Like ‘Everest’ and ‘Yukon’, the word ‘Sahara’ is a good selling tool for Jeeps, hotels, boots, you name it. Palin’s book carries the name but, as anyone who saw the BBC series will agree, he spent little time in the desert, failed to get under its skin and instead concentrated on the less arduous and more social and photogenic aspects of West and North Africa. Fair enough, the product is MP not where he happens to be or who he’s talking to (the book, not much deeper than the TV series, is packed with pics of MP here, MP there, MP gazing winsomely).
He writes well (he got a cool million for the book alone), but for me this sort of heavily planned faux travel pretending to be a continuous journey, missing key links and with paper-thin ‘spontaneous’ encounters (e.g.: Tom Sheppard) is for undemanding Sunday evening armchairists; Saharans will be disappointed. There are plenty of truly Saharan books below and above and round the back, but of course ‘Sahara’ was in the best sellers for months. That’s show business!