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No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.

Samuel Johnson, 1776

To get right to the novel, go to the start of the standard web-pages version, or to the contents, which has links to each chapter; or, especially if you intend to print it, go to the Acrobat version, which is a large file (1.1 megs; there is a 92 kb Acrobat sample if you wish to check that first).

All of these are freely available, which is why I am calling them, collectively, the Samizdat Edition, named for the Russian underground literature that circulated privately under the Soviet regime (though if you want to consider them shareware and send a contribution, I'd gratefully accept it); if you prefer a printed version, ask; there aren't many left.

No, it does not give away the ending.

The story of the writing and first marketing of the novel

The Samizdat Edition
Why and how I am doing this

The Printed Version
Cheap at half the price.

The Hypertext Version
This novel could, and perhaps will, be set up differently.

The Author
An impressionistic autobiography, with writing credits




(Searching for) Solid Ground is a novel about identity, with two main, converging plot-lines. One features Annie, who lives in Santa Cruz, CA, and in 1990 feels middle-aged and uncomfortable. The other concerns Blackie and Whitey, a pair of British hippie dope dealers who travel, one step ahead of the law and the mob, to Afghanistan in 1969. The stories are told in 90 short, alternating chapters, interspersed with occasional diversions and a third, flashback line.

Whitey is an almost silent half-Geordie, half-Cherokee who spent his youth in blues clubs. Blackie, his partner and lover, is a London School of Economics graduate and an obsessively rational talker. In Afghanistan they begin to learn from the examples they see something of what it is to be a person, but become entangled in schemes they only think they understand.

Annie is unsettled by the eerie resemblance between Bush's America and Nixon's, and inspired to join the political movement opposing the build-up to the Gulf War. She thinks her motives are an inchoate mixture of political, sexual and personal, as she discusses with a black gay gossip called Sebastian, but not with her partner, Brendan, for reasons that she does not fully understand. She decides to join a group planning to blockade the local Military Recruitment Center. Meanwhile, her conversations with Sebastian lead her to recall her youthful experiences in the hippie mecca of Goa, where she first achieved a comfortable understanding of who exactly she was during a Christmas full-moon acid beach party at Anjuna.

The book’s title arises from the image of an earthquake: Tensions build up that, if not released, lead inevitably to explosions; and yet people want to find a stability that is ultimately not only illusory but destructive. Santa Cruz was hit by a large temblor in 1989, and both Annie and Whitey suffer comparable psychological shocks.

The novel is also a celebration of hippie ideals, including the importance of play. It includes such minor delights as a recipe without numbers, a multi-lingual drama in only 26 words, three songs and sundry other diversions, most of which move the plot along. It places anti-establishment ideas in a context that demonstrates the long tradition of such humanistic values. It is written in high seriousness with plenty of low humor. To put it another way:

(Searching for) Solid Ground is about

  • moments of clarity under stress that enable people to change their own lives
  • ancient hippies and modern luddites in the sixties and the nineties
  • two strangers who carry each other’s satori and twice reveal it
  • Santa Cruz, London, Kabul, Goa and places between
  • acid insights sweetened with politics and hash
  • 115,000 words
  • done



I would like (Searching for) Solid Ground to be read. Sure, I would love large organizations or eccentric aristocrats to fling me purses of gold but most of all I would like it to find its audience. That's why I have produced this – the Samizdat Edition.

Given the explosive growth in the web over the last few years, this avenue seems worth trying. The cost to me is basically my time; the cost to you to check it out is essentially the same. Even those of you (in Britain, for example) who pay per minute of connect time can download the whole thing for pennies.

Most people who read it on-screen will probably prefer the HTML (standard web page) version; you can of course print &/or save that, but if you prefer to read paper you'll do much better to take the Acrobat version. Even with a 14 k/b modem it should take less than 20 minutes to download, and it is formatted in two columns, so it takes a lot less paper; looks better too. There is a 12-page Acrobat sample as well.

Technical notes: The Acrobat version is an unusual size – 8.26" x 11" – to accommodate both American (8.5" x 11") and A4 (8.26" x 11.69") paper. It should print fine everywhere, centered on whichever paper you use; if anyone has any problems, please get in touch. For viewing on screen, I recommend enlarging it to 150%; remember the double-column means you will have to scroll up as well as down.

The current version of Acrobat is 4 (the updated reader is worth getting – free – from Adobe) but the pdf file I created is pdf version 1.2, not 1.3, and therefore can be read by Acrobat 3, though not 2. It seems that, presumably because this is not a graphically complex file, there is no significant loss of quality in the older version, which I expect many people still use. I have not included links and such within the Acrobat file, on the assumption that it is for printing. I did leave the touches of red in, which improve the on-screen appearance; depending on your settings, they will print either grey or black unless you have and care to use a color printer.




(Searching for) Solid Ground is 360 pages long, including the front and back matter, as a conventional trade paperback (6" x 9"), which was printed in an edition of 99 copies in January, 2001; I have given most of them away but there are a few left. Feel free to email if you want one.

This First Private Printed Edition is a collectors item, individually signed and numbered. Wait, there's more – a free poem with every book (printed on a postcard and ready to mail to anyone you know who has, or had, a mother; while supplies last). Limited offer, not available in stores. Who knows, someday it may escape through conventional channels or I may formally self-publish it.


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Front Matter

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Chapter 56

Chapter 57

Chapter 58

Chapter 59

Chapter 60



Chapter 61

Chapter 62

Chapter 63

Chapter 64

Chapter 65

Chapter 66

Chapter 67

Chapter 68

Chapter 69

Chapter 70

Chapter 71

Chapter 72

Chapter 73

Chapter 74

Chapter 75

Chapter 76

Chapter 77

Chapter 78

Chapter 79

Chapter 80

Chapter 81

Chapter 82

Chapter 83

Chapter 84

Chapter 85

Chapter 86

Chapter 87

Chapter 88

Chapter 89

Chapter 90