Linguistics;  Non-fiction;  Fiction;  Books edited

(On critical remarks)

When writers get criticism, a flame-throwing counter-attack often follows, which tries to prove by hook or by crook that the criticism is mistaken, and what’s more the critic is a semi-educated dunderhead.  This can be entertaining, but usually isn’t, and either way it seldom gets the participants and bystanders very far forward.  Indeed it’s no more constructive in talk about books than it is in private life.  So I’d like to state that any corrections, critical remarks, or for that matter any personal experiences or additional observations passed to me through my current publisher (contact or through the Society of Authors – –  in the UK will to the very best of my ability get fair treatment, and respect – and acknowledgment if they are transmitted on into the public domain.

◊  Linguistics

semantics Understanding Semantics

(University of Exeter Press; 1983)

It’s honestly useful to acquire some of the basics of semantics because it helps wonderfully in spotting when someone is talking or writing rubbish.  But those basics are all that most people will need.   Books on the basics of semantics come and go like the flowers of spring (and naturally some are attractive, some not – even if they may interest enthusiastic specialists) and this book is  now out of print.  There are second-hand copies around (and anyone who picks one up should ask through the publisher – e-mail address as above – for the sheet giving four corrections which give a desirable improvement for the chapter on logic.)

2nd syntax coverThe Meaning of Syntax

(originally published 1993 by Longman and now with  Taylor and Francis;  isbn 978-0-582-21012-7)

This book shows that the way we put words together to form coherent remarks is not just a matter of making strings of words, one after the other, the way a small child would build a wall with play bricks.  On the other hand, making coherent sentences is not a process of producing ‘acceptable’ patterns of words belonging to various arbitrary grammatical classes, as many linguists seem to suggest; you can’t deal with the structure of sentences without bearing in mind they exist to express meanings. The book shows that just two basic types of word (roughly speaking, nouns vs. all the rest) and only four simple relations (all inherited anyway from our remote ancestors, as ways of mentally dealing with the world) do interact and combine to produce quite naturally both the grammar of English and our capacity to form the meanings expressed by simple and complex sentences.  The demonstrations are given by showing the different ways that adjectives can be used in English.

(Purely by the way, I am not the person on the present cover and have never met him, yet by co-incidence he looks quite a lot like I did, a decade or two ago.  But what might I say about the first cover?  I think ‘amazing’ might be a suitable word.  Anyway the book has sold remarkably well.)  Any further sales enquiries should now go to Taylor and Francis

 finnishFinnish and Indo-European

(published 2000, Humanities and Allied Research press; isbn 974-85311-3-9).  (178 pp)

The Finno-Ugric family of languages (including Finnish, Hungarian and various other languages, some far out onto the tundra of Siberia) is traditionally taken to be independent of the Indo-European group (English, Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, etc), or, more exactly, to have developed from a sister language whose speakers were wandering around Asia and neighbouring regions when Indo-European was still united, not yet split into various daughter languages.  With careful argumentation, plenty of evidence, and a respect for phonetic and semantic relationships not always found in some earlier writers this book puts the case for the view that Finno-Ugric as a whole is simply a member of the Indo-European family on a par with Latin, Greek, Germanic and the others.

This book is available from Humanities and Allied Research,, priced at 7 euros or equivalent in sterling pounds or American dollars; add 10% for postage and packing

◊  Non-fiction

huntingthought coverHunting Thought

(also Humanities and Allied Research press, note pseudonym; 2002; isbn 974-85441-7-6) (107 pp)

This puts the case for the interesting (but unpopular) claim that what most of us like to think of as the modern human’s patterns of logical thought with arguments based on reasoning about assumptions and correct deductions – and favourite human fallacies! –  are in effect behavioural fossils, having developed out of the major patterns of physical movement with their successes and failures which regularly and naturally arose in pre-human hunting.

For this book, published in the same series as the one above, contact; 6 euros or equivalent in sterling pounds or American dollars; add 10% for postage and packing

◊  Fiction


Esmond Maguire

A three-part novel published in 2004 (with reprint in 2012), 2008, and 2010 (details below).

An outrageous, secretive tycoon is murdered at the age of 92, allegedly in a quarrel over a woman 60 years younger than himself.  Mysteriously, almost none of the usual financial and legal documents can be found; on the other hand there are chests, boxes, and tubs filled with many thousands of notes, scraps of paper and  cuttings of all kinds which he must have thought worth keeping.  In roundabout ways three volumes extracted from this hoard find their way into public view; the chaotic mixture makes each of these look like a scrapbook full of angry satire, lunatic proposals, jokes, outlandish speculations, and yet more satire (and they have been highly praised as being good value).  But if the reader picks up the clues in the three books, seeing what scraps Esmond chose to keep and the notes he sometimes added, by the end it is also possible to piece together the lifestory of a chancer, by turns dishonest, loyal, criminal, cynical, and a generous friend.

‘…both funny and good fun…hardly matched for its mix of absurdist relish and delight in serendipitous learning since Beachcomber and the translations of Myles na Gopaleen’s Irish Times pieces’

 Journal of Transnational Literature

Obiter Ficta (A Grandnephew) 2004, reprinted 2012        isbn  978-974-85468-0-2

Grandnephew’s Treachery (Les Cousins) 2008                     isbn  978-974-05106-8-0

Esmond Maguire: a pot-pourri (Connor Ferris)                   isbn  978-616-90476-1-2

Individual volumes 6 euros or equivalent in sterling pounds or American dollars; three-volume set 15 euros; add 10% to prices for postage and packing

◊   Books edited

My own father (killed in H.M.S. Dorsetshire, 1942) had simultaneously two demanding jobs, one paid, the other not: he was a naval engineer, and was a prodigious and interesting letter-writer, having for instance written about 150,000 words to just one of several correspondents in 36 weeks in 1939.   Having edited a number of books earlier in my career I took up the challenge of turning some of the letters into book form.

The first is based on the 1939 letters just mentioned, as Britain slid into World War II, when he was posted on the China station, and has trimmed those words down to about 48,000.  It has been exceptionally well received (see below).

1939coverbFerris, A.

Letters in Wartime

(published 2011 under the imprint Litterae Debitae, but also obtainable via; isbn 978-616-90476-2-9) (206pp)             

 ‘ The book is absolutely riveting giving an accurate account of life aboard ship under peace and wartime conditions.  I don’t think there has ever been such an interesting and informative record of the life of a sailor both on and off duty.’

Newsletter of the Dorsetshire Association

8 euros or equivalent in sterling pounds or American dollars; add 10% for postage and packing

travels coverFerris, A.  

A long and cheerful voyage to disaster

(published 2012, also under the imprint Litterae Debitae; 217pp large format 105 illustrations) (978 616 904763 1)

From the time of joining his first ship in 1929 until the last days in what is now Sri Lanka before the final doomed race to escape the Japanese war fleet this young seafarer had quite exceptional opportunities to travel the world, starting with two full years ‘showing the flag’ right round the continent of South America, and he took full advantage of the opportunities.  Thereafter came lands of the Mediterranean, including Egypt and pre-war Palestine; then China (including parts under Japanese occupation), followed by West Africa, South Africa, and the Indian Ocean coasts, as well as islands scattered around the seas of the world:

the mountain railway in Peru; carnival in Malta; the thieves’ market in Hong Kong; refugees from the Spanish Civil War; the smells of China; bomb-throwers in Palestine; climbing Table Mountain; cricket in Bermuda; Morris Cohen, Chinese general; Germans in Chile; tropical island coconuts; vulture funerals in Bombay; China under the Japanese army; grape-picking in Greece; horse-riding for the unprepared in Argentina; listening to Winston Churchill; taking command in a captured liner; the eye of the typhoon in the China Sea; swimming the Suez Canal; cabaret entertainment in Singapore; Zulu rickshaws…….

15 euros or equivalent in sterling pounds or American dollars; add 10% for postage and packing; contact