Not Your Usual Books: a series of non-fiction works by Peter Macinnis

These books are now available as Kindle e-books, except for the first two of the series, which have been published in print form.
A number of them have their own web pages, but this is a handy guide to the whole set.

They total nearly 3 million words. (Actually, given that vol. 6 is an omnibus version of 7, 8 and 9, so if you count vol. 6 as well, it comes to more than 3.4 million words. Eat yer heart out, Proust!) However you look at it, I've been busy, even if a lot of the work was compiling and editing.

Most of these are the work tools I use, and now they can be yours,either for almost zilch, or even for free.

About the author and the series

peter rangitoto (66K) I am a much-published and award-winning writer who gets excellent reviews for his published work. My range includes science, technology, mathematics and history, especially social history, and I write for both adults and younger readers.

So why am I self-publishing? Good question.

One thing that happens when you have many books behind you is that you find yourself approaching advanced middle age, and there's a lot of stuff I want to say before I drop off my perch. This sense of urgency causes a problem with the great minds of the marketing kiddies in assorted publishing houses. These are the people who hold up printing for six months while they debate which colour to use for the cover, but they have more than one skill when it comes to playing the role of hand-brake.

"Ah, yes," they say, "we can't publish more than one title a year, because the titles would compete with each other. We learned this at uni." (They are, if I need to explain this, quite wet behind the ears.)

No matter that the titles are about entirely different things, each marketing kiddy's two neurons will be found to be in full agreement. If I try to place the titles with different publishers, I will get the same argument, and in any case, it takes time I don't have to break a new publisher in.

So now you know why a successful author is self-publishing. It has nothing to do with the fact that my new publisher is a gentleman in a profession that no longer has room for gentlemen, but I have to confess that it's a refreshing innovation.

I should emphasise here that such cutting comments do not apply to the lovely folk at the National Library of Australia, who are still bringing my work out on processed dead tree. They actually commission me to write stuff, and they handle all of the trivia of editing and design. They also make very nice books out of the tatty stuff that scriveners like yours truly turn in.


Free stuff | Not Your Usual Bushrangers | Not Your Usual Gold Stories
Not Your Usual Australian Villains | Not Your Usual Treatments | Not Your Usual Australian Tales
Not Your Usual Sources | Not Your Usual Anthology of Verse | Not Your Usual Science Quotations
Not Your Usual Australian Vignettes | Not Your Usual Clever Idea | Not Your Usual Australian Voices
Not Your Usual Science | Not Your Usual Rocks | Not Your Usual Shores

Getting stuff for free:
This isn't about money, so I will be pursuing an active policy of offering each book in turn as a free item, once a month, for five days. That duration is all that Amazon will allow, so there will be a new one added about every 3 to 4 days, meaning there will usually be a free offering, and sometimes two, and i will do them in numerical order. Look around, see which one is on offer, and you will know when to come back.

Of course, if you like it, and got it for free, it would be nice to give the work a short review on the Amazon Kindle system.

Print versions

bushrangers cover (275K)

Not Your Usual Bushrangers

Number 1 in the series

Published in print by Five Mile Press, ISBN 9781760065690, written by Peter Macinnis, published 2015 by Five Mile Press in Australia, released July 1, 2015.

Sold also in a boxed set, together with Not Your Usual Gold Stories under ISBN 9781760068004.

For more information, see this link.

Back to the contents

gold-cover (290K)

Not Your Usual Gold Stories

Number 2 in the series

Published in print by Five Mile Press, ISBN 9781760065706, written by Peter Macinnis, published 2015 by Five Mile Press in Australia as a a boxed set, together with Not Your Usual Bushrangers under ISBN 9781760068004.

Regrettably, this book has fallen foul of some sort of power play within the publishing house, and the hard copy edition has NOT been released on its own. I imagine it is sitting in a warehouse somewhere. Ah well, I got my advance, and I have a few hard copies. I may or may not elect to take charge of my work and release it as an e-book.

For more information, see this link.

Back to the contents

Kindle versions

(Hint: with all of these, try the 'Look Inside' feature.)

villains cover (69K)

Not Your Usual Australian Villains

Number 3 in the series

This book is available as a Kindle e-book. Click here to take a look.
(Reminder: Try the 'Look Inside' feature.)

This is social history with attitude, and there will only be a few people that you have heard about. Here, you will meet We need to mention the Sabbath breakers, the convicts and debtors who "ran", and Lola Montez, described as "a very simple-mannered, well-behaved, cigar-loving young person...".

Like Lola, some of the colonists were bigamists. And the crooked lawyers, the wicked magistrates, and a totally evil archdeacon. Other villains were confidence tricksters, patent medicine sellers who claimed to cure anything, libellers, a would-be assassin, sly merchants, environmental vandals of several kinds, some surprising conspirators, political prisoners, rioters, duellists, wife-sellers, bullies, and even a cannibal captain who died of plague.

And just to end on a high note, there are a few murderers who were strung up. You can't get much higher than that, though finding the first hangman was another matter: that's in there as well.

For more information, see this link.

Back to the contents

2017treatmentscover (1904K)

Not Your Usual Treatments

Number 4 in the series

This book is now available as a Kindle e-book. Click here to take a look.
(Reminder: Try the 'Look Inside' feature.)

The history of medicine is strewn with bizarre notions about what caused illness and death: the gods, witches, poisoners were all early targets. Later the doctrine of humours ruled, and from then onwards, the practice of medicine made perfect sense, if you accepted the crazy model that the medical people were working from.

That was often a big ask, but this book helps you to understand where orthodox medical practitioners were coming from when they applied leeches and dosed people with millipedes, spiders, dog droppings and worse, far worse.

A half-plucked duck placed on the belly, a hot onion on the crotch, a tobacco pipe up the rectum after drowning, a fried egg on the bite of a mad dog, monkey gland injections, drinking radium-laced water until your jaw crumbles, being x-rayed to restore your youth were all popular. Putting your face in a hole in the ground; taking sugar can juice or sniffing rotten meat were all recommended for TB, but one expert thought leprosy was caused by eating rotten fish.

Then there were the quacks and patent medicine sellers, a bunch of complete rogues (several of them offered herbal remedies to prevent bubonic plague!). One doctor, while discussing hysteria: "…the case of a whole school of young ladies in Holland, who were all cured by being told, that the first who was seized [with hysteric fits] should be burnt to death." After that, being stood up to the genitals in cold water for a nose bleed seems benign!

This book is good for giving to elderly, squeamish aunts.

For more information, see this link.

Back to the contents

oztales-cover (69K)

Not Your Usual Australian Tales

Number 5 in the series

This book is available as a Kindle e-book. Click here to take a look.
(Reminder: Try the 'Look Inside' feature.)

Mark Twain explains why you should read this book:
"Australian history … does not read like history, but like the most beautiful lies. And all of a fresh new sort, no mouldy old stale ones. It is full of surprises, and adventures, and incongruities, and contradictions, and incredibilities; but they are all true, they all happened."

The real history of Australia, the untold stuff, has many diversions, like the case of the society ladies who stood on their chairs, waving their handkerchiefs: their action was one of the starting points for the book, and in chapter 48, you will learn why they did it.

Here, you will encounter the first cases of redbacks on the dunny seat; the truth about bunyips and the crocodile in Sydney's Rocks; methods for getting rid of fleas; how horse thieves worked; what had to be done before paddle steamers could run on the Murray River; the Russian invasion 'scare' in Melbourne; duels fought by foolish men; a scandal over a dead horse; cruel treatment dished out to coolies; wrecks, floods, bushfires, droughts and plague; booms and busts; early schools and early poets: some sublime and some awful.

For more information, see this link.

Back to the contents

sourcescover (74K)

Not Your Usual Sources

Number 6 in the series

This book is available as a Kindle e-book. Click here to take a look, remembering that this is all of the next three combined.
(Reminder: Try the 'Look Inside' feature.)

The busy writer, the busy teacher, any communicator of science needs a work like this, to find quotes that work. It is a treasury of verse, science and Australian history which offers you quick access to:

* around 1800 poems from the past six centuries, covering 270+ poets, with brief notes;
* around 1700 pithy and amusing science quotations adding up to about 115,000 words, across all of the sciences and mathematics; AND
* about 530 short excerpts from Australian historical sources, all great as chapter epigraphs.

This collection was assembled as and from the three commonplace books of a now somewhat ancient science writer who has, over the years, used many of these quotations, though others are as yet waiting their moment. The collector anticipates being Collected in the next dozen years or so by somebody riding a horse named Binky, and plans, ere then, to enjoy his advanced middle age, which means slowing down on the writing front.

Because I would rather share these fruits with others in my profession, I am releasing all of my working files as e-books, and this combines three volumes that may be bought separately, or together in this omnibus volume. The pricing is structured to encourage people to grab this, the combined version.

Still, if you insist, the three separate parts are available separately as:
Not Your Usual Anthology of Verse (often-quoted English verse, #7);
Not Your Usual Science Quotations (a treasury of science for writers, #8); and
Not Your Usual Australian Vignettes (Australian history quotes, #9).

Back to the contents

versecover (27K)

Not Your Usual Anthology of Verse

Number 7 in the series

This book is available as a Kindle e-book. Click here to take a look.
(Reminder: Try the 'Look Inside' feature.)

My verse collection began with a stray wish to illustrate a blog entry on bridges with William McGonagall's The Tay Bridge Disaster, a classic piece of bad poetry about poor bridge design (and demonstrating even worse scansion). From that simple start, I gathered more McGonagall, but soon realised I could not have such an imbalance in favour of poor verse.

This collection includes at least 270 poets (a few are sadly, anonymous), and there are something over 1800 poems, making this collection larger than the Norton Anthology, but the main plus is that you can search the text (depending on the vagaries of your reader or app).

Back to the contents

sciencequotescover (35K)

Not Your Usual Science Quotations

Number 8 in the series

This book is available as a Kindle e-book. Click here to take a look.
(Reminder: Try the 'Look Inside' feature.)

This collection was assembled as the commonplace book of a now somewhat ancient science writer who has, over the years, used many of these quotations, though others are as yet waiting their moment. The collector anticipates being Collected in the next dozen years or so, and plans, ere then, to enjoy advanced middle age, which means slowing down on the writing front.

Here, you will find verse, text from plays, novels, letters, speeches and short stories, but mainly from the hands of the scientists themselves, the people who shaped science. The chapters are set out in alphabetical order, but within the chapters, a great deal of effort has gone into apposite juxtaposition, allowing the authors to argue at times.

The chapters are: Biology, Communication and senses, Disease, Earth and space, Ecology, Energy, Evolution, Knowledge, Mathematics, Matter, Physics, Politics, Science and Transport.

The e-book is designed for browsing, and to that end, there is a comprehensive set of hot-links that allow you to drill down to the area of interest: aside from that, use your search function.

Once you have skimmed this, when the time comes when you need to use this famous exchange:
"I wish I'd said that…" followed by "You will, Oscar, you will.", all you have to do is apply the search function!

And by the way, you will find things like this gem:

… the resulting viscous, electrically conducting jet can trigger sparkover by reducing the air gap. Fascinating side-issues of hydrodynamic stability are involved. Ordinarily such a jet would break up because of sausage-mode pinch instabilities caused by surface tension. When the jet is very close to the insulator, this normal capillary break-up is accelerated by electrostatic forces. Under some conditions, however, the reverse may be true, since such jets can be stabilized by longitudinal current-flow, produced perhaps by corona at the ends of the jet.

To simulate the phenomenon, engineers at the Bonneville Power Administration in the United States, after consultation with avian experts, designed a mechanical cloaca consisting of a pressure chamber with an adjustable-diameter orifice. A balloon within the chamber contained raw scrambled eggs (for correct viscosity) doped with salt (for correct electrical conductivity). The doping level was determined from measurements on rehydrated cage scrapings from a local zoo. A solenoid operated needle broke the balloon on command, discharging the contents.

In full-scale tests conducted at 500 kV, the mechanical cloaca operated perfectly, resulting in spectacular electrical fireworks. As a result of this study, spikes were installed on cross-arms to discourage roosting. Animal rights activists will be pleased that no living birds were injured, and that a hazard to wild birds was reduced.

- David C. Jolly, 'Bird dropping research continues apace', Nature 319: 625-6, 20 February, 1986.

Back to the contents

vignettescover (31K)

Not Your Usual Australian Vignettes

Number 9 in the series

This book is available as a Kindle e-book. Click here to take a look.
(Reminder: Try the 'Look Inside' feature.)

I am a scientist by training, a writer of history by inclination (and going on reviews and awards that I get, I'm not a bad one, either). I bring robust scientific search and research methods to bear on historical questions, and everything is stored on multiple devices, but it is also meticulously curated.

I write a great deal about Australian history, and what I am sharing now is a cross between a large card index and one of the commonplace books of a now somewhat ancient writer of history who has, over the years, used many of these quotations, though others are as yet waiting their moment. This is a trove of unexpected bits and pieces.

Back to the contents

10 Not Your Usual Clever Ideas (48K)

Not Your Usual Clever Idea

Number 10 in the series

This book is available as a Kindle e-book. Click here to take a look.
(Reminder: Try the 'Look Inside' feature.)

This book began as a look at crazy inventions, but over the years that I was researching it, in between writing other books, I realised that many weird inventions must have seemed like a good idea at the time.

Take this list:
* an egg on a parachute with a fish-hook inside to catch snakes;
* a gadget on trains to let them collect mail as they fly past;
* a horse-powered paddle-wheel ferry; and
* a gunpowder-powered pile driver.

Which one of those makes the most sense? The quick answer: odd as it may sound, all four are/were legitimate when they were introduced.

Here, you will meet also the shark-proof suit; the shoe gun; the combined cigarette lighter and perfume dispenser and much more. Also, a parachute that attached to your head (but you would be safe, because it came with shoes with nice cushiony soles); a combined grocer's package, grater, slicer and mouse and fly trap; a steamship based on the rolling pin; and a catflap that was fitted with a colour sensor, so as to admit inventor's ginger cat while blocking the passage of a neighbour's black cat, though it could also be used to trigger a bomb in space.

This brought me to a couple of questions, of which the first one was: were these people nuts? The catflap was probably invented to make a point about the fatuity of some of the patent laws.

For some samples, see this link.

Back to the contents

11 Not Your Usual Australian Voices (62K)

Not Your Usual Australian Voices

Number 11 in the series

This book is available as a Kindle e-book. Click here to take a look.
(Reminder: Try the 'Look Inside' feature.)

A slightly earlier volume is available for free as an unprotected PDF file from under the name 'Many Voices': you need to scroll down a few items, then use the Download button. I wanted to make it free on Kindle, but that isn't possible. Still, each month, you can get it free for a few days, and it has no DRM (Digital Rights Management). That means you can share it.

I used this collection while I was writing Australian history for publication. The sheer size of this makes it an impossible prospect for print publishers, so I haven't even bothered hawking it around to them: I mean it's 3 times the size of War and Peace, and it works better in electronic form anyhow! It is a labour of love, prepared over a number of years, all from original source material, AND there are hotlinks.

The newspaper excerpts come from OCRed digitised newspapers held on the National Library system (most of them showing my paw prints in the correction), while the books are mainly OCRed from photographed pages snaffled by my Samsung tablet in Mitchell Library or screen-grabbed from Google books, and in each case, fed through my own high-end OCR program.

Here, you will find everything I could find on any topic that became, however briefly, a temporary obsession, from pubs, sly grog, smuggling, snakes, bunyips, coaches, bicycles, fraud, bushfires, floods, newspapers, posts and telegraphs, biology, wars, bushrangers, farming, horse and cattle stealing, train wrecks and shipwrecks, Aborigines, emancipists, tickets of leave and the Female Factory, conservation, sanitation, diseases, divorce colonial style, women in trousers, road building, getting lost in the bush, exploration, power sources, coolies, gold rushes, cricket, swimming before bathing costumes, parks and gardens, rabbits, prickly pear and cane toads — and much more.

It pulls no punches, as this excerpt shows: "Mr. Watson has 40 pairs of blacks' ears nailed round the walls collected during raiding parties after the loss of many cattle speared by the blacks." To get the context, you'll have to read the collection, using a good search strategy.

Back to the contents

Possible future titles

Not Your Usual Science

12Not Your Usual Science-vol1 (52K) 13 Not Your Usual Science-vol2 (50K) 14 Not Your Usual Science-vol3 (45K)

Numbers 12, 13 and 14 in the series

This is a long and loving look at how some of the scientists really found out things. here, you will learn about when people realised the world was a globe (2000 years before Columbus), who Wimshurst was and what he invented, and many other strange things.

Since it will take some time to herd all of the words into some form of order, let me relieve the suspense by explaining that the Wimshurst machine was a predecessor of the Van de Graaff generator, and you can see a picture of one on the cover mock-up for volume 2, on the left.

This collection is mostly made up of short pieces I wrote at various times, some of it for a now defunct company which acted in an unethical way, by removing my copyright credit. Much of the work was never paid for in any case, so I have resumed possession of it. The volumes are all written, but they are in somewhat chaotic form right now. Two weeks with a chainsaw, and they'll be beautiful!

Back to the contents

15Not Your Usual Rocks (56K)

Not Your Usual Rocks

Number 15 in the series

Currently in production through the National Library of Australia, my Australian Backyard Earth Scientist is written for younger readers, but when I started that work, I had the first draft of this much larger work for readers of all ages pretty much written. The chapters are planned, and the pics are all in place, more or less.

Chasing this has seen me dabbling around volcanoes, going into a volcano, and walking 15 km in (and another 15 out) in rough country to get to a particular unconformity, chasing glaciers and scrambling up alps, looking for bendy bits, what serious geologists call folds.

I have also been collecting faults, because it seemed like a good idea at the time.

It's great when you can have fun and call it a job, though I had a bit of a close shave when I was investigating fake fossils in Morocco, and there was a frisky volcano in Vanuatu that had us a bit worried...

Back to the contents

16 shore things cover (58K)

Not Your Usual Shores

Number 16 in the series

Speaking of having fun and calling it work, as my last bow, I plan to go beachcombing. Forget the Bucket List, mine's a Bucket and Spade List!

There are all the things that wash up on the shore and what happens to them, the shapes of beaches, the way cliffs fall down, where sand comes from and where it goes.

Then there are tides, currents, rips and more; mangroves and estuaries; all the wildlife to be found just off the shore — the list goes on and on.

It's not that far away, because I have been preparing for this idea for many years, and I have a first-cut set of photos selected.

Back to the contents

I hope you will find some fun in these books. I certainly been having a lot of fun writing them — and while they won't admit it, that's the main reason why writers write!

This file is your usual books.htm

It was created on May 19, 2017 and last updated May 19, 2017.

If you email me at macinnis at, you will reach a spam trap, but be read, eventually, probably maybe. If you put my first name in front of that address (so it reads petermacinnis), you will reach me much faster and more surely. This low-tech solution is to make email harvesting difficult. I am generally willing to talk to interesting humans. Spammers miss out twice on fitting that specification.

email400 (18K)

The home page of this set is here.