Passport: Magnus Mills - 'It was cool being beeped by a NY bus driver'
Sunday 30 August 1998
You will probably have spotted Magnus, splashed across the media as the bus driver-turned-novelist whose debut novel The Restraint of Beasts has received rave reviews, even before publication.
"I like driving full stop. In1981 I drove around Australia, working along the way doing casual jobs. I hitchhiked from Sydney to Perth where I bought this 1970 Holden station wagon. It was the first car I saw when I hit the car yards. I ended up clocking up over 13,000 miles." He left Western Australia, drove up through the Northern Territory, back down through Victoria and then up through New South Wales to Queensland. "The car was brilliant, it just kept going without any problems The guy I sold it to still had it, last time I heard from him."
His ideal holiday, he says, is touring in America. "We've been there quite a few times on fly-drive holidays." Just before all the publicity for his book blew up - he was door-stepped in true paparazzi-style at the south London bus garage where he works - Magnus squeezed in a holiday in Arizona and New Mexico. "I got to see the Grand Canyon, and what I'd really like to do now is go down the Colorado River in a boat. I'm interested in following the route of John Wesley Powell the explorer who lost half his crew when he first made the trip. I'd be interested in the journey part of it, rather than just white-water rafting bits."
He is a bit of an intrepid explorer himself. On a trip to Japan he had an urge to climb Mount Fuji. "I left my wife sleeping in the hotel room at 6.30am and just headed off to the railway station in Tokyo. I climbed to the top and walked around the rim, there was a howling gale." Most people take a couple of days to make the trip, stopping at one of the mountain stations before making the final summit at sunrise. "You couldn't see very far because of the clouds, but you could climb a short way down into the crater on this rickety iron ladder. It was quite quick going back down the mountain as the ground is covered in volcanic ash, it's a bit like walking on the moon, you just jump and bounce along."
Magnus turned this experience into his first published piece of writing - a travel article for The Independent. He was then commissioned to write "The View From Here" a weekly column about his experiences on the Routemaster bus. It gave him the confidence and inspiration to write his first novel. Writing has now become his driving ambition.
'The Restraint of Beasts' will be published on 7 September by Flamingo, price pounds 9.99.
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