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Books Editorial

chesstraveller.jpg The Chess Traveller

Peter Mortimer, Red Squirrel

The latest book from Cullercoats based Peter Mortimer is a curious travelogue in which the septuagenarian poet and playwright had his blindfolded partner chuck a dart at a map of the UK. Where it landed would be his first post of call and then he would cycle – no more than 30 miles a day – to another town or village. He would also find a stranger to play a game of chess against at each location, and then his opponent would suggest a new destination. As it happens, the fateful dart landed at the Scottish fishing town of Lossiemouth, and Mortimer would spend most of his journey traversing the hills and hollows north of the border. He travels light – his heaviest item is his chessboard – but it’s instructive that the only novel he takes with him is Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, because he has several moments where “the horror, the horror” strikes. I’m a sucker for descriptions of backwater B&Bs, pubs and cafes, and our intrepid hero visits plenty, but the most enjoyment comes from the array of interesting characters he meets (including an odd Dutchman he stays with who must report to a police station each day). You don’t have to be interested in chess to enjoy this book either, just people.