Old Nick's Guide To Happiness

Old Nick's Guide To Happiness

“…without a doubt the best book I have read since Atlas Shrugged.(Ken Schoolland, author of the world-renowned economics fable, The Adventures of Jonathan Gullible)

The Plot

Jacques, an 18-year-old Anglo-French student, is plunged unwillingly into a life of mystery as the result of a hiking accident in a remote part of Scotland.

Who is Nikolai, the taciturn foreigner with bright golden eyes?What on earth is he doing hidden away in such a God-forsaken place? Who is Catriona? What is she up to in her secret laboratory? What does Benevix mean? What do the letters BQLBV stand for?

Instead of studying literature at Oxford University as planned, Jacques finds himself whirled away on a philosophical roller-coaster in which everything he thought he knew is first torn to shreds then gradually replaced by a dramatic new view of life.

Adventures of the mind are intermingled with the forging of new friendships; with the ups and downs, and joys, of first love; and with physical predicaments so sudden and dangerous that Jacques is forced to draw on reserves of self-reliance and courage he didn’t know he had.


Ken Schoolland
aissez-Faire Books Review, Arizona

Old Nick’s Guide to Happiness is without a doubt the best book I have read since Atlas Shrugged, a gripping adventure story combined with persuasive advocacy of a philosophy of total freedom. In fact, the thing I liked most about the book was the way Mr Dykes contrasted his vision of a purely voluntary society with the myths about, and sordid reality of, government.

“Mr. Dykes bases his view of life on Objectivism and gives full credit to the genius of Ayn Rand. Yet he pulls no punches when it comes to exposing shortcomings in Rand’s ideas. He is equally lucid and analytical in probing the errors of other philosophers, including Marx, Popper and Kant.

“Radical capitalism is the heart of the book. It contains one of the most comprehensive examinations of political economy that I have seen anywhere, from first principles through to full application on everything from education to health care, police powers to roads, and banking to gold. His analysis of the corruption of current political systems is also among the best I have seen.

“Mr Dykes is British, and I can imagine that Old Nick’s Guide to Happiness is just the kind of novel that would stir endless debate with friends at the local pub, for no mainstream historical icon is sacred. The dire consequences of policy blunders by leaders such as Wilson, Roosevelt, Churchill and Thatcher are all dealt with bluntly and caustically. It is all too easy to blame the horrors of the 20th Century on tyrants abroad, while overlooking the growth of statism at home.

“He is also searing in his criticism of religion in general and Christianity in particular. Indeed, anyone close to religion is compelled to answer some tough questions about the nature of man’s belief in the supernatural.

“With all this cynicism about the world, how can the book be a ‘guide to happiness’? It is a guide in the same manner as Harry Browne’s How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World. It is not only intended to shatter the illusions of contemporary society, but is also a road map for personal deliverance from political and societal chains. For example, Mr. Dykes presents a refreshing new view on personal ethics and sexuality. On the purely novelistic side, the characters come across as real flesh and blood, and there are both funny and deeply moving moments. The romance kept the story very human too, and the tension and suspense stirred the blood. I was also astounded by the technical knowledge that was part of the fabric of the book, wondering if the author was personally a diver, a geologist, and a submariner. He writes as if he was a professional in all of these arenas.

“One criticism: I felt caught off guard by the extensive quotations cited by the main character in the book. This stretched credibility a bit, but was perhaps plausible given the isolation of the setting and the demands of the plot. In any case, the reader will be too absorbed by the discussions to worry about one character’s capacity for memorization.

Old Nick’s Guide To Happiness is a great read; very well written and with an excellent mix of philosophy and story; ideas stimulating while romance and suspense pull the reader onward. In sum, Nicholas Dykes has produced a masterpiece that will surely become a staple of libertarian discussion and in due time take its place as a libertarian classic. I highly recommend it”

IL Fettucinni
Bellingham, Washington State, USA

“Every decade or so a book comes along that stuns the reader to the core of his being. Nicholas Dykes’ Old Nick’s Guide to Happiness is just such a book. Here is a novel that takes a known philosophy and gives it substance and clarity while entertaining the reader with a cast of cool and lovable characters. At the same time it gives the reader a basic understanding of Ayn Rand and libertarian philosophy.

“Dykes does this by first creating a mystery novel with a young man of 18, Jac, bound for Oxford who literally falls into a wild and unimaginable adventure involving Nikolai, a rich miner who teaches him philosophy. Jac falls down an escarpment while on a hike in Scotland  a few months before he is to start Oxford as a freshman. He is found by Nikolai and his wife Catriona.

“The novel plays out with Jac discovering that Nikolai and Catriona live in an underground lair complete with modern technology, conduct all sorts of illegal operations, smuggle gold and other items and at the same time are the most civilized people he has ever met. They make their own whisky and grow marijuana for a dying relative to relieve her pain….

“The rest of the novel consists of more adventures and Jac being hired by Nikolai to write a book for which Nikolai gradually gives him the raw data. That raw data is a fairly detailed account of libertarian philosophy and history. So we have a didactic novel but instead of mere speeches, we have an ongoing debate between Jac and Nikolai….

“I’m 63. I discovered libertarian philosophy at the University of Hawaii in the early ‘70’s. I went from a moderate individualist as a young man to a committed libertarian for life….  To me this book was a wonderful coming home to subjects and issues which few ever deal with as a whole. Here is a British author, Nicholas Dykes, commenting in detail on a hundred different items and I agreed with every one of them. It is as if Rothbard’s “Plum Line,” his Randian/Free-market, rational, individualist philosophy had become an international convention! Hurray!

“But how will other readers react to this novel? What would an average 20 year old think? Well I know he or she would enjoy and identify with 18 year old Jac who is a bright, eager young lad eager to learn and consider the world. He is also coming of age and discovers a pretty young woman and falls desperately in love with her. Nikolai has something to say about sexuality too. He calls it a “major virtue!”

“Dykes’ style is clear and rich. Early on we read, “Nikolai once more subjected him to a silent scrutiny. Jac examined his face. It was hard to guess how old the man was. His hair – dark chestnut in colour (note the Brit spelling!) thick and curly – was heavily flecked with grey; but the lean cheeks had few age lines. His strange golden eyes glowed with cold intensity. They looked like agate pebbles freshly taken from a stream…”

“Dykes not only has a mature, rich style but its hallmark is clarity. He has a simple manner of explaining philosophical principles with ease. On page 117/118 he gives us a neat summation the animal rights issue. Can they have them? No! By page 135 Dykes shows how Communism and Christianity share common sub themes. On pages 137-139 he absolutely takes Kant apart and shows him to be a conman of the highest order. Hurray! In my day we summed Kant up with the phrase, “Kant can’t!” And, ever the even-handed analyst, Dykes shows how Rand did not go far enough in her criticism of Kant. He praises Richard Dawkins for his manly defense of reason but criticizes his ethics. He makes Rothbard the hero and never mentions Milton Friedman. Dykes gives the reader a “how to” on deconstructing the State after he has demolished its pretense of goodness….

“Toward the end of the novel Jac is given the choice of joining the world of Nikolai, a world of freedom and adventure, but is asked to swear to secrecy…. Jac answers with a totally Randian, “I swear by my life and by my love for it…’ which drew tears from me. It was Dykes’ way of delicately and dramatically giving Rand credit for all her work. And by doing this Dykes interweaves plot and discussion into one.

“Dykes drew tears again from me on the last two pages. Jac, whose father was decent, proper and kind, had never been physical or ever told Jac he loved him. But after a series of life and death adventures Nikolai tells Jac that he has grown fond of him. He admits that he had never told his own son that before he died.

“While giving Ayn Rand great praise and elaborating on her ideas throughout the novel, criticizing her where he feels appropriate, this novel does not fall for lack of emotional depth. Above all this is a real man writing about important issues that affect us daily. Food, shelter, sex and love. How to conduct one’s life on this planet with passion and humanity. This is the excitement of this novel.”

Johnathan Pearce,
Samizdata, London, UK

“A fine book about the important things in life.

“Books that try to convey important philosophical ideas can sometimes be a bit of a struggle to read. Much as I liked Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged for the sheer sweep of the novel and the way it tackled all manner of topics, I’ll be the first to concede that some folk out there will find that type of book a daunting read. But a shorter, and highly engaging, example of something rather similar has been out for a few months now:

Old Nick’s Guide To Happiness, by Nicholas Dykes. I will not give the plot away but to say that Mr Dykes’ novel is based in the wilds of Scotland, focusing on what happens when a young man, who is shortly to head off for Oxford as an undergraduate, gets lost and hurt during a hiking expedition in the Highlands, and how he falls in with a rather unusual couple living there. There are lots of discussions of philosophy and ideas along the way, but is done in such a charming way that the reader, whatever their views, will not feel they are being lectured at. Admittedly, if you are a religious fundamentalist, deep Green or hardline collectivist, then this book will drive you nuts.

“I have known Mr Dykes for several years and he has been a regular writer for the Libertarian Alliance, among other places. I liked this book very much and I hope Mr Dykes tries his hand at another novel. As he realises, abstract treatises are all very well, but if you can convey ideas through the medium of fiction, with strong characters, a good plot and plenty of engaging detail, it can be far more effective. The Left, if I can be permitted to use that term has long understood this – it needs to be understood by those who work in the broadly classical liberal tradition, too. And the same point applies even more, perhaps, to the world of TV drama and films.”

Peter Saint André,
One Small Voice, Colorado

“Bravo! Quite delightful. Old Nick’s Guide to Happiness is an engaging adventure on many levels: it captures the mind most of all, but weaves in suspense, diverse characters and humor as well. I enjoyed it immensely.”

Lindsay Perigo,
Free Radical, New Zealand

“….I enjoyed the book immensely—quite apart from anything else it’s refreshing to encounter a novel brimming over with ideas after a seeming eternity in which ideas and fiction seemed to be constitutionally separated. I doubt there’s been anything like it since Atlas Shrugged itself. It’s not in Atlas’s league—what is?—but Mr. Dykes certainly succeeds in giving an active mind much to feast on, and in alternating seamlessly between an arresting plot and philosophical instruction.

“For a novice in the realm of freedom-think, such as young Jacques in the novel itself, ONGTH would be an excellent starting point; for veterans, a useful refresher course. You won’t have to agree with Nicholas Dykes or his Doppelgänger, Old Nick, on everything—I certainly don’t—to be entertained, informed … and uplifted!”

Daunce Lynam,

“…an intellectual and material world of staggering originality ….

“The Guide is actually two books: an adventure story and a philosophical manifesto, intertwined with considerable deftness and pace. The adventure which befalls Jac is in the tradition of lost-or-hidden-world fantasy. The Highlands setting of the opening section, and a corresponding American West locale, are government-free territories existing below the radar of neighbours and authorities, where the anarchist principles of Old Nick prevail … 21st-century Galt’s Gulches. The philosophical exegesis which accompanies the adventure is a clear, thorough and (to me) fascinating lesson in the history and evolution of philosophy itself, and of Ayn Rand-style libertarianism in particular….

“I preferred the philosophy part not because I know anything about philosophy, but because I don’t. It was like Phil.101 without having to get up for an 8am class, and with a terrific lecturer. There are also digressions which are glorious fun (a chapter called ‘If I were Prime Minister’ for one). There are examples from anthropology and history which suggest orderly, happy, peaceful societies without law or government…. Nearly every page offers ideas to intrigue, irritate, inspire or enrage. It’s a good read…. something very new and different. It offers nothing less than an entire new world. Each reader will wonder – is it a nice place to visit, is it the holiday from hell, or do I want to live there? ”

John Hospers, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, University of Southern California; author of Human Conduct, An Introduction to Philosophical Analysis, Libertarianism,and many other books and articles on philosophy; first Presidential Candidate of the United States Libertarian Party.

“Dear Mr Dykes, I LOVE your book …. When I first opened it, little did I know that it would be a long paean to the strength and power of Ayn Rand’s ideas. Like her masterpiece Atlas Shrugged, it is a mystery novel in which the solution to the mystery depends on the reader’s grasp of philosophical concepts. I know of no other book which evokes the same qualities of excitement and conviction.

“I enjoyed every bit of the reading. When Ayn Rand asked me early in our acquaintance that I liked most about Atlas, I replied, ‘the suspense. It is a wonderful mystery novel, and you don’t know the conclusion to the mystery until you read it’….

“Your qualities of narration closely parallel those in Atlas, and kept me absorbed throughout…. Like Rearden in Atlas, Jac was the most vividly depicted character, and Nikolai the most philosophically satisfying (rather like Galt, except that Galt was more a symbol than a living human being ….)

“Our disagreements are fewer than you might imagine, and meanwhile your novel was such an enjoyable experience, I took several days away from other activities just to complete it. But it was well worth it – and as I page through it again, the incidents spring back into my mind with renewed vividness….

“Your book was a very pleasant surprise. It probably does more justice to Ayn Rand’s actual views than any other book I am acquainted with…. For that, and for being an enthralling philosophical mystery story much along the lines of Atlas Shrugged, I would give it my highest recommendation.”

Anthony O’Hear,
Professor of Philosophy, University of Buckingham, England

“Astonishing in this time of ever-increasing collectivism to find such a bracing draught of Randianism emanating from Britain. Even for those (such as myself) who are not persuaded by everything contained in Old Nick’s Guide to Happiness, reading it will (in the true sense) challenge pre-conceptions and prejudices, many of which need to be challenged. And the medicine, for that is what it may well be, is wrapped up in an engaging mystery.”

Larry J. Sechrest Ph.D,
Professor of Economics, Sul Ross State University, Alpine, Texas

“This is a very good book indeed. A major accomplishment …. The plot and characters are engrossing. These are real people, not cardboard cutouts, not flawless robots, but people. There is adventure and danger as well as warm affection and gentle eroticism…. The manuscript abounds with lively descriptions that transport the reader to the locales….

“The philosophical dialogues are a most entertaining way to present such radical ideas… very persuasive. Positively splendid commentary on both Marx and Popper, absolutely on target!

“Personally, I found the book quite inspiring, it gave a little spring to my step. I thought to myself, ‘Damn, he’s right, it can be done!’ The book really is triumphant in its tone and message.”

Bruce L. Benson, Chair, Department of Economics, DeVoe Moore and Distinguished Research Professor, Courtesy Professor of Law Florida State University, Tallahassee

“This is a great book for someone like me who is vaguely familiar with some philosophers and their writings, but who really does not understand the different philosophical approaches and the problems with them. I have to say that I have learned more about philosophy and well known philosophers reading this book than I ever knew before…. It has cleared up a lot of my misunderstandings, confirmed some of my perceptions, and informed me about much that I was not aware of…. Finally, it has done so in an interesting way. It is very well written, and it integrates the philosophy material into an interesting story that draws the reader on, both to learn more and to find out what happens to the interesting characters…. I thought the character development was very good …. I enjoyed it front to back…. a fun read and I learned a lot from it.”

Patrick Minford, Professor of Economics, Cardiff Business School, former economic advisor to UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

“Nicholas, I have read your book and much enjoyed it. I do congratulate you on it. I enjoyed the story and I found the discussions of philosophy most interesting. Most of all the discussion of the state was very well done …. Points well taken, and I hadn’t known of the anthropological work. The practical question is how one reduces the state; prising things from its grasp requires huge ingenuity and commitment …. Changing it requires public understanding; and your book is a great start with that!”


Eric P. Nolte, Captain, Continental Airlines, Croton, New York

“Nick, your book is a joy! What a fabulous thing you’ve accomplished! A marvellous combination of adventure story and lively, Plato-like dialogues, but without the other-worldly Platonism or the post-modern nonsense that nowadays poses as an answer to The Big Questions of life …. The effect of your book on me has been dramatic. I knew nothing of customary law, which you explain so well, or of the large groups of people who have lived without the oppressive encroachments of government. Inspiring stuff. I’m so impressed, and you write so well fashioning this sweetly engaging tale.”

Carol Jane Stuart, teacher and sometime literary critic, Ontario, Canada

“a stunning achievement … so bursting with ideas it could spark a lively debate in a cemetery…. The opening is a grabber! All the action-adventure parts are very well done …. Nikolai …comes across as a real, larger-than-life character – he’s the magister throughout … you have succeeded there. The alternation of the plot with the instruction seems very well paced…. It will be read, and read and read, I’m sure of it…. I admire it so much… well done, superbly done ….”

T/Sgt Shane T. Beaulieu, US Air Force, Hawaii

“What an amazing story! …. a wonderful book, worth every penny.”

Jonathan Dickson, County Carlow, Republic of Ireland

“Thanks for a ripping good read.”

Warren Swales, Sheffield, England

“May I offer you my deepest gratitude for putting together a fantastic story. I thoroughly enjoyed it.”

Donald Belvoir, Herefordshire, England

“It was with some scepticism that I purchased a copy of Old Nick’s Guide to Happiness. After all, one hardly expects a drinking companion to come up with a book – let alone a good one….

“Nicholas guides us through the major theories in philosophy in what could be, in other hands, a yawn-provoking marathon. In this case, however, we are presented with an intricate plot concerning two disparate individuals – pupil and mentor as it emerges. Through many twists and turns we are kept in suspense, turning the pages of this fine story, while being exposed to arguments about religion, anarchy, and the place of the State. I found both the plot and the theories behind it thoroughly researched and a joy to read. Well done ‘Old Nick’!”

Ian Adams, Herefordshire, UK

“I know nothing about philosophy but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It should be made required reading for everybody in government, from parking meter attendants all the way down to Cabinet Ministers.”

Jack Bateman, Herefordshire, UK

“I’m amazed. There’s this chap I meet in the pub occasionally, Nick, I didn’t know his last name, and one day he shows me this book he’s written. Who’d’ve guessed? Anyway, it looked intriguing, so I bought a copy. Mind you, not without knocking his price down a bit. So the cheeky blighter dedicated it to ‘Jack the Haggler’.

“Well, I’m a retired businessman, and I did find my eyes glazing over a bit at the philosophy in the beginning. But once I got to the politics I found myself in total agreement. And what a great story! As I said, I was amazed. So well done, Nick the Novelist, old mate. There’s a movie in there too, I bet.”

A.B., Herefordshire, UK

“I’d love to buy a copy of your book, but my wife wouldn’t have it in the house!”

Richard Thorogood, Perth, Australia

“I found Old Nick’s Guide to Happiness to be extremely mind provoking, a ‘philosophical adventure’, and in parts, quite inspiring. The characters come to life in their complex but often intriguing backgrounds, the story has a real twist at the end, and it is, in my opinion, a thoroughly good read.”

Juha Puukari, Imatra, Finland

“Thank you for your interesting book which I had the pleasure of reading. Being a man whose career has consisted only of international trade and business, but whose interests have included literature, philosophy, politics, history, etc., I consider your book quite an achievement with all it’s detailed information about so many various fields of life and historical facts about the various juridical proceedings that mankind has applied.

“Your book also made me wonder why I have been so obedient with the tax bureaucrats, perhaps because I was brought up in an old fashioned way! I have to admit that I agree with your opinions about our so called ‘democratic’ states causing so many difficulties to our modern societies and individuals! I also enjoyed reading your book due to its interesting plot, covering all our ambitions, human relations, love and sex.”

Peter Conradi, Ottawa, Canada

“I greatly admired the erudition so evident in the writing and ‘Old Nick’s’ ability to weave a good tale. I am certain the book will find goodly praise and stimulate lively debate in academic circles.”


(Series of dots … or …. show where passages have been left out.)

From Page 1

… He burst awake from the tangled dream. Bright sunlight hurt his eyes. He raised himself on an elbow, squinting against the glare, and looked around dazedly…. … The dream still swirled in his brain. Was it dream or memory? The fog. The cliff. The crumbling rock. His despairing scream as he plunged into the white void. Crashing into the scree. Tumbling, flailing, trying to stop. A flurry of sharp blows to knees, elbows, shoulders, back. A dazzling bang to his head. Blackness. Silence. Consciousness oozing back. Pain. So much pain. Rocks cutting into his face. Blood trickling into his mouth. Total darkness. Searing, stabbing, thudding pain, all over his body. Unable to move. Panic worse than pain. Screaming in agony and terror, again and again, ‘Oh God! God! Help me! Please help me!’ Scrabbling above, dust and stone chips falling into his mouth and eyes, spitting, blinking, the sudden daylight, a strange, fierce face staring down at him, and the words spoken matter-of-factly yet with utter conviction ….

The Boy

“What do you want?

“It was the man’s voice, but speaking in accented English. Jac span round. The man was standing a few feet away, fishing rod in one hand, trout on a string in the other. Jac stared at him. Suddenly it was all too much: the loneliness, the fears, and the desperate anxiety of his approaching climb. His throat tightened and tears welled up. He tried to hold them back but they spilled over and trickled down his cheeks. He brushed them away, the action generating a violent and unexpected jolt of anger.

“You bastard,” he shouted; “you bastard!” The man stared at him without expression, golden eyes hard and cold. Slowly, he examined Jac’s long blond hair, the tears in the bright blue eyes, the angry young face fringed with its first beard, and the tanned, lean, well-muscled body, now tense and crouched slightly forward like a welterweight about to lash out in the ring ….

The Mentor

It was hard to guess how old the man was. His hair – dark chestnut in colour, thick and curly – was heavily flecked with grey, but the lean cheeks had few age lines. His strange golden eyes glowed with cold intensity. They looked like agate pebbles freshly taken from a stream. Jac half expected the pupils to close vertically, like those of a big cat. The nose was long and straight, the lips thin and firm, with well-defined edges as though outlined in pencil. Even when still and expressionless, Nikolai’s face seemed to pulse with controlled energy, like that of a great actor seen in close-up at the climax of some compellingly dramatic film ….

The close of Chapter Two

At that moment the sun rose over the ridge behind them, shooting their shadows across the dark, breeze-ruffled, gold-flecked surface of the loch. The stretched-out shapes looked momentarily like the twin towers of some fabled castle inlaid in a glittering, gold-and-amber mosaic. Nikolai turned to him: “Will you give it a try?” Jac sighed. “Alright, I’ll give it a try.”

The need for a new philosophy

“When you look around Britain or America today, around the whole world, and see the man-made disasters, the reckless drivers, drugged and drunken gangs of teenage thugs, rioting sports fans, the thefts and muggings and stabbings and shootings, the bitter divorces, the cruelty to or killing of small children, the rape and murder of young women, the lying and corruption of politicians, the bullying and stupidity of bureaucrats, the economic collapses, the worthless paper currencies, the suicide bombers, the incessant wars, the government-made famines – all the horrors and misery which the news media report so relentlessly, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. When you see all this, surely it takes no great effort of imagination to realise that what human beings urgently, desperately need is a new set of ideas about how to live, both for themselves individually and with one another in society. In other words, they need a new philosophy….”

Political correctness

“Excuse me, what exactly is ‘political correctness’?” “A modern form of mental laziness and, or, intellectual cowardice. It means basing judgements of political issues or contemporary controversies on ideas which are fashionable rather than true. A typical such issue today is man-made global warming. This is now very much in vogue despite the facts that, a) the thesis ignores a mass of evidence which directly contradicts it; and, b) tens of thousands of scientists have publicly rejected it. Why is it nonetheless all the rage? Because it suits sensation-seeking journalists, anti-freedom intellectuals, money-hungry ‘environmentalists’ and, especially, power-lusting, tax-hungry politicians….”

Where should we begin a philosophy?

“A classic illustration of the primacy of consciousness approach was the work of the 17th century French philosopher René Descartes, who founded his philosophy on the famous assertion cogito ergo sum, or je pense donc je suis, or in English, ‘I think therefore I am.’

“Rand would assert, in contrast, that Descartes got it back to front. We can’t begin with consciousness, she would say, because consciousness presupposes, firstly, an existing physical being which is conscious; and, secondly, some external entity of which that being is conscious. She would point out that consciousness without some thing to be conscious of is self-contradictory and meaningless. No existing things, no consciousness. The very nature of consciousness is to be aware of entities outside itself.

“So, when we seek the correct starting point for a system of philosophy, we must begin with existence as the primary fact. Consciousness developed later, it is secondary. It is the means by which those organisms which possess it are aware of reality. Therefore reality, existence, has primacy….”

The reception given to Atlas Shrugged

“Rand had no illusions about what she was up against, but after the monumental effort of learning to write superbly well in a totally different language, and taking fourteen years to write Atlas Shrugged, she was still at heart a young woman hoping that her effort would be applauded by an audience of receptive peers. It wasn’t.

“The famous military strategist Basil Liddell-Hart wrote that frontal assaults against well-fortified positions seldom succeed; and if they do succeed, do so at immense cost. Rand paid a terrible price. Few critics understood her, and fewer came out in her favour. Most were caustic or cruel. The worst was a former communist spy called Whittaker Chambers who reviewed Atlas for a lightweight US rag called National Review. You can imagine how Rand felt – a passionate freedom-lover of Jewish descent who had escaped from a totalitarian dictatorship – when Chambers said her book’s most striking feature was its dictatorial tone: ‘From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged,’ he wrote, ‘a voice can be heard … commanding: To a gas chamber – go!’”

“He wrote that about Atlas Shrugged!?” Jac burst out in disbelief. “He can’t have read it!” “That’s possible. But his remark demonstrates just how low Rand’s opponents were prepared to go. It was malice, pure and simple. In this instance, malice from a creepy little turncoat who was trying to curry favour with his new masters….”

Altruism versus benevolence

“Another Objectivist virtue Rand didn’t go into, except by implication in her novels, is benevolence. It is very important to include it because many people have accused Objectivism of being a cold, unfeeling, heartless philosophy…” “How on earth could they say that?” Jac burst out, genuinely shocked. “Atlas is full of examples of warmth and kindness between people, andAnthem too, though on a smaller scale.”

“You’re right. It’s a false accusation, libellous in fact, put about by critics like Whittaker Chambers who sought to blacken Ayn Rand’s name. The cause of the smear, and of others like it, was Rand’s rejection of altruism, which creed many people equate, quite wrongly, with benevolence; and her advocacy of rational selfishness, which many people equate, quite wrongly, with a callous disregard for other people.

“But if you think about the matter, it is actually altruism which is cold, unfeeling and heartless. People used to say ‘as cold as charity,’ but is anything as cold as duty? Think of the difference. You see someone down on their luck and are moved to help. That’s benevolence. Altruism takes the decision out of your hands and out of your heart. It says you must help the less fortunate, it’s your duty. Altruism thus eliminates the human element, the exercise of choice, and in so doing destroys the human emotions of sympathy and kindness. Altruism is the inhuman, unfeeling, Ice Queen of philosophy ….”


“Nikolai had gone for a shower before supper. Jac went into the kitchen to get a glass of water before doing the same. A cooking pot was simmering on the hob, the delicious aroma of venison casserole wafting from it. Catriona was sitting at the table in her trademark outfit of white blouse and blue jeans, reading a magazine.

“Hi Catriona, did you have a good trip?” Jac said over his shoulder as he reached for a glass in the cupboard. She did not reply. That wasn’t like her. He turned round, and froze. It wasn’t Catriona. It was a much younger girl who looked like Catriona. She had the same glowing white skin and jet black hair, though hers was cut short and curved forward in twin points below her cheeks. Her eyes were quite different however. Instead of calm and wise and sapphire blue, these were lustrous brown, piercingly direct and slightly mischievous. The girl’s cheeks were much rosier too, and her lips a shade fuller than Catriona’s, though with the same lovely, make-up-free redness. The girl grinned, with a hint of mockery.

“Doctor Bazile, I presume?” Jac blushed. “I’m sorry. Are you, er, Ellie …?

“Yalasacht, Ealasaid. But usually I’m just called Eila, pronounced eye-la, but spelt e, i, l, a. It’s wha’ I called mahsel’ when I was little. Were ye no expectin’ me?”

“No. They don’t tell me much. Things just happen. Catriona never even told me she was going away. Nikolai does that all the time, too.”

She smiled. “Aye, that sounds like them, right enough. A law unto themselves. I thought ye were supposed tae be writing a book. You look as though you’ve been plastering the ceilin’.”

Jac laughed. He liked her voice. It was soft and lilting, like Catriona’s, with the same gentle Hebridean intonation….

“Wasn’t it your turn tae make the supper?”

“No, it’s Catriona’s. I don’t know how to make stew.”

“I was joking, I’m helping her. I’m chief pot stirrer, which reminds me ….” Eila stood and crossed to the hob. She had the same graceful figure as Catriona but was a couple of inches taller and perhaps one dress size bigger. She lifted the lid and stirred the stew. The delicious aroma filled the room.

“‘And greasy Joan doth keel the pot …’” Jac quoted.

“Greasy!?” exclaimed Eila with pretended outrage.

“That’s Shakespeare!” answered Jac, grinning. “Look, I’m just going to have a quick shower then I’ll come back and teach you some more English.”

“Sassenach!” said Eila mock crossly and burst into a stream of Gaelic.  She raised the gravy-dripping spoon as if to hurl it. Jac laughed and ran from the room. He felt elated. He had a strong feeling he was going to get along with Ealasaid, Eila. She was also very pretty ….

Inside the USSR

“I didn’t need to be told the truth about communism. I saw through the propaganda myself before I was eight or nine. We’d be shown newsreels boasting how communism was housing millions of people properly for the first time. But I knew the reality of our tower block. The cheaply-built walls, crumbling from the first year. The rotting window frames. Twelve flights of stairs with no elevator. The stink of damp concrete. The vomit and urine of the drunks. The incessant breakdowns of water, electricity and plumbing. The erratic heating in winter. The tiny, badly designed apartments. The all-pervasive fear in the drab streets outside. The endless queuing for necessities. The disappearances of decent, innocent people. Before I was twelve I had begun to make plans for escaping to the West ….”


Suddenly, his fingers skidded off some ice in a crevice. His frightened lunge for a different hold dislodged one of his feet. As he groped blindly to get it back into the crack, his other foot slipped off too. In a matter of seconds, Jac went from confident progress to screaming panic. The whole weight of his body was hanging by the four fingers of one hand – two hundred feet above the roar of Charybdis. Terror cut into his belly like a red hot knife. His boots scrabbled for a toehold….

That’s less than 2500 words out of over 232,000: there’s masses more to interest you, intrigue you, inspire you and please you in Old Nick’s Guide to Happiness. You get an awful lot of book for your money!


Although Old Nick’s Guide to Happiness is intended for the general reader, it does touch upon most of the main areas of philosophy; including metaphysics, logic, epistemology, ethics, politics and political economy.  Since it does so clearly, lightly and briefly, and in an entertaining manner, the book can serve as a comprehensive introduction to philosophy and political economy, ideal for first-year undergraduates.

A Bibliography and Index have therefore been created to help students, professors and other scholars find their way around the book.  However, it is far better to read the novel in its entirety first, one doesn’t want to spoil a good story!

To obtain the Bibliography and Index contact nick@nicholasdykes.com

Inevitably, some names, references and topics will have escaped notice.  The author would be very grateful indeed to be notified of any lacunae or other flaws.  Please contact Nicholas Dykes at nick@nicholasdykes.com

Thank you!



Purchase from Amazon UK here

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Republished in two parts.  To download the whole book you will need to purchase Part One and Part Two.

Download from Amazon UK here and here

Download from Amazon USA here and here

ISBN: 978-0-9559294-0-3  Quality paperback, 483 pp.  Publisher: Lathé Biosas Publishing, Ledbury, UK