Easy To Publish

publish your book for free

Friday, 9 October 2015


The Shootist (1976) is a fine western. It was John Wayne's last. It was directed by Don Siegel and had a helluva cast - Lauren Bacall, Ron Howard, James Stewart, Harry Morgan, Richard Boone, Hugh O'Brian, John Carradine, Bill McKinney and Scatman Crothers.  I watched it recently for the umpteenth time. It never fails to entertain for all kinds of classic western reasons and for the emotional fact that it was Wayne's final film. It was the perfect finale to his distinguished career.

Here are some quotes from his character, dying gunfighter J. B. Books:

"I won't be wronged. I won't be insulted. I won't be laid a-hand on. I don't do these things to other people, and I require the same from them."

When told he swears too much:

"The hell I do."

To the town Marshal who wants rid of Books:

You're the longest winded bastard I've ever known.

On amateur gunfighters:

"There's always some six-fingered bustard that couldn't hit a cow in the tit with a tin cup. That's the one who usually does you in."

On his approach a gunfight:

"Sometimes it isn't being fast that counts, or even accurate. Most men will draw a breath or blink an eye before they shoot. I won't."

Thursday, 8 October 2015


Paperback available via this link: http://www.feedaread.com/books/The-Poems-Of-Hamish-Sheaney-Remastered-Expanded-9781785100727.aspx


I take my spade
to dig the ground,
to graft the roots,
to ladle the soil,
to shovel the dung
to slice the turf
to tool God’s earth
to break up the clods
to cultivate the land
to poke
to prod
to turn over the clay
to earn my pittance
each working day.
But one other use it has
when I want to skive a bit,
as soon as the boss goes away,
I’ll lean on it.


In the gloom of the grey, stone cottage
he observes the naked candle flame
burning away, prone to the faintest breeze,
liable to a quick, wick snuff-out sneeze.
He needed cover to protect the light,
to avoid the getting-up and relighting chore,
He sat awhile and pondered hard
then headed out the kitchen door.
He looked at his donkey and had a thought,
his old, knackered ass on its backside,
he looked at the head, what an image it made,
a blueprint skull for a lantern shade.
How the donkey died is another tale,
but its spirit lives on in a different guise
now the cottage lighting is a bit more stable
with his hee-haw lantern on the bedside table.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015


Is it me or are we watching more and more films and TV dramas in which some actors mumble or talk at low volumes or munch away at the script so much that you can't make out a bloody word they say?

The latest in this lengthening list of mumble-movies that I have watched is the 2012 film The Sweeney starring Ray Winstone as Jack Regan, Ben Drew as George Carter, along with Hayley Atwell, Steven Mackintosh, Damian Lewis and others.

The best bits of what is ultimately a horrible mess of a film are the action bits when no one is talking, especially Winstone and Drew.  For their parts, Atwell, Mackintosh and Lewis are pretty much crystal clear when delivering their lines.

The problem with the film is the lead character, played by Ray Winstone.  Ray Winstone, great in so many things over the years, has developed into a one-trick pony, an actor who growls his way through movies and TV shows without regard to clarity and, indeed, without, it seems, much of a toss about the words he is saying. In The Sweeney television series, John Thaw as Regan was an actor who could deliver understandable lines and adapt to the changing moods of the story.  Winstone might be able to actually be a clear-speaking actor and he may possess a wider range of skills but he is not showing much evidence of it in recent outings.  Producers are hiring the growl.

Young Ben Drew is an energetic actor but he chooses the rat-a-tat-tat school of acting where each word crashes into the next word and on and on to the point where it just becomes one big bowl of mush.  In contrast, you could understand every word that Dennis Waterman, as TV's George Carter, said back in the day.

I wonder where the fault really lies.  The director? The sound guy? Surely someone on the set can hear what we hear via the big screen or the DVD.  Surely, when watching the daily rushes, someone in the room could pipe up and say something.  But, no.  And why? I haven't a clue.

It is not just this film, of course.  There are far too many examples and it appears to be getting worse.

Monday, 5 October 2015


 Published September 2015

I have written a play called Shaking Hands, recently published in paperback.

I have 10 copies to give away, one each to 10 (preferably amateur) UK-based theatre companies to use as 'exercise' material for acting students or as a table-read script or, if it merits it, public performance.

As befits my background, I am keen for a few Northern Ireland companies to give it the once over (or as many times as you like!).

The blurb below sets the scene.  It is a short play - 45 minutes.

If any theatre company in the UK would like a free copy, please let me know via joecushnan@aol.com Please tell me a little bit about your company or provide a link, just for my own information.

All I ask in return is some feedback on the play and whether or not you found it useful. What did you like about it? What did you not like about it? What would improve it?

I am happy for photocopies to be made of the book and even happier if you want to order more copies of the book from http://www.feedaread.com/ at your own expense.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Closing date for requesting a copy 12 October 2015. I will select up to 10 companies on 13 October 2015 and proceed to arrange delivery.  If I get a fair few applications, I intend to split the 10 as follows - 3 x N Ireland-based groups; 7 x Others across the UK. My decision will be final. 

Go on, have a go.

Thanks and best wishes,

Joe Cushnan

Shaking Hands

This play was written as a 45-minute radio drama. It is fiction, based on several facts from the author's life. A 60-year-old son tracks down his 89-year-old father to question him on why he left the family home, a wife and seven children. In the quest to find out about the 'missing years', the son finds it hard to suppress simmering anger and the father clings to hope of reconciliation. The script is adaptable for the stage and would be useful for student actors to practice their skills.
ISBN: 9781786101631
Total Pages: 67
Published: 23 September 2015

Joe Cushnan:

Books: Shops, Shoppers, Shopping & Shafted; Before Amnesia: Seeds Of A Memoir; Shaking Hands; Retail Confidential; Much Calamity & The Redundance Kid; Stephen Boyd: From Belfast To Hollywood; Hamish Sheaney: The Nearly-Man Of Irish Literature; Juggling Jelly; Geek!; A Belfast Kid; Jack Elam, I Gave You The Best Years Of My Life; The Chuckle Files; The Poems Of Hamish Sheaney: Remastered & Expanded; Only Yules & Verses; Only Drools & Corsets; Fun With Words, Fun With Rhyme; Fun With Words, Fun With Noise

Creative portfolio includes Octavius Magazine, Ireland’s Big Issue, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Belfast Telegraph, 2013 Belfast Book Festival, Irish News, BBC TV NI “Stephen Boyd: The Man Who Never Was”, BBC Radio Sheffield “Rony Robinson”, BBC Radio Ulster “Saturday Magazine”, BBC Radio 4 “You & Yours”, The Guardian, Tribune, NZ Management, The Grocer, Retail Week, Edge, Open Eye, Yorkshire Post, The Catholic Herald, Cambridge Evening News, The London Paper, Southern Cross, NZ Freelance, Writer’s News, Belfast News Letter, Irelands Own, Fortnight, The Dalhousie Review; Blithe Spirit; The Cannon’s Mouth, Poetry Monthly, Poetic Comment, Bard, Current Accounts, Candelabrum, Decanto, Inclement, Haiku Scotland, Time Haiku, etc. 


My book Shops, Shoppers, Shopping & Shafted, sharing experiences in my long retail management career, is out soon.

The longest week of my retail life was at Christmas a few years ago.  I was managing a food and non-food superstore in the Midlands. The strategy for this most important season had been set a few months before at a Christmas conference where store general managers were reminded of the fact that 40% of the year’s sales depended on the October to December period.  We were informed that product availability, especially fresh food, would be second to none, more than ample to meet demand. 

This was big business for fresh turkeys, vegetables, hams, meat, pork pies, dips, salads, cheeses and all the rest of it, so to miss out on sales by not getting the supply and distribution chains right would be close to disaster for the profit and loss account. 

But what happened in the course of the big week leading up to Christmas was challenging, frightening and, in some ways, potentially dangerous.

The buyers had bought enormous quantities of fresh food. The directors had signed off the plan. The store managers had to manage at best and cope at worst with increased deliveries of pallets and pallets and pallets of fresh food, before more and more pallets arrived.

The rules of fresh food handling dictated that we had to receive the delivery and have it checked and refrigerated in chilled conditions within an hour at most, but twenty minutes was the ideal target.  Even Tom Cruise would have found that mission impossible.  But, and if ever a subject deserved to be in a book called “Retail Confidential”, I can reveal that huge quantities of fresh food did not see refrigeration storage for days. 

Luckily, the weather was on our side. Outside in the warehouse yard, it was bitterly cold and so, I suppose, by default, we complied with chilled conditions.  But the fact of the matter was that the amount of food sent to us, predetermined by buyers and merchandisers, far outweighed our storage capacity on the premises. 

On our daily Christmas conference call, store managers voiced concern about the avalanche of food arriving several times each day.  On one of the calls, the Chief Executive of the company brushed our concerns aside and told us that our top priority this Christmas was to maintain availability of all fresh food products to closing time on Christmas Eve.  He seemed unconcerned about the mountains of food being stored in supermarket yards across the country for upwards of forty-eight hours. 

The general public had no idea. 

All across the UK, delivery areas of supermarkets were choked full of product that belonged in properly refrigerated storage.  We had to manage the situation as best we could and we did, with flying colours, if flying by the seat of our pants was a legitimate way of working. 

We got away with it because of the weather but it taught me a few lessons about sales pressure and the ability of some senior people in retailing to turn a blind eye to practical problems, preferring to concentrate on the balance sheet above and beyond customer safety and care sometimes.

Let the customer beware of what goes on behind the scenes.

Sunday, 4 October 2015


My book on my retail career, Shops, Shoppers, Shopping & Shafted, will be out soon. It merges Retail Confidential and Much Calamity & The Redundance Kid.


The Happy Birthday song has been in the news as it is now out of copyright restrictions. It is a jolly song for jolly occasions but it also reminds me of hygiene, or rather bad hygiene habits.  Hopefully, all will become clear as tap water as you read on.  But, first I have a question. "What is it about the can't-be-bothered-to-wash-my-hands people?  You see them doing their business in public toilets and then giving the sink a body swerve as they exit unwashed back into the community.  It is bad enough observing these people but where a lack of hand washing is even more evident is in supermarkets, cafes, restaurants, pubs, ice cream vans and quite a few other places that sell food.
I am a supermarket management veteran as well as a customer and over many years I have developed a growing list of pet hates and a longer list of places whose doors I shall never darken again because of poor hygiene.  As part of my retail training and experience, I can’t stop watching how stores operate, marveling at the good things and recoiling at the horrors that we still endure from time to time with service et al.

One of the many ways to measure how much you trust fresh food handling services is to stand for five or ten minutes watching people as they make sandwiches, pizzas, handle meat, fish, deli and bakery products.  I keep little diary notes of the things I witness, not all bad, but looking back over the years and seeing what happens now, nothing much has changed in terms of bad habits. 

Before I go to the checkouts, I do what I always do when shopping in food stores. I spend a few minutes watching staff working with unwrapped food.  I become like the obsessive-compulsive TV detective Adrian Monk when I witness the nose-wipers, hair-flickers, finger-lickers and face-scratchers continually failing to wash their hands.  It is THE food-buying turn-off for me. How hard is it to stop occasionally and let customers see that hand washing happens?  The trust graph would rise steadily.

My ultimate nightmare is the exposed salad bar and unwrapped bread displays, having observed several times in supermarkets, people sticking their fingers into the couscous mixture or, in one spectacularly vomit-inducing incident, an old drunk man scooping up potato salad with his bare hands and stuffing it into his messy mouth.  Yuk.  I've seen people pawing through bread rolls and loaves too. Yuk 2, the sequel.

Today, bad hygiene is always evident.  If I choose to buy pre-packed food, I realise that it is probably just as prone to packers with bad habits handling it but there is some small comfort in the fact that I don’t see the process.  

I had a newspaper cutting from a couple of years ago on the subject of hand washing. It mentions that the Scottish Executive (circa 2011) had decided to spend £2.5 million on telling people how to wash their hands properly.  The newspaper featured drawings of hands in various poses with excellent instructions: wet hands with water; apply enough soap to cover all hand surfaces; rub hands palm to palm; right palm over back of other hand with interlaced fingers and vice versa; palm to palm with fingers interlaced; backs of fingers to opposing palms with fingers interlaced; rotational rubbing of left thumb clasped in right palm and vice versa; rotational rubbing, backwards and forwards with clasped fingers of right hand in left palm and vice versa; rinse hands with water; dry thoroughly with towel; duration of procedure not less than 15 seconds. That’s not a lot of time but no one can fault the need for more thoroughness. By the way, if you end up in a knot, you’ve missed a step.

At a business conference some time ago, I was told that we spend too little time giving our hands a cursory wash and that we should use the time it takes to sing (I told you I’d get there) the Happy Birthday song to ensure we do a thorough job. It may result in you getting odd looks in the toilets though.  But it is a point well made and I think we are all a little guilty of the splash and dash approach from time to time. 

I know someone who says the reason he doesn’t wash his hands every time is because either there are no towels in the toilets or there are those breathy air machines that take a fortnight to work.  If he sees one of the new turbo-blasters, then he’ll hit the taps.

The next time I observe people in a fresh food environment washing their hands so methodically will be the first time.  Hygiene in food businesses is just as much of a factor in customer service experiences as anything else.  But, like the broad picture, inconsistencies dominate practices.  Let the customer beware and be observant, and be vocal in complaining about it to whoever is in charge.
Soap and water helps to build retail trust.  So, come on, fresh food people, wash hands, wash them often, make a big public deal of it and you'll get more customers coming back.

Altogether, ‘Happy birthday to you, a wee squirt of soapy goo……..’

Saturday, 3 October 2015


My book on my retail career, Shops, Shoppers, Shopping & Shafted, will be out soon. It merges Retail Confidential and Much Calamity & The Redundance Kid.


I was a retail manager, of supermarkets mainly, for the best part of forty years, starting out in Northern Ireland (Stewarts Supermarkets, Penneys, BHS), then around various parts of England and that has given me more than a fair degree of inside knowledge.  If I add many more years as an observing customer, I think I have a valid point of view on a number of factors concerning shops, shoppers and shopping.  The world changes, of course, but in some cases, not for the better.  I will highlight one area that has become sloppy – employee appearance.  Department stores and smaller shops are of a higher standard, generally speaking, but supermarkets let the side down badly.  Of course, there are some supermarket employees who take pride in their appearance but they are in the minority.

The standard of dress/appearance of supermarket staff has gone downhill fast and it is depressing. I come from an era (starting in the 1970s) when Staff Managers, rather like old-fashioned Matrons in hospitals, would do a daily patrol of all staff and managers to check compliance with the dress standards code in the employee handbook. They were strict but effective. We were all terrified of them but, particularly in comparison to today, what they did worked well.  They were policing an important part of the company image. It was ‘old school’ but it worked. Anyone or anything not complying and the employee would be sent away, including back home, until their appearance was deemed acceptable.

A typical inspection would assess whether or not each employee was well-groomed, in ironed clothing, wearing clean footwear and free from body odour. In addition, male staff would be observed for unacceptable beards or sideburns and female staff would be examined for any excessive ear, neck and finger jewellery.  Clean fingernails were expected from everyone and female staff, specifically, were encouraged not to use garish nail polish. Visible tattoos on both sexes were taboo.

Nowadays, nobody wants to hurt anyone's feelings because everyone has "a right" to be an individual, the right of freedom of expression, the right to dress and look as they darn well please. Well, in my humble but experienced retail opinion, both as manager and customer, it is unacceptable.

Every time I shop in a supermarket of whatever brand, I see at least one grubby-looking employee preparing, handling and serving fresh food, working checkouts, or mooching about the shop doing whatever job they are employed to do.  But whatever role they play, each employee should be conscious of how they look.  If only they did that three-word check before they start work – neat, clean, tidy – oh, how things would improve dramatically.

The most recent example was a lad on a fish counter. He was a mess from head to toe, greasy, uncombed hair, shaggy beard, quite a bit of face jewellery, tattoos from his wrists to the edge of his short-sleeved shirt and filthy fingernails.

In another store, the young man on the checkout had clearly been dragged through a hedge backwards and was in some kind of razor-denial cult.  He looked dreadful. But, then again, he was allowed to start work looking like that. His fault? Yes. Management fault? Definitely.

A girl on a delicatessen counter in a different supermarket was wearing her trilby hat at a jaunty angle, choosing to see it as a fashion accessory rather than a head cover.  It was as if a Frank Sinatra impression was more favourable than a testament to hygiene standards.

Who is recruiting people like this? Who is managing standards of appearance these days?  The way employees look in some customer service environments has been pushed way down the management agenda. In fact, it may have dropped off the supervisory radar altogether. Bring back the HR retail Matrons, say I.  But that’s not going to happen because anything goes and if it is not reined in, then, by default, it becomes acceptable policy.  I repeat - lank hair, tattoos, face jewellery, stubble, scuffed shoes, dirty fingernails and on and on, coupled with poor manners seem to be the order of the day.  Surely store managers see the same things I and other customers are seeing, or perhaps they need to book appointments with Specsavers.

Supermarket bosses seem to talk about variety, offers and customer service when trying to explain their successes or their woes. But the big players in the industry are all trading on common ground.  Price and choice are very similar.  Customer service is all over the place, inconsistent and a lottery.  The management gurus talk about ‘points of difference’ when comparing companies but, for me and I am certain for many other customers a big difference would be neat, clean and tidy staff especially in meat, bakery, deli, pizza and fish departments et al.  Pristine customer servants (let us not gloss the job) would increase trust immediately.  Add to those essentials an obsessive, compulsive attitude to frequent hand washing in fresh food areas and I would be a regular and faithful customer.

In order to get close to the ideally presented supermarket person, recruiters must be ruthless in hiring employees and managers on a day-to-day basis must insist on high standards of appearance.  I am not really that nostalgic for Matrons of old but I do think a modern equivalent should be found.  We should applaud managers and staff who make the effort and take pride in themselves. We should never accept the scruffs.

My book on my retail career, Shops, Shoppers, Shopping & Shafted, will be out soon.