Travel is a vicarious pleasure particularly ifyou‘re stranded in an airport lounge with your head in a book when you'd rather it was in the clouds. Killing time takes on a new meaning when all you can get your hands on are Jackie (‘ollins and Jeffrey Archer. The story that it was the two airport megasellers who precipitated the Greek air traffic controllers” hunger strike may well be apocryphal but who else profited so much from so many not going very far‘.’
But for those ofus content with cerebral walkabouts. accounts of travellers’ travails make home seem a very good place to be. After immersion in the latest batch of books about abroad the only thing I was sure of was that I didn't want to go anywhere. For travel. it seems. not only broadens the mind it also spirals your blood pressure. increases your chances of being mugged. run over. poisoned. eaten alive. frozen in ice and seeing the Rambo movies. marks one. two. three and four.
W'hy do it then‘.’ Novelist Howard Jacobson (Peeping Tom and Redback) in his uproarious In the Land of 02 (Penguin £4.95) admits that though he and his wisecracking wife Ros knew where they were going — Australia — even how and when they were going. they were not entirely sure why. Alistair Scott in his engaging A Scot Goes South (John Murray £12.95). the second leg of a five-year circumference of the globe. says he was inspired by an eagerness to see a large part of the world ’and to sample the lives of a cross-( very cross in some cases) section of its peoples.‘ (‘arlo (iehler in Driving Through Cuba (Hamish Hamilton £13.95) confesses that he was spurred to visit (‘uba by reading a book . Incrmxu/ublt’ .Wt’mnrir's‘ by Edmundo Desnoes. lt‘s unlikely that 5 anyone but the most masochistic will use Mr (lebler's book for making a similar trip. But Pico lyer's excuse for Video Night in Kathmandu (Bloomsbury £14.95) takes the biscuit and is the most alluring. Why. he wanted to know. was Rambo rampant in South-East Asia‘.’ Why was Bruce Springsteen‘s Born In The USA the‘anthem for the
disenfranchised Vietnam vet‘ the
jive in Saigon? He calls these ‘(‘oca Colonising forces‘. pop-cultural imperialism overtaking ‘the world’s most ancient civilizations' which in their own small ways travel writers are precipitating.
This is the irony of travel. You discover paradise. a halcyon corner known only to you. Patrick Lichfield and the bounty hunters. an undiscovered. unspoilt oasis on this scrap-metal yard. and broadcast it to all and sundry because the publisher‘s advance says you must. Word spreads like wet rot and before you can say "l‘rust House Fortc‘ Qantas. Alitalia and other commercial pigeons are flying in there with the (‘lub Med and Saga. More aware of this than most is Wilfred ’I‘hesiger. the traveller‘s traveller with the dog-leg nose. He does not have a new book out but he surfaces in World's Apart (Penguin £4.95). a collection ofthe journalism of(iavin Young ( ‘Slow Boats to (‘hina‘ etc). 'l‘hesiger resents the intrusion of the modern world among the old civilizations but is resigned to it. He doesn't have much
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time for the white man though he says ‘l‘d risk my life to save a black man or a brown one.‘ He is a fund of anecdotes which Young relates gleefully. Camping in Kenya Thesiger spies a toothbrush on top of an old Ribena box. sparking off a reminiscence about ()rde Wingate who once. during the Abyssinian campaign. gave all his officers their battle orders lying in his tent stark naked and smoothing his pubic hair with someone else's toothbrush.
‘1 low do you know it was someone else‘s'." asked Young. ‘1 don‘t suppose he ever had his own’. replied 'l’hesiger.
'l‘hesiger is a one off but even he would be impressed by Peter Hudson‘s A Leai in the Wind ((‘olumbus Books £12.95). the record of a trek through Africa over the past few years. lludson roughs it like 'l’hesiger. has an appealing style and. importantly. a sense of humour. He goes — in the case of Somalia — because he is curious. because he like the Somalis. and because he missed the bus which should have taken him somewhere else. He wasn't going to wait around in an airport. or any other lounge. for the next one to come along. Real travellers go where the wind blows them. (Alan 'l'aylor)
[EYIEE_ CHARACTER sruov
Lite Class Monica ('harlesworth (Hamish Hamilton £1 1.95) Not urLiL his fifties does Ruffey fall into marriage. A war—matured artist with a shrapnel—scarred leg. he is seduced into a passionate affair with Annette. twenty years younger and. like all women with a mind of their own. a potential squib in his hitherto easy emotional existence.
From the start. Life ( 'Iuss is shadowed in suspense: but this is not a simple tale of a cuckold on the warpath. Begun on the slopes ofa volcano where Ruffey catches his wife‘s ex-lover Ridinghouse on the brink ofsuicide. the tension bubbles and spits like lava as he unroots this chilled man‘s bizarre past. With the help of his eccentric childhood friend. the cruel Professor Pie. Paine National Parkin Chile. From A Scot Goes South by Alastair Scott
‘2; ‘1; ,
Ruffey tracks his rival down in the faded Hollywood grandeur of a Javanese hotel. But it‘s then that he realises the game is on him. and that far from controlling the chase. he has been its victim. the toy of two men‘s conceit.
Written in Ruffey‘s voice. with baroque twists of language and the confiding tone of a diarist. Life (loss is a subtle power math. a tale of discovery and compromise. Powerful. elaborate and occasionaly over-dramatic. it’s a convincing piece of theatre which. as its title suggests. all boils down to a matter of perspective. (Rosemary Goring)
Justice Ian St James ((‘ollins £11.95) This Archeresque potboiler. set in Sixties' London. documents the progress through the decade of two friends. the underachieving solicitor Peter (who narrates). and pop impressario Jack. 'l‘heir paths diverge as the latter‘s Machiavellianism reaches critical mass. and the two end up on opposite sides of the courtroom. An ()edipal twist is given to this denoument by the fact that Jack‘s lawyer is none other than Peter's tyrannical father.
While Justice is set in a fairly modish period. St James is no (‘olin Maclnnes. and the music world is merely the setting for the characters: key words and names — Brian Epstein. dope. Pete Seeger— are dropped. in an attempt to convince us that the author is au fait with his material. but apparent anachronisms abound: a party conversation in 1962. for instance. of Neil Diamond‘s need for a new manager.
The highly conventional plot ploughs an undeviating path from beginning to end. and displays an almost touching na'ivete in its faith in the British justice system's ability to make good simpletons triumph over wicked geniuses.
Unleavened by the slightest hint of linguistic innovation. and as undemanding as a two-piece jigsaw. Justice is more likely to sedate than stimulate. (Stuart Bathgate)
I Summer's Lease John Mortimer (Viking£l 1.95) In best Blyton tradition. Mortimer takes the summer vacation and turns it into an adventure. For bored Molly Pargeter. big-boned mother of three. the mystery behind an autocratic advert for a Tuscan villa is too intriguing to resist. A who-dunnit addict with a passionate interest in Italian art. she drags a reluctant
; family abroad. For wet-fish Hugh.
j her husband. three weeks
incarceration in the familial bosom
; means the end of a desultory London
daughters it spells a cruel sentence of
writer-roue llaverford [)owns is keen
flirtation. while for two teenage
boredom. ()nly Molly’s father.
to join her: a refreshing daub of colour whose septuagenarian
incontinence is no deterrent to a
The List 5 — 11 August 1988 43