"Hot Silver" is a great title. The e-book cover is terrific and certainly influenced my decision to buy it. This is not really an e-book, however, being very short; it's an extended article written by an experienced journalist. Not surprisingly, it is well written. There is none of the careless editing that mars some e-books; the sentences flow well and carry the reader along. Top marks for delivery. My reservations are to do with the content.
An editor commissioning an article based on this journey would want a particular bias for the magazine or paper: a focus on Australian history, perhaps, or an account of the landscape and its flora and fauna. These elements are included in "Hot Silver" but don't predominate. The brief might be for a human interest story, with interviews of railway staff and people met at the different calling points. There is little indeed of that. Only if the writer was himself well-known would a highly personal focus seem appropriate. Launching an e-book independently allows the writer to decide on the approach.
Unfortunately Lewis has made the book an account of his personal discomfort and discomfiture. The trip does sound uncomfortable, particularly compared with his (and my) fantasies of Orient Express luxury. But the most striking feature is his recoil from his fellow-passengers on grounds of age. Is his own daily life confined to people around forty? If he believes generations are better kept apart, what future is there for him as his children become adult? He writes of the Hospitality Assistants working for passengers "old enough to be their grandparents". So? The picture that builds over the course of the journey across Australia is of a man who cannot interact with anyone who does not fit the profile of his own social set. Apart from the disagreeable Bede, we are given no evidence of hostility towards him. He refers to the "easy rapport" of the three women who share his lunch table - a rapport which he "tries to fake". "I feel callow", he confesses, and spends much of the trip, hermit-like, in his compartment. This attitude sits very strangely beside the solidarity he claims with the working man (in the Epilogue) or his concern for the aboriginal victims of nuclear testing in Maralinga.
If, indeed, an editor had been waiting for the MS, Lewis would have been obliged to go ahead with his planned visit to Perth. His journey would have begun and ended with vibrant city life, framing and contrasting with the empty miles across the Australian interior.
As it is, the story just fizzles out.