An Empty Coast

An Empty Coast
My latest novel

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Travelling north

Heading north, tomorrow, Legion of Fans (LOF) into Zimbabwe, so you won't be hearing from me for a while (don't worry, mother, it's just because the internet connection ranges from cr*p to non-existent).

Thank you to my seven followers - I had no idea there were so many of you out there. Your cheques are in the mail. Dear Anonymous, get a profile and show yourself.

I'm just about to email a blog post to my very good friends at Getaway Magazine so keep an eye out over there for something sensible, with absolutely no references to Don Dunstan or Safari Suits.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Cool, stylish and practical...



No, not me, Legion of Fans (LOF) – I’m talking about these hip new threads that I’m wearing (though I am a firm believer that clothes maketh the man, so draw your own conclusions).

Yes, LOF… it’s back. Please note that you read it here first – the Safari Suit has officially returned and it was me who reinstated it to its rightful position as the pre-eminent item of gentleman’s leisure wear.

I had this sharp little number run-up while in Mombasa, Kenya, where I have been hard at work researching my next book, and different beers of Africa.

My personal tailor, Boniface, and his team of underage but hardworking seamstresses were able to have me measured, fitted and out on the streets in true Safari Style in a miraculous three days.

When I was a lad I couldn’t fail but be impressed by the sartorial elegance of various world leaders, movers and shakers and entertainers who graced the telly in their lime green or powder blue Safari Suits (known in the US, I believe, as Leisure Suits).

Perhaps nowhere outside of Africa was the Safari Suit embraced so wholeheartedly than in Australia, a country long known for its avant guard fashion sense.

Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke, Arts Ministers Sir Les Patterson and Al Grasby, and the late King of Australian TV Graham Kennedy all knew that without your Safari Suit you were nothing in the fickle eye of the style-conscious public.




Flamboyant South Australian Premier Don Dunstan (pictured above) attended the opening of parliament in that terminally groovy State in a peach coloured Safari Suit, proving that it was possible to be cool, gay and a wearer of polyester all at the same time.

Aussie film icon Jack Thompson reportedly wore a lime green number on his way to THAT controversial photo shoot where he became Cleo Magazine’s first ever nude male centrefold. (Thompson was allegedly mobbed by hysterical female journalists from the magazine after the shoot and barely escaped their offices with his Safari Suit intact. In his rush to dress he forgot to put his shirt on. Hairy chested and still sporting the gold medallion he wore for the shoot, he pioneered what was to become THE look – Leisure Suit sans shirt, mais avec medallion).

Of course, what red blooded Australian could forget the sight of that other colossus of the 1970s fillum world, Alby Mangels, striding proudly down the red carpet at the Logies in his powder blue Safari Suit, with former Miss World runner-up Judy Green on his arm, to accept his award for best home-made documentary?

As at home in the veldt as it is on streets of Paris, Milan, New York, Sydney or West Wyalong, what better way is there to state, loud and proud, I am Australian, I am male, and I am sex symbol than with a Safari Suit?

Made of tough, durable, machine-washable drip-dry polyester, you won’t think twice about scrambling under your Land Rover to top up your gearbox oil, then handing it over to the Mrs to dunk in Omo, safe in the knowledge that you could be strutting your stuff under the mirror ball in the Rooty Hill RSL auditorium WSFM Jukebox Saturday Night discotheque just one short hour later.

For our African members, imagine fending off drunken adoring Kugels in the pool at Pretoriuskop then striding, wet, with Brutal Fruit in hand, back to your Toyota Bakkie, allowing the temperamental aircon to blow dry you on the drive home to Johannesburg, where you stride into Monte Casino like the King of the World for the Jacaranda FM Jukebox Saturday Night discotheque.

Yes, LOF, from the bush to the Big Smoke, the Safari Suit is back. Grrrrr ladies. Pass me my Old Spice and my over and under, and let the hunt begin.



(In a tragic postscript to this post it is with great and heartfelt regret that I report the passing of Monsieur Ted Lapidus, the actual designer of the modern Safari Suit, just last month. Quelle Horreur. You can read his obituary and the tribute paid to him by the small but sartorially elegant French President Monsieur Sarkozy here)


Thursday, January 15, 2009

And the winner is...

Kelvin Smith, of Port Kennedy, WA, is the winner of the fantastic SILENT PREDATOR luxury safari for two.

Thousands - yes, thousands - of people entered the competition, which was run by Macmillan Australia in conjunction with Tinga Private Game Lodge; Rovos Rail; the Radisson SAS Waterfront Hotel, Cape Town; Ten Bompas hotel Johannesburg; The Alphen Hotel, Cape Town; and the Africa Safari Co.

I won't rub it in for all of you who didn't win, but suffice to say Kelvin is one very fortunate West(ern) Australian as he will be living it up big time on the luxury two-week safari he has just bagged.

The judges at Macmillan read through every single entry - no mean feat - and it was no easy task narrowing the field down to the final shortlist of six entries. In the end, all the judges agreed that Kelvin's entry was a winner.

The entries were as varied as they were numerous and a special mention must go to the man who said he would sell one of his testicles on the black market for a chance to stay at Tinga. Normally such an entry would have made it to the shortlist, but the gentleman in question will get to keep all of his body parts as he had actually entered from Denver, Colorado (the competition was only open to Australian residents).

Thank you, too, to the lovely lady who hand delivered a very fetching cardboard cutout creation she had made (featuring yours truly) to Macmillan's offices. If it was just up to me, flattery, excellent craft skills, and unmarked envelopes of cash would get you everywhere, but the judges were of far better character than myself.

The good people at Macmillan did send the shortlist to me in Mombasa, Kenya, and in between posing for pictures with my fan club, drinking cocktails with little umbrellas in them, and cleaning my nine-millimtre, I did go through the finalists' entries with a steady hand and a clear mind. I, too, agreed that Kelvin deserved to win.

So, once again, congratulations Kelvin, thanks to our kind sponsors, and THANK YOU VERY MUCH TO EVERYONE WHO ENTERED. AS YOU ARE (MOSTLY) AUSTRALIAN RESIDENTS, YOU WILL KNOW WHAT I MEAN WHEN I SAY "I LOVE YOUSE ALL".

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Get away from here, all of you...

Sorry, I meant Getaway, as in the most excellent South African travel magazine and website where you will find my other, slightly sensible, blog, here

Mother blog alerted me to the fact that the link to the Getaway blog on the left hand side of this one was now directing readers to a used car site. I think I have fixed that problem and will now to fix somebody's little red wagon for being so underhanded. Hmmm.

Anyway, scoot along to www.getaway.co.za, click on 'getaway' and then 'blogs' and you'll find me there, if you don't trust these finickky, tricky link thingos.

Thank you, all of you who have joined the Legion, and thank you to everyone who bothers to post a comment now and then. I love you all... even you, anonymous.

Stay tuned..

...For more reports from the Mombasa trip, including my personal crusade to bring back a very stylish fashion icon of the 1970s...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Over the top chaps and chapesses... Follow me!

Achtung, Legion of Fans. Eyessssss left!

Here you will see what blogging people call a 'widget' entitled 'followers - join the Legion, now!'.

This is where you can nail your colours to the mast by clicking on follow this blog and proudly tell the world that instead of working or spending time with your loved ones you are, in fact, skiving off with me... like me, in fact.

Let us see your smiling happy faces here, or your anonymous profiles. Also, please feel free to construct multiple fraudulent personalities so it looks like more people read this blog than actually do.

I am sure the East African Branch of my official fan club (see below) will be taking Osama down to the local internet cafe to sign up, so I urge you two to, too.

Mombasa dreaming


(Double click on the picture to see what the camel saw... I mean, wore)

Greetings from Nyali Beach, Mombasa, on the Kenyan coast, Legion of Fans (LOF), where Mrs Blog and I are hard at work soaking up local ambience in the name of research and mainlining seafood after five months in the landlocked bush of southern Africa.

Imagine my surprise, LOF, when I encountered these four loyal members of the Tony Park Fan Club (East African Division) while taking my mid afternoon constitutional on the beach.

For a moment I wondered whether I’d drunk forty, as opposed to four Tusker Lagers over a hearty lunch of hot chips at the beach bar.

But no, LOF, they were real – a mirage taking form in front of my very eyes, borne of the azure Indian Ocean and the shimmering white sands those warm waters so lovingly caress.

The small, but fiercely dedicated Mombasa sub-branch of my international fan club had been conducting their weekly reading and discourse on my works over Kenya Cane and Cokes beneath the swaying palm trees that fringe this comely coastline.

“Jambo, Jambo,” they called in unison. Even the camel snorted.

“Tony Park, I presume,” said branch president Jomo Kenyatta III (standing far left), as I chanced upon them.

“Please, please may we have one photo taken with you,” chirped in a cheeky Jimbob Obama (the lad seated in the centre - a distant cousin of the US President elect, or so he claimed).

“One hundred shillings,” I replied, sternly. There is such a thing as protocol, even here on the beach. Had I been wearing my Masai warrior regalia I would have charged them more, as is the custom hereabouts.

We negotiated a while and finally I agreed to cut my rate to a very generous 80 shillings, (really, the least I could do, given the lads were card carrying members of the fan club).

Dennis Finch-Hatton Kibaki (at right), branch secretary and treasurer, handed over the money and I obligingly posed for this quick snap. Shortly after the digital shutter clicked I was knocked backwards by the group’s trusty mascot, Osama Bin Liner the camel, who, clearly overcome by all the excitement, farted loudly and passed out in the sand.

With the photo shoot over we retired to the shade for cane and cokes and cucumber sandwiches. I took questions from the excited club members while Osama snored contentedly nearby.

“Mr Park…” began Jomo.

“Please, call me Tony.”

“Mr Tony… how is it that you, as a man, are able to tap into the female psyche so well in your books? Are you truly in touch with your feminine side, or do you just have a very stern publisher and wife?”

“A bit of both,” I chuckled.

“Mr Tony,” asked an eager Dennis, “when can we expect to see more same-sex funny business involving ladies in your books?”

“Hmmmm,” I nodded in sympathy. “You might have to talk to my publisher about that one.” (C, you can expect an email and a request for assistance with Dennis’s university tuition fees very soon)

Jimbob Obama glanced left and right, then lowered his voice. “This Michelle Parker, from SAFARI… you can get me her phone number?”

Osama grunted and Jomo informed me that the camel, too, was a big fan of my work, having devoured a well-thumbed Trade Paperback of FAR HORIZON earlier that morning. “I think that is what has given him the flatulence,” he added, somewhat embarrassed.

We talked and talked as the afternoon shadows lengthened and the waters turned from indigo to gold and finally a deep purple, with shades of chartreuse and puce.

Mrs Blog was calling, however, advising me that happy hour was about to begin at the pool bar. As much as I enjoyed the company of my fans the lure of half-price Tuskers is not to be taken lightly.

As Osama the camel was unable to join us in the pool bar, because of his faith, I bid a sad and reluctant farewell to the club president and his faithful members, with promises of more books to come and my personal confidence that Charlize Theron is very close to accepting the role of Inspector Sannie van Rensburg in the film version of SILENT PREDATOR.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

“WAKE UP, WAKE UP!”

“What?” I sat bolt upright and it took me a few moments to realise where I was - on my sun bed by the Nyali Beach Hotel swimming pool. Mrs Blog was shaking me by the shoulder and an empty brown Tusker bottle slipped noiselessly from my fingertips to the grass. “What is it, dear?”

“You were dreaming. And wipe your mouth… you’re drooling.”

“I was? I am?”

“Yes. You were making noises like a camel and kept saying the name, ‘Charlize’. Who is Charlize?”

“Um, no one… I was… it was a dream. I had a fan club… in Africa”

Monday, January 05, 2009

Lounge lizard

I've forgotten how bad airports can be.

The Australian Army, QANTAS and VISA Card and I have a strange, symbiotic, love-hate relationshio with each other. Like parasites on a host animal (I'm, not sure who is who in this relationship) we feed of each other and we sustain each other.

One of the few benefits - perhaps the only benefit - of continuing to serve in the Australian Army (albeit in a very part time, part time manner) is that I get heavily discounted membership fo the Qantas Club and, by extension, the Qantas frequent flyer program.

Because I am a Qantas frequent flyer, and because I have access to Qantas and affiliated lounges in airports around the world, I tend to always fly with the flying kanagaro (well, hopping, as the 'roo logo lost its wings years ago) or its partner airlines.

Another strong incentive to stick with the national carrier is the fact that Mrs Blog and I both have ANZ-Qantas Visa Cards, which means that every dollar we spend earns us a frequent flyer point. As a result, we do a lot of flying for free, but when we do have to pay, we either go with the national carrier, or a partner airline.

The airlines and credit card scall it call it a Loyalty Program. But in reality, it is, of course, blackmail.

The Visa Card thing works well, but I'm sure if I sat down and worked out the number of points I actually get from paying to fly economy, versus the price difference between Qantas and Co and the many other cheaper (and often better) airlines plying the route between Australia and Africa, that it may not make much sense to stick with Big Red.

I realise now, however, the true, extortionate hold that the Army, Qantas and Visa have over me, as I sit here in the tastefully named but truly unpalatable Ekaya Bar in the international terminal of OR Tambo International Airport (the airport formerly known as Jan Smuts).

The unspoken, but ever present threat from Qantas and the Army is this... if you try to walk away from us, you will have to drink in the public bars in departure terminals around the world...

"Don't you remember, Tony Park," says the distorted blackmailer's voice down the telephone line to my mildly inebriated mind, "what it's like to pay AUD$8 for a warm beer?"

Gulp... "Sort of," I might meeklky reply.

"Don't you remember... traitor... what it's like to stand in a queue three deep, amidst Germans in safari suits, poms complaining about exchange rates, and South Africans wearing plastic clogs, in the hope that you might get a flat (or overly frothy) Castle draft in a dirty glass...?

"No!"

"Yes, Tony Park," says the voice... "and don't you remember the time you and Mrs B got food poisoning from a curry in the departure terminal restaurant?"

"Stop it, please...."

It's like a nightmare, Legion of Fans (LOF). No, it is a nightmare! NO! It's not a nightmare... it's happening to me. Mrs B and I are paying 60 Ronts for one glass of bad wine and one beer! EEEEEEEEEEEEK.

Why, you may ask? (If you've gotten this far).

Why, because we are flying to Mombassa, Kenya, and the only flight we could get on was Kenyan Airways and, honest guv, if I could have I would have flown British Airways...

Little did I remember, LOF, how great was the gulf was that separates the classes between the sticky-floored public departure bar and the cool, funky, moodily lit peace of the aiport lounge.

I'm sitting in the only free seat, under the widescreen TV that is beaming an English Premier League soccer match above my head (as if that isn't bad enough), and next door to the smoking lounge. The beer is expensive and the food is inedible. A bunch of de-miners are doing their best to toxify themselves with enough booze to last them through the next four months in Iraq or Afghanistan or somesuch hell hole, and a Kenyan family of five at the next table has just erected a shanty of hand luggage on Mrs B's foot.

It is, to lift a phrase from my fellow blogger Murier, like living in an Heironymous Bosch painting.

But I know that just one floor above me people are sitting in deep comfy armchairs by the quietly gurgling water feature, leafing through glossy coffee table books and eating smoked salmon sandwiches while sipping on complimentary bloody marys and chilled Windhoek Lagers.

Just above the billowing orange fabric mushroom-like fittings that adorn the ceiling of the Ekaya Bar is elevator music and free internet access; people wearing chinos and blue blazers; ladies in silver thongs (sandals, that is... and maybe thongs); and well behaved, if slightly precious children called Zoe and Jack, silently exploring and marvelling at the paradise that one day will be theirs.

"If you leave the Army... Major Park..." the computer scrambled voice resumes, "your Qantas Club membership will lapse and you know you don't make enough money from your books to pay full price..."

"NO, NO, NO..."

A seething crush of humanity mills and lurches around me. People stand wide eyed and slack-jawed at the bar (mostly because the barman has just told them how much a coke costs), and the tannoy almost uncomprehendingly beckons drunken passengers Hookermonger and Plasticheclogger, who are delaying the KLM flight to Amsterdam.

Upstairs in the lounge a lady with precise diction is suggesting that it's now time to make one's way to the gate because most of the poor people are already on board and tapping their collective, smelly Croc-clad feet while they wait for the richies to grace them with their belated presence.

I'm sorry. I'll never be disloyal again.

I'll never fly with a cheap airline again. I can't afford the bar bill.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Happy two-zero-zero-niner

Hand/Land Rover Update

Ouch... still a bit store, but still alive on this the second day of a brand new year. Seasons greetings and happy new year to you all, Legion of Fans (LOF), if any of you are still out there.

The stab wound is healing nicely, though I still only have about 20 per cent use of my left hand. I will commence full physiotherapy just as soon as the scar closes over and as soon as I tire of Mrs Blog cutting up my food for me (that may take a wee while longer than the skin re-growing).

Tonka the Land Rover is, or should I say was, in fine form until this morning, when I had to replace his number one injector fuel pipe. Fortunately, I had a spare in my tool kit (how manly is that?). Unfortunately I cracked the end of the spare while fitting it (how spazzo is that?). Fortunately, I was able to get the spare number two pipe and bend it into shape - one handed, because of my stab wound - and make it fit in the number one position. How f-ing bush-mechanic he-man is that, I ask you? We'll see how long it lasts.

Competition closes...

Thank you to the THOUSANDS (and for once, on here, I am not exaggerating) of readers who entered the fabulous win-a-luxury-safari-to-Africa competition run in conjunction with the release of SILENT PREDATOR. The competition has now closed.

Cue drumroll.... and keep it rolling until January 16 (I think) when the judges will have read every entry and will make their decision.

Excited? I am. I can't wait to find out who won, and to ingratiate myself with the winner so that hopefully they will let Me and Mrs B sleep on their couch when they stay at Tinga Luxury Private Game Lodge. Perhaps they will also spirit us aboard the luxurious ROVOS Rail train, the Pride of Africa, in their antique steamer trunks. Who knows. Stay tuned to the website.

Books galore in 2009

I currently have not one, not two but THREE books underway at the moment, LOF. Yes, I am busier than a one-handed writer. In fact, I am a one-handed writer.

Book number six... (what the heck, shush... don't tell anyone, but it's called IVORY will be out in late July/early August 2009). I'm nearly finished the first draft of number 7 (shush... it's called... number 7) and it will be out in 2010, assuming my attractive, witty, intelligent publisher accepts it.

Thirdly, and very excitingly, I have finished a first draft of a my first non-fiction book. I've been co-writing the autobiography of a very interesting oke (bloke/guy) who works with tame lions here in South Africa. This is such big news that I will write a whole separate blog post about it soon. It's been commissioned by St Martin's Press in the US (Macmillan's affiliate over there) and is due for release in Fall 2009, whatever that means. I'm hoping it will be published in Australia as well.

Why the military numerical terminology in the headline?

Why, because I've just got a deal to write a non-fiction military book for Macmillan... I could tell you more but I'd have to... well, I'm sure you know the rest. I'll be working on that one this year as well, and will shamelessly self-promote it at the appropriate time.

Thank you, LOF, and random googlers, for all your comments and support during 2008. I resolve this year to blog more and stab myself less.