The best-selling second volume of John Simpson's entertaining autobiography, updated with a new chapter.
Small wonder, then, that Simpson is a source of dozens of good stories. Many of these have been written up elsewhere in his autobiographical Strange Places, Questionable People, but there are plenty left over for this latest book in which Simpson eschews chronology and just sticks to some plain old-fashioned story telling, with sections on villains, spies, icons etc. Unsurprisingly, Simpson has a journalistic eye for detail and nuance and never holds back from telling you the things you want to know; so when he went to interview Bokassa, he managed to sneak a look inside his giant deep freeze to see if there were any human body parts. It sounds trivial but it isn't; in a strange sort of way the examination of the contents of a deep freeze can be every bit as revealing as an hour on a shrink's couch.
Simpson is a genial companion, not much given to introspection, and the book races seamlessly from anecdote to anecdote. And yet underpinning the narrative is Simpson's global malaise, a feeling that everywhere in the world is becoming more and more similar and that it's increasingly hard to find anywhere genuinely wild and remote. Simpson has been to many of those places, but the way he describes them makes them seem fairly similar in their own kind of way. McDonalds and the Gap may be thin on the ground, but there are bullets and danger aplenty. To have been to so many of these places is an achievement in itself; to have returned unscathed is a minor miracle; John Simpson has led a charmed life in more ways than one. --John Crace --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
He manages to encapsulate life's realities, the highs, the lows and the grey in-between of everywhere and everyone he has connected with. Although what this book delivers is presented purely from his own individual experiences and through the eyes of a distinguished journalist - I think it's fair to say that his usual diplomatic and charismatic approach to life is portrayed at every opportunity and stops this becoming one mans crusade to save the world.
John's ability to provide real life accounts of a society built around political incompetencies and dictatorships, coupled with his underlying British humour and determination in the face of terrifying adversity, shows us the side of life that most people if they're honest pretend doesn't exist.
A truly recommended read, that will only leave you queuing up for his next title.
He is honest about the charm of villains (a pleasant change from the grotesque moral righteousness of some journalists' writing) and he looks for the beauty in places and people.
Simpson's style brings to mind everything good about British culture: humour, honesty, humility, courage and adventure. Simpson's wit, similar to that of Robert Cooper, who he mentions in the book, is admirable.
This book will make you laugh out loud, and wish you too could visit some of these places or meet some of the villains. I wish there were more books like this.
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