Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Last Call for the Dining Car: The Telegraph Book of Great Railway Journeys, edited by Michael Kerr

The trip, rather than its end, is the thing.

These days, air travel is easily the fastest way to travel, and with the rise of low cost airlines, it can be the cheapest. Increasingly we are using short-haul flights as an alternative to rail travel. A rail journey however can be about so much more than just getting from A to B. As travel writer Paul Mansfield states in his account of a five day rail journey from London to Lisbon; “I could have made this journey by plane in about two hours – and missed everything”.

A train can still take us on a genuine journey, whether it weaves through vertiginous mountain passes, across expansive planes, or indeed whether the adventure itself is in being thrown together with a motley array of other travellers. Could it lead to a romantic encounter in the dining car? Or will you be sharing your sleeping car with a sinister stranger?

When Paul Theroux’s The Great Railway Bazaar was first published in 1975, its tenet was the travellers’ mantra ‘the journey is the goal’. Theroux defied traditions of travel literature as he sought not to report on unfamiliar cultures, but to submit himself to chance experiences along the way. The book became an instant classic of travel literature, and an inspiration to a generation of rail travellers.

Last Call for the Dining Car, too, tackles these themes. Michael Kerr, the Daily Telegraph’s deputy travel editor, has waded deep into the Telegraph archives to compile a riveting anthology of all the best railway travel to have appeared in the paper. Here are epic journeys across India, high over the Andean Altiplano, from Moscow to Peking, on the Sunset Express across America to California, and from Leicester Square to Charing Cross on the Piccadilly Line.

With contributions from Michael Palin, Nicholas Crane and John Simpson amongst others.



Friday, October 16, 2009

Outlaw Journalist: The Life & Times of Hunter S. Thompson by William McKeen

· ‘This is the Great Red Shark of Hunter biographies… Read it or die’ Greg Palast

Hunter S. Thompson changed the way we think about journalism. One of the pioneers of New Journalism, he wrote books that continue to entertain decades after they were published, melding fact and fiction in a supercharged Gonzo prose style to chronicle his drink- and drug- fuelled adventures. His major work, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is now a bestselling classic. Requesting his ashes blasted into the blue Colorado sky to drift slowly back over the crowd at his funeral was typical of his menacing humour. There was no one better at capturing America, from the presidential campaign trail to the Hell’s Angels’ lair.

William McKeen became friends with Thompson after writing a monograph on his work. He has interviewed many of the writer’s associates who would not speak before, from childhood friends to assistants at his Colorado home, getting behind the drink and drugs to reveal a charismatic figure who was happy to be considered an outlaw but took the calling of journalism as his vocation. Outlaw Journalist is the definitive biography of this compelling American icon.