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For my money, Littlefinger is the smartest man in Game of Thrones: the Sun Tzu of Westeros. I find his quotes full of applicable life wisdom.

Here are my favourite 10 (don’t forget to read them in his voice).

“Fight every battle, everywhere, always in your mind. Everyone is your enemy, everyone is your friend. Every possible series of events is happening all at once. Live that way and nothing will surprise you.”
Critics of the latest episode found this to be nonsense, but I found it profound. Figuring out all the angles ahead of time is why Littlefinger is still alive when so many others are now lying in the dust.

“Always keep your foes confused. If they are never certain of who you are or what you want, they cannot know what you are likely to do next.”
Deception is vital in war.

“You know what I learnt losing that duel? I learnt that I’ll never win. Not that way. That’s their game, their rules.
Don’t fight on your opponent’s terms and rules. Sun Tzu via Littlefinger.

“Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder.”
Perhaps his most famous quote and very true. Crisis equals opportunity.

“When the queen proclaims one king and the king’s Hand proclaims another, whose peace do the Gold Cloaks protect? Who do they follow? The man who pays them.”
Call it the Golden Rule … whoever has the gold makes the rules.

“So many men, they risk so little. They spend their whole lives avoiding danger, and then they die. I’d risk everything to get what I want.”
YOLO meets fortune favours the brave.

“There’s no justice in this world, not unless we make it.”
Evil triumphs when good men and women do nothing.

“It doesn’t matter what we want, once we get it we want something else.”
Littlefinger knows all about the headonic treadmill and the endless nature of desire.

“We only make peace with our enemies. That’s why it’s called ‘making peace’.” Littlefinger channelling Don Corleone: keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

“Which is more dangerous, the dagger brandished by an enemy, or the hidden one pressed to your back by someone you never even see?”
Fear the enemy who isn’t in front of you.
Littlefinger’s talent is to defeat his enemies – Ned Stark, Joffrey – without open warfare ever being declared.
To quote Sun Tzu: “To win 100 victories in 100 battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”

My new thriller The Spartan: Game Of Killers is out as an ebook and paperback.

UK Robotics Professor Kevin Warwick said: “This is an incredibly important milestone, but anyone who thinks this is not dangerous has got their head in the sand.

“We do not know what these bots are saying. Once you have a bot that has the ability to do something physically, particularly military bots, this could be lethal.”

Here’s the full piece.

I interviewed Warwick about 10 years ago in a piece about the rise of the machines.

“I think some of the time people like to write books with Hollywood endings and the Hollywood ending is that humans will be all right because robots can’t make a cup of coffee,” he said.

“If you say in the book that humans will all die off, no one wants to read that. Even Terminator gets crushed in the end. In reality it’s not the Terminator that gets crushed – it’s the humans that get crushed.”

Here’s my piece.

And for an exciting read in a world not yet dominated by machines, try Game Of Killers: The Spartan as an ebook or paperback.

I don’t have children. But if I did – and lived on the affluent north shore in totally different economic circumstances – then my day might go something like this.

Scene: local north shore café. My Mercedes four-wheel drive is parked outside in a five-minute zone, where it has now been for 20 minutes. An exotic dog yaps excitedly at my expensive shoes. Tired-looking foreign nannies wait behind me in the queue. Indian mynas squawk outside, gently defecating on the bust of a famous mayor.

Tired female café worker: “Here’s your coffee.” Glances back at the very long list of supplied allergies, including but not limited to: “Glutens, shellfish, dairy and poor people.”
Me: “You’re a LIFESAVER.” Takes a sip. “No sugar?”
Worker: “Yes.”
Me: “No milk?”
Worker: “Yes.”
Me: “No coffee?”
Worker: “Yes.”
Me: “Basically just hot water?”
Worker: “Yes.”
Me: “You’re an angel.” Takes another sip. “I’ve been up since seven. Well, the nanny has been anyway. Then took the kids to school. Then spin class. Emmanuel is a SLAVE DRIVER.”
Takes picture out of wallet to show picture of two boys to worker. The blond-headed boys look like Nicole Kidman’s bullying alpha brats from Big Little Lies. “Look at those faces. Aren’t I blessed?”
Worker: “They look a bit like Joffrey from Game Of Thrones.”
Me: “I love Game Of Thrones! My friends say I’m such a Cersei! Do you have Foxtel, too?”
Worker: “No. Our housing estate can’t get it.”
Me: “Oh.”
Worker: “Your kids go to St Rich Man’s, don’t they?”
Me: “Yes.”
Worker: “Private, isn’t it?”
Me: “You can’t trust the public school system.” Pause. “Where do you children go?”
Worker: “St Povo’s Public School.”
Me: “Oh.” My eyes emit the combination of sensitivity/pity that only the parent of private school children can deliver.
Worker: “Wasn’t St Rich Man’s recently in the paper?”
Me: “That was SUCH a palaver. There was a debate at the P&C to change to school motto from ‘by your hard work shall ye prosper’.”
Worker: “And what happened?”
Me: “We voted to change it to ‘by your inheritance shall ye prosper’.”
Worker: “Oh.”
Exotic dog yaps at my feet. “Quiet, Spartacus!”
Worker: “OMG! How cute!”
Me: “Isn’t he?” I hand him a treat from the glass bowl marked “dog treats”, leaving a $2 coin on the counter. Spartacus snaps it in half with small but powerful jaws. “Maybe Spartacus would like a little doggycino?”
Worker: “Sorry, we don’t do them anymore. Not since that investment banker tried to sue us because he said his dog was lactose intolerant.” Worker tries to pat the dog, which suddenly snaps at her, possibly because she doesn’t own any investment properties. “What sort of dog is it?”
Me: “A Hungarian Flesh Eater.” Hold small dog to face. “Where would I be without my little precious wubby-bubby?” The Hungarian Flesh Eater licks my face, then turns back to the worker and growls.
Worker: “Didn’t I read that a Hungarian Flesh Eater bit a kid in the face …”
Me: “That was TOTALLY that child’s fault. Totally!”
Worker: “But didn’t the dog jumped three fences to attack the child …”
Me: “Where were the parents of the child, I ask you? They’re the TRUE monsters.” Something dings in the background. “Saved by the bell!” I laugh nervously, almost guiltily.
Worker: “Here’s your banana bread.”
Me: “But it has no bread?”
Worker: “Yes.”
Me: “So just a banana, then?”
Worker: “Yes.” She hands over the banana. As I look into her eyes, I catch a glimpse of her existential pain: her pain at being trapped in the lower echelons of the capitalist system, which keeps the poor down and rewards rent-seeking over effort.
A wave of self-realisation threatens to overwhelm me. I feel dizzier than I did in spin class. I grab the banana and flee, rushing past the foreign nannies. “Well, don’t work too hard!” I shout gaily.
I unlock the 4WD and toss a protesting Spartacus into the back seat.
I quickly start the ignition, leaving behind the unfulfilled dreams of the working class and the ranger about to give me a parking ticket.

My new thriller Game Of Killers: The Spartan is out now as an ebook and paperback.

One of my favourite directors.
Two of my favourite actors.
Amazing visuals that deserve to be seen on the big screen.
A fantastic score by my favourite movie composer.
One of the most inspiring true stories in military history.
And yet, despite the stakes involves, the soaring score by Hans Zimmer, Christopher “Batman” Nolan at the helm and Tom “Bane” Hardy and Mark “Wolf Hall” Rylance in the cast, Dunkirk left me cold.
Hey, I love war movies. God knows how many times I’ve seen 300. Or Inception and Nolan’s Batman trilogy in its entirety, for that manner. I’ve even written two military thrillers, one of which I published just one week ago.
So I like the subject material and the director.
I wanted to like Dunkirk more.
It took me a while to figure out why I didn’t, but I finally have the answer. (Not seen Dunkirk or don’t want any spoilers? Stop reading now.)
The answer: emotional content and context.
Because you never see the enemy.
Not in the face.
And because of the nature of the violence involved.
There is a direct dynamic between the distance between the person trying to kill you and the emotional impact involved. The closer the person, the more “personal” it feels. The closer they are, the more it feels like they’ve got it in for you. That they want to harm you … you specifically, not some anonymous figure in the trenches or on the beach.
(That’s kind of the reason why Freddie and Jason and all those close-quarter maniacs are so scary. They’ve got in it for you personally. More people die from heart disease or accidents but it’s the terrorist or lone gunman, seeking us out personally to inflict violence, that we fear.)
Close-range violence is the most personal. From all reports, that is the most traumatic distance – for both the person being targeted and the person trying to inflict the damage (because most humans have an instinctive aversion to harming and killing others).
By hand or knife is the most personal.
Followed by close-quarter gunshot or other weapon.
Then short-distance shooting.
Then the more impersonal mortar rounds or shelling.
Then say torpedoes, and, finally, long-distance aerial bombing.
Virtually all of the danger in Dunkirk comes from the Luftwaffe, from their fighters and their bombers.
The first attacks inspire a sense of dread, of the sense of being trapped in a hopeless situation where survival was a victory in itself.
And then, somehow, the violence becomes somewhat impersonal.
Because it is delivered from a distance.
And we never see a German face.
We see the terrified faces of the Tommies on the beach. We feel for them as bombs drop on ships full of troops. We hope they escape the treacherous, freezing water.
But we have no such emotional investment in the enemy. For emotional content, the enemy needs to be close. And it needs a human face.
I love Nolan and everything he’s done way back since Memento. And I realise that Nolan would have had to change history to give me what I want. I realise he wanted to keep things as historically accurate as possible: putting German faces in might just not have been feasible.
Dunkirk is a worthy addition for your DVD collection.
But my go-to war movie will probably remain Saving Private Ryan. It is a film full of emotional content. The first 20 minutes? Mindblowing.
We see the Germans’s faces: we see them battle in close quarters: we even see glimpses of courage and humanity from them. They are a fully realised enemy.
Plus it has Tom Hanks.

My new thriller Game Of Killers: The Spartan is out now as an ebook and paperback.

We miss Don … the man, the myth, the enigma.
We miss meeting all of Don’s interesting women.
We miss living vicariously through him.
We miss the way Don could make any suit look amazing with that Cadillac body of his.
We miss Don’s long lunches, late breakfasts and the way he would leave the office whenever he wanted (and wish we could do it, too).
We miss his amazing ad pitches that could make even coffee copy seem like Homer.
We miss Don’s long-suffering secretaries, all the way from Peggy through to Miss Blankenship and beyond.
We miss the drinking in the office.
We miss the sex in the office.
We miss the sex outside the office.
We miss all those interesting books in the show – Exodus, Meditations In An Emergency, Atlas Shrugged, Rosemary’s Baby, Confessions Of An Advertising Man.
We miss the show’s searing indictment of the era’s racial and sexual politics.
We miss how Mad Men signposted so many important moments in American history: the Civil Rights freedom rides, the Cuban Missile Crisis, JFK’s assassination, Vietnam, the moon landing … Tab.
We miss Roger Sterling’s joie de vivre, his bon mots and his self-published book, Sterling’s Gold.
We miss that classic opening sequence.
We miss the cracking dialogue.
We miss the Old Fashioneds, Gimlets, Manhattans and Whiskey Sours.
We miss the painstakingly historically accurate sets.
We miss the clothes.
We miss the hair (but not Roger’s moustache).
We miss an era where everyone wasn’t constantly checking their iPhones.
We miss Peggy and watching her grow from shy young secretary to kick-ass copy chief.
We miss the inimitable Joan (and wonder why Don and Joan never hooked up … what a dream couple that would’ve made).
We miss the strange things out of the blue like Zou Bisou Bisou, Joan playing the accordion and ad men having their feet run over by indoor tractors.
We miss Chauncey more than we’ll miss Duck.
We miss Sally – but remain grateful we watched her blossom into an incredible young woman.
We miss Betty in so many ways.
We miss Burt Cooper and his epic dancing farewell.
We miss Pete … and always remember the time he tried to exchange that “chip and dip”.
We particularly miss the gallant Englishman Lane.
We miss Salvatore and wonder why the producers never brought him back.
We miss the way Don’s journey was a microcosm of a changing America – and how many (including Don) came to question the myths at the heart of the American capitalistic dream.
We miss trying to unravel the mystery of Don’s heart.
We miss Madison Avenue.
We just miss it all.

My new thriller Game Of Killers: The Spartan is out as an ebook and paperback.

“You said Moira had the baby but you didn’t use an exclamation point.”
“So?”
“I just found it curious.”
“What’s so curious about it?”
“Well, if one of your close friends had a baby I’d use an exclamation point.”
Seinfeld, The Sniffing Accountant

I’ve been thinking a lot about exclamation points (or marks) lately.
I was reading a thriller by a male writer when a single exclamation mark leapt out at me. It was to punctuate the fact that someone had just been fatally shot – surely, like the baby news of Elaine’s friend from Seinfeld, an event worthy of an exclamation mark.
Yet I sometimes wonder how – and why – the exclamation mark has crept into modern discourse … and whether it truly belongs there.
Certainly, Elmore Leonard would agree with me: in his book the 10 Rules of Writing, he once said, “You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.” He kept his word (or words), too: in 45 novels, he used 49 exclamations per 100,000 words.
The late, great Terry Pratchett seem to have agreed:  “Five exclamation marks … the sure sign of an insane mind,” he wrote in Reaper Man.
Contrast that with James Joyce, who plastered – festooned, even!!! – his three novels with thousands of exclamation marks.
Perhaps there is one rule for writers of gritty crime fiction such as Get Shorty: another for authors of indulgent stream-of-consciousness odes like Ulysses.
Writer Tom Ewing was onto something when he said the exclamation mark was a “kind of textual fluttering of eyelashes”: another arrow in the quiver of the writer to grab the attention of the reader.
And today’s social media-obsessed world is all about those eyeballs. We’re desperate for clicks and tweets and shares.
As Neil Postman posited in his seminal work Amusing Ourselves To Death: Public Discourse In The Age Of Show Business, we’ve become a visual rather than a literate society.
He discussed this idea decades before everyone started expressing their emotions with gifs and memes and emojis rather than words, but he was on the right track.
The old rules of grammar and punctuation are disappearing.
Words have lost their primacy: the visual is all.
And no punctuation mark is more visual than the exclamation mark.
Today, there is no escaping them. You use them every day. So do I.
How often do we tell someone to “have a great day!” on social media? Or type “OMG!!!”? Or describe a meal or a person or a TV show as “amazing!”?
Why, sometimes we just type “(!)”.
To not use exclamation marks on social media is to suggest we are as emotionally dead inside as Elaine’s soon-to-be-ex boyfriend Jake.
On social media, we are all James Joyce.
Personally, I feel the Joycean use of exclamation marks outside of social media to be intemperate: to quote F. Scott Fitzgerald, “like laughing at your own joke”.
For me, the exclamation mark is the literary equivalent of the apocryphal “Millennial Participation Award”, where everyone gets a prize regardless of achievement or merit.
Verily, it is the Seinfeldian “puffy shirt” of punctuation.
In print, exclamation marks should be banished to the realms of children’s books, comics and Hansard records. To see them in serious works is an inky dagger thrust into my soul.
Perhaps there is a reason why exclamation marks are known as “dog’s dicks” in journalism, an unwanted sight to be marked and removed by the sub-editor’s red pen.
One can forgive the occasional act of Joycean exuberance in papers – such as the Japan Times & Advertiser’s headline of December 8 that “War is On!” after Pearl Harbor or the San Francisco Chronicle emoting that “Japan Hit By Atom Bomb — Mightiest Weapon In History!”
Yetr more preferable is the sober restraint of The New York Times’s headline “Men Walk On Moon”.
If the fact that we slipped the surly bonds of Earth to explore our universe didn’t deserve exclamation marks, then maybe Moira’s baby announcement didn’t warrant one, either.

My new thriller Game Of Killers: The Spartan is available as an ebook and paperback!