Tequila Oil, By Hugh Thomson

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The Independent Culture

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.