THE HEALTH SECRETARY Jeremy Hunt this week suggested that people who don’t attend their GP appointments should be charged, and that the price of drugs should be included on prescriptions.

Our book SICK NOTES – by the GP and Pulse columnist Dr Tony Copperfield – dealt with both of these questions and many more.

Please click below for a free extract.


SICK NOTES is the hilarious, shocking and occasionally tragic truth about the working life of a British GP, written for the lay reader. Dr Tony Copperfield is an average GP in an average town. He spends his life fighting off the worried well armed with internet print outs and health pages torn from newspapers, dealing with youngsters with meningitis, worrying about swine flu, mopping up vomit, shouting at bureaucrats and banging his head against the brick walls of the NHS. Perfect for anyone who has ever wondered what really goes on in a GP practice.

‘A wonderful book, funny and insightful in equal measure, and an ideal gift for all doctors and those brave enough to use them’ Dr Phil Hammond (Private Eye magazine’s medical expert and all-round TV doc)

‘Hilarious and poignant… reveals what goes on behind surgery doors’ The Daily Mail

‘Original, funny… an incredible read’ The Sun

‘Copperfield is simply fantastic’ British Medical Journal

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ANIMAL QC – the extremely funny, disarmingly frank and, at times, very moving autobiography of the leading criminal barrister Gary Bell QC is published next week (and is already available for pre-order as an eBook, too).

For a sneak preview – we’ve chosen a key turning point in Gary’s life, which appears in Chapter Eleven.

Please click on the following link (and share it with friends):



Gary in his study

Gary during filming for his BBC TV series The Legalizer / picture by Jamie Wiggins


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The eBook of ANIMAL QC is now available for pre-order on Kindle, and we’ve spent quite a long time working out what to charge for it.

The market price for the electronic version of a new hardback seems to be around 60% of the paper version – I say ‘seems to be’, because there’s no hard and fast rule (and, to be perfectly honest, we’re really just sort of following the herd, albeit being a bit cheaper than most other publishers).

After lengthy internal wrangling, we’ve priced the eBook at £7.99 – less than half the price of the hardback*, but still not an insignificant purchase for a lot of people.

We think £7.99 for the eBook is a fair price.

It’s true that we don’t have the same level of production cost as we do with a paper book (though it’s not free!), and that we don’t pay the retailer as much (though we do, in common with other publishers, pay the author more).

But then, collectively we have spent a great deal of time working on the book with Gary, and we’ll need to sell an awful lot of e-copies to show a profit on our time alone.

Never mind us, though: does it represent good value?

Well, perhaps naively, I assume that most† of the value of a book resides in the words (unless you’re talking about Kim Kardashian’s latest).

It terms of sheer quantity, you’re getting a good deal – it’s around 100,000 words long, so even reasonably quick readers will derive several hours of entertainment from it, and way more in £-per-minute than going to the flicks to watch a Hollywood film, say.

(We took the kids to see Jurassic World at the weekend; two adults, two children, one litre of Coke Zero and four smallish tubs of sweets came to £46; we enjoyed it, though we couldn’t help but question the number of velociraptors, and their astonishing ability to survive being crushed against trees by speeding trucks. I think we should have gone to see Minions, where no questions of reality should intrude.)

Gary as a fairy

Gary Bell QC (left). Can an eBook by this man really be worth £7.99? The jury is out (but then they usually come back in Gary’s favour).

In terms of quality, only readers can judge that. I will say that you will never have read – and perhaps never will read – a more astonishing memoir by a leading British barrister.

Re the pricing of eBooks, it’s a strange thing. My basic understanding of pricing is that it is a signal, of scarcity. An apple costs (say) 50p because that price contains the cost to produce and make available the apple, plus some profit.

The profit reflects the fact that the buyer knows that apples are not scarce and can be bought elsewhere (or substituted by plums).

This applies to paper books, too; – they are priced at a level which tries to take account of unknown demand and known supply.

With eBooks, there is no supply problem: we can supply a billion. Maybe this is what makes it hard to price them.

*At £16.99, the hardback is also very reasonable: once you tot up the costs of production, sales and distribution and the (at least) fifty per cent of the jacket price which goes to the retailers, and then the author’s royalty, you can see that the return on the fairly substantial amount of cash we’re outlaying and risking is not vast. Unless we sell 500,000 copies, in which case, yes it’s vast[ish].

†Whenever I travel by train I usually do so with my copy of whatever book I’m reading wrapped inside a loose jacket for something by Gogol or Proust. I’ve often wondered whether there’s a market for 50 Shades of Grey-type soft porn disguised as A Tale of Two Cities, or a Jack Reacheresque thriller with a Dostoevsky jacket. Chicks dig Dostoevsky, apparently.

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Gary Bell QC – author of our forthcoming title ANIMAL QC (published July 7) – will be appearing on BBC Breakfast (telly) and as a guest on Midweek, Libby Purves’ brilliant Radio 4 magazine show (dates TBC).

We’re particularly excited about Midweek – it’s one of a few shows we down tools to listen to, mostly because Libby Purves is such a good interviewer and takes the time to develop lines.

He’s also going to be interviewed for the BBC World Service programme Outlook, which is excellent – it’s a fifty-five minute extended interview, basically, and will be available to download. Not sure if that’s long enough to deal with the whole Bell story…

We also have reviews and other stuff lined up in The Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday, The Sunday Telegraph and elsewhere.

Media enquiries: please contact Sue Amaradivakara at The PR Collective (sue@prcollective.co.uk) for advance copies, interview requests etc, and she’ll be delighted to help. (You can also tweet Gary direct at @garybellqc – if he doesn’t respond it will be because he has forgotten his password, so just come to us!)

Trade enquiries: Turnaround PSL via @turnarounduk or 020 8829 3002.

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Gary signs copies


Gary Bell QC is one of Britain’s leading defence barristers – a ‘silk’ whose cases are so complex that they don’t count the papers but weigh them (and they often run well beyond fifteen tonnes).

To look at and listen to him, you’d think he was an Old Etonian, born with a silver spoon in his mouth and all the advantages that life can bring.

As his forthcoming memoir ANIMAL QC demonstrates, you’d be dead wrong.

You pretty much can’t travel any further than the journey Gary took – born to a teenaged cigarette factory worker and a nineteen-year-old miner, he spent his early life in a condemned slum, left school without sitting any exams and was a homeless convict before he turned his life around.

He was also a Nottingham Forest football hooligan nicknamed ‘Animal’ – though not for his fighting prowess but for his excessive and disgusting eating habits.

Even hooligans have standards!

He’s almost pathologically frank – here are just a few things you don’t expect to hear from a QC:

GB Pedigree Petfoods

GB Bloody barrister

GB bedwetting

Gary coalmner

GB stand and fight

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Marine Steve Birdsall, in a picture believed to have been taken the day before he died.

MARINE STEVEN BIRDSALL died five years ago today in the searing June heat of Afghanistan.

He was shot by a sniper as he covered Royal Engineers who were working on his camp’s defences, and although he was flown to hospital in the UK there was nothing that could be done for him.

He was twenty years of age, and had a glittering future ahead of him.

He left behind a loving mother and father, and a tearful younger sister, Melissa. ‘Liss’ was convinced that the big brother she idolised would not come home; tragically, she was correct.

Steven had deployed at around the same time as his close boyhood friend Tom Sephton, of the Mercian Regiment.

Steve and Tom together on a night out.

Tom was himself killed a few weeks later.

As with all twenty of the servicemen and women who feature in At The Going Down Of The Sun, we are privileged to tell Steven’s story via the memories of family, friends and comrades, and to share some of his letters home from theatre – they show something of the character of this fine young man.

Steven Birdsall letter 1Steven Birdsall letter 2

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ON WEDNESDAY I went trawling around Nottingham and its environs in the company of Gary Bell QC, author of our forthcoming and nearly eponymous ANIMAL QC.

It wasn’t a hardship – Gary’s a very funny man indeed, and I spent most of the day laughing.

When I wasn’t laughing, I was fascinated to see where he’d come from.

Through family and social connections I know quite a few barristers, from members of the junior bar to Queen’s Counsel and even a judge or two. I think I’m right in saying that they were all privately educated, and – to one degree or another – fairly privileged*.

Apart from Gary.

Gary was born in 1959 in the tiny box bedroom in this council house in Radford, a suburb of the city:

Gary Bell QC in the garden of the house in which he was born.

The lady who lives there now – who remembered Gary’s granny, having taken the house over from her several decades ago – kindly allowed us into her front garden to take the above photo. (The picture makes the house look quite a bit bigger than it is. Ironically, it has the opposite effect on Gary.)

It was Gary’s mother’s family home (she had herself been unofficially adopted by her aunt and uncle), and it was where Gary spent the first few months of his life (along with his parents, his mother’s adoptive siblings, and his maternal grandparents).

Here he is on pretty much the same spot, some time in 1960:

In a paddling pool on the same spot, some fifty-five years ago.

Gary’s mother, Maureen, worked on the John Player cigarette factory in Nottingham. His father, Terry, was a coalminer at Radford Pit.

They were both nineteen years old, and theirs was a shotgun wedding – Terry’s father Ernie, incensed at the shame his son was bringing on the family, threatened to thrash Terry to within an inch of his life if he didn’t make an honest woman of his pregnant girlfriend.

Terry and Maureen managed to scrape together enough money to rent a terraced two-up two-down in St Ann’s, but we couldn’t visit that house because it was demolished in the slum clearances of the 1960s and 1970s.

By then, the Bells had moved to Cotgrave, a mining village on the outskirts of Nottingham (actually, a lovely old village which had had a giant housing estate built onto it to provide homes for the miners who worked the new Cotgrave Colliery).


The Animal in his work attire: he doesn’t actually have a double chin, it’s that damned wing collar.

Gary and I did make our way to Cotgrave – travelling en route over a traffic island on which he died many times in a recurring childhood nightmare – and there I saw the house that Gary lived in as a youngster. (Actually, he lived in two houses in the village; after his father abandoned the family for another woman, Gary, his mother and three siblings were turfed out of their NCB home and into a council house in the village.)

We also went to the Miner’s Welfare Club to see where he’d spent many a session with his friends; it was almost empty, which made it a far cry from his day, when shift-working miners were jammed into the bar through every opening hour.

He pointed out the houses of a dozen of so mates (whom he still sees regularly, thirty-five years after he left the village); money had been tight, he said, but he had enjoyed an utterly idyllic childhood in Cotgrave.

Then we visited two of his sisters, who live nearby.

They share Gary’s sense of humour.

One has just waved her daughter off on a year-long visit to the States, and had bought the daughter a new watch as a going-away present. She’d had it engraved with a line from her favourite poem, e e cummings’ i carry your heart.

‘[My daughter and I are] both real grammar Nazis,’ she said, cackling, ‘so I made sure the chap wrote “I carry you’re heart”.’

We also had lunch.

One thing you can always say about barristers is that they dine like lords: accordingly, Gary treated me to a 99p pepper steak slice from the Co-op, while he ate a pastie, a cheese-and-pickle ‘cob’, and half a carrot cake.

Watch this space for more adventures in the preposterous life of G Bell, Queen’s Counsel.

*I’m sure there are more than a few barristers who didn’t go to private schools, and that the number is increasing; other than Gary, I just don’t know any. One thing I am sure of is that there are very few who have led lives like his!

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