New Release – Working Title The Banned Underground by Will MacMillan Jones

Today I have a New Release for you, Working Title a Banned Underground book by my friend Will MacMillan Jones.  There is also an excerpt for you to read.



Tolkien meets Spinal Tap!

The Banned Underground, the biggest dwarf blues band in the universe, are back. Their first album is finally mixed and about to be released on an unsuspecting world. But nothing is ever that simple is it? Their Record Company have the fiscal probity of the average politician and are being underhand with the Banned’s finances, aided and abetted by their accountants (who want to promote a rival group).

But wait: the Tour is about to be filmed, although the film maker has issues of his own – not least that he is worried that he too might not be paid. Then there’s the chip on his shoulder; and as he’s a RockTroll, it’s a pretty sizeable chip too. As the rival bands career around the country, followed by the cameraman, one question is on all their minds- will the beer money hold out until the end of the Tour?

Music, magic and movies collide in a kaleidoscope of fun, puns and technicolour jokes in the seventh adventure for The Banned Underground.

The Banned Underground collection of stories are all stand-alone books that can be read and enjoyed in any order at all. Meet a wild group of musicians, wizards, trolls, witches and elves – although as the elves have made themselves into International Merchant Bankers they have become a bit pompous about who they are prepared to meet, or at least whose existence they are prepared to acknowledge. So come and cheer for The Banned, as they discover that money makes the world go round. {An assertion disputed by the Flat Earth Association.}

The Prologue…

-Right!  Cue funky electronic weird music… I’m thinking Theremin, I’m thinking synthesiser with every dial turned to bizarre, I’m thinking psycho-pop on drugs, I’m thinking futuristic…

-Good! Now the Opening Sequence, let’s have lots of fleeting images, I want stars growing and melting and draining off the screen in all directions…

-That’s it! That’s it!  Let’s make it clear beyond doubt that there’s some serious time/space travelling going on.  What, Brian? Yes, time travel.  The past is another country you know, even if British Airways don’t fly there.  What? Yes, I know the low cost budget airlines feel like you’ve gone back forty years but that’s not the same thing.


-You with the boom mic, drop it a bit further down towards the actor.  No, don’t bounce it off his head you cretin, just keep it low enough to pick him up clearly.  Then raise it whenever I want a close shot from Camera Two there.  How will you know? You watch me, and watch the actor at the same time.  I don’t care if you go cross-eyed! No one will be able to tell the difference anyway.

-And the actor, where is he? Has anyone seen the Lecturer? Oh, having a crafty smoke behind his lectern is he?  Boom Mic Bob (No, I don’t care if you think that’s not your name, it’s what you’re called on MY set) go and give him a quick kick and tell him I’ll set the sprinklers on him if he does it again.  He can smoke behind the bicycle sheds like normal people do in a real college…

-What? What?? That extra wants to go to the toilet as we’re about to start filming?  Tell him to wet his pants; he’ll be in character for a student on his first day at University then!

-Camera Three!  Start with a wide pan, then zoom in on the door when it opens and Terry comes into shot.  Boom Mic Bob (No, I know that’s not your name, do you want me to call you something else? Because I’ve got the perfect name for you right on the tip of my tongue you know…) Raise the mic whilst Camera Three starts with the pan shot, then lower it in time for the lecturer’s opening line.  What? He’s had a drink behind the lectern? Of course he has, he’s in character too!

-Quiet on Set!  Lights! Cameras rolling! Action!!!!!!!!



The door of the lecture room opened slowly, and the lecturer stopped speaking and turned to look at the new entrant who was still out of view in the corridor. “Well, it’s only the first class of your course on Cinematography, why should any lecturer expect all his students to turn up on time?”

“Sorry,” rumbled a low voice from the corridor.


“Well come in, come in.  It’s a visual arts course this, so it is appropriate that I can actually see my students!  Come in, sit down and tell us all your name…  Oh good heavens!”

“I’m Terry,” said the RockTroll as he came carefully into the classroom, and sat down on one end of a bench seat.  The other students grabbed wildly at the long desk before them as they rose into the air.

“What do you think you are doing here?” demanded the lecturer.

“Come to learn.  I want to be a cameraman.”

“But you aren’t a man, are you?”

“Cameratroll then.”

“Do you seriously expect me to teach you Visual Arts?”

Terry looked down at the floor, but didn’t move.  “I paid my fees, and I passed the entry for the course.”

“Look at you! How can you hold a camera?”

“Carefully,” replied Terry.  He stood up, and the other end of the bench returned to the ground, spilling students across the floor.  “Sorry,” Terry said to them.  He walked to the lecturer, and gave him a slip of paper. The lecturer read the sheet as Terry towered over him.

“I’m not happy about this,” said the lecturer. “But for now go and sit at the back and keep quiet.”

Terry frowned, then nodded and walked to the back of the classroom.  The students on the back row quickly gathered their bags and papers and moved forward, and Terry sat down in splendid isolation.  The lecturer scowled, and then turned to pick up the broken threads of his discourse.



Concealed from prying eyes by spells, incantations, wizardry and (more effectively) by substantial bribes*, the enchanted Fairy Hill Banking Headquarters of the Edern in North Wales was the scene of unfrenzied activity.  The regular meeting of the Board of Directors was in session.

[*Obviously not naked bribes.  The weather is against that sort of behaviour in North Wales.]

Lady Hankey drew herself up to her full height and stared down her patrician nose at her colleagues on the Fairy Hill Board of Directors. “Gentlemen!” she said loudly, “The meeting is now in session.”

She sat down and opened the expensive, hand tooled leather file containing her copy of the agenda.  Lord Telem opened a bottle of champagne with an expert twist of his wrist, and filled two crystal glasses.  He pushed one across the table to Lady Hankey, avoiding the ridge mark in the centre of the table – the legacy of an old Boardroom disagreement and an axe wielding Chief Executive Officer.

“Where is Lord Blear, anyway?” yawned Lord Tosca from further down the table, as he toyed with a plate of smoked salmon sandwiches and investigated the contents of a bottle of single malt whisky. “He’s the CEO, he’s supposed to chair these meetings. It’s the only thing he actually does.”

“He’s otherwise engaged,” replied Lady Hankey. “You know that he and Lady Meillar have been offered some major honours?  The Investiture at Buckingham Palace is tomorrow, and they are checking their wardrobes.”

Lord Tosca was uninterested. “Why anyone would think Blear is a suitable recipient for any honour is beyond me.  What did he do to deserve such a thing?” he asked.

“Charitable Donations and Good Works are a traditional method,” observed Lord Telstar.

“Well, he argued that charity begins at home and awarded himself a large bonus,” agreed Lord Telem.  “But when that didn’t work he made a huge donation to the Prime Minister’s favourite charity.”

“I’ll bet that’s another charity that began at home,” sniggered Lord Tosca.

“And a large sum found its way into Party funds, I believe. Anonymously, so that it didn’t have to be declared.”

The Directors all nodded understandingly.

“Of course, he let the Party Treasurer know who was making the anonymous donation, just to make sure,” added Lady Hankey.

“I’m sure that he deserves the Honour,” said Lord Tosca carefully, in case the Boardroom was wired for sound and a recording was being made.  “Where’s Lady Meillar?”

“It seems that she’s getting her Honour awarded, too,” said Lady Hankey, a little sourly.

“Not jealous, are we?” asked Lord Telem.

“Such things are an outmoded anachronism in our modern, pluralist and democratic society,” Lady Hankey said firmly.

“And besides, you didn’t get offered one.”

“And besides, I didn’t get…that’s got nothing to do with it.”

The other Directors hid their smiles.

“Anyway,” Lord Tosca suddenly asked, “Why are you taking the meeting, Lady Hankey?”

“Lord Blear instructed me to do so whilst he is unavoidably detained.”

“At Her Majesty’s pleasure?” asked Lord Tosca, sceptically. *

[*The legal term for indefinite imprisonment.  Although Her Maj. no longer bothers to visit the prisons personally to jeer and point at those so held for her pleasure.  Isn’t it a shame when old traditions die out?]

“Can’t see the Queen enjoying Blear’s company,” said Lord Telem.

“Anyway, there aren’t enough of us here to form a quorum,” objected Lord Telstar, getting back to the matter in hand.

“There are four of us,” pointed out Lady Hankey.

“Is that a quorum, then?  I thought that was five of us.”

Lady Hankey smiled.  “As Acting Chair, I have a casting vote in the event of a tie.  So four of us are enough.  Anyway, there is a very short agenda.”

“That makes a change,” said Lord Telstar.  “Does that mean I can get back to some real work?”

“Are you suggesting that attending a Meeting of The Board of Directors is not real work?” asked Lord Tosca.

Lord Telstar examined his fingernails.  Whilst elegantly manicured, they also showed the unmistakeable signs of having hit too many keys on a computer keyboard. “Are you suggesting that it is?” he asked, mildly.

Lady Hankey gave Lord Telstar a very hard look. “Proper Corporate Governance requires rigorous and demanding efforts by responsible directors,” she said haughtily.

“In my experience of corporate affairs, responsible directors are like hen’s teeth.  The irresponsible ones are much easier to find,” said Lord Tosca.

“And more fun to work with,” agreed Lord Telem.

“In our client companies, maybe.  But we are supposed to be better than that,” insisted Lady Hankey.

Lord Telstar threw back his head and laughed openly; Tosca and Telem joined him in amusement.

“Lady Hankey,” said Lord Telem at last, “we understand that as Head of Ethics you might think that: but this is a modern International Investment Bank and we have a different approach to challenges.”

“More robust,” agreed Lord Tosca.

“Focussed,” added Lord Telem.  “On profit.”

“Profit need not be a dirty word,” objected Lady Hankey.

“Of course not,” smiled Lord Telstar, patronisingly.

“But we should have clean hands, both ethically and environmentally,” insisted Lady Hankey.

“We are bankers.  Of course our hands are clean.  We leave the menial job of actually doing things to other people, and just handle the money. Which is clean, even when it’s dirty, if you follow me.”

“Anyway, I’m bored,” announced Lord Tosca.  “Can we just do whatever we have to and then get on with something useful?”

Lady Hankey sniffed offensively, and produced her agenda from a leather wallet which had cost about as much as a small Rolls Royce.

“First item,” she announced. “ Renewal of the contract for maintenance of the car park.”

“Have we had competitive quotations?” asked Lord Telem, principally to get his name mentioned in the official minutes of the meeting.

Lady Hankey took a sheet of paper from her folder and read from it. “We offered the contract to three firms.  One did not reply, the existing contractor offered the same terms, and the third firm said that they were unable to undertake the contract without an extension of their funding from their bank.”

“Who do they bank with?” asked Lord Tosca.

“Actually, they bank with us,” replied Lady Hankey. “But their funding isn’t on the agenda until the next meeting, so there is really only one option available to us.”

“Then after mature consideration, we’ll renew the contract,” said Lord Telem, refreshing his champagne glass.

Lady Hankey relaxed slightly.  Her brief from the CEO was going well. “Next, the Board has to renew the formal instruction to the Finance department to make the regular payment of taxes on the payroll to Her Majesty’s Treasury.”

“What?” Lord Tosca sat up.  “I though Telem here had done away with that nonsense!  And what’s Blear up to, suggesting we pay taxes!  We are an investment bank, for heaven’s sake! Our job is to make money by financing the country, not to finance the country from the money we make. Otherwise the National Debt would be repaid, and that would be a disaster for us!”

Lady Hankey opened a second slim file from her folder and examined the sheet on the front page. “I believe it is being considered an emergency short term economic measure.”

“The Government said that about Income Tax nearly two hundred years ago*, and we still haven’t got rid of that!”

[*Entirely true.]

“I think the Government’s view is that the economic emergency is still going on, two hundred years later**,” observed Lady Hankey.

[**Also true. It’s probably the same emergency, caused by the same reasons: It’s only the politicians and the location of the wars that change.]

“Well that’s no surprise when you look at who runs the government, is it?” grumbled Lord Tosca.

“It will only be a token amount now though,” Lord Telem reassured him.  “Lord Telstar did make a stellar breakthrough last month.”

“Yes,” said Lord Telstar, smugly.  “After a year of continual research, we finally located an alternative reality in which taxation didn’t exist at all: and we were able to route most of our staff payroll through that version of reality.”

“No taxation at all?” asked Lord Tosca.

“No.  And I can report that using our portal and newly created financial links to and from the version of our Bank over there, we have been able to boost revenues significantly by marketing their service to Premier League football clubs over here.  They hate paying tax on their players’ huge salaries, so I foresee steady growth.”

“Excellent!” agreed Lord Tosca.

“Lord Blear feels we can exploit this as a way of ensuring we are granted tax free status as a Free Portal in the next Fiscal Statement, but that paying a nominal amount of tax now will smooth the path,” Lady Hankey read from her notes. “I personally have a number of ethical concerns, but they are for a different meeting.”

The others all nodded enthusiastically.

“So, motion to renew the payment passed?” asked Lady Hankey.

The others all nodded unenthusiastically.

“And finally, we have been asked to get involved in an ethical cultural investment.”

Lord Telem looked cautious. “What sort of investment might that be?”

“We have been asked to provide some funding for a small business to make a documentary film,” explained Lady Hankey

“Films are very tax efficient,” observed Lord Telstar, approvingly. “Who is the applicant?”

Lady Hankey looked at her brief notes again. “Local Council Industrial Estate Records.”

“Do they bank with us? I’ve never heard of them,” observed Lord Telstar.

“No.  They have been referred to us by their financial advisors, who are connected to Caer Surdin, I believe.”

Lord Telem sat up.  “Caer Surdin?  But we were at war with them! They are our enemies.”

Lord Telstar shrugged. “War is war.  Business is business.  Of course, sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference except for the paperwork, but…”

“Now, now: let’s not get into a fight,” said Lord Tosca.

“That seems to be Blear’s view,” Lady Hankey said, reading her brief brief.  “Hands across the Divide, reconciliation with old Foes, moving forward together to a new and prosperous future.”

“Not a chance!” said Lord Telem vehemently.  “It will be a trick, a stratagem, a subterfuge.”

“A what?”

“Caer Surdin are not to be trusted,” insisted Lord Telem.

“I agree,” agreed Lady Hankey.  “As Chair of the Ethics Committee, I have to say that we should have ethical issues over entering into business dealings with the Forces of Darkness.”

“We do business with the Government,” objected Lord Tosca.  “I can’t see the difference myself.”

“Does that mean we need to sell all those Government Bonds we bought last year?” asked Lord Telstar.

“They were an awful investment,” agreed Lord Telem.  “We’d have had a better return if we’d simply turned it into gold and buried it under the car park for five years.”

“You could say that about anything, though,” muttered Lord Telstar.

Lady Hankey sniffed.  “Lord Blear would be able to explain it, I’m sure. Especially with his nice shiny new medal to help him. Probably from buying all those Government Investment Bonds.”

“Why do they call them Bonds, anyway?” mused Lord Telem.

“Because you get tied up in them and can’t escape, I think,” grumbled Lord Telstar.

“Well, I think we should treat this as a straightforward business transaction,” insisted Lord Tosca.  “Can we examine the proposal?”

Lady Hankey dropped the brief on the table with distaste. “Putting it simply, they want to borrow a lot of money to make a film.  Of a group.”

“What group?” asked Lord Telstar.

“The Banned Underground.”

“But they are great!” exclaimed Lord Tosca.  “I mean, we hire them to play here and stuff!”

“How are they connected with the Dark Side, then?” asked Lord Telem.

“I see them as innocent…” started Lady Hankey.

“Innocent? That lot?” Lord Telem howled with laughter.

“Innocent of evil doing,” continued Lady Hankey.  “I think that they are innocent dupes of a cunning plan by The Grey Mage, and I think we should reject this application.”

“Well hold on a moment,” said Lord Tosca, leaning forward across the Boardroom table.  “They are getting popular.  If there’s a good percentage for us, we could make some money out of a film like that.”  He looked at Lady Hankey, and added: “Ethically, too.”

“He’s got a point,” agreed Lord Telstar.

“Oh very well, let’s vote,” grumbled Lady Hankey.

“For,” Lord Telstar said firmly.

“For,” agreed Lord Tosca.

Lord Telem shrugged. “I’m in favour, too.  I quite enjoyed their last concert here.  Let’s make it a condition that we get a free gig at our next Corporate Event.”

“Ha, good idea!” approved Lord Telstar.

“Oh, very well then,” sniffed Lady Hankey.  “I’ll make the notes.”

“No, The Banned will make the notes.  Minims, crochets, quavers, that sort of thing.”


In another room inside the enchanted Fairy Hill, Lord Blear (Chairman and CEO of Edern Enterprises and Merchant Banking) nodded in satisfaction, and turned to his personal assistant.

“You can turn off the spycam in the Boardroom, now.”

“Yes, sir,” replied the aide, and turned off the TV link.

“Remind me to have another discussion with Lady Hankey, though.  The Ethics Committee is there to explain to the Regulators why whatever we decide to do is right, not to tell us it might be wrong.”

“Yes, sir.  Lord Blear, may I say something?”

“Go ahead.”

“You cannot go to the Investiture at the Palace dressed in a basque, a thong, and fishnet tights.”

“But I’m awarded the Order of The Garter, and the invitation says ‘Dress Appropriately’!”


“Of all right, fish out the Evening Suit, then.  Oh, and you’d better tip off Lady Meillar too.  She’s getting The Order of The Bath.”








3 responses to “New Release – Working Title The Banned Underground by Will MacMillan Jones

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