Phoenix £8.99 (223pp) (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop : 08430 600 030
Tequila Oil, By Hugh Thomson
In 1979, the future writer and explorer Hugh Thomson – then a cocky and clueless 18-year-old punk – set out to drive a hulking 1972 Oldsmobile out of the US, down through Mexico, and into Belize.
This utterly beguiling book recaptures his meandering bid to make dough, grow up and act cool, on a journey without maps inspired by "long-dead writers of the 1930s" (Waugh, Greene, Lowry, Huxley).
Sour-sweet adventures take him from a sawmill in Durango to a golf-club in Cuernavaca and a brothel in Belize City. Beyond the high jinks and low dives, Thomson tells us a lot about the Mexican past of colonial conquest and revolution, with Pancho Villa and Cortes never far from the passenger seat.
A coda, 30 years later, sends him back to Belize, deep into Mayan history, and towards a mid-life acceptance that "the urge to keep travelling" still burns as bright as ever.
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