// you’re reading...


Estelle Pinney talks about her novels and Peter Pinney

Readersvoice.com aims to give people some good reading tips.For this issue I interviewed Estelle Pinney, the author of Time Out for Living, which was based on her experiences in Brisbane during World War Two when the U.S. Army were in town along with General MacArthur. Also Ms Pinney wrote the soon to be published House on the Hill (Penguin), a novel that gives a rich portrait of life in late 1920s far north Queensland. I spoke to Estelle Pinney about her work, and about her husband Peter Pinney, a writer of elegant, whimsical, and somewhat picaresque travel books, among other things.

If you’re fond of travel writing that’s a bit on the wild side, you might want to try out Peter Pinney’s books, like Dust On My Shoes, which first appeared in the 1950s. His is a unique brand of travel writing. Peter Pinney used to wander across Asia, Europe and Africa with nothing but a string bag, the clothes on his back, and sometimes a parasol. He didn’t let minor details like wars, and a lack of money and visas, get in his way, either. Basically he lived by his wits, conning his way across borders, surviving through a variety of jobs and other means, like robbing a missionary’s fish traps on one occasion.
He wrote some elegant, whimsical, and somewhat picaresque travel books about his experiences, like his best known book, Dust On My Shoes (1952) which narrates his journey from the Mediterranean and the Middle East, over the mountains of Afghanistan, thence across India to Burma and Assam.
Who Wanders Alone (1954) described his journey from Trieste to Algiers to Zanzibar. This was followed by Anywhere But Here (1956), which describes his journey from Mozambique to Timbuktu.
To give you a taste of Peter Pinney’s writing, here’s a sample from Anywhere But Here (1956). He quotes his sometime travelling companion Chickenthief:
“What crimes you have committed in your native land to cause you constant travel throughout foreign continents I cannot tell, but truly I admire them for what they must have been. Will you work in Mozambique?”

“If necessary, yes; please God it won’t be.”
“A foolish question,” he admitted, and briskly rubbed his nose. “You will commit another crime, of course.” His voice rose hopefully. “A great and splendid crime; and I can be your partner.”
Born in Sydney in 1922, Peter Pinney grew up in Springwood in the Blue Mountains, then after his time in the Australian army in WW2 in New Guinea, he lived with his mother in Bowral, a tulip-growing area in the Southern Highlands.
In a phone interview with Estelle Pinney I asked about Peter Pinney’s travels.

READERSVOICE.COM: What is it that inspired Peter Pinney to just walk off around the world like that? This is after WW2 in New Guinea, wasn’t it?

ESTELLE PINNEY: He was in New Guinea in World War Two [as a commando in the Australian army, fighting the Imperial Japanese army, which he wrote about in the trilogy, The Barbarians 1988; The Glass Cannon, 1990; and The Devil’s Garden, 1992] and before that, like, in the army, he was at school, ok?
Now, this is the story, and I can give it to you, that I’ve heard quite a few times. After the war his mother said…His father had died. His father wasn’t alive. His mother said to him, “Now, Peter, what do you want to do? Do you want to go to university or anything?”

And Peter said, “No. I want to travel,” and she said…she wouldn’t say it this way because she was a very lady-like lady, but the words meant: “Go for it”. And he said, “Right”.

Well, he was away. He just wanted to travel new places, new experiences, new people. That’s what he wanted to do, and to leave Australia at that time was impossible after the war. There were no ships, no nothing that would take…hardly, not till the ’50s then, but I’m talking directly after the war, and he, um, oh, he forged a document, naval document, saying he was discharged from the navy and he got…through that he got onto a Swedish ship that went over to Europe, as crew. I’ve got some photographs of that.
Yeah, and er from there he just…well, you know from his books what it was like. I mean visa problems…If he wanted to go to a place, half the time he’d pretend that he’d been…that..if he wanted to go to a place he’d say he lived there and he was being deported and they’d deport him back to it, and that’s how he’d get to a certain country that he didn’t have a hope in hell of getting into.
So that’s what he did, and always, even when we were together you knew there was that underlying.. underlying want to go somewhere new, see somewhere new, experience somewhere new. (He was) Very contented while we were on our crayfishing boat (in the Torres Strait in the far north-east tip of Australia from 1964-71) and then, when we sold the boat and came back to Brisbane he more or less settled down but then we went overseas on a trip in a commercial van (a nine month trip in a “sardine can” around Europe in 1974).

-continued next page