Book: Snakes Alive by Mike Gerrard (NEW 2011)
Yesterday we talked with travel writer Mike Gerrard, author of the new book of travel essays, Snakes Alive, about his writing and his favorite countries. Here’s some more of the conversation with travel writer Mike Gerrard.
ATL: Where do you want to go that you have never been to?
MG: Cuba is top of the list. I’d love to spend some time traveling in Australia too.
ATL: Where do you want to return to?
MG: China, without a doubt. I’ve only spent three weeks there but did do a fairly adventurous trip. It’s even more fascinating than the USA, because the USA is familiar but China is really unknown and different. In many ways it was not at all like I expected. I wandered round on my own in many places, perfectly freely, no-one batted an eye-lid. It was great to talk to people directly, and find out what their lives were really like, and find out what they thought of the West. I was amused in Yangshuo, which features in the book, as I got talking to a couple of young guys, teenagers, who wanted to practice their English. One of them asked me if it was true that every house in England had a swimming pool. You realise how little they knew about the West, but only in the same way as I really knew very little about life in China. I came away with a great respect for the country. It must have made a great impression on me as one of the pieces I wrote, about Yangshuo and centered on eating a snake in a restaurant there, was the first piece of mine that ever won a travel writing award. It’s at the front of the book, which is why the book is called Snakes Alive.
Curiously, given your previous question, I chose to make the last piece in the book one of my other favorite pieces and places – about Memphis.
ATL: Books or movies you recommend for A Traveler’s Library?
MG: When I was little I used to love a TV series in the UK called Zoo Quest. The great David Attenborough, then very young, went off round the world looking for various birds and animals. My auntie bought me a copy of one of his books, Zoo Quest for a Dragon, about a trip to Komodo to see the Komodo Dragon. I know that inspired me to travel later – that exciting feeling you get when you’re little, realising that ‘gosh, there really are dragons in the world!’
When I was a teenager I discovered John Steinbeck, read everything of his I could get my hands on, including of course Travels with Charley in Search of America: (Centennial Edition)
I love Paul Theroux‘s travel books, and think he just gets better with each one. His book about China is marvelous, and Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Capetown
was even better. But I suppose if I had to choose one of his it would be the first, The Great Railway Bazaar
. No one who likes travel could fail to be inspired by the opening, when he realises that he could get on a train at London’s Victoria Station and end up in Vladivostock. So he sets off to do it. Marvelous!
Mike Gerrard has been a full-time travel writer for about twenty years, producing articles for newspapers, magazines and websites, and over thirty guidebooks. He recently published a selection of his travel pieces, Snakes Alive, which is available on Amazon as a paperback and for the Kindle.
Thanks Mike, for telling us more about your writing and travels. Readers, I’ve read Snakes Alive, and recommend it if you want to taste a variety of places and some excellent writing.
Disclaimers: Mike provided me with the book for review. Top photo is by Donna Dailey, and you can click on the photo to learn more about her. I took the Steinbeck photo from a large wall photo at the Steinbeck Museum in Salinas, California. Amazon links will earn a few cents for Mike or for me.
Which place that Mike mentioned in this interview is YOUR favorite destination?