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GOODNIGHT MALAYSIAN 370 — LOVEREADING REVIEW

By Ewan Wilson and Geoff Taylor

The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 earlier this year shocked the world, not only over the tragic loss of life but also the bizarre circumstances surrounding it. An entire Boeing 777, for all intents and purposes, simply vanished into thin air and in doing so became a modern aviation mystery.

MH370FrontCoverHiRes_smThe notion that something so large could just disappear without a trace is both unsettling and unsatisfying. And the grip that MH370 has had on the public imagination has only deepened as more facts have emerged, such as how the communication system was disabled, how the plane evaded international radar and how it inexplicably deviated from its flight path, making a U-turn towards the India Ocean, in those last few hours before all contact was lost.

Despite a multinational search effort which now has the unenviable distinction of being the largest and most expensive in history, no trace of the ill-fated aircraft or its 239 passengers has so far been found. What has abounded, however, is a whole host of theories over the disappearance, from the possible to the downright conspiratorial and preposterous.

Goodnight Malaysian 370” is not the first book to examine the mystery, but in examining the most-likely scenarios in a thorough, systematic and logical way, it is undoubtedly the best.

This is neither a quick and cynical attempt to cash-in on one of the the hottest topics of the moment, nor a sensationalist exercise in yellow journalism. Aware that such a recent and raw tragedy could easily lead to charges of gross insensitivity, the authors clearly state at the outset that their independent investigations are motivated by respect and a drive to “pursue the truth” on the behalf of the passengers and their families, as well as he public in general, to help improve air safety and avoid another MH370 happening again.

New Zealand-based co-authors Ewan Wilson, an air accident investigator and commercial pilot, and Geoff Taylor, a celebrated broadsheet journalist, combine their expertise to present an extremely well-thought-out and compelling assessment as to the most probable cause of the plane’s loss, and the ultimate fate of its crew and passengers.

The duo conducted painstaking research prior to putting pen to paper. This included review all publicly-available official reports into the disappearance and conducting exclusive interviews with relatives of those on board, including the pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, to try and get a better understanding of the man at the helm when the plane was lost.

Calling upon an industry standard and well-respected investigation analysis model developed by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, the authors go through each of the main theories concerning the loss of MH370 on March 8th, with a process of elimination worthy of Sherlock Holmes, rejecting the impossible to pare down to the truth, however improbable that may seem — or unpalatable.

After considering all data concerning the disappearance, and taking technology, risk controls, local conditions, and psychology into account, Wilson and Taylor dismiss catastrophic technical failures, human error, military strikes, hijacking or terrorism as the root cause.

Instead, they reach the horrifying conclusion that the tragedy was man-made and, even worse, was carried out deliberately by the pilot. They posit that Zaharie Ahmad Shah was a suicidal, mentally-unstable pilot who coldly and calculatedly killed all those in his care before crashing the plane in act of “post-mortem triumph”.

Goodnight Malaysian 370 also asks some difficult questions about the role of religion in aviation-related incidents and also analyses the recent tragedy in Ukraine when Malaysian Airlines MH17 was allegedly shot down by pro-Russian separatists – an event Wilson and Taylor believe will have “significant ramifications” for the international aviation industry.

This impeccably researched non-fiction title – the first to critically examine the facts as they stand – concludes with recommendations for the aviation industry and lessons to learn from recent events.

There is no clear-cut, definitive answer as to why MH370 went missing, and until wreckage is found there probably never will be, but Goodnight Malaysian 370 provides the most rational explanation as what actually transpired during that doomed flight.

If you are one of the countless millions who have been following every twist and turn regarding the biggest mystery in the history of aviation then this book is a must-buy.

Goodnight Malaysian 370, by Ewan Wilson and Geoff Taylor, is available from Amazon UK as a Kindle eBook, priced £8.

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Take part in a Crime Thriller Club TV quiz

Crime Quiz Poster

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Book review: SIMPSON AND I: BETWEEN TWO WORLDS By Oggy Boytchev

For those interested in world history, geopolitics, and how current affairs and news is brought to our TV screens night after night, Simpson and I: Between Two Worlds is an absolute must-read. The book documents the career of journalist and BBC producer Oggy Boytchev who, since the late eighties, has worked alongside modern reporting icon John Simpson, now the BBC World Affairs Editor, throughout countless international conflicts in over 40 different countries.

Simpson&I-front_smPick any international trouble spot in recent times, and this duo were there, be it  Baghdad, Kabul, Tehran, Tripoli or Cairo during the 2011 Arab Spring.  It covers such things as drinking tea with Gaddafi’s henchmen in the days leading up to the dictator’s toppling from power, travelling through the Tora Bora caves of Afghanistan for lunch with a Taliban warlord, going undercover in Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, and meeting the president of Russia.
First and foremost, this book is a real insight and record into the troubled times that have shaped our modern world. It’s an eye-witness account, covering real people, and the moments and atmosphere of events ‘as they unfold’. The book, however, also shines a spotlight on the cut-throat and highly competitive world of news gathering. Littered with astonishing revelations of how stories are discovered and reported, it highlights the courage needed to make this happen in a hostile world — both out in the field, and back in the newsroom.
Boytchev details the strain of broadcasting while knowing he and Simpson are being watched by secret police, threatened by soldiers and while tear gas and bullets are flying around them.  It also charts his own personal story, which is often just as interesting as the lives of those he is covering. The book begins with his secret and brave escape from behind Bulgaria’s Iron Curtain in 1986, fleeing to London and believing he would never see his parents again.

From there, he joined the Bulgarian stream of the BBC World Service,  working as a newsreader, before working his way up to become war reporter John Simpson’s producer and accompanying him on his global assignments to some of the world’s most dangerous countries.

As the book unfolds, we learn more of what drives Boytchev to keep putting his life at risk for the sake of a story. Largely, this is led by a desire to prove himself to his parents, who question whether he can make it in the ‘real world’. He also reveals his own thoughts on the events he documents, leaving readers with a unique eyewitness perspective. He does this through humour, excitement and also calm consideration.

Most importantly, Boytchev tries to be honest. There is no self-aggrandising in this book. It is written in a down-to-earth manner as simply a record of two people doing their jobs. Although covering weighty material, this book is never heavy-reading. It is, in fact, beautifully written, fascinating and a page turner from the start.

For anyone interested in the what happens around us and the secrets of war reporting, this story of living between two worlds will delight. Simpson & I: Between Two Worlds by Oggy Boytchev (Quartet Books) is available now, RRP £20.

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Remembrance Day Concert – Royal Albert Hall – win tickets

war_requiem1

 

Remembrance Sunday – Benjamin Britten | War Requiem
9 November 2014, 3:30pm – Royal Albert Hall, London

We have a pair of stalls tickets for this magnificent performance to give away in a prize draw. To enter click here to find out more and enter the Free Prize Draw…

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A landmark event amongst the 2014 First World War centenary commemorations is the Royal Choral Society’s performance of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem on Remembrance Sunday, 9 November, at London’s Royal Albert Hall. Bringing together top-flight soloists, including star bass-baritone Bryn Terfel, and the internationally-renowned London Philharmonic Orchestra, the concert will undoubtedly be poignant and powerful. Whilst remembering those who sacrificed their lives one hundred years ago, funds raised from the concert will go to Veterans Aid, a remarkable charity providing today’s ex-servicemen and women in crisis with immediate support and with extraordinary effectiveness. The concert, organised in collaboration with The Lady R Foundation, matches music, occasion and charitable cause, making it a unique event in this centenary year.

Britten’s War Requiem, one of the most masterful artistic responses to the tragedy of war, profoundly weaves together the Latin Mass for the Dead with the poetry of Wilfred Owen, the young English war poet killed in action in the final days of the First World War. It is a work steeped with themes of the pity of war, sacrifice and remembrance, yet also an expression of hope and reconciliation. Britten, a pacifist, intended that the vocal soloists for the premiere of the work should represent the former warring countries – Russia, Germany and Great Britain. The performance on Remembrance Sunday 2014, conducted by the Royal Choral Society’s Music Director Richard Cooke, once again brings together these three nations, represented by international soloists: British bass-baritone Bryn Terfel, German tenor Stephan Rügamer and Russian soprano (and 2009 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World) Ekaterina Scherbachenko.

Bryn Terfel commented:
I’m delighted to be singing in Britten’s War Requiem to mark such a unique occasion. To sing this piece on the Remembrance Sunday of the centenary year of the outbreak of the First World War will be an historic commemoration. The First World War affected every family in the country and heralded a century of bloodshed and destruction like no other. The Royal Albert Hall is the concert venue for marking Remembrance Sunday and I’m sure that the Royal Choral Society, the London Philharmonic Orchestra and my fellow soloists will give their all to ensure that the centenary is properly marked.

We have a pair of stalls tickets for this magnificent performance to give away in a prize draw. To enter click here to find out more and enter the Free Prize Draw…

WW1 concert footer

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Book Review: Billy Christ by Michael Cameron

For those who like dark, adult mystery thrillers with great twists and turns, Billy Christ is a must-read. It’s a unique, fast-paced coming-of-age page-turner, set in the turbulent 1970s and written as a fictional memoir, detailing the life of a smart boy named Billy, who believes he’s been chosen by God to be the next Christ.

BillyChrist_jktsmThe novel centers around Billy’s disturbing obsessions, mental rituals and desire to punish himself for his impure thoughts, namely by spending time in a secret clearing making sacrifices to God under the watchful gaze of his personal guardian angel. But his path from adolescence into adulthood is far from smooth. Although in some spheres of his life, he can function like a normal human being (obtaining a Cambridge degree, for instance), his route is mostly dark, twisted and—somewhat inevitably—sinful, comprising madness, sex and murder.

Bestselling author Michael Cameron has created some wonderful characters, as you would expect from someone who was a scriptwiter for hit TV shows such as The Bill and Boon. First, there’s the obnoxious gang of bullies at Billy’s Roman Catholic all-boys prep school, who form much of the backdrop. Then there’s the clergy, namely Father Rogers, who teaches Latin and Maths and has ‘perfected the art of making the boys feel terrified’.

The book also follows a girl called Diana, who causes Billy to question his own life and beliefs, and also her mother, Mrs Watson, who Billy falls in love with upon first sight and continues to fantasize about well into adulthood.

We learn about the sensible Diana through her diary entries – she is intrigued by Billy but betrays him with another boy. When she tries to make amends, however, it only makes things worse. Eventually, Diana’s mother also gets a voice through the audio tapes she makes for her psychiatrist.

Fundamentally, the book is incredibly well-written, which means that even as Billy spirals off out of control, becoming increasingly incapable of separating fantasy from reality, it is impossible for readers to not end up rooting for him or, at the very least, caring about what happens to him.

But it’s the plot that’s the real winner in this novel. Half way through, the pages turn faster and faster and by the end, you have a much clearer picture of why Billy is the way he is. Using Billy as the main, unreliable narrator helps keep you guessing until the end, and the last few pages reveal a brilliant twist that will enthral and entertain and keep you on the edge of your seat.

The pop culture references to the ’70s also add to the storyline, providing a nostalgic and familiar backdrop. In short, this is a novel filled with conflict and horrors. It’s another great read by a great writer.

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EXORCISING GHOSTS, THE EXPLOSIVE AUTOBIOGRAPHY BY THE STRAWBS

Exorcising Ghosts — the long-awaited and eagerly-anticipated autobiography by Dave Cousins, the enigmatic frontman and founder of British folk-rock band, The Strawbs — is to be published this September, distributed by Music Sales, the parent company of Omnibus Press, the world’s leading publisher of music-related books.

Dave red shirt Montreal low resThis explosive book promises to lift the lid on the highs and lows of Cousins’ celebrated 50-year music career. It charts how a working-class boy from West London came to sell out stadiums, discover Sandy Denny and Rick Wakeman; mix with iconic figures such as David Bowie, Richard Attenborough, and Dame Vera Lynn; meet royalty and gain the Pope’s blessings, and change the face of commercial radio in the UK.

Cousins details The Strawbs’ extraordinary rise from its beginnings in the revivalist folk scene of the 1960s to chart-topping success in the ‘70s after they became the first British band signed to A&M Records in Hollywood. And it reveals his struggles with music management and the impact of commercialism on his music.

For the first time, it also documents Cousins’ remarkable and little-known “parallel” career in radio and provides an insight into “machinations” that he believes destroyed community-based UK stations.

An essential read for Strawbs fans and music aficionados alike, Exorcising Ghosts explores the diverse personalities and relationships which have influenced Cousin’s songwriting, and contains a wealth of untold, ‘warts and all’ stories about his friends and collaborators, including:

• Rick Wakeman (Strawbs, Yes)

• Led Zeppelin

• David Bowie

• Sandy Denny (Fairport Convention)

• Blue Weaver (Bee Gees)

• Andy Richards (Frankie Goes to Hollywood)

Exorcising Ghosts follows the success of ‘Secrets, Stories & Songs’, an anthology of lyrics released by Cousins in 2010. It is, Cousins explains, a “document of its time, from post-war austerity to the present day”.

Cousins, who recently sailed on back-to-back rock cruises in April with the Moody Blues and with Yes, said: “I have found the experience unsettling and emotional, but cathartic at the same time. It has saved me a fortune in psychiatrists’ fees.

“I have discovered that there have been an equal number of peaks and troughs in my career. It’s been a rollercoaster ride!”

Exorcising Ghosts by Dave Cousins is due for general UK release on September 1, 2014 (Witchwood Media/Music Sales).

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Author and TV scriptwriter Michael Cameron offers a hilarious and intimate portrait of a modern, dysfunctional family living

The Brinkmeyers by Michael Cameron

BrinkmeyersCover_smThis novel by bestselling author and TV scriptwriter Michael Cameron offers a hilarious and intimate portrait of a modern, dysfunctional family living in Surrey. The protagonist, Hymie Brinkmeyer—a 50-year-old Jewish American oil tycoon who moved to England after meeting his ‘English rose’ 15 years ago—is facing something of a mid-life crisis and copes by writing a confessional blog, which forms the main basis of the book.

Although on the surface he appears to have everything (money, a nice house, nice car, golf membership), in his candid blog posts, he confesses to certain ‘blind spots’ in his life—chiefly how he no longer has sex with his wife and how he is worried about a suspicious lump in his scrotum (but it will just be a cyst, right?).

His daughter, Karen, is also a promiscuous rebel (but he still calls her by her affectionate childhood nickname, ‘Bunny,’ all the while recognising it’s “a name she seems determined to live up to”) and he is starting to develop feelings for his leather-clad secretary Colleen, who has stoically loved him for years.

Importantly, we get the sense that Hymie is a good man who has sacrificed a lot for his family, chiefly leaving America, which he still gets homesick for every Thanksgiving. He’s also sad about getting older and, fundamentally, just wants everyone he loves to be OK.

As well as Hymie’s blogs, we also learn about the family through diary posts written by daughter Karen and his wife Maggie. Although just 19, Karen already has one boy, Cleo, and another one on the way by a different father. She believes she is the “last voice of rebellion” and is determined to bring down the establishment. She’s also extremely judgmental, describing her mother a “right-wing bigot with a gin problem” and golf as a “sh*t game”. She hates men – “penises with egos attached” – and her diary entries are littered with foul language. On top of this, she’s extremely delusional, never more so than in relation to her poems, which she tries to get published.

Then there’s mum, Maggie—known as the ‘ice-queen’—who seems removed from the family’s problems (she doesn’t even visit Hymie when he’s in hospital) and is obsessed with meeting her psychiatrist for some Freudian analysis, usually at suspicious times, such as on weekends or late at night.

Perhaps this is why Kevin—their delinquent 17-year-old son busted for the possession of drugs (not that anyone will admit he has a problem)—is plotting to kill her. Or perhaps not?

With such entertainingly flawed characters, fast-paced writing and a snappy plot, this book is a page-tuner from the start. The idea of using raw and unfiltered blog posts to form the basis of the novel is a great way to give readers insight into the particular character’s feelings, view point and angst. One such example is when Hymie is discussing his sex-less marriage and calls out to his readers for help: “Can anyone tell my why!!!”

It’s also full of hilarious moments, such as when Hymie is trying to get closer to his maker through his blog, and apologises for not kneeling while typing. The confessional feel throughout the book allows us to see the ‘real’ heart of the Brinkmeyers’ problem and what’s driving them. In this way, we manage to get past our initial scorn for the characters, and get close to them, caring about their outcomes.

Not since Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years, have we had such a comic yet heart-rendering account of a middle-aged man’s angst and his unravelling family.

Will Hymie finally address his blind spots, get a grip on life and leave Maggie for Colleen? Will Karen ever grow up? Will Kevin really go through with it? Most importantly, with their clear lack of communication, will this dysfunctional but nevertheless loveable family survive?

The Brinkmeyers by Michael Cameron is available now, published by The Other Publishing Company. Visit: otherpublishingcompany.com

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The Gar Diaries is an unforgettably unique and timeless memoir which will surely come to be ranked as an American classic.

The Gar Diaries By Louis E. Bourgeois

Gar_diaries-smSet in southern Louisiana in the 1970s, it tells the story of boy-child Lucas Jeanfreaux through creative snap-shot diary entries and flashbacks. Taking place over a time span of 30 years, it sees Lucas move from a four-year-old boy with his earliest memories, through his adolescent years and into a cynical, mature man on the cusp of fame. A key thread of the book is how he tries to re-invent himself through poetry after losing an arm. The prose slowly allows his tragic life to unfold and emerge, drawing readers both to particularly important moments and characters that shaped it and the social circumstances that constrained it.

Central to the book’s appeal is its sense of place and social set-up. The life Lucas grows up in is a Louisiana of marshy bayous and polluted canals. It depicts a troubled working-class community full of hardship, raw poverty and misery.

Indeed, the book’s title is symbolic of the sort of hand-to-mouth existence that prevailed. The ‘gar’ was and is considered a trash fish, caught among the poor and working classes, such as Lucas’s father. One of Lucas’s earliest memories is being terrified of one of the dead beasts. In a similar vein, the book also covers crabbing and shrimping, can collecting and cockroach eating. It’s a world where rabid dogs run in the street, and children swim in dirty ditches. It also shows a universe where men routinely beat their wives and take drugs in front of their children. The poverty is raw – so too the inequality, disability, substance abuse and broken family life.

Much of the content is troubling, dark and disturbing and leaves you wondering how anyone could have survived it unscathed. Indeed, the book is largely about wounds—emotional, psychological and physical—and whether it is ever possible for them to heal. Most importantly, this book is about being an outcast, and survival.

It is far from all bleak, however. Much of the book is warm, bringing real life to the people and landscape that is Louisiana. The prose is hauntingly beautiful—evocative, poetic and brutal at the same time. Indeed, author Louis E. Bourgeois initially intended the book to be a poem, but then the narrative took over. With much of it told through a child’s eye, it is often full of refreshingly simple and vivid detail: “We ate popcorn from heated tin plates, drank hot root beer from yellow cans, and sang Christmas songs even though it was early September.”

Containing plenty of good and evil, this is truly an original classic with powerful imagery. It will forever be associated with Louisiana and will re-shape a reader’s perception of the southern state. It will also stay in the reader’s mind for years to come.

The Gar Diaries By Louis E. Bourgeois is available now, published by The Other Publishing Company. Visit: otherpublishingcompany.com

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Spanish literary sensation Pablo Solares Acebal pens English-Language translation of acclaimed novella ahead of film adaptation

The 6th of November weaves fragments of history, magic realism and human drama to tell an intimate, haunting tale of love, family and conflict set within the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War.

pablosolaresfcThe6thNovember_jktPablo Solares Acebal, hailed as one of Spain’s most promising new authors, has published an English-language translation of his acclaimed period novella, The 6th of November.

Set during the horrors of the Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1939), The 6th of November is a unique work of intelligent literary fiction that is part historical drama, part mystery and part psychological/paranormal horror.

In 1935, 17-year-old Gloria Juarez elopes with her husband Rulfo to the village of Requejado in Northern Spain, where his family run a farm.

The couple have a daughter, Maria, but when the war between loyalists and nationalists erupt, they are caught in the middle of the chaos and both Ruflo and Maria vanish without trace.

Three years later, on the 6th of November, an unexpected guest arrives to help a desparing Gloira discover the truth about her family’s disappearance. What she uncovers about the shameful events of those dark times in Requejado, however, will haunt her, and the reader, forever.

Dealing with themes of love and death, morality and mortality, and playing with perspectives and the line between reality and fantasy, The 6th of November is a lyrical and occasionally poetic work that resists easy definition or answers and challenges its audience to draw their own conclusions.

quoteInspired by the terrors and uncertainties of the Spanish Civil War more than any specific actual event, it weaves a complex yet flowing plot with narrator, dying town priest Don Paco, trying to reconstruct a hidden past from fragments of memories and conversations, confidences and conjectures.

The original version of the book, 6 De Noviembre  — named after the national remembrance day for victims of the Spanish Civil War — was published through Spanish imprint Albores in 2012.

Released in Spain and South America to critical acclaim, the book has now been optioned as a Spanish-language motion picture, with the cameras set to role this summer.

Production company Bbaeda Films is bankrolling the film, with Daniel Cabrero —  an assistant director on 2006 Spanish-American production Goya’s Ghosts, starring Natalie Portman and Javier Bardem — directing.

Remarkably, author Pablo Solares Acebal is just 21 years old and still in full-time education, studying for a degree in English Studies and Translation at the University of Oviedo.

The young writer — who lists late Colombian Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez and Virginia Woolf among his inspirations — has received praise for the originality of his narrative style, which effectively blends realism, magic realism and modernist techniques.

The novella’s haunting and dream-like atmosphere, where ghosts can commune with the living and things may not be quite as they seem, has already drawn comparisons to masterpieces such as Márquez’s 100 Years of Solitude and Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo.

The mystery at the heart of the story builds from the first page towards a compelling yet horrifying conclusion of shocking truths, sickening revelations and unforgivable war-time atrocities and that will stay with the reader long after the final page.

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ABOUT PABLO SOLARES ACEBAL: Born in Villaviciosa, Spain, in 1992, Pablo Solares Acebal is the critically-acclaimed author of The 6th of November. Written during a two-year period soon after the loss of his mother, it was picked up by Spanish publisher Albores when he was just 18. Published in Spain and across South America in 2012, The 6th of November received immediate critical acclaim. A film version, directed by Daniel Cabrero, is now in the works, set for release on November 6, 2015. Despite working towards a degree in English Studies and Translation from the University of Oviedo, Acebal, 21, has found time to pen an English-language adaptation of his debut work, as well as a second novel, Explosión En El Corazón Del Diablo’ (‘Devil’s Home’), published in Spanish in 2013. He is based in Oviedo, Spain.

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SAFE AS HOUSES: NEW INVESTMENT GUIDE REVEALS HOW TO BECOME A PROPERTY MILLIONAIRE IN SEVEN STEPS

PropertyTycoon_Ian Samuels_jktGONE are the days when a home was simply about having somewhere to lay your head. With the UK showing a seemingly unstoppable housing boom, with prices rising an average of nine per cent over the past 60 years, property is increasingly about maximizing financial gain.

In Property Tycoon: A Simple Seven-step Guide to Becoming a Property Millionaire, author Ian Samuels offers a completely up-to-date and exceptionally revealing guide to the ins and outs of property investment.

Whether you’re looking to dip into buy-to-let, wish to build up a substantial portfolio to secure your financial future, or simply want to minimize risk, Property Tycoon has the answers.

In his book, which is easy to understand, entertaining and filled with real-life case studies, Ian covers buying, managing, maintaining, financing and selling UK property.

Specifically, he reveals…

* HOW to secure capital for your investment properties

* WHERE to get tradesmen, agents, mentors & tenants you can rely on

* WHAT it takes to manage & maintain different kinds of property portfolio

* HOW to take your portfolio to the next level when the time is right

* WHEN to buy and sell, and how to make sure you get your way in auctions and off-plan deals (when you buy a property at current prices which isn’t yet completed)

Author Ian Samuels is an expert in property investment – having made a huge success of buy-to-let schemes over the past 20 years, surviving two periods of boom and bust.

Originally from Dublin, he is now based in Manchester, where he runs a company, The Property Investor, which advises others interested in achieving financial freedom through property investment.

An avid student of business, philosophy, sales, economics and human behaviour, he believes that with the right approach anyone can make a living from investing in property.

Samuels says that the UK property market is currently enjoying a “golden age” and it is vital to act now  to secure long-term returns. He said: “Now is the time to get on the property investment ladder as prices  will never be this low again. Property Tycoon is the complete step-by-step guide to doing this.”

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