A Life Of Fiction CXXVI

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.


The Road Goes Ever On: Roads have featured in books, and not just as part of a travelogue. The Road is Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic novel, which I probably should have read but haven’t; and the most famous novel to come out of the beatnik era is, of course, On The Road by Jack Kerouac. That is another novel which I must get around to reading, at some stage.

On The Road came out in 1957. Its author was thirty-five by the time that he completed the work which made him famous. The book has been adapted into an okay film. Nothing spectacular, but watchable if nothing else is on the telly.

The novel has been acclaimed as one of the greatest novels of all time, by its supporters. How I wish that some of that acclaim was slung in my direction!

Jack Kerouac claimed that he had written the novel in one great thrust of work, and that it was all first draft. But we now know that to be incorrect, and that there was a lot of planning before the roll of paper on which the novel is written.

I’ve seen the film…


Cormac McCarthy was born in Rhode Island in 1933. He went to the University of Tennessee before joining the American Air Force. I think that his first novel was The Orchard, in 1965. After his post-apocalyptic novel The Road, the work for which he is most famous is probably All The Pretty Horses.

There was a film version of The Road. I haven’t seen that either (perhaps I should have chosen a different subject for this post!). But that is beside the point. The point is that there is a need in writers, whoever they are, to describe journeys: the road goes ever on. The road movie, or the road book, is not just about travel. The journey along the road is an analogue to a person’s journey through life. If we should ever reach the end of the road…


Route 66 is one of the most iconic roads in America. It has appeared in song, such as the track by Nat King Cole. There has been a 1960s television series of the same name, one of the episodes of which featured a young Robert Redford. Those sorts of programmes obviously fill a need. We need to see life as linear, actually going somewhere, rather than being a series of unconnected events. We need to know that our lives are going somewhere. We need to fool ourselves that they have purpose. We need to imagine that there is a final destination which is not the grave, and that we can actually accomplish something with our lives.

We in Britain do not really have panegyric songs about our motorways. Like A Motorway, by St Etienne, is not about getting stuck in a traffic queue on the M1. Probably the closest we have to a paean is the track National Express by Neil Hannon. I can’t recall a classic English novel about travelling around England. Perhaps somebody should write one.

I haven’t written any books which are road trips. The idea of travelling a long distance by car does not appeal to me as a person, or as a writer. But I have written quite a few adventures where my heroes travel around the world. I think the best example of that is probably Grailquest, the final Briggs and Prenderghast adventure. But they travel around the world in an aeroplane, rather than along a road.

The point of such trips is the trip itself, quite often, rather than the destination. The point is the adventures which you have along the way, and all of the people who you meet. The road is a theme which is well suited to the linearity of a book.

Of course journeys do not have to be along roads. They could involve railways. They don’t have to be set in the modern day, or even in the real world. The Fellowship of the Ring is basically a ‘road journey’ novel. Quite a lot of fantasy fiction is about such journeys – or quests, as they are sometimes called.

The road goes ever on… Yes, it does. Just keep putting one foot in front f the other, and see just where the road will take you.


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