The Reading Room

Touch of the Sun

British journalist James Cameron’s first book….

cam-onePublished in 1950 by H.F & G. Witherby Ltd, Touch of the Sun was the first book by the British journalist James Cameron. Described as a travelogue, it covers the four years of a post Second World War outside of Europe, and Cameron’s forays into America, India, Africa, the Caribbean, the Pacific Islands and South East Asia.

Cameron was less than self-complimentary about most of his books, his favourite was ‘An Indian Summer’ followed by his autobiography. ‘Point of Departure’. This book, like the rest were, in his words, “hack commissioned jobs” which I find somewhat harsh. This, like his others which cover travel are far more than a travelogue, it is a unique insight into one of the era’s most travelled journalists. Cameron told Desert Island Disc’s Roy Plomley in 1979 that the life he led as a journalist forever on the move from one global incident to another caused him considerable matrimonial unrest.

But Cameron was never one to shirk from a challenge, he once illegally entered the then notoriously secretive and closed shop that was Albania disguised as an East German and part of a group of tourists from the DDR! He was swiftly rumbled and told to leave the country, but as luck would have it, the Albanians had destroyed all of their own road and rail infrastructure so the only way out was by the once fortnightly flight out which had just left! The authorities had no choice but to send him to an empty Russian hotel on the Adriatic Coast in which they fenced off part of the beach for him to sit out his internment!

His writing style changed little from the writing of this first book, if you read his words that is exactly how he spoke, like his future fan, Christopher Hitchens, he spoke eloquently, enjoyed using the breadth of the English language and wrote in a charming, now old-world style which, for this blogger, is a joy to read. Many of the chapters are taken from his work for the Daily Express before he fell out with them and one for the Picture Post, again, before he fell out with them too!

I shall end with a passage from his brief sojourn to Zanzibar: ‘The town was excruciatingly picturesque. It’s main street barely wide enough to take one car, threaded through a tangle of alleys and lanes where two donkeys can scarcely pass. Enormous, carven, brass-studded Arab doors led into dim and towering houses. There was probably no finer nor better-preserved entity of eighteenth-century Arab architecture anywhere. You stood outside a superlative façade, a ponderous and lovely door hiding from the street no one knew what exotic mysteries, what rose-tipped fingers, what dark researches, what love-making, what splendid cruelty. Then above your head a window opened and the voice drifted out, flat and cool and pale with ironed-out culture: “I did ask Daphne to hand back that Vogue today; I suppose she’s playing tennis again with that extraordinary Raymond. Do have some more tea” ‘

Illustration from the front paste down. Artist unknown:

cam-mapTouch of the Sun by James Cameron

First published 1950 by H.F & G. Witherby Ltd of London

For a bibliography of James Cameron the journalist including reviews please click here

 

 

 

 

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