Troubador The Fickle Finger

Released: 28/02/2020

ISBN: 9781838593117

eISBN: 9781838598013

Format: Paperback/eBook

Review this Book

Author Website

The Fickle Finger

An Inventor’s Lot


Success is a slippery, fickle thing. How much is down to luck, being in the right place at the right time or knowing the right people, and how much to innate talent? Why are some people less successful than others? Taking as its frame of reference the stories of fifty inventors who lost out on the fame that their genius might otherwise have merited, The Fickle Finger examines some of the reasons why they have languished in obscurity for so long. It is a tale of prejudice, racial and sexual, societal pressures, deficiencies in the patent system, gross errors of judgment, and sheer bad luck. The pressures of battling the system sometimes led to madness, penury and even suicide.  

And along the way, there will be some surprises. Were the Wright Brothers really the first men to fly in a powered machine? Did Galileo really invent the telescope? Has a US President held a patent? How did Albert Einstein hope to improve upon the fridge? Why was Benjamin T Franklin denied a patent? Who gave away their invention for a lifetime’s supply of chocolate?  

The answers to these questions and much more are to be found within this book. A lively, entertaining and light-hearted investigation into the components of success, it will give you plenty of food for thought.

Fifty Scams and Hoaxes is now available in e-book and paperback format.

Country Life

The fickle finger of fate isn’t just an awesome alliteration, it’s a way of life. Or, more accurately, a mentality with which to approach life. There are things one can do to improve one’s lot, but there’s only so much one can do, the rest is up to fate. Such is very much the case with the 50 inventors in this book. They’ve tried to do more than improve their own lot, they’ve invented things ranging from minor like Velcro to major like nuclear fusion and yet never got the credit they deserved. And while, yes, the modern age finally granted (often posthumous) recognition to their genius, their names are still not as famous as they ought to be. This book tries to redress it in a way. Without a glimpse of schadenfreude at lives that frequently went off the rails in pretty tragic manner, the book presents 50 brief biographical chapters chronicling the lives of historically ignored and overlooked inventors and their inventions. Some of it is depressingly obvious, if these inventors were women, men of color or slaves, the odds were stacked impossibly against them. But there were also plenty of properly recognized within their rights (i.e. white male) citizens who struggled to get their inventions on the market whether through crappy timing, lack of business acumen, unfair competition or various combinations of thereof. Some of this is legitimately laugh out loud funny…just imagine the original inventor of inline skates rolling into a fancy parlor while playing violin…and having no idea how to slow his roll as it were. But mostly these are very sad stories about smart, often genius minds plowed over by the vagaries of life. Notably, the book isn’t nearly as bleak as it might have been, thanks to the light tone the author selected for his narration. Worked very well, actually. Managed to be informative and charming at the same time. The author presents himself as a sort of good natured good humored old fogey fascinated by a fascinating subject and excited to shed some much deserved light on the people responsible for so many of our life’s comforts and conveniences. This was exactly my kind of nonfiction, educational and entertaining. Relatively slim volume with tons of information, made for a quick, fun, edifying read. I’d be very interested to read more by the author based on this most auspicious introduction. Recommended.

by Mia

Fun read on inventions and the associated pitfalls

I enjoyed this book. It is a fun read with Martin Fone giving short, well-written descriptions of inventions and their inventors. Except that these are inventions that didn’t work out quite like the inventor might have wanted them too. There is certainly humor in the book, as well as sadness and I couldn’t help but feel bad for some of the inventors. Overall this is a book well-worth reading.

by Stephen

I found the book interesting, and easy read. It was hard to put down. Learned things I never knew. Felt bad for those inventors controlled by societal norms..

by Alan

This was an interesting read, as the author described the inventors' experiences for things that I wouldn't have thought to research. It was interesting to see how some of these inventions came about and the setbacks the inventors faced. Overall, this is a great read!

by Cristie

I had little knowledge of patents and always thought once somebody has got one; he can encash his idea easily for many years.
But things are not that simple.
World is a cruel place and it is rarely fair when we see things in retrospect.
This is a lovely concise book, telling stories of 50 inventors who produced great things but still did not get adequate money, fame or awards or place in history what they deserved.
Few stories were well known from bestsellers books and common knowledge and opinions.
But I learnt a lot of new things and about a lot of great people on margins of society.

Their were biases; racial, sex based, financial or beauraucratic and even from patent office.
It is amazing to know that patent offices may be biased or amenable to manipulation.
One common fact was that ideas don't work if there is nobody to fund them.
Second was that if you are naive and honest odds are against you as hawks will circle you to take away your possession.
I would like to read other books by author.
Writing is concise, intresting, enjoyable and informative.

by Amit

Martin Fone

A Classics graduate from Trinity College, Cambridge Martin Fone had a successful career in the insurance industry. He co-authored two books on public sector risk management which were adopted by the Institute of Risk Management as their standard text books.

Since retiring Martin has had the opportunity to develop his interests, mainly reading, writing and thinking or, as his wife puts it, locking himself away in his office for a few hours a day. In particular he has been blogging and writing in his tongue-in-cheek, irreverent style about the quirks, idiocies and idiosyncrasies of life, both modern and ancient. His latest books, Fifty Clever Bastards, Fifty Curious Questions, and Fifty Scams and Hoaxes reflect this change in direction.

In May 2018 Fifty Curious Questions was a Category Finalist in the Eric Hoffer Book Award 2018 and has been serialised in Country Life magazine's social media platform. Fifty Scams and Hoaxes was a category finalist in the Independent Author Network Book of the Year award, 2019.

Martin is now a regular contributor to Country Life Online and his fourth book, The Fickle Finger, is out at the end of February 2020.

  • Buy as a printed
  • £9.99

  • 5 customer reviews
  • Buy as an ebook
  • £3.99
  • Find this ebook at your favourite retailer
Also by Martin Fone / Related Books