Best Selling Author of Man and Boy
I would choose On The Road by Jack Kerouac, specifically the part where Sal Paradise and Neal Cassady drive across the border for wild times in Mexico, and life goes from black and white to glorious technicolour – no book ever written comes closer to capturing the pure liberating magic of travel, and no book is better at evoking the sights, sounds, smells, highs and girls of south of the border, down Mexico way.
Tony Parsons most recent book is the London crime thriller The Murder Bag, you can pre-order the follow up The Slaughter Man here.
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Author of Separate Lives
I’m currently feeling very nostalgic for my ‘other’ home so I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing right now than a ‘Walkabout on Wheels’ — driving a section of the world’s longest road (Australia’s Highway 1; there’s 25,000 km of it to choose from) while listening to the late Robert Hughes’s definitive (non-fiction) classic on the founding of Australia, The Fatal Shore.
I’d choose to go in March — perfect late summer/early autumn weather — and take three or four weeks to meander north from Sydney, stopping at Byron Bay (in northern New South Wales), before heading inland to Mullumbimby and Nimbin. Afterwards, I’d move onto Queensland (popping in to see my brother, sister-in-law and nephews in Surfer’s Paradise, en-route) and then carry on up the Queensland coast to Cairns, via a detour to the Great Barrier Reef. Bliss…
Kathryn Flett’s ‘Separate Lives’ was published in 2012. Her second novel will be published by Quercus later this year.
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Creator of the world wide best-selling Rebus and Malcolm Fox series’
Michel Faber’s beguiling and unsettling novel Under the Skin became a film last year, but the action of the story was moved from the remote and awe-inspiring Scottish Highlands to the streets of contemporary Glasgow. I would recommend listening to the book while driving up the A9 to Inverness and beyond, maybe taking a detour inland to some of the wildest and most remote landscapes in the UK. The book concerns a mysterious woman who picks up hitch-hikers. You probably won’t see many as you drive. But you’ll be hooked on the story and the brilliant descriptions of the scenery. Just pray you don’t break down.
You can purchase all of Ian Rankin’s books here.
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Author of In Your Prime: Older, Wiser, Happier
My choice would be Rose Mccauley’s novel The Towers of Trebizond, which follows an improbable group of people travelling from Istanbul to Trebizond, led by the narrator’s Aunt Dot, who wishes to convert the women of Turkey to Anglicanism and introduce them to the virtues of bathing hats. It is hysterically funny and clever and it contains my favourite opening line in all of fiction, namely “Take my camel, dear,” said my Aunt Dot as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass. It also really, really makes you want to travel through Turkey – which is where I would like to drive whilst listening to it – it’s incredibly evocative.
India Knight’s novels are available here.
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GQ Award winning young author of A Departure
I want to listen to Cormac McCarthy’s ‘All The Pretty Horses’ while driving down from San Angelo, Texas to Coahuila in Northern Mexico through the desert border country where John Grady Cole and Lacey Rawlins rode their horses down to work on the The Hacienda de Nuestra Senora de la Purisima Concepcion (Ranch of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception). Once there I’d tour the rich grass land, an area known as the Bolsón de Cuatro Ciénegas, where John Grady’s turbulent affair with the powerful ranch-owner’s daughter, Alejandra began, before following their trail down to Mexico City – a vibrant and hectic cultural centre, boasting the world’s largest Anthropology museum.
You can purchase A Departure here.
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Author of It’s Too Late To Die Young and I Wouldn’t Start From Here
I’d like to do the drive from Kabul to Jalalabad with George MacDonald Fraser’s “Flashman”. This was the first in Fraser’s series of imagined memoirs by the bully from Thomas Hughes’ Victorian novel “Tom Brown’s School Days”. It recalls Flashman’s involvement in the First Afghan War, and his survival of the British Army’s catastrophic retreat from Kabul: Major General Sir William Elphinstone led more than 16,000 people in search of safety, of whom almost all perished along this route.
I did the drive in both directions in 1998, when the road barely existed, allowing plenty of time to marvel at the glorious and forbidding mountains. When I interviewed Fraser a few years later, he was delighted to be reassured that he’d described the scenery perfectly. On a return visit to Kabul in 2003, I found a locally produced bootleg edition of “Flashman”, which I bought and sent to him. His thank you note is very much in the “save in case of fire” file.
You can purchase It’s Too Late To Die Young here.
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Author of children’s book The Yes
I’d like to listen to Richard Brautigan’s mad, beautiful ‘A Confederate General from Big Sur’ while driving from San Francisco to Big Sur along the Pacific Coast Highway. It’s not a long novel so it might not last the journey, but I’d just stick it on again. It’s sort of the beat ‘Withnail & I’ – two hapless male friends in the 1960s who go to the country where very little happens, but it happens hilariously. The prose is wildly ridiculous and playful; think a spiked Milligan. They have “a truck that looks like what trucks would have looked like in the Civil War”, so if I was going to do it properly, I’d have to find one just like that.
You can purchase The Yes here.
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Author of Shakespeare’s Pub
I’d love to drive over the Snake Pass from Sheffield to Manchester – or perhaps even better, going in the other direction – while listening to the poetry of Simon Armitage. It would have to be him reading it though. Northern men must take an oblique approach to describing beauty, and our ideal of natural beauty is stark and austere. In a way, Armitage’s delivery sounds like the grudging recitals we used to have to give in English class when I was at school in Barnsley, but for him, and his words, it’s utterly appropriate and perfectly evocative – the stone walls, gorse and heather come to life in the flat vowels and measured tone. No nonsense poetry, is that.
You can purchase Shakespeare’s Pub here.
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I actually learned to drive because of Bill Bryson. I had never once put the pedal to the metal in the UK but as soon as I read The Lost Continent (Travels in Small Town America) I took lessons so I could follow in his tyre tracks through the more obscure parts of Mississippi, Pennsylvania et al. His interactions with diner waitresses are particularly hilarious. But here’s the snag: this audiobook is read at a gallop by a narrator whereas for maximum effect you need Bryson’s own gentle drawl so my recommendation becomes a coastal tour of Southern England while listening to Notes from a Small Island. His mockery of Brits suggesting best possible directions slays me, ‘Take the turn off for Little Puking… past the mini roundabout… there’s a lane between two hedgerows, mostly hawthorn…’ And on it goes. Driving is just so much more fun with a big, wonky smile on your face.
Belinda’s latest book ‘The Traveling Tea Shop‘ centres around a cake-themed road trip in New England.
Image credit: Richard Szwejkowski