Frequently Asked Questions

Author Richard Underwood answers frequently asked questions about the books he has written, beginning with why all his books are now free.

Q) Why are your books free?

A) All my books have previously been available from mainstream booksellers in paperback, hardback, or eBook format. I’m now in my late 70’s and still writing for my own pleasure, but what I don’t need is the hassle of dealing with book sales and royalties. Royalties arrive in dribs and drabs from publishers and booksellers around the world about three months after each sale and have to be accounted for in tax returns to HMRC (UK sales) or IRS (US sales). Life is too short at my age, so taking my books off the market and giving them away ensures they are still available whilst releasing me from the burden of keeping sales records and making annual returns to the tax man or woman.

Q) What are you writing now?

A) I’m writing one book whilst researching another. The one I’m writing is ‘Spied‘ the final book in the Ann Perkins Detective Agency Series which is due to be published in the Spring of 2023. The one I’m researching is ‘A Brief History of Consciousness‘ due to be published in the Autumn of 2023, although I’ve been researching that book for several years and I’m ready to put pen to paper as soon as I’ve finished the novel. I have no plans, at present, to write another book after those two, but I do plan to revisit the Ann Perkins Detective Agency Series novel to write screenplays.

Q) What made you write your ‘Ann Perkins Detective Agency’ books.

A) I was broke, depressed, and wondered how to make some money. That led me to consider robbing a bank. Not me, exactly. I was a law-abiding pensioner, but it got me wondering how someone who had never robbed a bank would go about it for the first time.

I had no idea how to get hold of a gun, how to disguise myself, what was the best time to rob a bank, or which bank would be easiest to rob. I also knew that, with my luck, everything would go wrong.

The more I thought about it, the more of the first story took shape. My villain was as clueless as I would have been, and everything went wrong. So wrong, in fact, that he ended up as a hero rather than as a villain.

Q) What made you write your ‘Overcoming: The Salvation Army’ book.

A) There have been lots of books on Salvation Army history, but high ranking Salvation Army Officers wrote most of these to cover the early days of the Salvation Army, or to commemorate a territorial centenary.

The Salvation Army commissioned me as a Salvation Army officer at London in 1976. Following my ordination, I worked in hostels in Glasgow and London, and in corps appointments in England and Scotland.

Q) What made you write your ‘A Brief History Of Life: From The Origin Of Life To The End Of The Universe’ book.

A) I saw my first dead body in 1964 when I was seventeen years old whilst working as a medic in an RAF hospital. I saw my last dead body whilst nursing in a casualty unit of a hospital in 2016. In between, I had been a minister of religion and had officiated at numerous funerals. I’ve been fascinated by life, and death, all my life.

When I viewed dead bodies, I saw they were the same in the minutes after death as they had been in the final minutes they had lived. Why is someone alive one second, and dead the next? What’s the difference? They have the same organs and the same cells? They are, essentially, the same person. What makes someone alive and someone else dead?

The more I read about the subject, the more I realised how little we knew. Scientists can’t even agree on a definition of life.

I also realised we should all be experts. I’ve been alive all my life, and so have you. We should all be experts because we have viewed living things all our lives. In the case of our own lives, we’ve viewed it from the inside as well as from the outside. We should know what life is and it should be easy to define, so what is it that makes the subject so difficult?

Those thoughts led me to a lifetime of study, and the result culminated in me writing several academic papers on the subject, and ultimately to the writing of the book.

Life is fascinating, and I hope I have conveyed some of my own fascination through my writing.

Q) What do you read for pleasure?

A) I usually read fiction and non-fiction.

Fiction: Usually detective stories, spy stories, war stories or thrillers. I also like science fiction, but only if it’s well written and I can see myself in that situation. If it’s unbelievable, I don’t enjoy it.

Non-fiction: Mainly science based physics, astronomy, and biology.

Q) What is your e-reading device of choice?

A) I’ve had an old Nook for many years. It has a back light so I can read it in bed. I download books onto my computer then transfer them via a cable, so I never have the wi-fi turned on my Nook. The software is probably out of date, but I never get bothered with adverts and because the wi-fi is off I don’t have to worry about it being hacked. It has always worked well, and works as good now as when I first bought it, probably about fifteen years ago.

Q) Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?

A) I grew up in North Wales. There was nothing but countryside at the back of the house, rolling hills and farmland leading towards the Snowdon mountain range. The lack of light at night meant the sky was always full of stars, and the garden was full of insects. I can remember watching ants in the garden and wondering if they knew I was watching them, and I remember looking up at all the stars in the clear night sky and wondering if someone was watching me.

It made me appreciate the vast difference between the smallest and largest things in the universe and has influenced several of my scientific papers.