Author Archive

Back to the deserts

William Atkins’ The Immeasurable World: Travels in Desert Places was reviewed in The Observer last weekend by Sara Wheeler. The author has also been interviewed by Radio National in Australia — which seemed keener to draw him out on recent happenings in the Sonoran Desert, on the US-Mexico border, than on British nuclear tests in Maralinga in South Australia, which also feature in his book.

‘The Crossway’: what the critics say

I’m currently reading Guy Stagg’s The Crossway (Picador), and so avoiding reading what critics make of it, but others might be keen to learn what Peter Stanford in The Observer and Blake Morrison in The Guardian have had to say.

On the ‘Edgelands’

Having been away recently myself, I’ve been slow to catch up with a podcast from Telegraph Travel, “Edgelands”, based on a 5,000-mile journey that Ash Bhardwaj is making from Arctic Norway to Moldova through countries that border Russia. For the first episode, he reported on the Seto people, who, in the days of the Soviet Union, travelled freely between Estonia and Russia. Since 1991, however, when the Iron Curtain was blown down, their lives have grown more, rather than less, complicated. As I listened, I kept thinking of those people living on the currently soft border on the island of Ireland…

Following the fish on the Yukon

My review of Adam Weymouth’s excellent debut, Kings of the Yukon — for which he canoed 2,000 miles down the river to see how dwindling salmon numbers are affecting the lives of locals —  appears today in the print edition of The Daily Telegraph. You can read it here on Deskbound Traveller.

Seven titles on Wainwright Prize short list

The short list for the Wainwright Prize, for travel/nature writing focused on Britain, was announced today and, for the first time, includes a book that was written for children: The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris (Hamish Hamilton). The other six titles are:

The Last Wilderness by Neil Ansell (Tinder Press)
Hidden Nature by Alys Fowler (Hodder & Stoughton)
Outskirts by John Grindrod (Sceptre)
The Dun Cow Rib by John Lister-Kaye (Canongate)
The Seabird’s Cry by Adam Nicolson (William Collins, HarperCollins)
The Salt Path by Raynor Winn (Michael Joseph).

  The winner will be named on August 2.

Unbound

Deskbound Traveller is taking a break while its editor heads for the hills.

Stagg, Goodwin and the long walk

Guy Stagg’s The Crossway (Picador), about his walk from Canterbury to Jerusalem in the hope of mending himself after mental illness, is currently Book of the Week on Radio 4. The author will be in conversation with Jason Goodwin — traveller, historian and creator of the Ottoman sleuth Yashim — at the Marylebone branch of Daunt Books, in London, next Thursday (June 28). They’ll have more than a little in common: Goodwin walked from Poland’s Baltic coast to Istanbul for his portrait of Central Europe, On Foot to the Golden Horn.

Out from ‘Underland’

On his Twitter feed today Robert Macfarlane revealed the cover for Underland, “which explores the lost worlds that lie beneath our feet” and is due to be published next May. It is, he says, “the longest, strangest, deepest, darkest book I’ve ever written – and probably ever will write”. In a piece on his publisher’s website, he writes about working on the cover with the artist Stanley Donwood.

  When I interviewed Macfarlane in 2015, he told me the book had taken him to unfamiliar places not just underground but on the page, and was prompting “new challenges of form and new forms of language”.

Atkins swaps the damp for the dry

For his first book, The Moor, which was short-listed for the 2015 Thwaites Wainwright Prize, William Atkins travelled along the wet backbone of England. For his latest, The Immeasurable World  (Faber), he heads into deserts — including the Sonoran, between Mexico and the United States, where the Trump administration has been following its “zero-tolerance” policy against undocumented migrants. There he spent time both with a group that is helping migrants and with a border patrol officer.

  Atkins was on Start the Week  with Andrew Marr on Radio 4 on Monday, and he will be speaking at the Wealden Literary Festival, in Biddenden, Kent, on June 30.  You can read a brief (600 words or so) extract from his new book on the website of one of my favourite London bookshops, Foyles, and a longer piece he wrote, while working on the book, on the website of Granta magazine.

The Traveller and the resident

The Stopping Places by Damian Le Bas (Chatto & Windus), which I mentioned recently, was reviewed last weekend in The Observer by Tim Adams, who thought it a “lyrical, keenly researched… journey in search of authenticity”. Adams’s piece is now online. The Observer also had a review by Kate Kellaway of Notes from the Cevennes: Half a Lifetime in Provincial France by Adam Thorpe (Bloomsbury Continuum), who moved with his family to France 25 years ago and has written about it in columns for the TLS. Kellaway says it is an “affectionate, appreciative and perceptive” memoir, but one that “serves as a corrective to unchecked dreams of living in France”.