on space and time and general relativity. So, go on, dip your toe in some Quantum Physics and be entertained!

The field ambulance

Here’s something I didn’t know. In the Great War, they weren’t ‘Field Hospitals’, at least not at first.

I would like to recommend a marvellous and very detailed account of one doctor’s war which gave an important insight into the workings of a Field Ambulance (FA, as they referred to them). This account, written by Travis Hampton MC in 1951 and edited by his grandson Travis Philip Davis fifty years later, can be found at:

For geographical background, I also used the memoirs of my grandfather Captain (later Brigadier) AG Hewson of the Royal Horse Artillery who saw early action at Mons and established a battery at Le Cateau in August 1914.

Both accounts (sadly, my grandfather’s account is not available on-line and only a few copies were distributed among family members) give an interesting overview of the logistics in getting men, equipment, horses, armaments, etc. across the Channel and into northern France. At that stage of the Great War, the armies had yet to ‘dig in’ and set the trenched stalemate that would persist for the next four years.

Field Ambulance attached to the Infantry Brigade provided one or more Advance Dressing Stations in reasonable proximity of the front (

Great War photos – taken by Gen Henry Horne

How does the time cage actually work?

There is a first version of an early chapter in ‘The October Men’ in which Prof Sibley, rather than musing on the past glory of his career in quantum physics, is running a tutorial at which the young then-undergraduate Otto Parsons first shows his true genius.

The idea is that Otto is trying to use quantum physics to overcome the effects of gravity by using high energy beams of electro-magnetic radiation. In the novel, it is assumed (by me) that the beams in question are X-rays but who knows?

What Otto and Sibley do is to crunch two equations together to develop the hypothesis that light and gravity are both expressions of the same sort of energy. For the record, the two equations were de Broglie’s equation describing wave-particle duality – wherein a moving particle can have a wavelength – and Einstein’s famous equation of relativity: E = mc2.

When I ran this version in front of a few patient friends it gave them a headache. In case you are interested in my first stab at trying to create the slenderest of notions that one might be able to open a small hole in time, here is the draft.

In case you’re wondering if I have any special insight into how to use high-energy photons to propel one back in time, I don’t. I made it all up. (Sorry!)

©BigBear Communications Ltd, 2017. All rights reserved.

PROF DAN SIBLEY – Oxford, May 2005

“Goodness! What a big question!” Sibley throws his body back in the chair in mock reaction to a nearby explosion. The room ripples with nervous laughter.

Professor Dan (no one ever calls him ‘Daniel’) Sibley likes to project the image of a louche aged hippy despite having not been quite old enough to have partaken in the bacchanalia of the 1960s (he was only 9 years old in the Summer of Love). He has developed his own uniform of jeans, suede waistcoat – the more colourful, the better –  and floral shirts embellished with long, greying, hair which he sometimes ties in a ponytail, bead necklaces, earrings and fawn leather shoes.

His rooms at college are festooned with ornaments and throws collected over the years from various bazaars in out-of-the-way towns in North Africa or the Indian subcontinent. There is the vague smell of patchouli masking the scent of other herbal materials. There is always a strange feeling of vertigo induced by staring out of this bohemian room redolent of a Marrakesh riad and into the august, splendid and sublimely English vista of the quadrant of an Oxford college.

That, together with his mannered, laid-back demeanour, tends to set him apart from both his academic peers and his students. As such, it gives him a pleasant but forbidding air and does the opposite of setting his charges at ease. And Sibley knows it. He is happy to plough his own furrow and to be seen doing so.

His students are at their most wary of him when he is tilting backwards in his chair as he is doing so now.

“Well” opines the brave student, “just going back to first principles, I think special relativity suggests that everything is explained by its energy. So, on that basis, surely everything in the universe is just different iterations of energy pure and simple?”

“Nick,” began Sibley now in his element, “the study of physics is the study of energy – pure and simple as you might say. I was rather hoping you would have grasped that over the last two-and-a-bit years. The only reason why we as pathetic human beings choose to split it out into different components such as light, mass, gravity, enthalpy, entropy and so on is because our sweet little brains tell us these quantities are different. As you correctly state, at the most fundamental level, they’re not.”

There is a moment of concentrated scratching of biros on paper as the students furiously write down Sibley’s pronouncement. Everything is energy. But they know this already.

Nick puts his pen down briefly, draws breath to ask another question, loses confidence and resumes his scrawl. Sibley decides to let them off the hook, for now.

“That’s today’s perspective anyway. Yesterday it was Newton sitting in his back garden getting a bruised head. For him, physics was mass and motion and arguing with Robert Hooke and it was all terribly simple. Today it’s all energy and tomorrow – who knows? – it’ll be ‘physics is photons’. The universe is just photon soup before a whizz in the Magimix.

“That’s not so fanciful when you think about it. You guys were learning about wave-particle duality at your mothers’ breasts. So the concept of a moving particle with a known mass having a measurable wavelength isn’t going to give you a headache. That’s why we know what the wavelength of a cricket ball is going to be when Shane Warne decides to let go of it. We’ve got De Broglie to thank for that.

“That means…” the students all look up from their note taking “that mass and light are in some way connected. So, back to you, Nick. What do you think?”

Nick clears his throat, swallows and takes his first step on the lower slopes of Everest. Stumbling around in the rarefied atmosphere of Professor Sibley’s quantum mechanics tutorial is always going to take effort. But the view from these heights: breath-taking!

“If one combines special relativity with the photoelectric effect you have a direct correlation, surely?”

“Go on.” This is basic stuff but it is fun to watch the infant take its first steps.

“We know E equals m c squared. We also know that E is proportional to light frequency. So, substituting one for the other, we now have a simple premise whereby the frequency of light f is directly proportional to mass m. albeit, the constants in the equation mean that you would need light frequencies of… well, they’d need to be very big if you’re going to see any effect.”

“Absolutely!” Sibley sounds triumphant. “Otto, this is your hobby-horse. What do you think?”

Otto has his head buried in his notebook and his hair. One fellow student had had the temerity to suggest that he had his hair bubble-permed for which Otto had rewarded him with a torrent of sarcasm, arguments which supported one or other of his parents being a gibbon and the firm assurance that his hair was naturally curly and that this meant he could spend an extra 75 seconds in bed every morning because combing it was futile.

“I fully accept what Nick has just said but I’m struggling to see if there’s a correlation between light and gravity in this regard. Is there a means whereby the impingement of light – or photons or however you wish to express it at this point – can influence gravity? We know it can affect mass. Just bombarding a mass with light of the right frequency will cause electrons to be ejected. So, by extension, you would expect there to be corresponding fluctuations in gravitational field…”

“…But it’s hard to measure, isn’t it?” is Josie’s contribution. Josie is not really one of Sibley’s rising stars, bless her, and the best her intellect can achieve is the ability to make occasional pithy jokes. At least it shows she’s listening to what’s going on but it doesn’t make her a Nobel Laureate. Sibley is sure she’s going to get a good degree – a second most likely – but that’s about it for her academic pursuits. Perhaps a glittering career in marketing awaits?

“Look” Sibley thinks it is better they forge on at this point before the tutorial gets bogged down. “The key question at the start of this tutorial (and it seems a long time ago now, sometime shortly after the Big Bang) was: by what mechanisms can energy and mass be interchangeable and to what extent do these manifestations – such as they are – exist in a state of equilibrium?”

Sibley is expecting a moment’s peace and quiet while the four students take a while to ponder the question for the second time. ‘Somewhere in the distance a dog barked’. He is disappointed by Otto.

“It’s too simplistic surely?”

‘Simplistic’? That’s a charge that few have ever levelled at Sibley. He expresses mock shock and then says coolly “Go on…”

“You are asking a question in which energy and mass can exist in complete isolation without considering the collateral effects on space or space-time.” The boy has more than promise; he can teach a few of my post-grads a thing or two. “I keep coming back to gravity because, in an expanding and degrading universe…”

“I’m sorry. Define ‘degrading’.”

“In which matter and energy are seeking ever lower energy states.” Good, just checking. “The effects of matter – sorry, mass – on space in terms of gravitational effects need to be considered. For one thing, gravity is highly likely to retard the degradation process –“

“The word you are feverishly groping for, Otto, is not ‘degradation’ it’s ‘entropy’. Can we please use the accepted academic vocabulary until you are learned and lauded enough – let us say Chair of the faculty, a couple of DSc’s and a Swedish gong – for you to change it yourself? You’re more likely to pass exams if you use the right words anyway.”

The students snigger and Otto blushes. “Quite. Entropy. The point I was trying to make, Professor, is that the universe is a system and, like so many systems, it has buffers that mitigate other effects acting within it.” There is a pause as Otto looks around the room assessing whether he has them with him or not. He isn’t sure but carries on nonetheless.

“If it wasn’t for gravity, the photon soup universe would arrive much sooner. If anything, there is a case to be made that gravity could lead to a recompression of the universe…”

“But wouldn’t that lead to temporal effects?” asks Joanne. Joanne is the quiet, retiring type; every tutorial group seems to have one. Joanne would sit there quietly taking it all in, contributing not too much but comprehending it all anyway. She is destined for a first or Sibley would eat the whole of last year’s volumes of Nature.

“Ah,” Sibley proclaims “the theory that time goes forwards as long as the universe is expanding and will go backwards when it all starts to collapse in on itself. Well, I have my own views on that. Or to put it another way, I’ll believe it when I bloody see it!”

“Well,” Otto interjected, “you asked about mass and energy existing in a state of interchangeable equilibrium. And I would suggest that this has been going on since the Big Bang. Otherwise, why would we have stars and galaxies rather than a uniform shell of matter that expands at an accelerating rate outwards?”

Joanne clears her throat at this point. “No system is uniform is it? There had to be some irregularities from the outset which is why you had collisions of matter and resultant gravitational perturbations. The whole thing was bound to clump from the get-go.”

“So, Otto” Sibley says leaning forward in his chair for practically the first time in the hour “your thesis is that gravity has a role to play in the process of equilibrium. Or is it that it supplants any possibility of equilibrium?”

Otto looks sheepish and admits that he doesn’t actually know. At that point, the tutorial is over and the students rise from their chairs, pack their bags and move to leave the room. All, except Otto who takes especial pains to pack carefully and give his fellow students a head start. Once they are all out of the room, he turns to Sibley.

“What are your feelings about generating artificial gravitational fields in the lab?”

“Nice job if you can do it” replies Sibley. “In fact, I’ll buy you a pint if you can. What’s your thought here?”

“Well, we know that matter and light are commutable. We also know that mass generates gravity and the more mass you have the bigger the gravity.”


“I expect that we can use either high-frequency coherent light or a powerful particle beam – any kind of beam where quantum entanglement can be induced – to create the impression of mass and that this ghost-mass will generate its own gravitational field. This could be enough to compensate for Earth’s gravity. In a small field only, of course.”

Otto has his gaze fixed on the floor. He is trying to give the impression of intense concentration. Actually, it is intense anxiety that this rather off-beam notion will incur his tutor’s displeasure.

“So what do you see as the benefit of this?” Sibley wasn’t being the aged hippy now. He is all ears.

“I don’t know. Off the top of my head, it might prove a lot easier, cheaper and less dangerous than having to send experiments into low-Earth orbit.” Otto continues to stare at the floor not sure what reaction to expect.

Sibley does not react at first, he is considering the ramifications of such research; the funding for something like this might be more than forthcoming. He is also considering whether supporting such an idea would make him look like an even bigger loony in the eyes of his more conventional colleagues. He rises and ambles across to the window.

Gazing through the glass he muses: “Have you done any calculations to support this theory?”

“Only on the back of an envelope” says Otto. This could be encouraging.

“Anything that you might be able to turn into a paper for me to review?”

“I’m not sure. I’d have to work through the formulae and provide the narrative argument longhand before I could be sure that they all would hold together.”

“And how long would you expect this draft paper take you to write?” Sibley is worried that the concept might vanish from Otto’s busy head like a soap bubble. He needs something concrete as soon as possible.

Otto hesitates for a moment, looks up from the floor and proclaims: “Give me a week.”





Who Was Gerald Murphy

For one thing, Gerald Murphy was a real person. He and his wife Sara had a lasting effect on both culture and the holidaying habits of the rich.

At a time when elderly Brits would frequent the South of France to escape the winters back home, the Murphys took up residence in an elegant mansion on Cap d’Antibes and held numerous soirees with the glitterati of the day including Pablo Picasso, Dorothy Parker and Fernand Leger.

His artistic output was not high with only 12 paintings know to his name of which only 7 survive in US galleries (see below):

He was obviously influenced by his artistic friends such as Leger while some of his later, less mechanical works appeared to enjoy the influence of Picasso.

‘Contrast of Forms’: Fernand Leger (1912) Guggenheim Museum, New York


‘Watch’: Gerald Murphy (1925) – Dallas Museum of Art

For the novel ‘The October Men’, I created a ‘lost’ masterpiece that predated and presaged his meticulously detailed picture ‘Cocktail’. The fictional painting was named after Murphy’s favourite cocktail: The Juice of a Few Flowers. With prohibition still in force in the US, Murphy’s pleasure in alcohol could only be indulged in the hot and glamorous environs of the French Riviera.

As for the missing works of art, photos of them exist – they were exhibited in Paris in the 1920s. However, whether they are still out there somewhere or were consumed by the fires of war or the ravages of time, no one knows.

That said, I’ve started scouring the less frequented antique shops because… you never know…

Did aliens land at roswell (SPOILER ALERT!)



Another one for the conspiracy theorists. At the risk of alienating (no pun intended) a sizeable portion of my potential readership, probably not.

It would be exciting to think that visitors from other planets or galaxies or dimensions have been coming to our modest home to keep tabs on us. It might be exciting to think that they have been among us, mingling with our civilisations throughout history either observing us benignly or even, from time to time, giving us a little nudge in the right direction.

The fact that we have not been subjected to a frightening inter-galactic attack as in the Roland Emmerich film ‘Independence day’ can lead us to two possible conclusions:

  • Aliens who visit Earth have only benign intent and are either watching us or have been breeding with earlier forms of humanity (e.g. Neanderthals – ask anyone with red hair) and we are all their descendants
  • Or it’s all cobblers!

While researching the story about Roswell for ‘The October Men’ – at the suggestion of my friend Kathleen Messmer – I found an eyewitness account as written by the daughter of the man who originally found the wreckage of the alien spacecraft. And when I say ‘alien spacecraft’, I mean weather balloon!

Bessie Brazel’s account, submitted as an affidavit to the Fund for UFO Research in the early 1990s, leaves very little room for doubt. She was the daughter of William Brazel who managed a ranch near Corona, New Mexico where the balloon came down. (NB. For the purposes of my fiction, and because the late Mr Brazel never met any characters from my book, I gave him a fictional name.)

Her account means that a lot of people have probably been worked up about nothing and/or making money off a lot of other worked-up and hysterical people.  It is certainly bad for the UFO business. That said, I wasn’t there that day in 1947 either, so her father could have been abducted by aliens and brainwashed into recounting some cock-and-bull story about a stupid weather balloon. Hmm…

Whatever your opinion, I would recommend you read the account given by Bessie which can be found here.

Are There Visitors from the Future?


That was easy. If there are any visitors from the future then I would like one to come round to my place and tell me the winning lottery numbers for the next draw of the UK Lotto, EuroMillions, El Gordo and US MegaMillions.

Failing that, I’d like to read that some lucky guy or gal has scooped vast sums by winning all of these for themselves.

Hmm? No..? ….. I didn’t think so.

Again, my hat is put on so I can take it off again at Professor Stephen Hawking who had the foresight to throw a party for time travellers. He posted an invitation to the event publically so it was / is there for all and sundry today and tomorrow to read and respond to. Only he posted the invitation after the date of the party.

Good on him, though! The good professor turned up to his party held on June 28th 2009 and… was on his own. The Daily Mail article which reported this sad event has proffered a number of reasons as to why the entire human population of the future didn’t show up (see the attached link):–turned-.html

However, there is always the possibility that time travellers are:

  • Shy and introverted and don’t like socialising
  • Apathetic

Therefore, I would like to confirm that my novel ‘The October Men’ which explores the evidence for time travel is a fib.

Or is it?


Let’s start with honesty. I don’t have the faintest idea.

The assassination has spawned more conspiracy theories, jackpot ideas, books, films, novels than almost any other human mystery including Jack the Ripper’s identity. So why its inclusion in ‘The October Men’ and isn’t this just a debut novelist jumping on an obviously lucrative bandwagon?

That last charge is probably justifiable and I’m willing to take it on the chin (especially if the novel turns out to be successful).

A former Los Angeles District Attorney called Vincent Bugliosi tallied up the various theories and estimated that “42 groups, 82 assassins and 214 people had been accused at one time or another [of being involved] in various conspiracy scenarios”. You can find a full overview of the conspiracy theories on the marvellous Wikipedia at:

Despite lurid stories of involvement by the CIA, the Mafia, the Vice President, Castro, Kruschchev et al there were a couple of coincident events that led me to suggest that the then-as-now burning question of US race relations might have been at the heart of the plot. I stress that I have joined some coincidental dots and that I am not planting any flags in the sand about this. These dots are:

  • JFK’s support for the Civil Rights Bill which effectively removed segregation of blacks and whites (e.g. restaurants, theatres) from the US whilst giving greater protection for the right to vote.
  • The Governor of Alabama – a keen segregationist – had been generating a high profile for himself by ‘standing in the schoolhouse door’ to prevent two black students from enrolling at the University of Alabama.
    • Coincidentally (?), the day of this stand was June 11 1963 – the same day that JFK issued his Report to the American People on Civil Rights
  • George Wallace also tried to stop four black students from enrolling in four separate schools in Huntsville Alabama

Therefore, it seemed feasible that anyone who was opposed to desegregation was going to be very angry at JFK. And these people existing on both sides of the political divide, Democrats as well as Republicans.

As for the question: did Lee Harvey Oswald actually kill JFK? The notorious Zapruder footage (WARNING: this footage may be upsetting) clearly shows a head shot with blood spattering suggesting a sniper shot from the President’s right hand side. That would be the Grassy Knoll at about 3 o’clock from the President’s position and not the Book Depository which was more like 5 or 6 o’clock. I would say that I have visited the site in person.

Whatever the actual facts, the US Government are not appearing to be bending over backwards to furnish the full package of information (even the Trump administration’s release of documents in October 2017 wasn’t exactly fulsome). So the conspiracy theories can continue to flourish and you, gentle reader, can still make up your own mind.

The Grassy Knoll – No Doubt