2021 marks the 25th Anniversary of the publication of my first book, How not to be a money launderer.
I’ve been wedded to the first edition of the first book for what would, if it were a she, be our Silver Anniversary.
So, I thought, let’s do something about that.
This is what I’ve done…
The book was actually the second version: I spent 18 months writing it and when I got to the end, I read it and hated it. It was stilted; it was written like a lawyer would write; it was not accessible to everyone.
That was an anathema to me: all through my legal career my overriding approach was to talk and write like a lawyer to other lawyers but to talk and write to non-lawyers in ways that they could relate to, without being patronising. I never understood the logic of lawyers trying to impress their clients with language that obstructs comprehension, much as I don’t understand the logic of lawyers trying to impress their clients with language that defeats effective communication. And it’s not only lawyers: we see it in all areas of life with acronyms, buzzwords, activity-specific terminology on the one hand and a failure to use language properly so defeating clarity on the other. For example, a racing driver is a racing driver; he is a sportsman: he is not an “athlete” and to call him one reduces the clarity that communicates effectively.
And so I threw the book away and after a short break started again, working in the shed at the bottom of my garden. In six weeks, I had a result I was proud of.
I hunted for an interesting board for the cover. It would be a paperback but that didn’t mean it couldn’t be interesting. I found a heavy card that had the feel of skin. It drove the printers crazy and they ended up having to print the covers using a different process to the usual because the texture was so “unsmooth.”
I had offered the book to several publishers none of whom thought there was a market for a book about money laundering that wasn’t a story book. One published a black law book. That was basically it: my book would make three and the law publishers thought that was one too many; general publishers didn’t see it as a management book (which it clearly is) and it wasn’t a novelised version of cases.
So, me being me, I just went my own way. I learned about promoting a book without a publishing background, I capitalised on my extensive contacts within the media, I found out about printing and, in particular, a then brand-new idea of print-on-demand in which books could be loaded from a print-file into a high-speed laser printer and produced in very small quantities whereas professional typesetting was very expensive. A client who ran a desktop publishing shop offered to do the layout and produce the print file.
400 copies were printed and perfect bound into the covers and a few given away; the rest were sold across the entire world, every continent except Antarctica. And they had all gone within a few weeks. The first edition was never reprinted. A second edition was published two years later, updated and enlarged. I had thought that it would become a series, a new edition every couple of years, but there was nothing new to write about.
The first edition had covered so much, and the second edition so much more, that even today, so-called “new” topics were in my work 25 years ago. I sometimes wonder if I should do a third edition and I look at the state of the law, the offences involved and the conduct of regulators and think “no. It’s not that things change and we must change with them: it’s that things don’t change but we pretend they do.”
There’s been fun along the way. There was the policeman in The Strand who stopped me and asked why my car was sitting so low to the ground. “It’s got 400 copies of my new book in the back,” I said. He wanted to look and opened a box. “Oh, it’s you,” he said when he saw the books. “I’ve seen you on TV.” He wished me well and sent me on my way while the drunken bankers in my car laughed out loud.
Then there was the Irish Times photograph. You can find it on the ‘net and it’s the photo that many conference companies have taken and used – the most recent being a company that I’m doing a rare panel for in March next year. The black and white photo was taken in the Mansion House in Dublin and someone had the bright idea of sitting me in front of a projector screen with the book cover projected behind me. That meant I had to be brightly lit. That flared out part of the screen. That flare and some cropping resulted in the prominent, in bold letters, “MONEY LAUNDERER” being above my head and the words “How not to be a” all but disappearing. I thought it was funny. Today, when I posted a promo on LinkedIn, I put the full cover up. LinkedIn cropped it. It says “MONEY LAUNDERER.” Now it’s just silly. And it’s still funny.
Over the years, I have had many complements on the book. It has launched careers, informed the drafting of laws of at least one nation, it has been used by investigators, researchers and prosecutors. It has been lauded and insulted and even the subject of an extremely damaging “review” on Amazon put up by someone who wrote a book, published by a vanity publisher, which contained vast tracts copied and pasted from work I had done for large publisher. I know it’s false because I know he has never seen the first edition which he purported to “review”: it was never sold via Amazon (which didn’t want it, a situation that did me no harm at all as it was taken by proper bookshops around the world) or, mostly, directly from my shed – a modified version of the second edition was, later, sold by Amazon.
Is the first edition out of date? The discussion of law is a discussion of law as it was at that time. Ironically, that went out of date but now I think it is back in date as a valuable look back to set in context some of the changes in law and the general trajectory of those changes.
I was amazed a couple of weeks ago when I realised it’s 25 years since it was published.
To celebrate, found the original print files, had a series of challenges trying to get then off 25 year old media into my typically modern desktop running Linux. Some of those challenges have been in this blog and some at PleaseBeInformed.com.
Doing it has encouraged me to develop an e-book e-tailer (see, I can use jargon when I feel like it) to try to collect as many financial crime risk and compliance books into one place and I hope to persuade publishers of other books from some decades ago to reissue as a low-cost e-book as well as both publishers and self-publishers of current works.
So HN1-25 as it’s coded here (at least today. It was something different yesterday and no doubt it will be something different later) is not only a product in its own right, it’s also the first product in our own new bookshop which along with Financial Crime Broadcasting, which is almost ready to launch, will create a go-to destination for all those looking for material on financial crime risk and compliance – and a platform for those who produce quality material.
You can read more about the book and buy the e-book for the princely sum of GBP6.00 from https://vortexcentrum.com/elan/ebookshop/hownotcover
I hope you like it as much as I do.