The Last Grain Race By Eric Newby. First published 1956. William Collins, 2014, 235 pp.
The Last Grain Race was Eric Newby’s first book, but it already has the essence of the travel works that would follow: the challenging journey, the wonderfully precise writing, the self-deprecating modesty, and, perhaps above all, the humor. In 1938, at the age of 18, fed up with his London job at an advertising agency and inspired by a friend’s eccentric father—who he is convinced was a member of the British Secret Service—he signed up as an apprentice on the Moshulu, a four-masted barque headed for Australia.
The Finnish-owned Moshulu, which left from Belfast, was one of the sailing ships that would pick up grain in Australia to carry back to Europe, and the return journey really was a race. In 1939, thirteen ships participated, including the Moshulu. As Newby says, although he didn’t know it at the time, this was to be the ship’s last voyage in the grain trade, and it was also to be the last of the races. His book not only records his own grueling if colorful experience, it takes us back to an era long gone. Read More
Whatever You Do, Don’t Run: True Tales of a Botswana Safari Guide By Peter Allison. Lyons Press, 2007, 2014. 272 pp.
The contemporary African safari is a fascinating mix of the natural and the artificial, the wild and the touristic. Peter Allison captures these contradictions in Whatever You Do, Don’t Run, the first of several books he has written about his adventures as a safari guide.
Allison would not have seemed a likely candidate for a guide when he arrived in Africa from Sydney, Australia, at the age of 19. He was not especially athletic—indeed, he describes himself as uncoordinated. He didn’t know how to drive. But he fell in love with the animals and the land, and undertook the serious training necessary, learning about the wildlife, the plants, the insects, and the terrain. Read More