Charles Davis was born and educated, and has travelled and worked. He now lives and writes. That has always seemed to me to be enough biography for any writer, but being an avid reader, too, I appreciate that curiosity demands a bit more, so . . . .
Basically, middle-class boy born in the suburbs of London in 1960. Idyllic childhood brought to an abrupt end by being sent to boarding school aged 11. An unhappy adolescence (aren’t they all?) climaxed with the timid decision that I wanted to write - 'timid' because, as I understood it, middle-class boys from the suburbs didn't write novels; I was none too sure who did, but fairly certain it wasn't people like me.
After a dissolute time at university, it occurred to me that if I wanted to write, I'd better get on and write something (I’m sharp like that), so I sat down and, through my mid to late twenties, churned out a novel a year. I always found plenty of publishers and agents ready to read these outpourings, but since I never took the trouble to rewrite them, they were all rejected and rightly so.
At the same time, more or less by accident, I got a job teaching in Sudan. Spent 15 months there, but decided to come back to Europe, partly because I feared that if I stayed any longer I’d never get out, partly because I acquired an interesting cocktail of obscure maladies that landed me in the Hospital for Tropical Diseases, where the student doctors couldn't believe their good luck.
Next job took me to Turkey, where I met Jeannette, a French maths teacher sixteen years older than me, a disparity in age that allowed us to become friends before it occurred to us that we might actually make a couple. We recently celebrated our twentieth non-wedding anniversary. In the course of our time together, I became a grandfather-in-common-law at the age of 34, and I am now the proud something or other of three grandchildren without having gone through the angst and expense of having children myself.
Jeannette wanted to go to South America, I wanted to go to China, so naturally we ended up in Ivory Coast. Spent two years there, but seeing that the future of the country was looking dim and being unwilling to witness the sort of butchery then going on in Rwanda, we returned to Europe, settling in Spain, where we lived for twelve years.
It was in Ivory Coast and Spain that I wrote my first serious novel, 'serious' in that I wrote it and rewrote it time and again, so much so that it eventually dominated five years of my life. Had ten years of near misses, various novels attracting various degrees of praise from various publishers, but not enough to get them to put their money on the table.
In 2003, Jeannette took early retirement. This seemed like a terribly good idea, so when the opportunity came up to combine the passions of walking and writing in a series of guidebooks, I grasped it with both boots. I’ve since published fourteen walking guides (mainly about Spain, mainly with Discovery Walking Guides) and an alternative ‘guide’ to Brittany, Jeannette’s birthplace, where we now live an absurdly privileged life with a couple of dogs whose lives are even more absurdly privileged.
Busy with the guidebooks, I had no time for fiction and consequently built up a good head of frustrated steam. Come Winter of 2005, we were looking after the farm of some friends in the south of France: bitterly cold, mud everywhere, squalor untold, goats and sheep giving birth every time you turned a corner, foxes prowling, donkeys disgruntled etc. etc. but time enough to do one or two hours writing every morning and afternoon. Since publishers had always complained that my previous novels were too long, I resolved to write something short. The first draft of Walk On, Bright Boy was written in two weeks, hunched over the kitchen table, wearing an overcoat and fingerless mittens, a rather ineffective petrol heater wheezing toxic fumes into the atmosphere, a lamb leaping about at my feet (I'm not making this up), housebirds chirping in the background, cat coiled in a speculative manner on top of the canary cage, wildfowl pecking at the door . . . well, you get the picture. The time limit and discomfort seem to have done some good. The novel proved shorter than I had anticipated, so very short I didn’t think it would justify a discrete publication, but I'd said what I wanted to say so I sent it off to the Permanent Press and they accepted it.
They have since published Walking The Dog and Standing At The Crossroads. The reviews have been good, but sales have been dismal, so if there is to be a fourth novel, I need to shift a few copies. Ahem.
Herman Melville, Mark Twain, R.C. Hutchinson, Kurt Vonnegut, Barry Unsworth . . . to be honest, I've stolen ideas from every book I've ever read.
Walk! Costa Blanca Mountains (Summer 2011)
The Permanent Press
Discovery Walking Guides
All the elementary alimentary pleasures, in which I would include reading and writing. Also nuts about mountains, music, dogs and walking.
Oxfam, Amnesty International, Greenpeace
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