Q&A: Tymon Smith Chats to Chasing the Devil Author Tim Butcher
The Sunday Times books editor wants to know what went into the making of Chasing the Devil:
How did this idea of following Graham Greene’s journey through Sierra Leone and Liberia come about?
I had a troubled relationship with Sierra Leone and Liberia because I went there as a journalist from here (South Africa) covering it from 2001 to 2003, lost a couple of friends there and had a death threat put on me by Charles Taylor in 2003.
There isn’t a tradition of Liberian authors or Sierra Leone authors but weirdly there’s Graham Greene, this great literary figure who goes there when he is 30. He has great success with his first novel, but four books in he’s literally struggling to put food on the table and he has a young child so what does he do? He goes and gets a commission for nonfiction, and that’s helpful because you get guaranteed money upfront.
Back in the 1930s it was quite a cool thing to do. Evelyn Waugh was doing it here in Africa, Peter Fleming was doing it elsewhere, and others were doing it in the Middle East. He goes with a woman, like any man there’s a woman behind you, but in Greene’s case there’s a woman astride, a woman behind, a woman in every corner. He was an amazing bloke; he could barely keep his trousers on. So in 1935 he takes this woman with him, his cousin Barbara, and they both write books so I get two books – Journey without Maps and Land Benighted. They give me the fix point.