Walter Mason, author of Destination Cambodia, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Walter Mason

author of Destination Cambodia and Destination Saigon

Ten Terrifying Questions

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1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born and raised in a small town in North Queensland – Ingham. I don’t get back there very often, but most of my family is still there. Most people are surprised to discover I am a boy from the bush, but that shy and unsophisticated little boy still lurks deep within me.

2. What did you want to be when you were 12, 18 and 30? And why?

Twelve – an actor – I excelled in character parts in the local theatre group. At twelve I had already produced my primary school’s first ever drag act – it was fabulous.

Eighteen – still an actor – I was attending theatre school by this time.

By thirty I already had firm plans to become a writer. I was a bookseller, but compulsively attending writing classes and writing down writing goals (instead of actually writing).

3. What strongly held belief did you have at 18 that you do not have now?

Oh dear – how to answer this one without losing friends? Oh, I know – I think that human sexuality is much more fluid, flexible and complex than I had imagined at eighteen. I was an angry young Queer then, at the height of ACT UP and the AIDS crisis – I was outing people and attending protests. Now I know that people are all on different journeys, especially with something as personal and psychologically fraught as sex and intimacy.

4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

You will laugh, but seeing Boy George on TV for the first time when I was a kid was an incredible moment. I took one look at him, did some quick calculations re. gender, and said to myself: “Wow, there is someone else like me out there in the world.” He really transformed the way a whole generation thought about themselves – an incredibly influential figure, I think.

Then came reading the works of Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh in my 20s – he encouraged me to “come out” as a spiritual person.

The third is probably reading Marianne Williamson and studying A Course in Miracles and learning to be less judgemental and more loving.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? Aren’t they obsolete?

I am a devout bibliophile. I have collected books since I was a teenager. I grew up surrounded by books and had a writer grandfather who gave me books constantly. I love them as objects, and I don’t think they are obsolete. That said, I think the industry will continue to undergo tremendous changes, and I think that writers should be thinking ahead, instead of sticking their heads in the sand. I blog, I am a social media maniac, I am very interested in new forms of transmission and distribution. I think I can handle any changes.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

Destination Cambodia is the end result of a sixteen year obsession with Cambodia. I have visited the place many times, and I always wanted to write about it, almost as much as I wanted to write about Vietnam, the subject of my first book. It is an affectionate and quirky journey through a place that can be difficult, especially if you spend a lot of time there. And ultimately it is my attempt to come to terms with the magic and mysticism that informs everything in Cambodia. I am testing to see if I possibly have any place in the complex system of mystical beliefs that dominate people’s lives there.

7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

That people might travel seeking to make connections with other people, not just to visit exotic locations for rest and relaxation. I think that the world is changed one relationship at a time, and it is quite rare and difficult for travellers to make real connections at the places they visit. My books hopefully convince them that it is worth trying.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

Oscar Wilde – he had so much style, was so outrageous and he just confounded the haters. His name has lived across centuries now.destination-saigon

9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

I’d very much like to make films or TV shows similar in theme to my books. Odd travel to odd places in search of small moments of enlightenment, meeting lots of fabulous people along the way.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Get involved in the industry in any way you can, meet everybody, go to everything and work out how you can be of use. Read like crazy, promote other writers. And just produce work and submit it. Don’t dream about it for 20 years like I did. You don’t have plenty of time.

Walter, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Walter’s wonderful new book Destination Cambodia here

Lonely Planet joins our Booktoberfest celebration – you could win a luggage set valued at $530!

Would you love to have a brand new set of luggage just in time for the holidays?

To help us celebrate Booktoberfest our friends at Lonely Planet are giving you the chance to win a Crumpler Luggage Set valued at $530!

Order any of the books in the Lonely Planet Booktoberfest Showcase to go into the draw to win this sensational prize.

Click here to enter the Lonely Planet showcase

Lonely Planet Booktoberfest Highlight

Lonely Planet’s Beautiful World

40 years of passion and experience has been poured into Lonely Planet’s Beautiful World.

Witness fiery volcanic eruptions, wind-sculpted icebergs in the Antarctic and mind-blowing migrations of wildlife large and small.

Natural wonders from Belize’s Great Blue Hole to Yellowstone in Wyoming.

The images in this book will take you to places far and wide, the kinds of places that you might never visit but that you can perhaps put on that “If ” list we all have tucked away.

These places are surprising, remarkable, remote, familiar … dive in and marvel over the undeniable fact; it is a beautiful world.

Click here to buy Lonely Planet’s Beautiful World from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

You could win one of two signed Michael Palin book packs! (They were worth over $200 each – now they are priceless!)

I met Michael Palin the other night at a function put on by his publisher, Hachette Australia.

Michael gave a short talk about his new TV show and accompanying book, Brazil and then he mingled.

I behaved very well. I’d left my Monty Python repertoire at home. And I restrained my inner teenage girl who wanted to scream and faint when he said hello. He is as he appears on the screen in his travel documentaries – good natured, intelligent, curious, warm and friendly.

But the best thing is, although nearly seventy, the naughty boy glint in his eye remains.

Order BRAZIL from Booktopia before 5th December 2012 to go into the draw to win one of two signed book packs worth over $200! (pictured below)

Packs include: all six of Michael Palin’s earlier travel books PLUS another copy of Brazil PLUS a copy of his new novel The Truth – all are signed by Michael Palin!

BRAZIL

Michael Palin, the No. 1 bestselling author, explores an exotic country now a global superpower.

Brazil is one of the four new global super powers with its vast natural resources and burgeoning industries. Half a continent in size and a potent mix of races, religions and cultures, of unexplored wildernesses and bustling modern cities, it is also one of the few countries Michael Palin has never fully travelled.

In a new series for BBC1 – his first for five years – he explores in his inimitable way this vast and disparate nation. From the Venezuelan border and the forests of the Lost World where he encounters the Yanomami and their ongoing territorial war with the gold miners, he follows Teddy Roosevelt’s disastrous expedition of 1914.

Journeys by river to the headwaters of the Xingu, by plane over huge tracts of forest, by steam train and by road along the Trans-Amazonica allow him to reach a kaleidoscopic mix of peoples: the indigenous hunter-gatherers of the interior, the descendents of African slaves with their vibrant culture of rituals and festivals and music, the large community of German descent who celebrate their patrimony at the biggest beer festival outside Munich, and the wealthy guachas of the Pantanal amongst them. His journey ends at the border with Uruguay and the spectacular Iguacu Falls.

Click here to buy Brazil from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

Booktopia Presents: Robyn Davidson, author of Tracks in conversation with Caroline Baum

Tracks

by Robyn Davidson

The international bestseller of one woman’s solo trek across 1,700 miles of Australian Outback.

‘I experienced that sinking feeling you get when you know you have conned yourself into doing something difficult and there’s no going back.’

So begins Robyn Davidson’s perilous journey through some of the harshest spaces of the world. A camel-trek from the heart of Australia, across 17,000 miles of hostile desert, to the sea – with only a dog and four camels for company.

Tracks is Robyn’s award-winning account of her adventure. Her story beats a track across bush, rock, sand and dust, across magnificent landscapes and through ancient sacred land, through frustrations, triumphs, joy and despair.

And as she treks further and further away from civilisation, and ever closer to the burning ‘heart of the world’, she realises that this desert will either make her, or break her.

Click here to buy Tracks from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

Chris Hammer, author of The Coast and The River, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Chris Hammer

author of The Coast and The River

Ten Terrifying Questions

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1.  To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Tasmania, grew up and schooled in Canberra. I went to uni in Bathurst and, later did a second degree at the ANU in Canberra.

I’ve been a journalist for the past 25 years or so, mostly covering federal politics and international affairs.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

At twelve I wanted to be a test cricketer. At eighteen I wanted to be a film director. At 30 I wanted to be a foreign correspondent. Strangely enough, I was a pretty good cricketer and loved playing it, but it didn’t tick all the boxes. As I grew older, I became more and more interested in marrying together creativity with intellectual challenges. That’s why I became a journalist. I did become a foreign correspondent, travelling the world for SBS, but daily journalism, even long-form journalism, doesn’t give you the freedom or the canvas of writing a book: that’s something special.

3.  What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That I had all the answers – or at least had a fair chance of finding them. As if.

4.  What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

Nothing. I grew up in a loving and secure family in Canberra in the sixties and seventies, so nothing ever happened. Ask anyone who was there. The world washed over me. Man landed on the moon when I was nine, but I didn’t think it was such a big deal.  I was  incensed at the injustice of the Vietnam War and apartheid in South Africa, but that was a long way away from my own experience. I was simultaneously precocious and phlegmatic. Then  puberty hit and the decline set in. I’ll never again be as smart as I was at age twelve.

But I was an early and avid reader. The books that caught my imagination at a very early age were the legends of King Arthur. I’m not sure the subject matter is as important as the fact that these were the books that hooked me. If I were a kid today, it would probably be Harry Potter.

My daydreams of retirement centre around writing and reading, that magical swirl of words.

5.  Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? aren’t they obsolete?

As a journalist/video producer I have worked for newspapers, television, magazines and on line. So I haven’t lacked opportunity. But none of them provide the freedom, the length or the purity of writing a book. The pleasure found in writing a book is similar in some ways to the pleasure derived from reading one: being able to engage your imagination and immerse yourself totally. I think that’s why books aren’t obsolete and aren’t likely to become obsolete: they provide an unrivalled immersive experience. Film and video can be powerful, but by their nature most of the  imagining is done by the producers, not the viewers. With books, the imaginative process is more equally shared between writer and reader.

6.  Please tell us about your latest book…

It’s called The Coast: a Journey Along Australia’s Eastern Shores. It’s travel writing, but travel writing with a purpose. I travel down the east coast of Australia, from the Torres Strait to Tasmania, exploring environmental issues. It’s not an essay. It’s more of a celebration of the coast and the people who live along it, how fortunate we are and why we should cherish it.

(BBGuru: publisher’s blurb -

The Coast and its people help define our identity. Most Australians live in suburbia, but our hearts are elsewhere.

From the winner of the ACT Book of the year Award for his first book, The River, comes this celebration of the Australian seascape, from its natural grandeur to the quirky individualism of those who live beside it. It is also the heartfelt and pertinent story of the issues facing our coast today and the resilience of communities at a turning point.

Chris Hammer travels the length of the east coast of Australia on a journey of discovery and reflection, from the Torres Strait to Tasmania; from an island whose beach has been lost forever to the humbling optimism of the survivors of Cyclone yasi; from the showy beaches of Sydney to a beautiful village that endures despite the loss of its fishing fleet.

This is a relevant, satisfying and highly readable book, imbued with a sense of optimism and humour. Even as new economic imperatives emerge and the shift in our climate becomes apparent, we can revel in the heritage and character of our shores, reminding us why The Coast is so important to all of us.)

Click here to buy The Coast from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

7.  If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

I don’t set such lofty ambitions for my books.  If they provide readers with some pleasure, some food for thought, and some temporary relief from the mad vortex of daily life, then they may have assisted in some incremental way in our ongoing struggle against the banal, the vapid and the incessant noise of consumerism.

8.  Whom do you most admire and why?

I’m not much impressed by celebrity, material success or high office.

I’m more impressed by those selfless people who freely give of their time to care for others – I’m far more selfish.

But I guess I’m most impressed with people who are comfortable in their own skins, who don’t care what others might think of them, and who set their own priorities. There’s a certain grace in that, I think.

9.  Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

To write books full time. In Australia, that’s pretty ambitious.

I’m not much taken by ambition as defined by the traditional notions of getting ahead. I work in parliament house in Canberra, which is chock-a-block with politicians (and journalists) who are more interested in personal advancement than in producing anything worthwhile. I’d much prefer to produce work that I’m proud of than getting ahead.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Write what you’d like to read, with honesty and authenticity, rather than try to write what you think will appeal to publishers or readers.

Having a book published is a wonderful experience, but don’t let it be an aim in itself; what’s the point if it’s not written from the heart?

Chris, thank you for playing.

Click here to buy The Coast from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

PERFECT MATCH: Sinning Across Spain by Ailsa Piper and a new film starring Martin Sheen, The Way

Sinning Across Spain is the story of Ailsa Piper’s 1300 kilometre walk from the southern city of Granada to Galicia, “the bathtub of Spain”, in the far northwest, carrying an unusual cargo. Aside from 10 kilograms of practicalities, she also lugged a load of sins in her swag.

In the tradition of medieval believers, or scammers, who paid others to carry their sins to holy places, and so buy forgiveness, Ailsa asked her colleagues and friends to donate a sin. She then shouldered them across country, being taunted and tempted by them along the way, and trying to discover the mysteries of faith. What is faith? Did she have it? Could she get it? Would she know it if she saw it?

Sinning across Spain celebrates the call of the road, the possibilities for connection, and the simple act of putting one foot down – and then the other, and repeat – for more than a thousand kilometres of dusty road.

Author Information

Ailsa Piper is a writer, director, teacher and actor. She has been nominated for Green Room Awards as both an actor and director. Her play, Small Mercies, was joint winner of the Patrick White Playwrights Award in 2001. She is director of LuminoUS, which investigates and illuminates classic texts through detailed work with actors and light.

Click here to buy Sinning Across Spain from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

In Cinemas April 26

The Way is the powerful story of Tom (Martin Sheen), an American doctor who comes to St. Jean Pied de Port, France to collect the remains of his adult son Daniel (Emilio Estevez), killed in a storm while walking The Camino de Santiago (also known as The Way of St James).

Driven by his grief and desire to understand his son better, Tom decides to embark on the historical pilgrimage, leaving his “California bubble life” behind.  While walking The Camino, Tom meets other pilgrims from around the world, all looking for greater meaning in their lives: a Dutchman (a very funny Yorick van Wageningen) trying to lose weight,  an emotionally wounded Canadian (Deborah Kara Unger) and an Irish writer (James Nesbitt) who is suffering from a bout of writer’s block.

Together, this unlikely quartet of misfits create an everlasting bond and Tom begins to learn what it means to be a citizen of the world again and discovers the difference between “the life we live and the life we choose”.

Set against one of the most stunning backdrops in the world, The Way was filmed entirely in Spain and France along the actual Camino de Santiago.

Today tens of thousands of Christian pilgrims and adventure travellers set out each year to make their way to Santiago de Compostela, making it one of the most popular treks in the world. Whether pilgrim or back packer, the redemptive and spiritual effects of The Way are undeniable and universal.

Sue Williams, author of Welcome to the Outback & Outback Spirit, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Sue Williams

author of Welcome to the Outback & Outback Spirit

Ten Terrifying Questions

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1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in the UK, just outside London, as an ‘Essex Girl’ – British shorthand for the most bogan of bogans. Even worse, Essex Girl has now been replaced to some extent by ‘Basildon Girl’ – the name of the town in which I was born. I lose out every way. I left there at 18 to go to university in the north of the country and arrived in Australia in 1989. Since then, I’ve never looked back!

2. What did you want to be when you were 12, 18 and 30? And why?

When I was 12, I longed to be a Victorian-age explorer. I devoured books about Burton, Speke, Livingstone and Stanley. When 18, I realised I couldn’t be a Victorian explorer, but I still longed to travel to remote places in the world that still hadn’t seen too many outside visitors. By 30, I’d travelled the length and breadth of Africa and Latin America, around Borneo and through China and then decided I’d love to write about travel.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at 18 that you do not have now?

That everything is black and white. There’s a right way and a wrong way. As you grow older – and hopefully wiser – you realise there are many shades of grey in the world.

4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

My first trip overseas alone at the age of 15 when I won a Lions scholarship to attend a youth camp in Denmark. It suddenly opened my eyes to the world.

Meeting a young woman on the production line on nightshift in a factory where I was working during university holidays who worked for six months to fund herself travelling around the world for six months. It made me realise anything was possible.

Reading Paul Theroux, especially The Old Patagonian Express, made me long to write about travel.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? Aren’t they obsolete?

There will always be room for stories and for the imaginative world, whatever the form they take. There will always be books, although they might one day all be e-books.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

Welcome to the Outback combines two passions – travel and Australia. It’s about me, a dyed-in-the-wool city person travelling around the Australian Outback, which constantly challenges my comfort zone – whether by fighting in an Outback boxing tent, going on a cattle drive (when I can’t even ride a horse), and going trekking through mountains, in winter and in the midst of a mouse plague. Hopefully it’s humorous and entertaining, as well as opening up the Outback to all those Australians who’ve never before visited.

7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

To help make people realise that we’re all pretty much the same, whether we live in the Outback or in one of the wildest, most remote parts of Africa, and that everyone needs to be treated with dignity and respect and compassion. A tall order!

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

Naturally Nelson Mandela, not only a stalwart fighter for his people’s rights but also a man with an enormous capacity for forgiveness towards his old enemies.

9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

I’d love to be able to keep travelling, and keep writing, and be able to make a living at that!

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Writing is like any activity. The more you do it, the better you become. And never give up. Have faith in your own ability, but listen to criticism carefully. But, most importantly of all, keep writing!

Sue, thank you for playing.

Below from YouTube: Author Sue Williams enters the world’s last Boxing Tent in Queensland, Australia and takes on The Beaver – a professional fighter – as research for her new book Welcome To The Outback (released March 2012, published by Penguin Books).

Shamus Sillar, author of Sicily, It’s Not Quite Tuscany: Having a Blast in Catania, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Shamus Sillar

author of Sicily, It’s Not Quite Tuscany:
Having a Blast in Catania

Ten Terrifying Questions

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1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

Born in Sydney. Moved to the Northern Rivers of NSW when I was four. Raised mostly on a nut farm near Dunoon (“The Macadamia Capital of Australia”). Schooled in Lismore and two years in Brisbane. But spent every second I could at Byron Bay, which to this day is the place that feels like home.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

A couple of months after my twelfth birthday, Kim Hughes scored three ducks in four innings and tearfully resigned from the Australian cricket captaincy. I wanted his job.

At eighteen I wanted to be drinking beer and dropping out of a law degree. (Two ticks there.)

At thirty, I was working in frigid northeast China, not far from Vladivostok, as a “Foreign Expert” in Roman History, and it was pretty much what I wanted to be doing, at least until something else came along, which admittedly didn’t take long.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That my ageing yet sprightly dog – a dachshund-Labrador cross named Bruce – was immortal, and possibly even a Jedi in canine form.

4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

From ten to thirteen, I was so obsessed with The Lord of the Rings that I spoke predominantly in Elvish, or at least tried to.

Tolkien aside, maths was always my thing. I was convinced I’d do it at university, until a succession of captivating books swung me towards the humanities in my final two years at school; the deal was sealed by Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha.

The book I’ve opened more times than any other is The Meaning of Liff  by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? aren’t they obsolete?

An age ago, on a family holiday in Malaysia, my mother – a voracious reader – was nearing the end of a particularly engrossing novel. A pesky monkey suddenly snatched it from her grip, ran to the top of a tree, ripped out the final two chapters and kept them for itself, before dropping the useless remainder to the ground and disappearing into the jungle. I’ll never forget the look on Mum’s face. My father, meanwhile, didn’t care a jot – he was too engrossed in his own holiday reading: Spike Milligan’s Puckoon. You’ve never seen a grown man reduced to such a tittering mess as Dad on that holiday – tears of laughter streaming down his face, all thanks to a slim paperback about a fictional Irish village.

I’m not sure why I’m telling this story; I’m just hoping that in some vague way I’ve answered the question.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

It’s a travel memoir covering a year that my wife and I spent in Sicily. It was our honeymoon, but thanks to a violent volcano, a Vespa mishap, the spectre of the Mafia, and a greengrocer with a loudhailer, it turned out to be as romantic as a wet sock. In a funny way, though.

(BBGuru: publisher’s blurb -

This is the story of a newly married couple and the year they spent in Sicily. Packed with history, culture – and plenty of misadventure – it will definitely make you laugh. It also has as much romance as an ordinary Aussie bloke can muster, and, of course, a little bit of Mafia action.

‘Gill and I had dreamt of living in Italy for as long as we’d been together.’
This is the story of an Aussie couple who sought a Mediterranean sea change only to find themselves in the sprawling Sicilian city of Catania – the ‘anti-Tuscany’ of Italy. There, any romantic visions they’d had of restoring a villa or stamping their entwined feet in vats of Chianti grapes disappeared faster than the chief witness in a Cosa Nostra trial.

Shamus and Gill’s tiny apartment in Catania was located in a grim neighbourhood opposite a triple-X cinema and a shop selling coffins, nearby Mount Etna erupted soon after their arrival, a mystery ailment left Shamus in a neck brace, they crashed a Vespa and had regular dealings with at least one Mafioso.

This, then, is an Italian sea change with grit. But it’s also a story of optimism, endurance and acceptance, an exploration of the minutiae of Sicilian culture, history, food and religion, and an example of how to find beauty – and humour – in the most unexpected of places.)

Click here to order Sicily, It’s Not Quite Tuscany: Having a Blast in Catania from Booktopia, Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

If someone is having an average day and upon reading my book they feel like their day is suddenly a little less average, I’m happy enough.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

Ooh, these are getting hard. My family. Jim Henson. The cast of Withnail & I. Lots more.

9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

To love, inform and entertain my children.

10.What advice do you give aspiring writers?

If you’re sitting at your desk and the words aren’t coming, don’t give up. Stare at the screen or the page; move some sentences around; change a few adjectives; keep tinkering with your text. (Don’t go online.) Invariably, things will start to gel; it might take an hour, or even half a day. With a bit of luck, you might even find yourself in “the zone” – a glorious, almost frenzied state where every idea is gold and words pour out like water from a burst dam. If that happens, do not move from your chair. Ignore the sun going down and the house plunging into darkness. Don’t go to the fridge for a snack. Don’t answer the phone. Just type like the clappers.

Shamus, thank you for playing…

Click here to order Sicily, It’s Not Quite Tuscany: Having a Blast in Catania from Booktopia, Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

Peter Allison, author of How to Walk a Puma, answers Six Sharp Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Peter Allison

author of Whatever You Do, Don’t RunDon’t Look Behind You, But…  and now How to Walk a Puma

Six Sharp Questions

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1.    Congratulations, you’ve a new book – How to Walk a Puma – what is it about and what does this book mean to you?

This book shakes me out of my comfort zone (the frequently uncomfortable wilds of Africa) and recounts my travels in South America. I really believed that as I am now in my thirties I wouldn’t have the same spirit of adventure that led to so many misadventures in my teens and twenties. I was convinced that in South America I would be a dullard. A week after arriving I was in Bolivia running 16 to 25kms a day through the jungle, tied to a puma who bit me if I ran too slow. I thought “Hmm, maybe there is a Continue reading

How to Walk a Puma My (Mis)adventures in South America by Peter Allison

An intrepid African safari guide sets out to discover all he can about the wildlife of the South American continent in a hilarious book about walking pumas (can be dangerous), chasing jaguars (can be elusive) and finding love (can be tricky).

Not content with regular encounters with dangerous animals on one continent, Peter Allison decided to get up close and personal with some seriously scary animals on another.

Unlike in Africa, where all Peter’s experiences had been safari based, he planned to vary things up in South America, getting involved with conservation projects as well as seeking out ‘the wildest and rarest wildlife experiences on offer’.

From learning to walk – or rather be bitten and dragged along at speed by – a puma in Bolivia, to searching for elusive jaguars in Brazil, finding love in Patagonia, and hunting naked with the remote Huaorani people in Ecuador, How to Walk a Puma is Peter’s fascinating and often hilarious account of his adventures and misadventures in South America.

Plans are usually only good for one thing – laughing at in hindsight. So, armed with rudimentary Spanish, dangerous levels of curiosity and a record of poor judgement, I set off to tackle whatever South America could throw at me – Peter Allison

Click here to order How to Walk a Puma My (Mis)adventures in South America from Booktopia, Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

‘His misadventures make Whatever You Do, Don’t Run an absorbing read … The material is rich, and Allison is a gifted storyteller.’ – National Geographic Adventures

‘Enough adventure, action, life lessons, and laughs to fill a movie and four sequels. The fact that Allison survived to write any of this down is a miracle in itself.’ – Cash Peters, author of Naked in Dangerous Places and Gullible’s Travels.

About The Author:  Peter Allison has led safaris in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. It was his love of animals that first led Peter to Africa at the age of 19, and by the late 1990s he’d graduated from being a safari guide himself to leading the training of guides for the region’s largest safari operator. Peter has led safaris that have featured in such magazines as Vogue and Conde Nast Traveller. He has also assisted National Geographic photographers and appeared on television shows such as Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures. In between globetrotting the world as a marketeer for Africa’s leading safari company, Peter divides his time between Sydney and Cape Town.

Visit Peter’s author page on Booktopia

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Booktopia Book Guru says… I have read Peter’s first two books, Whatever You Do, Don’t Run and Don’t Look Behind You, But… : More Tales from an African Safari Guide and can recommend them both. If you like to laugh, and who doesn’t, then Pete’s books are for you. If you love Africa, animals and roughing it, then Pete’s books are for you. If you want to taste a life entirely foreign to your own, if you want to be wander through the wilds of Africa from the safety of your armchair, then, once again, both of Pete’s books are for you. That should about cover everyone. Now get to reading them!

Start with Whatever You Do, Don’t Run.

The warm, funny and utterly engaging true story of a young Aussie safari guide who has spent the last twelve years leading tours in the African bush.

Peter Allison was only nineteen when he left Australia for Africa, thinking he might travel around and see a bit of the country before going home to a ‘proper job’. But Africa worked its magic, and Peter ended up falling, quickly and completely, in love with the country and its wildlife. Landing in a game reserve in the wildlife-rich Okavango Delta, he became a safari guide and, some twelve years later, his short holiday in Africa isn’t over yet.

Whatever You Do, Don’t Run is his guide’s-eye view of living in the bush, confronting the world’s fiercest animals and, most challenging of all, managing herds of gaping tourists. Like the young woman who rejected the recommended safari-friendly khaki to wear a more ‘fashionable’ hot pink ensemble, or the Japanese tourist who requested a repeat performance of Allison’s being charged by a lion so he could videotape it.

Peter Allison – like an affable, younger David Attenborough or a slightly more laid-back Steve Irwin – really knows his wildlife. He’s had some extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime experiences. From close encounters with hungry lions, cranky elephants and over-protective honey badgers, there’s not much in the African bush that Peter hasn’t seen, done or been chased by. His affection for these wild and dangerous animals and his fascination with, and respect for, their often extraordinary behaviour is completely genuine, deep and infectious.

Reading Whatever You Do, Don’t Run is like sitting around a campfire late at night and listening to him talking – his stories of the animals and the bush are gentle, warm, funny and utterly engaging.

Click here to order Whatever You Do, Don’t Run from Booktopia, Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

Then go on to Don’t Look Behind You, But… : More Tales from an African Safari Guide

Another serving of campfire stories – hair-raising and hilarious tales of Africa, animals and close escapes – from Australia’s intrepid safari guide Peter Allison, bestselling author of Whatever You Do, Don’t Run.

It shouldn’t be fun to be chased by an animal that outweighs you by a factor of seventy, but Peter Allison gets an odd thrill every time an elephant charges his beaten-up jeep or a peckish crocodile looks at him sideways.

And now our favourite safari leader is back with more crazy, incredible, endearing and laugh-out-loud funny tales from his time guiding unsuspecting tourists through the African bush. By now you’d think he’d know his way around. You’d be wrong. From avoiding territorial hippos and half-starved lions to dodging landmines and getting lost on the unforgiving savanna, Peter Allison has had his fair share of close calls. Yet, despite a growing suspicion that it is trying very hard to kill him, he just can’t shake his love of this remarkable land, its animals and its people.

Drawing on his experiences in South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique and Namibia, Don’t Look Behind You, But… picks up where Whatever You Do, Don’t Run left off. If you enjoyed Peter’s first bestselling book of hilarious safari stories you’re going to love Don’t Look Behind You, But…

Click here to order Don’t Look Behind You, But… : More Tales from an African Safari Guide from Booktopia, Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

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