At the age of 52 and with a shoestring budget, Peter Millar set about rediscovering the United States by following the last traces of the technological wonder that created the country in the first place - the railroad. On a rail network ravaged and reduced he managed to cross the continent in slow motion, talking to people and taking in their stories and concerns while watching the vast landscape unfold. Wry, witty, intelligent and always observant, this ''inland empire'' should appeal to modern Britons keen to get beneath the skin of this influential nation.
Peter Millar was born in Northern Ireland and educated at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he read French and Russian. He worked for Reuters news agency as the sole non-German correspondent in East Berlin in the early 1980s, also covering the Solidarity movement in Poland before moving to Warsaw, where he pressed the button to tell the world of the election of Mikhail Gorbachev, a defining moment in Soviet history.
In 1985 he joined the Sunday Telegraph in the newly created role as Central Europe Correspondent - a title he invented to anticipate the dramatic changes about to overtake the continent - before moving to The Sunday Times, in early 1989, just in time to catch the climactic final stages of The Cold War. Millar was seized by the Volkspolizei on the streets of East Berlin during the demonstrations which accompanied Gorbachev's visit in October, interrogated by the Stasi and expelled from the country. Nonetheless he managed to get back by November 9, the dramatic night the Berlin Wall came down.
These events form the background to his 2009 autobiographical book: 1989, The Berlin Wall (My Part in its Downfall), a title he freely admits much to the late Spike Milligan. He is a firm believer that there is humour (if occasionally dark) behind even the greatest historical events.
In the 1990s Millar worked briefly with Robert Maxwell, as deputy editor of his ill-fated newspaper The European, a role he has since described as "like being aide-de-camp to Stalin."
For the past decade Millar has concentrated on books, with two thrillers to his name and a third - The Black Madona - due out in the autumn of 2010. He is also author of All Gone to Look for America, a travel book reflecting his love of trains, history and good beer, crisscrossing the United States in a 10,000 mile journey on the now little used railways that were instrumental in turning most of a continent into a single nation.
He is married with two grown-up sons, divides his time between the north Oxfordshire brewing village of Hook Norton and South London where he can often be found (often in a state of chronic despair and with fingernails chewed to the bone) following the vicissitudes inflicted by fate on his beloved Charlton Athletic.