Just back from an hour and a quarter with the travel boys – Ben Hills, Lloyd Spencer Davis and Joe Bennett. I had high expectations of this session, having always wanted to BE a travel writer (in between being forensic pathologist, food critic and French diplomat), and it was most enjoyable.
Christopher Moore was a great chair, and even almost managed to keep (one of) the panellists under control. He asked lots of meaty questions, and I’m not sure there’s room here to do justice to even a couple, but I’ll try to summarize.
The first question was about why each of them had chosen to write travel books.
Joe: Poverty. And an inability to produce a novel.
Lloyd: I really like telling stories, and not much happens to me when I’m at home, unless people want to hear about me washing the dishes. (Note: audience did show interest in this, but it was not pursued.)
Ben: I mistakenly thought it would be more fun than researching asbestos mines. Plus it was an opportunity to work and travel with my wife, who I tricked into coming with promises of Mediterranean beauty.
Lots more questions about initial ideas, planning, elements of surprise, and the romantic nature of travel writers (hotly debated), with some of the panel members in particular becoming rather heated and voluble, and, it must be said, hogging centre-stage a tad.
Then a question about their ‘scariest’ or most memorable experience:
Joe: Crossing the road in Shanghai (this included a re-enactment)
Lloyd: Being driven down a road in Bolivia by a trio of deaf-mute brothers (all in the front seat) who were using very expressive sign-language to discuss sporting events instead of actually touching the steering wheel.
Ben: Ben told the cheese story again! Yay!
Then some more discussion about coffee table travel books, and guide books, with a bit of conversation about the so-called ‘Golden Age’ of travel writing. The boys talked about their first/favourite/most hated travel books, with names like Theroux, Durrell, Newby, Lee and even Julius Caesar being mentioned.
Overall, I found it a great session, with lots of laughs, although as with a couple of others, I felt there could have been twice as much time as there actually was! I’m a little frustrated that I didn’t get to hear much at all from Lloyd Spencer Davis, about whom I still know very little, and glad that I was able to hear Ben Hill’s ‘solo’ session yesterday with Richard, which gave a really good picture of his work and writing. I’m off now to the library catalogue to see if I can track down Lloyd’s book!