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  • Jacobus Kotze

Updated: Nov 9

Interesting history

I love history. You can learn from history and thus you should study history. It is impossible to find any book written by me without history in it. Even the boring legal books, the law always reflects to prior judgments/verdicts and thus is history too. But many times when I do the research I discover new links and dots that I did not know before. That is what I intend to share on the next few blogs, taken from the first book written with my wife, Rebecca, “When Does It End?” A story of the Jewish Army rescuing Jews and others from Nazi-occupied Europe between 1942 and 1945. Unknown to most but vastly fascinating to me.


Let us start with what the Jewish Army was:

“I swear fidelity to the Jewish Army

And obedience to its leaders.

May my people live again,

May Eretz-Israel be reborn.

Liberty or death.”


This is the oath of the Armée Juive, or Jewish Army, a Zionist resistance movement created in 1942 in Toulouse, France. The Jewish Army was active in Nazi-occupied Europe during World War Two. At its height, it had over 2,000 members helping Jews escape to Spain via the Pyrenees as well as other places of safety. Their story has seldom to never been told to outsiders.

And now let us look at some training in Special Operations Executive:

“There is an electric shock that goes through you when you see the enemy in uniform strolling around. Your first reaction is to shoot the bastards. Then you remember just in time that you are behind enemy lines and not known to them as the enemy, but just another civilian. It sure is hard not to stare though. Staring was not recommended as most people will notice a stare. In wartime that may lead to your death.

British historian Ian Ousby wrote long after the war ended: “Even today, when people who are not French or did not live through the Occupation look at photos of German soldiers marching down the Champs Élysées or of Gothic-lettered German signposts outside the great landmarks of Paris, they can still feel a slight shock of disbelief. The scenes look not just unreal, but almost deliberately surreal, as if the unexpected conjunction of German and French, French and German, was the result of a Dada prank and not the sober record of history. This shock is merely a distant echo of what the French underwent in 1940: seeing a familiar landscape transformed by the addition of the unfamiliar, living among everyday sights suddenly made bizarre, no longer feeling at home in places they had known all their lives.”

Yes, it was not easy. SOE trained us to observe with one glance and not to stare since that attracts unwanted attention. Observing everything with a single glance is something which came naturally to policemen, apparently. We had two of them, Fairbairn and Sykes, with us as instructors in unarmed combat as well as for pistol shooting techniques, besides their skills with a knife that still bears their names, Fairbairn–Sykes. They were exceptional men.

William Ewart Fairbairn and Eric Anthony Sykes served on the Shanghai Municipal Police in China. There they learned and developed hand-to-hand combat methods unknown to the West at the time. Particularly Fairbairn, nicknamed “Dangerous Dan,” studied boxing, Kodokan judo (second black belt), wrestling, savate, jujutsu (Yoshin ryu), all from which he created his own style of fighting, Defendu. The man was always involved in fights with criminals. When he retired as Assistant Police Commissioner in 1940 his record showed 600 fights. His body was scarred from knife attacks that got through but did not kill him.

With him was Eric Anthony Sykes, a lower ranking officer that always ended every self-defense lecture with his trademark phrase “and then, kick him in the testicles...”


The thing is this, it was bad advice. The testicles are the one area where every man has a natural instinct to protect. The kick will almost always be blocked. A short hard and fast jab to the throat is much better, in my opinion, based on experience.

The two men became enemies when Sykes felt belittled. He moved to Canada, training SOE and other agents on that side of the Atlantic, dying in 1945 of ill health.


Fairbairn, the more famous of the two, lived until 1960. He said of the combat knife which became the symbol of all Commandos since then, “In close-quarters fighting there is no more deadly weapon than a knife. In choosing a knife there are two important factors to bear in mind: balance and keenness. The hilt should fit easily in your hand, and the blade should not be so heavy that it tends to drag the hilt from your fingers in a loose grip. It is essential that the blade have a sharp stabbing point and good cutting edges, because an artery torn through (as against a clean cut) tends to contract and stop the bleeding. If a main artery is cleanly severed, the wounded man will quickly lose consciousness and die.”

Well, as we found out, a garrotte (a steel wire) worked so much better to behead a guard if you could get him from behind. But the head would then fall and being mostly encased in a steel helmet, would make a lot of unwelcome noise. The blood would spurt out, like a headless chicken, was nasty to those close by. The body would twitch too for several minutes, last seen with guillotine executions, then still in use in France and Germany.

Dr Joseph-Ignace Guillotine, a Jesuit, invented the killing machine during the French Revolution. Between 1933 and 1945 Nazi Germany used it to execute about 16,500 prisoners. The Nazi executions skyrocketed between 1944 and 1945, more than 10,000 died. In the end, in my experience, a bullet between the eyes, even a well-aimed crossbow bolt, was so much better and effective than a knife fight which you might lose or be wounded in return. Yes, we had crossbows too, a powerful shoulder fired one and a small handheld pistol type. Both were deadly although limited in range and reloading was slow.”

The Fairbairn-Sykes dagger is still used to this day. "When Does It End" can be found at Amazon in Kindle & Paper formats: .https://www.amazon.com/dp/B085N378YH

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  • Jacobus Kotze

Updated: Nov 9

It will cause you only annoyance

As a rule, there is no customer support with Facebook or Amazon. As long as nothing goes wrong the system works fine. When it does go wrong, and it will, it becomes a nightmare.

Last week Thursday I was kicked out of my Amazon KDP with a request to “authenticate” the account. I did nothing extraordinary, by the way, I was simply loading new versions of the books as I did many times before. The problem... the one-time code was sent to my South African phone number and not my Swiss one. And so I cannot and could not access the code. Thus, I was locked out of my own account. I was so angry that I had to go for a walk to calm down. Half the books were loaded and half not, and thus different versions of the same book (paper and Kindle) existed on the website. It is serious, authors actually take their readers very seriously and have no wish to annoy them with administrative hassles. Content is something else. You cannot please everyone. Not even Jesus could. So, you will always have critics.

So why not just change the phone number, you ask. If it was that simple this blog would not be written. The next problem was two-step-verification. You cannot change the South African phone number without a one-time code being sent to the South African number which does not work in Switzerland. Unless flying back to South Africa, during the time of the Coronas, impossible, the number cannot be accessed by myself. The sim card I lost when I arrived almost a year ago. It will not work anyway even if I had it. A horrible catch 22 that took hours of phone calls (at my expense, of course) to resolve. First, you speak to untrained people that cannot speak English properly and certainly don’t give a flying f either. And I do feel sorry for them. They are paid nothing and are mostly Third World people. It is disgusting how the workers are treated whilst the companies make record profits, billions.

I must also say that I have a short temper with this type of thing. Luckily, my wife does not and comes across much friendlier and thus gets more service than what I would ever get. With her assistance, three calls, three hours of wasted time, four days, countless emails, and lies, the problem was resolved. What do I recommend to you:

1. Never ever enable two-step verification. It is not worth the hassle.

2. Take a picture of whatever you entered in the “billing address” because you will be asked years later. Without you remembering, and you cannot refresh your memory, they will simply say that they cannot help you. Interestingly, you become the crook instead of a valued client and author. Yes, explain that one but anyway.

3. Don’t expect good service, hell no, let me rephrase, don’t expect any service.

Patience is a virtue, yes, but there comes a time when you wish that you knew something before doing what you think is a good thing to do, i.e. two-step-verification. Just don’t enable it. Make sure that your information is up to date and keep a good record of what was filled in. It will make life easier if you don’t have to deal with “Customer Service.”

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  • Jacobus Kotze

Updated: Nov 9

YES, a book is judged by its cover! If not good you will not sell.


I wrote 62 books at the time of writing this blog. Obviously, I learned a few things which I shared in a series of short video clips for free at https://www.4xsamil.com/author-videos-series. You are welcome to look at them. This blog deals with the one named “Designing a book cover.”

Let us look at designing a book cover. Now it is true, don’t deny what is obvious, a book cover is what makes the reader reach for it. A bad cover or a bland one, even worse, and he will walk right past to the next one. Unless you have a major author name this is important because it affects sales.

Firstly, you can design your own cover if you have some artistic abilities. There is excellent free software online available, I use Canva, www.canva.com which is fantastic. I am lucky in the sense that my wife and co-author is a terrific designer. She is also quick. So, our method is for me to search for a good quality picture and from there she will design the cover for us. If you cannot design something that says “wow” I will advise you to spend money and have an artist do so for you (not us, we don’t have time). But don’t spend hundreds, it can be done cheaply.

There is also in this series two clips on the legalities of book publishing. As a legal man, I know the pitfalls and especially copyright infringements. You would do well to listen to those videos. You cannot just use any name or any picture for your book. You need to either have permission to use a cover picture or use a royalty-free one. There are many websites available to download “high quality free to use royalty-free non-attribution pictures” for your cover. See the list below in no particular order, they all are good:

www.pixabay.com

www.picryl.com

www.commons.wikepedia.org

www.pexels.com

Where you have to attribute, that is to acknowledge the photographer/designer, then do so by saying inside the book (see the video on “Book Format – Technical”) that “The picture used on the cover was taken by WHOEVER. Used with permission, downloaded from www_____________. Thank you.” Usually, the attribution/credit is described fully at the website – a message appears, “you have to credit the photographer” and an example is given. Besides being good manners this is a legal requirement. You don’t need to do so with your own pictures which is not the same as “taking” your wife’s – technically she must agree first. Note also that no child or face of a real person can be used without written permission (if not on one of the websites for downloads). Even so, I will advise you to never use a child’s picture on your cover.

Now the other thing. You must (this is not negotiable), you must have the same name as the author and the book name on the cover as what would be inside the copyright page of your book. Exactly the same, no changes. Before you upload to Amazon and any other outlet you need to have a description ready (see the video on this topic) as well as a short bio and picture of yourself for the back page. The cover must also be in whatever size the outlet wants it to be or it will be rejected. Amazon is as follows:

For eBooks – jpeg format, 1600x2400 pixels, and 600 dpi with nothing written too close to the sides of the book. As a rule of thumb, at least 2.5 cm or 1 inch above and away but during loading, you will see the cut-off lines in their software. Even if close to them will lead to the cover being rejected. Stay inside those lines.

For paperbacks, the most popular size is 6x9 inches but the actual cover is 6.25x9.50 inches as some is cut away during printing. It can be, you tick the boxes, either in Matt or Gloss finishes. Now be very sure that you select white paper (cheap) and not color (unless you must – say a cookbook) or cream paper (awfully expensive). The dpi must be above 500, I use 600 dpi which works.

The way the design look must show it is your series, that is, the same for all books, same font, same size, the same way. This is for marketing purposes, instantly recognized as your series – as an example look at the GMJ Series of books at https://www.georgemjames.com/fiction. They are instantly recognizable as George M James' books. Of course, for a single book, this is not so important. But you will also find out that a series sells much better than a single book. Just a fact of life.

You can always change the cover. That is the wonderful thing about publishing your own works. You don’t need permission or begging. Just do it. You will be surprised how many authors changed a cover and suddenly boosted sales. But the lesson is this, a book is totally judged by its cover and then only for content. This is of extreme importance if you woish to have success.

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