Tom Barry Writes

Author of "Saving Jay" & "When the Siren Calls"

Coronado to elect dog as Mayor – City gripped by election fever

a happy dogCoronado, California, the idyllic “Island” paradise shared by the elite Navy Seals and by retired Tea party activists (Senator and warmonger John McCain, who certainly should be retired, has a holiday home there), is about to elect a dog as Mayor. Coronado, population 26,000, is currently gripped by electoral fever as the respective parties hustle for votes in the 2014 Canine Mayor Race. As with other public seats of office in California, such as State Governor, no qualifications or relevant prior experience is required to be elected. The election is said to be ‘too close to call’, with polls suggesting the current leader in a tight campaign is Bentley James (Webster), said to be a ‘valiant, kind and regal’ representative. Bentley is running on a ticket of  ”kindness to all four pawed creatures.” The Bentley for Mayor camp believe their dog may be leading  by a nose, (or was it a paw?).

According to seasoned political pundits the key to success – as always in the home of the free – will be the funding and organisation behind the nominees. Party workers are lobbying hard for their candidates, and election material is currently being distributed widely across the Island and, according to some election watchers, unsolicited flyers and other party paraphernalia is being foisted on an election-weary Coronado public, still trying to come to terms with the success of Barack (Hussein) Obama over local favourite, Mormon, and La Jolla part-time resident,  Willard (“Mitt”) Romney.

USS Coronado

USS Coronado

The 2014 race has been triggered by the sad and unexpected passing of Mayor Jack who, according to the award winning Coronado Eagle & Journal, “led the way, and whose (sic) enthusiasm and goodwill never wavered during attendance at community functions.” A spokesperson claiming to speak for the Eagle has pledged that the newspaper is to remain strictly impartial during the Campaign and is refusing to run advertising for individual candidates. Nevertheless, the august journal has been forced to give major coverage to the Campaign. In a recent issue of the Eagle, to the dismay of many in Coronado’s military mad constituency, the commissioning of the US Navy’s latest ship, the USS Coronado (LCS4), had to jostle for column inches with breaking news on the election campaign. The US Navy top brass (based across the bay in downtown San Diego), is said to be livid that a front page picture of Commander Michael ‘Shawn’ Johnston, CDR, taken at the commissioning ceremony, was afforded less front page space than an archive photo of Jack the Canine Mayor. A no doubt embarrassed Eagle editorial team has yet to issue any public statement on the matter.

The Crown City

The Crown City

But a more fundamental controversy is brewing in the gentile Coronado community around the electoral process,  a controversy with eerie echoes of the hullabaloo that surrounded the election of George W. Bush (the man who reinvented himself),  ahead of Al Gore (the man who invented the internet). Specifically, it is being alleged that the electoral process favours some sections of the community over others and, you guessed it, that divide is down to money and colour. In a scandal the threatens to shake the Crown City to its very foundations (unless an earthquake does it first) it is being alleged that only those who can demonstrate sufficient liquid assets will be allowed to vote. The dog-friendly homeless of San Diego (current count 10,000), are said to be outraged that in order to register a vote, a cash payment must first be made. Conspiracy theorists are claiming that this procedural requirement is in fact an attempt to marginalise and obstruct the black vote (which makes up a disproportionate percentage of the homeless.) And others are pointing to the fact that no black dog has ever successfully run for Mayor in Coronado.

Needless to say, official organisers are claiming that such accusations are laughable, and nothing more than a transparent attempt by the CFADPFC, (campaign for a dog pooh free Coronado), to ridicule the election process. (The CFADPFC has no connections to, nor should it be confused with, the NRA.) Indeed those organising the election insist that all campaign donations will go directly to the charitable organisation ‘Paws of Coronado‘. In what is seen as an attempt to appease the wrath of the homeless, organisers are also pointing out that all donations are tax-deductible. Some cynics are however arguing this concession is intended to pander to concerns amongst the hard-core Tea party constituency, already reeling over the threat to their lifestyle from the Obama healthcare legislation.

Only in America !

If you enjoyed this spoof, and even if you didn’t, then you are invited to vote and to give generously to this worthwhile campaign. More information at


Writing tips: How “69 BJ” can say everything about a character without saying anything

69 bj

“69 BJ”

Personal number (licence) plates on cars are big business. In the UK we spend hundreds of millions each year to showcase our individuality or, as most would see it, to flaunt our vanity. Even if we hate these private plates, we can at least console ourselves that the biggest single beneficiary is the government – who last year pocketed around £70million from sales of ‘cherished number plates.’ And no matter how expensive the car, the number plate could well be worth more. (The record for a UK government sold plate is £352,000, bought by someone for the pleasure of displaying “1D” on the front and rear of their pride and joy.)

While we can rationalise why we buy a cherished number plate: “it de-ages the car”, or “it’s an investment”, it is hard to duck the vanity bullet. Which is good news for writers, because giving a character a brash personal number plate  is a slick way of conveying a whole raft of information about the character to the reader. The reader will immediately pigeon hole the character as a certain type, and will infer all manner of information about the character from this single attribute. And this is a trick – whether via a personal number plate or something else – that is a key to good characterisation. As readers we tend to be bored by paragraph after paragraph of character biography or backstory, we just need to know a few well chosen attributes that stand for everything else. And as far as private plates go – with a little imagination, such as the use of humour – we can convey something other than that the character is simply up his or her  own backside!


The Kissing Sailor, love and heartbreak on the beaches of Ibiza

a kissIf your idea of a romping romance novel is two larger than life characters that the reader identifies with and roots for, then Nichola Bell’s debut novel – The Kissing Sailor - will hit the spot. In this fast-moving holiday read we are taken on an emotional roller-coaster ride as the headstrong protagonist Anna leaves a trail of broken hearts in England to rekindle an old love affair on the party Island of Ibiza. The question is, will handsome american architect Jake Hudson find the love of his life end and up living happily ever after, or will he be just another piece of flotsam left in single-minded Anna’s wake?

If this sounds like standard Mills and Boon fodder, then expect to be surprised. There is much more substance to this romantic romp than a shelf-load of hearts and flowers, boy meets girl yarns. This story is a moving emotional journey, full of highs and lows, twists and turns. What was fascinating for me is the two different world views that Bell brings to the page – the cynical blonde bombshell Anna versus the eternally optimistic (naive?) Jake. And that is really the question at the heart of this novel, whether hope really will triumph over adversity. Or to put it in the vernacular of the genre, will love conquer all. At over 500 pages it needs a bit of stamina, but the juice is more than worth the squeeze as they say.