by Stuart Maconie
In which "the UK’s best-selling travel writer of non-TV tie-in books" (really, more than Bryson?) ambles around the middle of England looking for, well, middle England.
I have a lot of time for Stuart Maconie and greatly enjoy his radio shows, primarily with Mark Radcliffe - and not just because Radcliffe is such a superb broadcaster that he makes everyone else sound good too - but also some of his solo stuff. He knows his music back-to-front and is very amusing, often ready with a quip or a gentle joke.
However, while his wit makes for good radio, I think that extended to book length it results in a slight lack of substance. I've read all three of his books now (the other two being Cider With Roadies and Pies And Prejudice - all hail the pun!) and they are all similar in style; vignettes and anecdotes connected by a theme, which makes them quite good for dipping into if you have a spare half an hour, but a little disjointed if you want to read for longer. They are good for brief pre-sleep bedtime reading, though I don't want to imply that the writing is sleep-inducing!
The reviewer's comparisons with Bill Bryson are well made - if a trifle lazy, since both write amusing travel, easy-to-read travel books - but while I could happily re-read most of Bryson's books, I'm not sure I'd bother with this one. Having said that, I did enjoy it and laughed out loud on more than one occasion.
And I should also give credit where it's due - reading it has inspired me to start writing again. I haven't done a book review for a while!