At the front of his very funny memoir Adolf Hitler, My Part in His Downfall, Spike Milligan wrote, if my memory is correct, “After Puckoon I swore I’d never write another book. This is it.”
I have written another book.
My first travel book Postcards From Elsewhere was favourably received by many generous reviewers, enjoyed by my friends who said as much when they returned the copy they had borrowed, and won the Whitcoulls Travel Book of the Year in 2006.
After that I was expecting I might wander down Queen St and be visibly embarrassed -- but secretly hoping everyone would notice me -- by a huge window display in Whitcoulls (it was their award after all) -- or at least find it easily in their travel section.
But nothing, except a snippy comment from a Sunday newspaper columnist when I blogged about it. (This from someone shameless about their own self-promotion?)
I envied previous winners whose publishers had put a gold “award winner” sticker on their books and got them big in-store displays, and those who somehow managed to get their own travel show on television which in turn shoved sales along. And of course, vice-versa.
On publication I was interviewed on Breakfast, by the very lovely Chris Laidlaw at some length, on 95bFM and in various other places. I don’t think it helped sell a single copy. But I don’t help myself.
Aside from being alphabetically marginalised -- “Bryson” is at eye-level, “Reid” bottom left near the carpet -- I did a book launch to which I invited many friends, family and people who had been helpful to me. It cost a wee bit for the booze, but we had a great night. However me, not wanting to taint the celebration with any crass commercial imperative, didn’t have any copies of the book there to flog off.
People had brought money and I refused to let them part with it. They drank even more, on my tab, and said what a fine but foolish fellow I was.
There was no “book tour”.
Mine was, according to the judges and people who sent me complimentary e-mails and cheques, a pretty good book of travels in various unusual places and encounters with odd people. And thus encouraged, I have written another book.
It isn’t a music book as many have expected given my long history of writing about music. But Elsewhere takes care of that part of my passion, in places like My Back Pages, the Absolute Elsewhere section, and obviously when I post new albums every week at Music From Elsewhere.
Nope, I have written another travel collection, The Idiot Boy Who Flew.
The title is sort of novelistic I think and I believe reasonably memorable. I am not the idiot boy who flew economy, but I have certainly set myself up for any headline on an unkind review: The Idiot Boy Who Wrote.
I figure if I get in with that now I can laugh harder about someone’s lack of originality when I see it in print.
I think The Idiot Boy Who Flew is a better book than Postcards From Elsewhere, the title story is an ambitious piece of writing which moves through space (southern Italy where I went in search of the story about a saint who flew) and also in time (recollections of the wonderful Dalvanius Prime) as much as weaving in some thoughts about writers, saints and the last Pope. (Nope, not Catholic, not even lapsed, so I‘m not getting priests and nuns out of my system).
There are of course funny pieces, a fight, bad and beautiful food, odd people and places and . . .
Well, you can read it for yourself (or if you are a friend borrow a copy I guess).
It has come out through Public Address Books which has been set up by David Haywood and Russell Brown -- and I want to put on record here my gratitude to them both, especially to David for his saint-like patience, extra level of proof reading, and his willingness to spend very many unpaid hours talking to me about systems I don‘t understand, and then to my beautiful wife Megan who is quite clearly the brains in our household.
Even behind every indifferent man there stands a great woman.
Both of my books are now available at Public Address Books and so I now begin the ruthless self-promotion that must inevitably accompany such a project. Frankly I don’t mind, I think it’s fun and I’m not some closeted writer who shuns the light of publicity or is nervous around fellow human animals.
Tomorrow I am to be a guest on Kim Hill’s Saturday Morning show from 10am when I am in the Playing Favourites section of the show. I get to play some songs and talk about my brilliant career maybe, which has seen us back at the bank extending the mortgage (again).
There will also be some kind of proper book launch (damn right I’ll have the book there, I’ll be signing and selling like a man possessed -- possessed by the bank actually). At that time I’ll figure out a way to get a few PA readers along because without you also . . .
So there is my shameless, first salvo of publicity for The Idiot Boy Who Flew. Because David is extremely clever he has set up a way you can read the introduction and the first few pages here: the intro is important to me because I say what the book is not . . .
I am, of course, available as a witty after-dinner speaker, for writers groups, radio and television appearances, pithy quotes for you to Twitter . . .
I am the idiot boy who wrote . . . again.