I have been pretty shocked in the past week or so to discover how many otherwise well-read people have never heard of Norman Lewis, who is without a doubt the greatest post-war travel writer.
His biography, Semi-Invisible Man, by Julian Evans, has just been published to mark Lewis' cententary. I first discovered him in the late Eighties and devoured his seminal work, Naples '44, about his time, during the war, as part of the Allied army of Occupation of Southern Italy following the collapse of the fascist regime in the south. It is achingly funny and rich in insights into that marvellous, untidy, erotic city.
Lewis' 1950 book on Indo-China, A Dragon Apparent, was in the suitcase of every educated journalist during the Vietnam war.
His elegyy for Spain just before the arrival of mass tourism in the Fifities, Voices of the Old Sea, and not published until 1984, is one of the five or six books I cherish.
I once had a brief correspondence with Lewis. I wish I could find the letters.
So just go and read him. And if you already have, then Julian Evans will be doing an event at Daunt's Books on Marylebone High Street on Wednesday. I'll be going.